Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri

Don’t Forget the Employee Experience with Stacy Sherman and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Stacy Sherman from Schindler Elevator Corporation and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss why the employee experience matters just as much, if not more than the customer experience. Stacy has a rich background in CX and provides incredibly insightful information in this episode. Listen to the full episode below to learn more.

Establishing a Customer Obsessed C-Suite

Many CX leaders are finding it difficult to help their teams completely deliver the best overall experience for their modern customers. Director of Customer Experience at Schindler Elevator Corporation, Stacy Sherman, attributes this to people at the top of a company not being completely customer centric. When people at the top of a company, such as executives or others within the c-suite, are customer minded, the brand as a whole is more likely to find success. A great way to get executive involvement is to have them participate in CX activities to get to know the processes and the employees. This method creates a sense of empathy on a multi-departmental level that ultimately implements a customer mindset from the bottom up. On this, Stacy remarks, “Those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.” Engaging with the frontline agents who handle all things customer related is one of the best ways for a brand to become more holistically customer centric. This engagement not only centers the brand, it also encourages those frontline agents to go above and beyond in their roles, especially as they feel that they are valued and an integral part of the brand.

Mental Safety and Cultivating Friendships in the Workplace

A large contributor to customer satisfaction is that of employee happiness. The experts discuss Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey questions that help to determine overall employee satisfaction within their company. Of these 12 questions, one of the most notable asks if the employee has a best friend in the workplace, as this is helpful for improved satisfaction scores. On this note, Stacy mentions that her company has a book club and she feels that it has become so successful because of the friendliness between her coworkers, which opens a space for nonjudgemental conversation. Noting that customer service and customer experience are very different in a “holistic view,” Stacy reminds listeners that a workplace culture trickles down to customer engagement. When the employees are happy, the customers are happy because the agents perform better, are more attentive, and are more willing to go the extra mile. Creating a space where employees feel they have friends and can be somewhat vulnerable with one another is accomplished through a safety menatility. “Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.”

Consistency Gives Companies an Edge

Companies with an edge on the competition are more than likely to be united with a common goal across all functions and branches. According to Vikas, “Customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board.” All departments should be inspired to keep the customer in mind and to do so, Stacy suggests having a weekly meeting with leaders from all departments to contribute and create a cross-functional customer journey map so that all are on the same page. When leaders work together in a customer obsessed manner, they are enhancing the overall experience by curating each business element to their experience. Leaders would do well to place themselves in the shoes of their customers and their employees to get a look at how their business affects their lives. Doing so strengthens the bond between employee, customer and leader and ultimately drives retention across CX.

On a last note, Stacy urges CX leaders to empathize, listen to and adapt with their employees, especially as they embrace a new normal and return to work.

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

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Why You Must Drive the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience | Stacy Sherman & Vikas Bhambri

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 why you must drive the customer experience with the employee experience. I think this is one of those often missed conversations. To do that we have two special people joining me today. Both Stacy and Vikas, why don’t you guys take just a minute and introduce yourselves? Stacy, let’s start with you.

Stacy Sherman: (00:34)
Yes. Hi. I’m happy to be here. Stacy Sherman. I am the Director of Customer Experience and Driving Employee Engagement at a global company, Schindler Elevator Corporation. And also live and breathe CX when I’m not at work through my blog and speaking about doing CX right.

Gabe Larsen: (00:56)
Yes. And I’ve been following. We got to make sure people see that we’ll get a link to it. Doing CX Right. Lot of great thought leadership coming from Stacy. And she will be sharing some of that with us today. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:09)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (01:13)
Yup. My right hand man, as we cohost our Experience Fridays show. And I’m Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Stacy let’s get into this. I want to go big picture for just a minute. What do you think is broken in customer experience today? So many things going on. What’s not working?

Stacy Sherman: (01:32)
I believe that it starts with culture, right? It’s about the people. So the best in class companies have that customer centric, no matter what perspective, at the top. And then those are the leaders that also drive that engagement all the way through the organization. So it’s a bottoms up and a top down where everybody’s walking that talk.

Gabe Larsen: (01:57)
I like the bottoms up approach. Vikas, what would you say? What do you think is most broken?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
No, I think Stacy hit the nail on the head, right? I mean, customer obsession is something that needs to be cultivated across the board. And I think we’ve always talked in the CX space about the three pieces to an effective program. People, process, and technology. And a lot of money and time is spent on process and technology, but very little is spent on people. And I think if you look at the companies that separate themselves, they put as much, if not more emphasis on the people end of it, than they do process and technology.

Gabe Larsen: (02:37)
Well, why do you guys think that is? I mean, process, is it because processes and technology are a little bit easier to do and the people side of it’s hard? Stacy, what do you think? Why do people not grasp the people side as much maybe as the technology side when it comes to optimizing the customer experience?

Stacy Sherman: (02:55)
I believe that companies, especially old school companies are still understanding that customer experience is a competitive weapon. It gives a competitive edge and we have not fully, fully shown the ROI behind culture and experience and why it matters. We know over the longterm and there’s so much research behind it, but it’s really proving out. It’s somewhat of a new field. I mean, customer service has been around forever, but that’s different than customer experience in that holistic view.

Gabe Larsen: (03:35)
Well, I like that because I do feel like you guys, that when you map a journey of a customer and you change a process, you can often find the efficiencies almost in dollars and cents, right? You can literally see something change, whether it’s in efficiencies and cost savings, or maybe it actually revenue in growth. When it comes to the people side of it, maybe that’s the problem, Vikas, isn’t it? You focus on kind of engaging your employees and making them happier, it’s harder. It’s kinda harder to see the ROI. Is that, is that kinda where you’d go or what would be your thoughts as why it’s difficult to kind of focus on the employee side?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:12)
Well, I think a lot of people look at it as unfortunately, a necessary evil. Like, we hear terms in the industry about the, it’s a cost center, right? And the moment you have that mindset, then everything you’re doing in that part of your business, you’re not necessarily looking at things like top line growth. And so, I always joke that. My peers in marketing, I’ve always had this advantage. Big budgets, et cetera, because everybody’s like, “Wow.” And it’s amazing. Right, right. We spend so much to acquire the customer and then we like throw them back into the dark ages, right? We have all this amazing technology, all these cool tools to acquire the customer. And then we send them into the dark ages. And with these people that sometimes literally look like they’re sitting in antiquated workspaces as well. So I think there’s a lot of that thoughtfulness that has to go into how do you want to treat customers after you acquire them, right? And then engaging the customers to deliver that amazing experience.

Gabe Larsen: (05:18)
This is a question that just came in on LinkedIn from Carrie. I wanted to throw it out to you guys. This bottoms up. I thought this might be interesting because it’s one that we do say you gotta get the leadership behind it, but how do you actually influence that bottoms up culture when it comes to the people? You want to start with this one, Stacy?

Stacy Sherman: (05:36)
Yeah, sure. So we are asking customers for feedback, thousands and thousands of different sources that we collect. And the key is that it’s using that feedback once closing the loop, right? Letting the customer know we heard you and we’re making changes, but also engaging your front line and having them look at the feedback, use it in their meetings, having leaders celebrate those good scores, satisfaction, NPS, et cetera, and using the other detractor ratings as coaching opportunities. And it’s that drum beat that we do that really drives that culture, that caring and empathy and best practices.

Gabe Larsen: (06:25)
Yeah, it is about, I mean, when we say bottoms up, guys, I think that is one of the key elements is you got to go to the front. So that’s the frontline employee, or that’s the frontline customer. We just did Vikas, at our own company, one of these employee engagement surveys and these action planning sessions where we sat down with some of the frontline people and asked them, “What do you think about how we can improve,” not only their own culture, but some of the customer experiences. And I was surprised, I was pleasantly surprised like, “Wow, these guys really know it. Like some of their ideas were a lot better than I think just asking the customer how we can improve their experience. And so I’m becoming more and more of an advocate of the employee side, the survey and using them in action planning sessions to see if we can’t get that bottoms up feedback to actually change some of the top end processes. Vikas, what would you add on bottoms up?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:17)
Well, look, we’ve talked about voice of the customer for years, right? It’s, what we look at in our program is voice of the employee of the customer, right? So our frontline, my customer success managers, my technical support specialists, they understand what customers are looking for. Obviously with Kustomer, in a contact center CRM platform, what are some of the things that they feel challenged with with their current tool set? What are they looking for? Whether it be reporting or other things. So I think really giving them a voice back with our product team, et cetera, to do that. The other is the frontline often really wants to do right by the customer. And they get hampered by process, right? We kind of put the handcuffs on them and where I’ve seen people really, companies be really effective here, some of our customers that we work with, is empowering that frontline. Allowing them to go above and beyond. We all hear about that amazing Zappos story that is now a mythical legend about somebody who sat on a phone for eight hours, talking somebody through a journey with their, with their product selection. Now that’s an extreme, but can you empower your people to go above and beyond? And then the third thing that I am really excited about is I’m seeing more and more companies put the executives or new employees in the chair of their frontline as part of their onboarding. So as part of your onboarding, go sit with your support team, hear your customers, feel their pain, understand their challenges, and then rotate your executives into that on a regular basis. I think those are all pretty exciting ways to approach this.

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
[Inaudible] Because I think as executives, you do, you just lose that vision. You lose, and you start to get into your meetings. You start to get the, you lose the bottoms up approach. I liked some of those ideas. Stacy, sorry. You were going to say something.

Stacy Sherman: (09:07)
Yeah, no. It’s exactly what we’re doing. At my work places, we’ll go out and spend time visiting the technicians, right? Those really important people who are fixing the problems and servicing customers, those technicians and mechanics every day. And so those not in that job will go and spend time. And I’ll tell you, I recently visited, before COVID, a hospital. Spent the time with a technician and I was amazed at how much he does in a day. Putting myself in his shoes and how he services the customers and it’s a big job. And I, so I agree with you. You’ve got to walk in employee’s shoes as well as the customer’s shoes.

Gabe Larsen: (09:55)
Yeah. Interesting. Dan, I think Dan, I love this word, Dan, this is kind of a inverted pyramid. CEO goes at the bottom customers at the top, and you start to kind of actually action a culture that brings the employee feedback all the way to where it shouldn’t be probably front and center. Are there some other things you guys, when it comes to using the employee to drive customer experience that you’ve found either beneficial in some of your interactions, your coaching, or just in your own effort? What are some of those tactics you’ve found to really drive the employee experience that ultimately drives the customer experience? Stacy, anything that comes to your mind?

Stacy Sherman: (10:35)
Yeah, well it’s what was said before about the voice of employees. So when they feel that they’re valued and they’re part of business decisions, they own it more. So part of our customer experience team is literally going out and talking to the employees before we launch something, before there’s some, as we frame up a new feature or a new anything, right? Involving the frontline into that feedback mechanism. And then they feel, they feel like they matter. And that’s huge.

Gabe Larsen: (11:12)
Yeah. I felt like the thing that you really can, you gotta be careful of it, if you’re going to go with this bottoms up approach, you’ve got to actually do something with the feedback, much like customer experience. You ask a question to an employee or you take the time to do what Stacy’s recommending and do an interview or do an engagement survey, and then you don’t actually action on that, I think you’re going to find that your engagement among your employees will probably drop more than where it was currently. So be conscientious of asking without actioning. Vikas, other things you’ve seen? I loved kind of getting the executives and listening to some of the phone calls. Other ways you’ve found to kind of empower agents to therefore empower customers to be, to have that great experience?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:59)
No, I think, as I said, I’ve seen where certain brands that we work with have given their frontline a budget. A budget to go send a thank you card or a birthday card or a birthday gift, or a token of their appreciation, right? Some have done where if they’re on a call that they can offer a coupon or something to that effect, right? So some really things, once again, empowering them to really, truly build that relationship with their customers. And then how do you recognize employees that go above and beyond, right? We’ve got the concept here at Kustomer. We call it the DJ Ty By award. Don’t just talk about it, be about it. And on a regular basis, we recognize those team members. And it’s not just the frontline, right? It’s the engineer who goes above and beyond to work on a bug over the weekend, right? It’s somebody in facilities who make sure that our, when we had our big Kustomer day event in our office, right, that the place looks amazing and it’s set up to entertain our guests. So I think it’s all of those things, right? If you create that culture that really becomes around rewarding and recognizing your employees for when they go above and beyond, I think those are some things that have really been successful.

Gabe Larsen: (13:20)
And one of the things I love as a resource, you guys, that you might want to check out is the Gallup Q12 Questions. It’s for those of you who don’t know Gallup, it’s a research-based consulting firm, focusing on the behavior like economic science of employee and customer engagement. And I don’t want to read through them, but there are some comments coming in about this on LinkedIn As you think about that bottoms up culture. Let me just tell you a couple of these, because I think it’s a great way to start formulating the culture of employee engagement that then translates to the customer and I want to get a couple of your guys’ opinion on some of these. So question one, they say, do you know, what’s expected of you at work? If an employee can answer this positively, they’re more likely to provide an engaging customer experience. Two, do you have the materials and equipment you need? Three, at work do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day? In the last seven days, have you received recognition? Does your supervisor, someone seem to care about you as a person? Is there someone at work who encourages your development? At work do your opinions count? And on and on. And this is a great framework I’ve found to start to think about how you actually drive I think that engagement culture, and maybe for some of you who are asking the question, a good place to start. One of these questions, you guys, it often is debated and I just want to throw it out here, is this idea of, do you have a best friend at work? And Gallup states that if you do have, if employees can answer this in a positive manner, they’re more likely to deliver a customer experience? Quick thoughts on one. Do you feel like that’s odd or how would you kind of explain that to the audience? Stacy, I’m putting you on the spot, but thoughts on facilitating more friendships among employees to ultimately drive the customer experience?

Stacy Sherman: (15:05)
I love that because –

Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
Number one though, isn’t it, it’s a little weird.

Stacy Sherman: (15:10)
I love it because again, it’s all about relationships and connection, so it makes total sense. And actually as a leader, right, of a team, I’m very focused on that. Like we just recently did a book club. It was a work book club around Simon Sinek, Start With the Why.

Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Love it.

Stacy Sherman: (15:33)
Yeah. And we got to talk about each chapter, understand the why, and now we are all able to help each other, make sure we hold each other accountable to our why’s and we wouldn’t have done that without being vulnerable and a friendship to do that.

Gabe Larsen: (15:50)
So you’ve kind of used a book club as a way to facilitate some of those relationships which ultimately kind of drives some of that engagement. Vikas, we’re obviously more of a remote culture at the moment and we’re having a different experience. Any things you’ve done or you’ve seen customers do to facilitate this friendship at work, this more kind of conducive collaborative environment across companies?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:16)
Look, I think the key thing there, what I think the gist of that is if you create a camaraderie where folks feel that they’re in it together. So one is how do you break down those barriers where people can go and feel comfortable asking for help? Going to one another for help, without feeling like, “You know what? People are gonna look at me like I don’t have the answer,” right? And the whole thing about, kind of that friendship environment, to me, it becomes a very key thing where if you feel that camaraderie and kinship with your peers and then of course, eventually the company, you think about it in the mindset, “Do I want to let these people down?” And I think that also creates an environment where people want to go above and beyond. When you perhaps don’t have those relationships, don’t have connections, then you’re more likely to say, “You know what? I’m just going to mail it in.” So I think that’s kind of what creates that environment, where you don’t want to let your teammate down, right? “So I see how hard Gabe is working well, you know what? Vikas, has to step it up,” right? So I think those are some of the kind of collegial environments where people promote success.

Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
That’s actually question number nine on that survey, Vikas, is, are your associates committed to doing quality work? I think you’re right. If people start to feel a little bit of that prep, prep is maybe not the right word, but they start to fill it, they jump on it. Stacy, what were you going to add?

Stacy Sherman: (17:38)
One word comes to my mind as you were just speaking. The word safety. We always think about safety from physical, but in a company it’s actually about mental safety too. Mental safety to express your views. Safety that you won’t be judged. And that’s something that people don’t first and foremost think about.

Gabe Larsen: (18:01)
I think we’re getting that more and more, because we’re all feeling a little vulnerable right now. I know I am. If anybody wants to talk to me about that, we can. Vikas knows I’m feeling vulnerable. Let’s end with this question, Carrie, appreciate the questions during the session. So since all CXE says includes cross-functional teams, how do you ensure teams like Ops and Marketing that may not always be in direct contact with the customer provide that consistent customer experience? So he’s talking about the whole customer journey. How was it not just my support team? How is it not just my sales? How do we kind of come together? Ooh, I don’t like that. That’s a harder question than the other softballs. Stacy, what do you think?

Stacy Sherman: (18:48)
No, it’s not hard.

Gabe Larsen: (18:48)
Okay, sorry.

Stacy Sherman: (18:52)
No, it’s not hard.

Gabe Larsen: (18:54)
Give me time to think, Stacy. I was just kind of –

Stacy Sherman: (18:59)
No, thinking, it’s the answer is you bring everybody to the table. All the different organizations come together to build the customer journey map. And everybody has a piece, right? How customers learn and buy and get and use and get helped. You have all the right teams who own those different parts of the journey and they’re at the table, and then you design it together. You co-create it together. And then you go validate it with the customers and find out where are the gaps.

Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. Bring everybody to the table. Vikas, what would you add?

Vikas Bhambri: (19:33)
No, I think, I think what Stacy said is spot on. I think if I look at, first of all, it starts with the values of the brand, right? What are your, what’s the, what are the values that you adhere to as a company? And that should be consistent across all departments, regardless of function. The second piece of it is your brand voice, right? If your marketing team is out there and they’re promoting partnership and things like that, and then you’re not following through on the backend, well, shame on you. So I think it has to be that alignment because the messaging you’re telling your customer at the frontend has to be delivered on the backend, right? Goes back to what I was saying earlier. The Ops is really interesting because Ops is indirect in contact with customers, right? The way you even bill a customer, you invoice them. The way that you reach out to them if they haven’t made a payment in time. If you’re a customer first brand, is your first notice to them that, “Oh man, you haven’t paid me,” or is it, “Hey, is everything okay? We didn’t get a payment from you. That’s not normal. What can we do to help?” So I think even the tone that these other functions take, we’re seeing it now, right? Obviously with the pandemic is how we, as a cross-functional team are meeting on a regular basis to talk about our customers and understand what is impacting specific customers and what can we, as a company and partner do to help them through this crisis. It’s a cross-functional team that meets on a weekly basis through this pandemic to have these conversations. And it’s regardless of the function in the company.

Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Oh, I love it. I don’t know if I’ve got much to add on that one. Carrie, I do like the communication, the feedback loop. Nothing better than when you start to celebrate successes and other people can start to feel it because Marketing, Ops, they have sometimes a harder time wanting to join. But if they feel some of that, those customer quotes that come in, as you know, or having these conversations that the support person hears, if you can have other people experience that, it makes other functions want to participate because they want to join the party. So that might be one tactical thing to think about. All right, well, as we leave you guys, maybe just quick summary comments. We hit a lot of different items, appreciate the audience questions. As you think about driving the customer experience with employees, what do you leave the audience with today? Stacy, let’s start with you.

Stacy Sherman: (21:55)
As leaders, we have to empathize and really listen. There’s no cookie cutter approach here. So really listen to what each person’s individual needs are, including their return back to the office and helping them. Because there’s a lot of mental and physical ramifications of COVID. So that included, really listening, empathize and then adapt to what meets their needs.

Gabe Larsen: (22:26)
Love it. Vikas, what did you want to –

Vikas Bhambri: (22:27)
So, I’ll kind of tie my summary back to what Carrie said, the inverted pyramid, right? I liked the way he phrased that. And I know a lot of people that I talk to love watching television programs like the Shark Tank and so on. I’ll tell you one of my favorite shows, and as a 20 year CRM contact center lifer, is a television program called the Undercover Boss. And that’s where CEOs dress up in disguise and go out there and work side by side with their team members in the frontlines, right? Whether it’s making pizzas or making pretzels all the way out to being a surface technician and the key message of that program, which I think Stacy alluded to, is speak to your frontline. Experience what your frontline is seeing and going through. And I think those are great lessons. Every time I watch that show, I’m amazed by like the revelations that a CEO of even a company that’s been a multi-generation family company. It’s like, “Wow, I never knew. I didn’t realize this was going on. I didn’t realize we were making these decisions that were impacting our customers and our frontline employees.” And so those, if anybody hasn’t seen their program and you’re a CX professional, I would strongly recommend it and try to get your CEO to watch it if you can.

Gabe Larsen: (23:51)
I love it. What’s it called? What was it called one more time?

Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

Stacy Sherman: (23:56)
It’s walking in the employee shoes. That’s literally what it is, but also walk in the customer’s shoes.

Gabe Larsen: (24:02)
Yeah. So, I mean, it’s one of the things we forget. Like we talk so much about walking in the customer’s shoes. Maybe we should try walking in the employee’s shoes. Well Vikas, Stacy, as always, appreciate you joining and for the audience, thanks for taking the time and to have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (24:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham

A Design Thinking Approach to CX with Kris Featheringham TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Kris Featheringham to uncover the secrets to human-centered design. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Kris combines both UX and CX to provide the ultimate tailored experience.

How Empathy Connects Agents and Customers

Director of Multifamily CX, UX, and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac, Kris Featheringham drives the human experience by incorporating empathy into everyday design. “There’s five steps to the design process,” Kris states, “empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things.” One of the most important steps to delivering the ultimate customer experience is that of empathizing with the user by trying to understand how your products can be used in their day to day lives. Kris finds that rather than sitting down and interviewing the user about their experience with a product or prototype, the best method to truly understand their experience is to watch them use or interact with that product. Relating this back to customer experience, Kris notes that the core of UX and CX is rooted in empathy. When teams of experience experts keep the user at the center of all aspects of design, they are better able to fully understand the customer and to grasp how their product has the potential to affect their lives.

Getting the Executive Seal of Approval

Human-centered design has become a hot topic in recent CX conversations. IDEO was one of the first companies to take design-thinking into consideration and to incorporate it into every aspect of their services. Since this is such a new concept, people tend to struggle to get executives or members of the C-Suite onboard with integrating human-centered design approaches into their brand. Gaining executive buy-in is essential for company-wide change. “Executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable.” Regardless of this being a new concept to the world of CX leaders and agents, adopting a design mindset can greatly increase a team’s ability to relate with their customers, by offering insights to their daily lives.

Interact With and Learn From Users

Testing a new product or prototype with users is a fantastic way to evaluate the potential success of that offering once it is released on the market. Sitting down with users and getting a grasp for how they use created components offers some valuable insights to a new product. Asking “why” questions to the test users helps leaders to narrow down places where improvements can be made. If a customer dislikes a product, ask them why. If a customer loves a product, do the same and ask them why. As Kris says,
“This is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say.” He also mentions that focusing on the customer’s desired outcomes leads to a better design because oftentimes, customers know what they need to be fixed when using a brand’s product, website, or software. For CX and UX design teams, customer happiness and product success is a matter of finding the right outcomes to fit their customer’s needs.

Kris leaves the audience with one final note: “The day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by.” By incorporating design thinking into daily practices, adaptation and innovation will soon follow.

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

Listen Now:

Listen to “Assumptions to Understand | Kris Featheringham” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

A Design Thinking Approach to CX | Kris Featheringham

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. We’re going to be talking about an interesting topic today. The ideas, assumptions to understanding. We’ll talk more about it, don’t worry. You’re not going to have all the answers to start. To do that, we brought on Kris Featheringham. He’s the Director of Customer Experience and Human-Centered Design at Freddie Mac. Kris, thanks for joining. How are you?

Kris Featheringham: (00:32)
My pleasure. I’m great. How are you?

Gabe Larsen: (00:34)
Good, man. I appreciate you jumping on. I’m excited to dive into the talk track. Before we do, let’s learn a little bit more about yourself. Tell us just kind of how you came into the world of CX, Freddie Mac. Give us kind of the who and what is Kris?

Kris Featheringham: (00:47)
It’s a little bit of a crazy road. Yeah. My background is mechanical engineering. I’m a math and numbers guy and then I stumbled, well, I didn’t stumble, I went and got a degree in systems engineering after that. And I worked heavily in the world of enterprise architecture, really breaking things down in terms of business processes, system functions, data elements, and things of that nature. And I worked in a consulting space for about 17 years and five years ago, Freddie Mac approached me and said, “You know what? We need someone to start a business architecture practice for us because we need help making decisions.” So I said, “Yeah, I can do that.” So I came on board to Freddie Mac and honestly it was a terrific environment. I love it. I still love it to this day. And I started doing traditional business architecture.

Kris Featheringham: (01:35)
And one day, one of the Senior Vice Presidents said, “You know what? I understand what you’re doing and the people are representative in your diagrams and in your architecture, but they’re really not there.” And I said, “Do you know what? You’re right.” So I went back to the drawing board and I started talking to a couple of my people and I was like, “Let’s roll the dice with design thinking.” It’s something I knew about and I’ve seen applied, but it’s still relatively a new practice brought into this world. So I said, “Let’s go ahead and do that.” So we started creating some artifacts that are typically a by-product of the design thinking process. And I presented it back to my Senior Vice President. She was like, “Perfect. This is exactly what I’m talking about.” So that’s kind of how I stumbled into that world because I started doing less and less business architecture and more and more of that design thinking, that human empathy and things of that nature. And it just kind of spiraled from there. So that assumptions to understanding really, that’s a phrase I’ve coined within our organization because a lot of times companies don’t want to bother their customers. They feel like, “Hey, let’s let them enjoy our products, let them enjoy our services. We know them well enough, we can assume what they like and what they dislike, and we can figure out how we can innovate and progress in our business to address their needs.” But that doesn’t work. It doesn’t really work. So through design thinking, we truly understand.

Gabe Larsen: (02:58)
All right. I like, that was going to be my first one is, what is this assumptions to understanding? But I love that. It’s kind of taking this idea of moving from assumptions, obviously to understanding and how companies probably need to do that. Okay. Well, let’s dive in. Oh, before we do that, I’d love to ask, I apologize, but outside of work, what, any kind of crazy hobbies? Just want to get to know you a little bit. Fun facts about yourself, embarrassing moments you want to share on camera here?

Kris Featheringham: (03:26)
I think you’re going to need more than a half hour for this, but to be honest, there’s a lot of things I’ve been involved with from showing dogs at Westminster to being a little league coach. But honestly the one thing I’ve really become passionate about here over the years is a lot of woodworking and building things. So I build a lot of furniture. I do, I built a deck. I made a wine cellar. So I’ll, when I have those spare moments, I like to build things and kind of, I don’t know, make interesting things and kind of like expand upon our house and make it like ours.

Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
Yeah. Fun. Kind of fix it yourselfer.

Kris Featheringham: (04:01)
Try to be.

Gabe Larsen: (04:01)
I am the, I have always appreciated someone who can use their hands to actually get something done. What’s your favorite project that you’ve done out of everything you’ve built? Where do you go?

Kris Featheringham: (04:14)
I’ll tell you what. So when we moved to this house a number of years ago, my wife’s like, “Hey.” We designed a deck, right? And honestly, this deck turned into 800 square feet and she asked me if I could have it done in the first weekend we’re here. I’m like, “Baby, not happening, not happening”. But three months later though, we did finish that deck and it’s absolutely gorgeous. I worked with her, actually with her father and we plowed through that thing and it’s the highlight of the house. So I love it to death. We sit out there.

Gabe Larsen: (04:42)
800 square feet. That is no joke. That is not a small –

Kris Featheringham: (04:45)
It’s big.

Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
You might have to send pictures. We’ll include them in a link to the show, Kris. All right, well, let’s get into kind of this recipe of design thinking then. Something you hit on and something you’ve kind of come to really understand and appreciate. Love to hear some of the lessons learned. The process you take in order to do this the right way. Where do you start?

Kris Featheringham: (05:08)
You got to have executive support. You really have to have a champion from it, for it, apologies. It is something new to a lot of organizations. Now it’s not a new practice. There’s been companies doing it for over 20 years. IDEO for example, is the famous one. They’re the one. They’re the ones who kind of came up with that process. So I know we’ll talk a little bit more about it as we get in there, but executive sponsorship, executive buy-in, support, whatever you want to call it, is paramount because it is a change in mindset. It is a totally new direction, a new way of thinking, a new way of innovating that a lot of people honestly find uncomfortable. And without that championship from your, from, everyone’s boss, right? You’re not going to get people to participate in the beginning. So I think if you can sell it to your leadership, you’re there.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, yeah that’s funny you brought a IDEO. I haven’t thought about that name for ages, but you’re right. They were one of the pioneers, I’m thinking maybe even 20 years ago they were talking about, I don’t know what they called it, but it was different. Boy, it was different when I first saw one of their projects or videos. It, boy, I haven’t thought about that in –

Kris Featheringham: (06:19)
Yeah, there’s a great video. I think it’s from like 1997, like Ted Koppel did something or another on Newsweek, Newswire or whatever it was called back then. And there’s like a 20 minute video on it that’s amazing to watch and you can really see the thought process and the, what they were trying to achieve.

Gabe Larsen: (06:33)
Oh my heavens, you’re right. That, that was a fun one. So, you typically try to go for executive sponsorship. That’s one that people really struggle with. Is there any secrets you’ve found to get that? Oftentimes, I’ve heard CX leaders on our side of the fence say, “We speak different languages. They’re kind of about revenue. I’m about NPS. We’re kind of speaking French and Spanish here.” So any thoughts on how to make that happen?

Kris Featheringham: (06:59)
Yeah. I’ll tell you what, there’s an easy way to solve this is, you bring in a high powered, expensive consulting firm to tell you you need to do it. And a lot of times the executive sponsors would say, “Okay, sure. Let’s go ahead and do this,” because someone with some prestige has said it’s a great idea. But I’ll be honest, I would say that nowadays, most of the executive leaders out there know it exists. They know the value of it. They might not necessarily know how to get it started or what it really entails and that would be the responsibility of the person who’s looking to really adopt it and bring it into their organization is, “Hey, I’m sure you’ve heard about this, but let me talk to you a little bit more. Let me bring you in some use cases from some other companies.” There’s so much you can find online about how very famous companies, especially in technology, but across all organizations, retail, you name it, has brought in the concept of design thinking into their daily routines.

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
I love that. Okay. So executive sponsorships, where you go first and then how do you start to build this process of rolling out a design thinking, human-centered process? Any tips?

Kris Featheringham: (08:12)
So, design thinking is often linked to what’s called human-centered design and they’re kind of one in the same. And really, I think human-centered design kind of gives it that definition of really, you’re putting someone in the middle of what you’re trying to do. And human-centered design, design thinking can be used to solve a lot of problems. Originally, it was there from a technology perspective, but it’s grown leaps and bounds. You see it in product development and sporting equipment, services, you name it. But really, the way you get started, and honestly you got to start small, you got to start with a little bit of a, almost like a side gig within an organization, you want to kind of tackle a problem, but really what it means for human centered design is you’re putting the customer at the center of everything that you’re doing.

Kris Featheringham: (08:59)
There’s five steps to the design thinking process and I can go over them a little bit more in detail, but it’s empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. And then it sounds very linear, but honestly it’s a bowl of spaghetti because it just, there’s so much going on and you’re doing this concurrently with trying to do so many things that you might kind of go from one to the other back to the beginning, so forth. But it’s really about truly understanding who you’re trying to solve the problem for, whether it’s an internal employee on a technology application, whether it’s a piece of sporting equipment for some end-user playing little league, who knows? But that building of the empathy is really the root of it all.

Gabe Larsen: (09:45)
Yeah. Well, yeah, let’s double click and you can take us through a hypothetical example. I’d love to hear about how you kind of explain or double click on some of these steps. So you were just talking about empathizing, what does that mean? How do you do it? Give me an example.

Kris Featheringham: (10:00)
So really what empathize means is you really just understand your user’s needs. All right, what is it like to be that person? And that person in the design thinking world is called a persona. And you build that persona through really just getting to know the person, getting to know what it is that they do each and every day. And it may even be outside of the domain you work in. So it’s like when they wake up, what’s the first thing they think about in the day? What is their life like? All right. You really want to kind of understand really the day in and day out of that person. And then you might go in there and honestly you might just interview them and ask them questions. You might walk them through various exercises of building a journey, and we could talk forever on journeys. Maybe we’ll talk another day about that. But you might shadow the person during their workday to understand what it is they do because when you sit there and just talk face to face with the person, they might be able to tell you a few things here and there, but you’re not going to pick up the same true sentiment and the understanding of the day in the life of that person without just watching them do their job.

Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Yeah. That’s way deeper. I mean, I’ve heard some people talk about like the customer journey map, which is really, it feels like it’s more just interview focused, watching, talking to them about what they do. What you’re talking about, it does sound like it’s more holistic. I actually talked to a hotel. He talked about his, the hotel, he ran operations for a hotel chain. He was like, “That’s one of the most powerful things we’ve ever done is we’ll just, we’ll get actually a guest and we’ll just shadow them as they check into our hotel, as they go into the room, where they go in the room.” He’s like, “It’s a little weird, but obviously we have permission to talk,” but then they’re really able to find some of those intricacies that wouldn’t probably come out via questioning. It really only came out via shadowing like their day to day life. I liked that one. That’s cool. That’s decent.

Kris Featheringham: (11:56)
Yeah. You couldn’t have said it more. That’s truly perfect. Because a lot of times when you sit there and interview someone, they’re just going off their most recent recollection or their most recent experiences, but there’s a lot of things that will come out that you will, that they would never even thought to bring up as you watch them. And you’ll come back to them afterwards saying, “Hey, I saw you do this and this can talk to me about that?” And then all of a sudden you opened up a whole new can of worms and it’s powerful.

Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
Got it. Okay. So empathize, that’s one. Where do you go? And then define is, how do you –

Kris Featheringham: (12:26)
Yeah, define’s the next step? And that’s a little bit, that’s kind of like a homework step. Once you spent all that time with your customers, really get to know their day in and out, you go back and you really put it all together and you try to understand, what are the true needs my customer has, right? Not just needs, but also, what is the major problems they are facing? A lot of times they will say, “I need this piece of software to do this.” Okay. That might not be really what they need. They needed an expected outcome. The define stage is more about understanding what are those outcomes that you’re trying to solve for? Not what is the client asking for, but what are those outcomes? Because sometimes the client might ask for something, but then it’s because they don’t truly understand or can’t, I won’t say can’t, but don’t necessarily understand that there might be no limits to what you might be able to provide them. So what is that outcome? And that’s really what’s coming out of the define stage and that’s a homework exercise you do with the team. You might bring in some internal people that really talk about it, bring in some perspectives. But that is an internal activity for us.

Gabe Larsen: (13:28)
Yeah. That one seems like it’s hard. Because it does, I like your point on, it’s not just what the customers say, it’s kind of the outcome they’re really looking for. And that goes back to that concept. Like if I, what’s that, I love that quote, The Henry Ford quote. “If I would have asked my customers what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses,” or something, right? Or –

Kris Featheringham: (13:49)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (13:49)
Wouldn’t have been like, what they really wanted was just to get from faster to A to B. So their answer would have been, “Give me a faster horse,” when they really define the outcomes. Like, “Oh, well maybe we should find a better way to get from A to B,” right? So getting to real customers, not what they need, but what they want. I don’t know. I’m probably not explaining –

Kris Featheringham: (14:13)
Honestly, that’s a perfect example because a lot of times they know what they need to get to solve their problem. They don’t necessarily know how to get there. So they might just throw something off the top of their head, right? And yeah, it might be a great idea, it might not. Let us figure out how to get to that end state. You just tell us what the major problem is and where you’d like to be.

Gabe Larsen: (14:35)
Yeah. I feel like people get stuck there. That’s where it’s always building faster widgets. It’s like, “Let’s just decrease average handle time because people said they’re not satisfied.” We kind of tackle, we don’t really tackle the outcome. We just tackle one of the, one of the potential problems or one of the issues that’s leading to the outcome that’s not desirable. Oh man, any secrets you’ve found? Is it the brainstorm? Is it the, how do you get to the right outcome? Because again, I find that a lot of times people are misdiagnosing the job to be done, the outcome to be done.

Kris Featheringham: (15:15)
Yeah. You set it up perfectly because the next step in the whole process is the ideation stage, right? So now that we’ve done that research and now that we truly understand the problem of where that end state, where the customer or the human at the center of your design is looking to get to, the ideation starts and there’s, yeah. You can Google a ton of different ways to ideate on solving problems and things of that nature. But really, it’s getting people in the room. It might just be internal people. It might be a small project team. It might include some customers as well, but you go in there and you just start throwing out crazy things. And it doesn’t matter if it hits the nail. It’s really a way to, brainstorming is obviously the word that a lot of people have heard, but if you go online, you can search tons of different ways to go through these activities from like, I don’t know. One of the ones I enjoy is like called crazy eights. There’s something called mission impossible and negative brainstorming. There’s a whole bunch of different ways you can do it but really what it does is it throws ideas. What’s that?

Gabe Larsen: (16:22)
What’s like the crazy, like, give me an example of what does a crazy eight mean? It means you, or whatever else you said, is it just –

Kris Featheringham: (16:30)
Yeah. So crazy eights is kind of, that’s kind of my go-to because it works well for a lot of situations. So you just take a sheet of paper, fold it in half once, fold half twice, fold it in half another time, now you’ve got four, sorry, eight squares on your piece of paper. All right. And before we do this though, we make sure that all the people that are part of this ideation session are well-versed in the research that we did during the empathize. And what does that problem statement it needs through the define? So everybody understands part one and two. So we’re all rooted into the problem. So crazy eights, everybody’s got that sheet of paper now with eight little squares and you have eight minutes to put eight picture ideas on a square. And it doesn’t have to be a Picasso or anything like that.

Kris Featheringham: (17:17)
It’s trying to put eight quick ideas onto a piece of paper to come up with random thoughts of what can address those problems. All right. Some might hit the nail. Some might not. Most do not, but the great thing is they spur conversations and then the people in the room start to, people in the room start discussing it a little bit more. And you might take a concept for one person’s, mix it with another and say, “Oh my God, we have a really cool idea right here.” So it’s just a way to get some rapid ideas onto a piece of paper and start building off of that. So that’s the crazy eights.

Gabe Larsen: (17:50)
So it’s finding some way to do some of this ideation process. It sounds like –

Kris Featheringham: (17:54)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
So that’s, from the ideation then how do you narrow that down? You move into this prototype phase. Talk about that.

Kris Featheringham: (18:03)
Yeah. Yeah. So after ideation, right, you start, during that discussion and things like that, you narrow things down, you can’t have it. Let’s say there’s a hundred people, hundred’s way too many, 10 people in a room with eight concepts. You’re looking at 80. You really want to focus it down to a little bit more granular level, right? Pick one or two and kind of put it together. And that’s where you start prototyping, right? And if it’s a physical product, whether it’s technology, there’s a lot of different ways you can do it. You can do clickable prototypes for like a website. You could get popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners and put together some kind of fake physical object to represent what you’re trying to build of a physical product.

Kris Featheringham: (18:45)
But you put something together and then you want, you put it in front of a customer or a user that wasn’t part of this, right? And I’m jumping already to the last step is the testing phase, because it’s so important. Like you hand it over to a user and you say, “What do you think?” All right. And just let them, this is the point where you just open your ears, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say like, “I don’t get it.” “All right, why?” Ask them why. And they’ll explain something or they’ll say, “I love it.” Ask them why, learn from them, right? If they’re saying, “You know what, it’s great, but it’s missing this.” “Okay. Let me record that.” And you’ll get so many pieces of input and feedback from those users that haven’t seen anything yet until you put that product in front of them and you ask those why questions and you gather that feedback and you know what you do? You go back, you ideate your prototype, you test again.

Kris Featheringham: (19:35)
And it might take a number of cycles to go through the process. But really what you’re doing is you’re taking a creative idea, you’re putting it in front of the customer, they’re giving you feedback, you’re going back to the drawing board and coming up a little bit more creative idea and doing it again and again until you really nail it.

Gabe Larsen: (19:52)
I love it. Well thought out, Chris. I want to spend more time but our time is short. So empathize, walk me through the steps again?

Kris Featheringham: (20:02)
Sure. Empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, rinse and repeat.

Gabe Larsen: (20:09)
Rinse and repeat. That’s the sixth step. Perfect. All righty. Well, in closing, maybe a summary statement from you. We hit on a lot of different ideas. As people are trying to get this design thinking into their own business, what would be a takeaway you’d leave them with?

Kris Featheringham: (20:26)
You know what, I like to tell people that the day you stop innovating is the day your competition passes you by. And the design thinking process is not meant to solve a problem and then you’re done and then you forget about it. You are constantly needing to push that envelope. Look for ways to constantly expand, enhance, modify, whatever it is to evolve whatever you’re delivering to your customers over and over again, because that needs to continually evolve or else you become stale.

Gabe Larsen: (20:59)
All right. Well, hey Kris, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Kris Featheringham: (21:05)
I appreciate it. I appreciate you having me on board and I’m open to questions from anyone. Just reach out anytime.

Gabe Larsen: (21:12)
Thanks Kris. Take care.

Kris Featheringham: (21:13)
Thanks a lot.

Exit Voice: (21:20)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Understanding the Global Customer with Balaji Gadicharla

Understanding the Global Customer with Balaji Gadicharla TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Balaji Gadicharla to discuss the secrets of understanding the global customer. Learn how Balaji connects with customers on a global scale by listening to the podcast below.

Serving Customer Needs Efficiently

Global Head of Service Support and Success at CipherCloud, Balaji Gadicharla has over 20 years of experience working with customers and providing service. When asked about his time working on the worldwide spectrum and how he has been able to provide excellent CX throughout the globe, Balaji notes, “We should be able to provide a unified experience to our customer, to all our customers across all incidents.” To elaborate on this idea, Balaji explains that when a company doesn’t have unified teams, the customer is easily confused. In these instances, a customer is handed from team to team until they finally reach a resolution. Shortening this process leads to garnered customer loyalty and to do so, he suggests creating a triage approach where people from different teams work together to reach a solution for the customer. “We formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted.” Rather than having multiple people speak to the customer at different times and further prolonging the process, Balaji and his triage approach continues to delight customers by serving their needs more efficiently.

Working With, Not Against Cultural Differences

Effective service differs by definition across varying cultures and time zones. It’s extremely important for CX leaders to understand how their service should be delivered across different customer landscapes by evaluating how embedded cultures affect work time, language, and customs. On this topic, Balaji believes, “We need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask.” Holidays, acceptable work times, cultural norms, and preferred schedules should all be taken into consideration when coaching CX teams. Beyond the customer scope, operational teams need to be able to transition work seamlessly between shifts and time zones, providing a consistent customer experience across the board. Balaji enforces the idea, “When people rotate the shifts, their transition work should happen seamlessly.” Understanding the customer from a cultural perspective allows for compassionate and empathetic responses from CX teams, further assisting the company in its journey to become trusted partners.

Becoming a Trusted Partner within Customer Ecosystems

Becoming a trusted partner is a crucial element to lasting customer loyalty, starting with going beyond responding to customer desire. This step really sets CX teams apart from others when customers feel that not only their needs are met but that they are catered to in many different areas regarding their experience with a brand. Part of this step is to understand the customer as a whole and to take into account their entire ecosystem of operations. How a customer operates, when they operate versus when they don’t are all part of their ecosystem. Getting to the trusted partner stage in a relationship with a customer can be a daunting task for leaders. To help alleviate their worries, Balarji offers some practical advice, “You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them.” Being honest with the customer (even if it’s not good news), going beyond basic expectations, and understanding their ecosystem is sure to boost and engage loyalty.

To learn more about successfully operating CX on a global scale, 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 “Customer Success on a Global Scale | Balaji Gadicharla” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Customer Success on a Global Scale | Balaji Gadicharla

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. We’re going to be talking customer success, how to do that on a global scale. And to do that, we brought on Balaji Gadicharla who is currently the global Head of Service, Support and Success at Cipher Support. So Balaji, thanks for joining. How are you?

Balaji Gadicharla: (00:29)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me here. I’m doing great.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, it’s quite a different world we’ve been living in and I know that’s impacted your world as well as everybody else. So appreciate you jumping on. We’ve been kind of tossing notes back and forth. But maybe you could start just by telling us, you have a fun background. Tell us a little about yourself and some of the things you’ve done around service, success, support and in your career.

Balaji Gadicharla: (00:54)
Sure. Yeah. So first of all, thanks for this opportunity, Gabe. I know we have been going a little back and forth, but finally we made it. So a little bit of background about myself. So at around 20 years of experience in the technology sector. I’ve been working for various companies in the Bay Area for around 15 years. Then currently, I’m now in India. So when I was there in the Bay Area, I worked for E-Trade, Adobe, TiVo Corporation at various roles, primarily in IT, but I also was looking after professional services support. And my last role in India was for CipherCloud. So CipherCloud is a cloud access security broker, CASB company, headquartered in San Jose. And we have offices in India, which is a big center here and we have customers spread across the world. So a majority of my things that they want to discuss today with respect to customer experience is going to be based on my, the way we handled it at CipherCloud, because it was an evolving company. There was a lot of stuff that were happening, a lot of moving parts. So in short, that is my background, so –

Gabe Larsen: (02:08)
Yeah, no, I love it. That’s a helpful overview. Tell us just outside of work. Sometimes I like to ask, any hobbies or fun things just to get to know you? You a hiker, climber, soccer player, or anything like that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:20)
Yeah. I’m not a climber, but I’m definitely interested in hiking. So I’ve done a couple of decent hikes in the past. I’ve done Grand Canyon. I went to Phantom Ranch and came up, did Half Dome in Yosemite. And then in India I did a –

Gabe Larsen: (02:35)
Wow.

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:35)
Yeah, that was long time ago though.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
Wow, that’s exciting.

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:40)
Yeah. And then in India, I make it like, kind of a ritual once a year to go somewhere with the family. But occasionally I do venture out on my own and a couple of years back, I went to Himalayas for around a week of trek and that was fun. It was a place called [inaudible]. So I do, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
Wow.

Balaji Gadicharla: (02:57)
I try to do a couple of hikes and [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (03:01)
Grand Canyon is not too, I’m actually at the moment, for the holidays I’m over in Utah.

Balaji Gadicharla: (03:08)
Oh, really? Wow.

Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
Not too far from Grand Canyon. We’ve got some great national monuments out here. If you’re ever out here, let me know. Well, let’s jump in. I want to start big picture. You’ve had an amazing career in dealing with customers, visiting them, strategizing with them. As you think about customer service and customer experience and driving customer success, what are some of the big things on your mind or trends or problems that you’ve seen as you’ve kind of traveled the globe?

Balaji Gadicharla: (03:40)
Yeah. See, one thing that strikes me is when we are talking to our customers, they say like, “Sometimes we get service. Sometimes we don’t get that same level of service.” Same thing happens with support while we are dealing with the different cases or different points in time. So what it means is, we should be able to provide a unified experience to our customers, to all our customers across all incidents. So it should not be transactional. I guess somebody picks up a phone and then calls your boss and then everything starts falling in place. That’s not how it should be run, right? So I thought after visiting with a lot of customers, this is one thing that was kind of a challenge for me as a person in the role that I was in, not just in this company that I worked for until recently, but even in the past, right? So even when I looked online or when I talked to other people in this profession, I see that giving this a unified experience, and then the customer realizes you as one monolithic entity and not different departments within this vendor company. That is a big challenge.

Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Wow. Yeah. And that’s something, what do you say? I mean, if you’ve experienced it, do you feel like, what, if I had to, you had to put your thumb on it, what percentage of companies do you think are doing it right? Really have that kind of unified approach? Is it just almost nobody? Or do you feel like you’re seeing more and more people get there?

Balaji Gadicharla: (05:06)
There are companies. I mean, I would say like 20 to 30% can do that. With the passage of time, their processes will mature and then they will get there. But the smaller firms are the firms who are at a very rapid pace of growth. They try to, miss a couple of things and then they learn the lessons the hard way, right? That’s not how it should be. So you can follow a couple of things and then come to that point much faster and in a much more predictable way.

Gabe Larsen: (05:35)
Yeah. How do you then move to, if you see this problem, how are companies, do you feel like tackling it? Any advice or best practices you’ve seen that they’ve kind of been doing?

Balaji Gadicharla: (05:47)
Yeah, sure. Yeah. So, let me give some examples of what we did at CipherCloud to achieve this, right? So we had customers globally. We had in New Zealand, Russia, Israel, North America of course, and then all over Europe. So what we did was I would support, our mission primarily was focused in India. I mean, we were serving our customers from India, but at the same time, we also had escalation teams. Escalation managers have some advantage points. Some people were there in North America close to a set of customers. Some people were there in Europe. So they were following this, follow the same model, whenever there was a necessity, the escalation team was there to pick up the phone and call the customer or make a visit physically, right? So that’s one thing that we want, we did. And the other thing was, we established certain dedicated teams. So most of the cases, what happens is in technology companies, you have to wait for the engineer to come on board and they’re on the call and then explain why this problem is happening. And then product management gets onto the call and then tries to tell when the next feature is going to, and all these things will confuse the customer, right? So we formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted. “Oh, wow. You brought all the team members in one shot.” [Inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Wow. Yeah, so that was kind of a, more of a triage approach where you jumped in to actually say, “Hey, rather than talking to multiple people, let’s just see if we can get on together and provide more of a structured, cohesive answer where everyone’s more aligned.”

Balaji Gadicharla: (07:28)
That’s right. That’s right.

Gabe Larsen: (07:30)
So it sounds like one of the big things you’ve found is this unified, kind of customer experience, everything in one place and you’ve given some tips on how you’ve seen best practice companies deal with that. Where do you go next? What’s that other big challenge or things you failed where people are either stumbling or trends are moving towards that direction?

Balaji Gadicharla: (07:51)
Right. Yeah. So the other thing is that the cultural aspect of it also, right? I mean, nowadays all these companies are global and we are always engaged with some customer color or another and unfortunately during these COVID days, you don’t even see them face to face many times. So we need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask. And then at the operation level, you need to make sure that the transition work happens from one team to other team or from one, a team that is taking care of the time zone, right? Shifts. So when people rotate the shifts, their transitional work should happen seamlessly. That’s one thing, right? And the other thing is, from the cultural perspective, you cannot expect that some of the countries, some of the team members to work at a particular time or make a change to their systems during particular time frames. For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas, US will get busy. August is typically– UK will get busy. You don’t find too many people to do certain tasks. So if you are already aware of it, and in some cases, if you are even aware of the maintenance windows of your customers, that would help a lot.

Gabe Larsen: (09:01)
And do you feel like that there is, that this is one of the problems that a lot of people are running into? They just don’t understand that the kind of the nature of their customers?

Balaji Gadicharla: (09:12)
That’s right, right? I mean they don’t understand because sometimes they’re so busy just working on the issues and all, they don’t understand that certain things cannot be done in a finance company during month-end closure, quadrant closure, year end closure, right? Some things can be done, cannot be done. So what we did was we actually asked for the maintenance schedule windows of our customers, our four key customers, not all customers, it’s not going to happen. But some of our key strategic customers, we had their maintenance window calendar with us. So instead of just going and asking them, “When can you make this change in your production system?” We already knew, when is the next possible date. So that also helped us to basically be part of the environment and then give them some extra service.

Gabe Larsen: (09:59)
Got it. And do you feel like companies, what are they doing to overcome some of this stuff? Do you feel like there’s a best practice you’ve seen to approach and tackle that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (10:10)
Right. So the best practice I would say is like, understanding the business of your customer. So just don’t like that, we should not just like assume that it is some person or some customer sitting there, but try to understand the ecosystem of the customer. How, where they’re operating, how they’re operating, and that helps you to go one level further to see how you as a vendor is going to fit into that ecosystem, right? So that helps.

Gabe Larsen: (10:39)
Yeah, I think that’s probably the best place to go. If you can just bring it all into that one ecosystem, that one vendor.

Balaji Gadicharla: (10:46)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (10:46)
That makes a big, big difference. But it’s hard. I talked to one gentleman, he said he had a “Frankenstack,” right? You’re working with so many systems and so many vendors, sometimes it’s hard to find a way to bring that together in a system that can actually provide, maybe not everything, but more of a, something that actually works for you.

Balaji Gadicharla: (11:09)
I mean, there are ways, right? For example, if you see this connected strategy approach. So there are like, it talks about four levels, right? On the first level, you’re talking of response to design. So customer wants something and the vendor provides something and that’s really basic. That’s elementary. Where you need to get is being a trusted partner of the customer. And then once you have that, you can automatically look into their system and then do changes into the system, of course, with their permission. But that is where you need to be. The fourth stage, the trusted partner, right? For that to happen, if you understand the business, if you understand the ecosystem, how they are running their business and how you fit in into the customer ecosystem, you can jump from level one of responding to desire to make a curated offering, be a coach, behavior, and finally become a trusted partner. It’s possible. You have to basically identify what are the things that you will do with respect to your customers at each of these levels and be a trusted partner.

Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
Yeah. That trusted partner, I think, is where we’re all trying to get. In closing, I think a lot of service and success people are looking for edges on how to win and how to compete. What would be that advice you’d leave to them as they try to, in these tumultuous times really differentiate with the customer experience?

Balaji Gadicharla: (12:27)
Right. Yeah. So I think in a, even if it is not good news for the customer, be honest, right? Instead of just over promising and under delivering go the other way around. You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them. Particularly during these times when everyone is virtual and they’re struggling between work and life and a lot of things have happened, it’s not the usual way of doing business. So if you have some connectivity issues and if you cannot make it to a particular meeting for whatever reason, just be honest about it and don’t try to basically be hero of the situation, right? People do understand. A lot of them have seen this and it works.

Gabe Larsen: (13:12)
I love that. I love that. So, hey, really appreciate the talk track. I think we’ve covered a lot of bases. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of the things you’ve talked about today, what’s the best way to do that?

Balaji Gadicharla: (13:24)
Oh, they can connect me on the, on the LinkedIn. They can search for my name. Balaji Gadicharla. They should be able to find it. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Well, hey, really appreciate it. Hope you have a fantastic day and same for the audience. Guys, thanks so much for joining and have a great day.

Balaji Gadicharla: (13:39)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks. I appreciate it very much.

Exit Voice: (13:47)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar

Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement with Sami Nuwar TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Sami Nuwar to discuss how to successfully attain operational excellence in the CX realm. Sami has a diverse background as a customer experience and operational excellence practitioner. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Sami has become an expert at helping CX leaders reach excellence.

Utilizing Data for Operational Excellence

Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia, Sami Nuwar, helps his team understand and interpret customer data through new technology. In his experience, Sami defines operational excellence as, “The thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.” In instances where CX teams lack in this excellence category, Sami suggests that this is due to a lack of data gathering, interpretation, and action. Oftentimes when data is collected at firms, it is ignored and those within the company forget to ask questions regarding that data. It is impossible for effective changes to take place when no questions are being asked about interpreting the data. “Every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things.” Once that data is collected, it needs to be placed into the hands of those who can utilize that data beneficially. To do so, Sami suggests translating data in a way with monetary value, as dollar signs attract key eyes.

Becoming Operationally Sound

Sami understands that converting a CX team to becoming completely operationally sound can be difficult and overwhelming at first. To help clear any confusion, Sami suggests that the main goal is turning data into information that can be used to the benefit of the company. Becoming operationally sound is initially rooted in understanding the company’s vision and the steps necessary to see that vision to fruition. When a vision is set and understood by the team, it allows space for empathetic conversations to take place. Additionally, listening to and empathizing with those in the company can help employers to gain a better understanding of the daily operations. “Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them,” Sami elaborates. The last part of becoming operationally sound is to find balance within the organization and to translate data in a way that is relevant.

Advertising Successful Changes

One of the most important elements to operational excellence is often overlooked in Sami’s eyes, which is advertising the successful changes implemented by a department. When successful changes are implemented within the organization, Sami says that it is of the utmost importance to “sell your changes” to others within the firm. He goes on to explain that at first a lot of people won’t be onboard with new changes however, when successes are advertised within the company, people tend to hop onboard and support such changes. “It’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.”

To learn more about achieving operational excellence, 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 “Operational Excellence | With Sami Nuwar” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Operational Excellence | Sami Nuwar

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about operational excellence. This is an important one. We’ve asked about this. You’ve asked about this. So we wanted to bring on an expert in this topic. It’s Sami Nuwar. He’s currently the Senior Principal Experience Consultant at Medallia. Sami, thanks for joining and how are you?

Sami Nuwar: (00:29)
Yeah, I’m fantastic. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah, I think this will be a fun one, man. Tell us, before we dive in just a little bit about yourself and your background.

Sami Nuwar: (00:37)
Yeah. I’ve spent 16 years at Verizon Business as a Practitioner of Customer Experience Management. I’m traditionally a researcher. That’s where I kind of got my start and then I evolved into an Operational Excellence Practitioner and then evolved again into a Customer Experience Practitioner. Spent 16 years at Verizon and then a few years at a small manufacturing company. After that, and then joined Medallia around this time last year actually.

Gabe Larsen: (01:07)
I love it. I love it. And for those of us who don’t know a lot about Medallia, give us kind of the 30 second on Medallia.

Sami Nuwar: (01:13)
Yeah. It’s a customer experience management platform. It’s primarily technology that helps you manage the experience, understand that experience, and enables you to do much bigger things. So it’s a technology and a platform, but we like to talk about CX beyond the platform. The technology just makes it easier to do it and democratizes it and now it makes our jobs as people, much easier to spread the love and let other people jump in and help out.

Gabe Larsen: (01:47)
I love it. I love it. I do think Medallia, I mean, you guys have certainly made a name for yourself, so kudos. A lot of people use that technology, I think to deliver some good customer, great customer experiences. Well, let’s dive into this idea of operational excellence and maybe you can just say a big picture. Why is operational excellence so important?

Sami Nuwar: (02:08)
Yeah, I believe that operational excellence and other variants of the term, continuous improvement, to me, it’s the rubber meets the road. It’s where the action should take place for the business or the environment to get better. And it’s the thing that primarily distinguishes customer experience management, the discipline of CX, from traditional market research.

Gabe Larsen: (02:41)
Yeah. Why do you feel like people get lackadaisical on operational excellence? And then I want to get into a little bit, kind of the how here in a second, but is it just because it’s difficult to do? Is it devil’s in the details? But why do you think people don’t get as operationally minded or sound as they should?

Sami Nuwar: (02:59)
Yeah, I think in some cases there’s an assumption that someone is acting on the data that has been collected. That was certainly the case of Verizon for a long time. There was an assumption that people are doing something with it and no one is asking the questions. So how do you know that the, like what improvements have been made and how do you know those improvements are working? So those questions don’t tend to be asked. Those are the details that people tend to overlook. We’re so execution focused, every company is, every organization is all about execute, execute, execute, and what we also need to do is have the habit of taking a step back. Let’s pause, let’s breathe and let’s have a retrospective view on things and ask those questions. Is it working? How do we know it’s working? What else do we need to do and who else do we need to get the help from?

Gabe Larsen: (03:58)
I love that. I love that. Well, let’s dive in a little bit. I mean, you’ve obviously had some experience trying to get operationally sound and tight, et cetera. How do you start to think about doing that? Where do you begin this journey to become more, just operationally tight?

Sami Nuwar: (04:12)
Yeah, I think to build that habit, you have to have a clear understanding of what your current state is and at least get an idea, have a vision of where you want to be. And if you don’t have that vision, then at least at a minimum, understand where your current state is and that’ll help you form your vision. So that’s step number one. You’ve got to knock that out. You’ve got to collect the data to gain that understanding and you have to have the conversations with the people inside your business. Whether it’s for-profit, not-for-profit, whatever, talk to the people in that business or in that environment and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes and empathize with them. So, and at the same time balance that understanding with talking with customers and partners and external parties to understand what it’s like to be them too. And so collect all that data so that it becomes relevant for you and then it turns data into information that can be used.

Gabe Larsen: (05:15)
Do you feel like on that kind of understanding your current state, is there different methodologies, tools, best practices you’ve found to actually capture that? Is it mostly interviews? I mean, you kind of mentioned that, is that the way to best do that? Or how do you go about getting that?

Sami Nuwar: (05:33)
Yeah. The mode of collecting, it really depends on what you’re trying to achieve and your timeframe. You know, there’s a need to balance. You have to balance the need for relevant information and the timeframe that you’re working within. And in a lot of cases, especially in a business environment, you don’t have all day, you definitely don’t have all year. And so you’ve got the budget, the data collection need and the need for significance and relevancy with the need for time, and time costs money. So, find that balance that works for you and then choose the mode that works for you as well. So for me, what’s worked is a combination of quantitative techniques and qualitative techniques. Surveys are a great way to manage that balance of data relevancy and time because you can get a massive amount of information quantitatively by doing simple surveys. But that typically isn’t enough because surveys just gives you an indication of what the problem is. And maybe some indication of how big the problem is, which you also need to get is the why. And that really comes from qualitative information. So interviews, video is the new up and coming technology that people tend to use a lot of these days. We have a technology called LivingLens, which is really cool. It lets people submit video feedback or audio feedback and then it gets analyzed behind the scenes by the system. So those are all qualitative techniques –

Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
All different ways you can kind of capture it. Got it. Interesting. Once you get this data, you and I chatted a little bit about this before, but I thought it was such a great point. It’s, not all data is good, not all data is the same value. Some data is, I mean, the world is now capturing so much data, we’re having a hard time making sense of the data, getting the validity. How do you kind of walk through or make sure that you’re not being misled when it comes to some of this data you’re capturing?

Sami Nuwar: (07:41)
Yeah, that’s a key point. I mean, one of the other signals that, I mean, I mentioned techniques to collect data from people quantitatively and qualitatively, but the other, and I think overlooked channel for data, is the internal knowledge base within the business, the operational data. We all have systems and machines that capture data from our interactions with customers and our daily business. And that is typically a treasure trove of information and what, it’s difficult to gather because it’s typically incomplete or hasn’t been cleansed enough to be relevant. And so it’s in a state that’s pretty rough. But if we can take that data and test it to make sure that it’s relevant and then marry it with the feedback that you could get from talking with customers and whatever message you choose, then it becomes, it turns that data into information because you’ve added context. The experience feedback that you’re getting on top of the operational data that you’re already collecting and probably under-utilizing, marry the two pieces together and they become relevant pieces of information. But at the end of the day, the first thing you got to do is, whether you’re collecting data from customers or collecting data from internal systems, you’ve got to test its validity. If you fail to test the validity of that data and you make decisions based on the data without verifying that it’s true, you’re risking making bad decisions in setting the wrong course for your business.

Gabe Larsen: (09:22)
I love that. What are some of the data points you’ve found to be most important operationally speaking that you know you’d say, look to the audience, “Guys, these are probably some data points that if you really want to get operationally sound, a couple pieces of feedback would maybe be this metric, that metric.” Anything come to mind on that?

Sami Nuwar: (09:39)
Yeah. I mean, just going back to my telecom roots and this is actually, the example I’ll give you is pretty agnostic. It’s a telecom, it’s a problem, it’s always going to be there, it’s always been there, but it’s pretty much a universal problem regardless of industry and it’s one of time, right? We can never be fast enough. And anybody who’s ever subscribed to a cable, TV, or internet service or a phone service, any kind of service that requires some provisioning or some monkeying, some wrench turning behind the scenes to be done, there’s always an expectation of time of when it’s going to be done, right? When can I expect the technician to arrive? When could I expect some work to be done by you that you’ve promised me?

Sami Nuwar: (10:32)
And a metric that is typical in the telecom space is customer desire due date. That’s an internal, very nuts and bolts metric that is based, it’s based on a time expectation, right? The clock starts ticking and then the clock stops ticking at a certain point and an image of the difference between that, and that’s a metric that’s kept internal, and that’s how they measure their performance among their teams. And the analogous time metric from a customer’s point of view and in a question that you would typically ask them in a survey, for example is, “Did this thing occur within your expected amount of time? Yes or no?” And if not then here’s the follow up question, right? And then they tell you what it is. And so when the customer responds to a survey, they’re giving you their perception of how long it took something to get done.

Sami Nuwar: (11:28)
And so what’s incumbent upon us is to take the two pieces of information, their perceived experience coupled with what the business believes happened, and now we look for matches or mismatches in the data. And what I found at Verizon were huge mismatches. And typically that’s because of the measurement time post, right? So the moment in which we would start the clock and then stop the clock and measure that time was not the same moment in the customer’s mind, right? So they’re a customer, the clock starts ticking at the moment of the handshake and then in the telecom company’s perspective, the clock doesn’t start ticking until you sign that contract and that could be a difference of a few days or a couple of weeks.

Gabe Larsen: (12:21)
That’s so powerful. I love that. I just think those are the types of insights I think leaders need to figure out. It’s the tactical advice that really kind of moves them from one place to the other. Last question then is, once you found this and you got the currency, you found the data, then you got to kind of move into the next phase, the change, right? Where do you go from here and kind of, how do you wrap up?

Sami Nuwar: (12:42)
Yeah, you have got to get that data or that information into the hands of the people that you know are going to drive that change and that’s really where the continuous improvement people, the people that are the lean practitioners, the six sigma practitioners, or the people that are purposed, are driving some sort of operational process improvement in the business. We’ve got to get that into the hands of those people and it’s got to be specific enough that tells them what the nature of the problem is, how big that problem is and who’s impacted by it. Ideally dollar signs, if you can attach some sort of financial component to the problem that really gets people’s attention and makes them act on it. And then hopefully they take some sort of action, but it’s incumbent upon us to make sure either to help them take that action or to ensure that they take that action and hold them accountable to it. And lastly, once the action has been taken, right, and you can see the notice in the change and you’re measuring that change, or you’re tracking it over time because that’s part of what we do, it’s also incumbent upon us to tell people about the change, because if you don’t, then no one’s going to know about it other than you and maybe that other person in that other department. So you’ve got to advertise, you’ve got to promote.

Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I love that. I love that. Sami, that’s such great advice. And I love kind of the tactical-ness of it. As you, as we kind of wrap here, any quick advice that you’d leave behind for the audience as they try to get operationally excellent in their different support experience teams?

Sami Nuwar: (14:15)
Yeah. I would say that last part that I just mentioned is probably the most important part. We talked about collecting signals and collating it in a way that people can comprehend and then holding them accountable to some sort of action, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to tell people about the change. And I consider that the most important component that’s often overlooked. But if it’s done right, what will happen is it’ll create a reinforcing loop. But people that did not jump into your bandwagon initially, because there’s always somebody who’s not going to jump on board, they eventually do jump onboard later down the line because they see their peers performing because you’ve advertised. You’ve shown that this discipline works and here’s the changes that’s come from it. And those dissenters initially, they didn’t jump on board will eventually jump on board and everybody will sing to the same sheet of music.

Gabe Larsen: (15:07)
I love it. I love it. You got to find those insights. The insights and then the sale. You don’t get it out there, nobody knows about it, it obviously doesn’t, you can’t end up changing anything. Well Sami, we really appreciate you jumping on. It’s fun to have a little more of a true practitioner. Sami is an operational kind of ninja, so it’s fun to hear how you’ve experienced some of that both in your current life and then in your previous life. If someone wants to get ahold of you or learn a little bit more about Medallia, what’s the best way to do that, Sami?

Sami Nuwar: (15:33)
Oh, you can send me a LinkedIn request. I’m on LinkedIn, pretty active on there. So I’ll be happy to connect with you guys and help out wherever I can.

Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Awesome. Awesome. Well again, hey, really appreciate your time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Sami Nuwar: (15:48)
Great. Thanks for having me.

Exit Voice: (15:54)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Shaping and Scaling the Customer Experience with Matt Lombardi

Shaping and Scaling the Customer Experience with Matt Lombardi TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Lombardi to discuss the secrets of shaping and scaling the Customer Experience, especially during a worldwide pandemic. Tune in to the podcast below to discover how Matt successfully implements three tactics to build a successful CX program.

Step 1: Gaining Executive Buy-In

Head of Customer Experience and Strategy at ServiceNow, Matt Lombardi has developed a foolproof method to building and scaling CX teams in three simple and easy to follow steps. By identifying these three critical needs that CX leaders should embrace, he has helped lead teams to excellence. The first being getting executives to buy into the CX process early, preferably within the first 90 days. Matt says, “I think under investing in this area is both the most common mistake CX leaders make and it’s also the number one reason CX teams fail to get the resources they need to be successful.” When teams are able to gain executive support and investment, they are more inclined to succeed. As Matt mentions, “CX improvement opportunities can get hidden under massive growth,” meaning that it’s greatly important for CX leaders to develop and present an attention-grabbing business case to executives. In order to build a business case, there are two main areas leaders can turn for information. The first being understanding customer service metrics and how those metrics affect retention and growth. The second is to utilize customer feedback to improve the CX. “When you put those two pieces together, you can then start telling a really compelling story about how to drive long-term growth of your company.”

Step 2: Finding Value in Metrics

The second step of building and scaling a customer experience program is to “track and report on the value” the team brings to the company. A question some CX leaders might have is how to measure the effects CX metrics have on business revenue and customer retention. To this, Matt says that it doesn’t matter who in the company puts together the financial metrics about CX. What really matters is that CX teams have the right resources put into place beforehand so that those metrics are possible. This second step is especially helpful for leaders who are creating a business case to present to executives, as it adds monetary value to the team itself, rather than simple facts or statistics. On this, Matt adds, “Right off the bat you have to be balancing quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects so that you can kind of create and show proof points along the way.” When numbers that demonstrate how much money is saved and how much money is earned, executives are sure to listen. Noting that no other part of a company has to fight as hard as Customer Experience to prove its worth, Matt urges CX leaders to push their business case to the executives to gain support from organizational leaders.

Step 3: Staying Relevant Through Adaptation

The third and final step to scaling a CX team is to stay relevant and to consistently look for areas of improvement. It’s no secret that the customer landscape is constantly changing. It seems that every day, there is a new customer need. Identifying areas of improvement can be done through listening to customer needs and modifying processes or products to better fit those needs. To further explain this step, Matt shares an example of a customer interaction his team used as the means to improve different aspects of CX. In this example, Matt discusses how some of their loyal customers had previously purchased only one product, but as the brand expanded and more products became available, they found that those customers also expanded their purchases with the company. He goes on to say:

So what we found was there were some major problems where our products were not integrating in a way that was meaningful and helpful for our customers. We also didn’t have a really good service experience. And so customers were then dealing with and managing multiple account managers across multiple product lines.

From this experience, Matt’s team was able to alter their processes in ways that helped them remain relevant to their customers. CX leaders would do well to identify areas for improvement that will contribute to their overall relevance with their customers.

To learn more about shaping and scaling the customer experience, 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 “Build and Scale a CX Program | Matt Lombardi” on Spreaker.

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

Full Episode Transcript:

Build and Scale a CX Program | Matt Lombardi

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 how to build and scale a CX program, even during a pandemic and to do that we brought on Matt Lombardi out of Customer Experience and Strategy at ServiceNow. Matt, thanks for joining. How are you?

Matt Lombardi: (00:26)
Hey, doing great. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:28)
Yeah, really appreciate you taking the time. Give me the quick overview. Tell me a little bit more about kind of what you’re doing over there, your history and what you do over there at ServiceNow.

Matt Lombardi: (00:35)
Sure. Great. So I’ve been building and scaling customer experience teams for the past decade. It is a passion area for me and at ServiceNow, I joined about a year and a half and I’ve really been focused on one critical question. How do we create a world-class customer experience and how do we create the most satisfied, loyal customers out there?

Gabe Larsen: (01:03)
Love it, love it. And then outside of work, I usually like to ask, do you have any hobbies or crazy stuff, but I was curious about the name Lombardi. You go back to the famous coach or no?

Matt Lombardi: (01:16)
Yeah. So there’s family lore that we do, but I have not seen the proof yet, so I can’t make that claim.

Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
Well, that doesn’t count then. So any kind of hobbies outside of work? Any crazy stories outside of the name?

Matt Lombardi: (01:30)
Yeah, so I’d say the last six months or so, have been pretty wild as they’ve been for everyone. My husband and I have a three-year-old daughter. And so kind of taking her out of preschool has been a really fun, wild ride and that’s really taken up most of our free time and has been a full time job slash it’s been full of really funny happenings. So –

Gabe Larsen: (02:05)
And then she’s currently out of school right now as well?

Matt Lombardi: (02:10)
She is, yes.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
Well, good. We’re all fighting the same fight, man. More power to you. Good luck with it. But there are some pros, right? You do get to see her more, well there’s some pros and there are some cons let’s leave it there.

Matt Lombardi: (02:20)
There are a lot of pros. I think that there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by where she hasn’t made a cameo on my Zoom meetings and where she hasn’t cracked up my entire team.

Gabe Larsen: (02:30)
Yeah. Hey, we just had it happen. We had my seven year old to jump in here, so Matt, thankfully he’s ready for it. This is take two for our podcast here. All right, well, let’s jump into the topic at hand. Obviously a lot of wealth and experience, but as you think about CX, how did you start to craft this and shape it is you wanted to really scale from where they were and where you want to go?

Matt Lombardi: (02:54)
Yeah, so that’s a good question. So in my experience, building strong CX teams and really growing them, I found that there are three critical needs that every CX leader has to embrace. The first one is getting executive buy-in early and often. And in my experience, this is the number one priority that has to happen in the first 90 days.

Gabe Larsen: (03:27)
Right.

Matt Lombardi: (03:27)
Number two is track and report on the value that your team is creating for the business. And that ties in to number one, but there’s a lot of balancing of quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects that you have to be constantly juggling and think about. And then number three is continuously adapt and improve to stay relevant. And that’s especially true now when our customer needs are changing every day.

Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
No kidding, right? Yeah. Amen to that. Well, let’s double click on each of these for a minute. I mean, number one, I feel like a lot of CX leaders, maybe it’s gotten a little easier with all the commotion that’s been going on. But certainly, if we were kind of polling our audience not too long ago, CX executive buy-in, talking different languages, getting necessary funds, misunderstandings, speaking different languages, these were all things that really came out as we were asking, again, the audience for sample talk tracks. How did you go about that? Any examples, stories or recommendations people should take to make the knowledge of reality?

Matt Lombardi: (04:41)
Yep. Yeah, absolutely. And I think under investing in this area is both the most common mistake CX leaders make and it’s also the number one reason CX teams fail to get the resources they need to be successful. So when I’m thinking about the last few times, I’ve led and grown a CX team, including at ServiceNow, there’s really one big question that I focused on for my first 90 days. And that was, how can I create a business case for investing in CX? And especially at a company that’s taking off like a rocket ship. That adds an extra layer of complexity because CX improvement opportunities can get hidden under massive growth. So I tend to be a bit of an impatient person. And so it takes a lot of discipline to not immediately jump in to CX improvement initiatives, to actually step back and focus on that one question. So there’s a few steps that I like to take to help answer –

Gabe Larsen: (06:02)
Yeah. Double click that on that, if you can. How do you think about a business case? Because I think that’s where we want to go.

Matt Lombardi: (06:08)
Yeah. Yeah. So, I think that the first step is to understand how it’s possible years and years of customer satisfaction metrics impact retention, upsells, and cost to serve. Once you have that down, and I know that can be a lot of work, connecting a lot of dots across different silos, but when you get there, you then need to move to a phase number two, which is to drill into customer feedback. Lots of unstructured customer feedback is ideal to understand what levers can be pulled to improve the customer experience. And then when you put those two pieces together, you can then start telling a really compelling story about how to drive long-term growth of your company. And at that point, the power of experience management becomes clear.

Gabe Larsen: (07:09)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean that first part of just tying the soft measures to the hard measures, like how much does call time or handle time or NPS or whatever, it kind of, or customer truths, how does it all affect top and bottom line metrics? Is that, did you work with your finance team on that? Did you do it yourself? Like how do you, how do you tie those? Because I think that’s the gap. We know we care about revenue for example, or the CEO cares about revenue or the financing, ARR or whatever that metric. And we care about voice of the customer effort score, NPS, but –

Matt Lombardi: (07:51)
Yeah. And then, so my position on this is it doesn’t really matter who gets that job done. What’s most important is before you start leading this kind of endeavor, you need to make sure the other right resource is in place to actually do that work. And that should be a top priority first hire is getting someone with the right business acumen who knows how to do that kind of modeling to support your business case. And so for me, just looking at my team’s trajectory over the course of this pandemic, we’ve more than doubled over the last six months. We’re going to continue to grow into next year. And a large reason for that is because we built out the right business case.

Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
You nailed it on the, I can’t, I almost don’t want to go passed this one because I just feel like it’s, you can’t, you just can’t win if you don’t do this and you don’t do it right, you guys. So the first one was, and now I’m forgetting because I was going a little bit deeper, but you kind of said get the metrics and tie them to, this hard metrics tied to the soft metrics. And then what were, what were you, there was a part two to that. Apologize, I –

Matt Lombardi: (09:06)
Yeah. Yeah. So get the metrics, number two, understand what levers you can pull that then create a better experience and impact your bottom line. And it’s when you meld those two together where you can make that business case.

Gabe Larsen: (09:23)
Okay. Then that feeds nicely into number two, which was really tracking and reporting, I assume, on some of those levers. So that now we’re getting kind of a continuous flow. Is that correct?

Matt Lombardi: (09:32)
That’s right. That’s right. And so it’s one thing to know if I can convert my unhappy customers into happy customers, this is what the bottom line impact is going to be. You need to take it to the next level to understand these are the top customer pain points that are slowing down our growth. And these are the ones where I think we can have the best ROI. Once you have that full story together, and you bring the executive team on board to get full alignment on what the top opportunities are, that’s when you can start having some fun.

Gabe Larsen: (10:13)
Yeah. Interesting. Interesting. And are there certain metrics that you find that are more important that you try to kind of watch or you found to be interesting in your own business that you’d be open to share?

Matt Lombardi: (10:24)
Yeah, sure. So, I mean, I think for me, it always comes down to what is the top-line CX measure for the entire company? And for me, that’s often NPS, it doesn’t necessarily have to be, but then taking it down a few levels and understanding what is driving that top-line score. And there it’s, typically around what is driving value for customers and figuring out, what kind of metrics will help you get there.

Gabe Larsen: (11:04)
Hmm. Got it. Okay, so you get those kinds of tracking and metrics is the big second piece, right? And that’s tying into this bigger business case vision. You make sure you get the right metrics, understand where the strengths and weaknesses are and dive into that. That number three was this iteration concept. That’d be good. Double-click on that. How have you seen that affect your business? What some examples there?

Matt Lombardi: (11:27)
Yeah. So there’s a few things that I think about there. I think just simply building the case, getting executive alignment around what things should change, where resources should be spent, and then being able to show what kind of bottom-line growth that will lead to that, that is that is really the first and most important thing that you need to be focused on as a CX leader. And what I see time and time again, is CX teams that fail to connect what they do to revenue growth and cost savings that executives actually care about, they can expect to see job cuts. Especially during times when companies are looking to tighten their belts. I see, again and again, CX teams are often the first that get snipped. So once you get the organization kind of moving in the same direction, it’s then, kind of my point number two, is focused on tracking and reporting on the value that your team is creating for the company. So what I think about there is, and I think I referenced this already, right off the bat you have to be balancing quick wins and longer-term, high-impact projects so that you can kind of create and show proof points along the way. And so, yeah, so for me, it’s kind of, what’s interesting about being a CX leader is I think there’s no other role in the organization that is forced to prove its value again and again, continuously. If you’re in sales, your numbers kind of show what kind of value you’re adding. In CX, you really need to do that hard work of rolling up the sleeves and prove it every day, every quarter.

Gabe Larsen: (13:47)
How do you keep that kind of iterative mindset? I mean, it is hard. You do it once and you don’t, you let it stay stale. How have you found ways to kind of continue to innovate, continue to iterate and continue to find those kinds of ways to improve the customer experience?

Matt Lombardi: (14:00)
Yeah, so I’d like to keep track of both smaller proof points as well as larger showcase items. And so I’ll give you an example of a sort of smaller proof point example. So a strong NPS program should be the engine for your customer reference program. So one easy way to show continual improvement in value, it can be as simple as tracking how many references are generated as a result of CX, and then how many deals have been closed as a result of that. So that’s just one tiny proof point that can be really powerful as you’re kind of building out your larger ROI story. And then thinking about a bigger example, at a previous company, my team identified a really puzzling CX problem. So we identified a trend that showed that our largest, happiest customers who at the time just had one product, as soon as they started to expand and purchase other products, and they became even larger customers, they all of a sudden became a lot less happy. We saw that churn was becoming a bigger and bigger problem. And so that’s obviously the kind of worst case scenario when you’re trying to grow your largest customers. So what we found was there were some major problems where our products were not integrating in a way that was meaningful and helpful for our customers. We also didn’t have a really good service experience. And so customers were then dealing with and managing multiple account managers across multiple product lines. So our research and our work ultimately led to a services transformation project that then ultimately led to incredible retention growth and customer experience gains that we could see through NPS and other metrics.

Gabe Larsen: (16:25)
Awesome.

Matt Lombardi: (16:25)
So that’s sort of a larger example that takes a long time to actually be able to prove out what value you added. But having those smaller proof points along the way goes a long way towards continuing to prove out your team’s value.

Gabe Larsen: (16:44)
Yeah. I appreciate that. I like the approach, Matt. I think it’s well thought out. It’s nice and structured. Thank you for the example. I think that definitely highlights some of the areas you focused on and found that are necessary to win. So as we wrap, if somebody wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of these thoughts or suggestions, what’s the best way to do that?

Matt Lombardi: (17:07)
You can reach me through LinkedIn and I’d be happy to connect.

Gabe Larsen: (17:13)
Cool. Cool. Awesome. Well, we’ll make sure we put that in there. Again, thanks so much for joining. Fun talk track on shaping and scaling the CX organization and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Matt Lombardi: (17:23)
Thank you.

Exit Voice: (17:30)
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Human-Centered Customer Experience with Amanda Chavez

Human-Centered Customer Experience with Amanda Chavez TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Amanda Chavez to discuss human-centered customer service and design. Amanda has over a decade of experience working in this type of design and shares expert advice worth listening to. Tune in to the podcast below to discover how Amanda incorporates human-centered design into all aspects of customer experience.

How a North Star Mindset Can Bring Success

As the Director of Customer Service at NuAxis, Amanda understands how to effectively incorporate the often forgotten humanistic element into customer experience. She explains that a human-centered approach not only focuses on learning from data and gathering numbers, but it more importantly allows CX agents to get to know customers on a personal level. She expounds:

There’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.

Amanda’s approach to CX is not new, but rather different than traditional CX methods; she calls this a north star mindset. This mindset is all about acting in the best interest of customers and keeping them at the forefront of the experience. When institutions get distracted by keeping stakeholders happy and getting work done, oftentimes the customer gets left behind in the decision making processes. By having a north star mindset, Amanda finds that it gives people the courage to make unpopular or dubious decisions on behalf of the customer that ultimately leads to success.

Including the Human Element of CX

The human element of the customer experience is arguably the most important part of creating lasting customer loyalty. When companies become too distracted with pleasing stakeholders or keeping upper management happy, as previously mentioned, the customer is often left out of the equation. For Amanda, the act of physically making an effort to include that human aspect back into decision making, keeping stakeholders happy, etc. ultimately keeps customer retention rates high and leads to better employee/customer relationships. She illustrates, “It doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.” To help CX leaders better understand how to include the human element in experience, she urges leaders to ask meaningful questions and to ask customers to provide specific examples of their experiences. One way to do this is to find the extremes of CX, or customers who have experienced the radical highs and lows of service, and ask targeted questions that help to gain a more in depth understanding of areas to improve. Another helpful tip Amanda offers is to record customer conversations. Her team does this through a free, open-source software called Otter. These recorded interactions pose to gather data and to shape future training for more successful outcomes.

Common Sense Uncommonly Practiced

When incorporating the human element back into CX, it is important to develop a sense of empathy for each customer. This empathetic approach naturally occurs when agents genuinely interact with their customers by asking questions and listening to their needs. Discussing her time developing and working a human-centered design approach, Amanda mentions, “Each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives.” Agents and leaders who understand that customers are all experiencing their own version of service through personal interpretation, are typically better equipped to handle any range of customer experiences. Amanda’s final advice to CX leaders is to use “common sense uncommonly practiced,” meaning to engage with the humanistic side of customers and to incorporate human-centered design and service to all aspects of CX.

To learn more about human-centered customer experience, 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 “How to Create a More Human Experience in Customer Support | Amanda Chavez” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold

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 human-centered customer experience and to do that, we brought on the Director of Customer Experience from NuAxis, that is Amanda Chavez. Amanda, how the heck are you? And thanks for joining.

Amanda Chavez: (00:24)
I am as good as can be expected with homeschooling kids and working.

Gabe Larsen: (00:30)
We were just comparing notes. You have how many kids again, Amanda, for the audience just so they know?

Amanda Chavez: (00:35)
Half as many as you, I’ve got two.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yep. So she’s got two and unfortunately, I did have a chance to meet a couple of them before and that was really fun on our Zoom meeting, but they are unfortunately not in school. Mine are in school, so I was bragging and Amanda was jealous, but that is the world in which we live. Amanda, tell us real quick, besides the two kids, give us kind of your quick background, who is Amanda?

Amanda Chavez: (00:58)
Oh my gosh. So I have been in human-centered design for a little over a decade and in human-centered design, we designed for end-to-end experiences whether it’s for an end user or a customer. And so I’ve parlayed that into more specifically work with customers, working on that experience. So yeah, that’s me.

Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, we’re excited to pull some of that information out of you today. So let’s start at the top. A lot of people don’t even know what, when you say human-centered customer experience, maybe just define it or what does that even mean? Why is it important?

Amanda Chavez: (01:41)
Sure. So I mean, well, human-centered design really focuses on designing experiences for humans and customers, I’ve heard that customers are also humans. So, we should start there. So in designing for a customer, using a human-centered approach to design for customers. So there’s a lot of different ways to skin the cat of customer experience, which you delve into through your podcast. And there’s lots of different approaches, but taking a human-centered approach really focuses on not only knowing the numbers behind who your customers are and what their behaviors are, but actually intimately getting to know those people. Like actually having conversations with them to discover where the pain really lives in that experience and using a lot of creative methods to reshape that experience for them.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Got it. And is there, I mean, if you had to compare that against a non-human centered, like, is it, this is kind of the new way. What was the old way? What would you say is kind of the old way of doing things or what’s the difference with this?

Amanda Chavez: (02:55)
So it’s not necessarily an old way, just a different way. I think that people in this field, it’s just really easy to go to numbers and to point to a tried and true solution to address the numbers. Which is fine. Anybody who’s focused on improving things for a customer, I’m not going to throw salt on how they do it. This is just a different way to do it.

Gabe Larsen: (03:23)
Love it. Okay, good. So let’s get into some of the ways you think about this human-centered design. If you were going through with a specific project or client or maybe a project of some sort, how do you start to think about attacking or approaching this human-centered customer experience?

Amanda Chavez: (03:44)
Sure. I think first and foremost, you have to go in with a mindset. And maybe this is because I’m in my forties now and right in the middle of life that I’m thinking about it this way, but why is any of us really doing what we do, right, if not for the benefit of other people, if not for our customers? So I think really keeping your north star and your “why” front and center helps you to act with courage to make even at some points controversial or leap of faith decisions on behalf of your customers. So I think having that north star mindset that you are acting in the best interest of your customers has to be sort of front and center, agnostic of what approach you take.

Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
So the “why.” Why do you feel like, I mean why, why, why?

Amanda Chavez: (04:43)
That’s a, I love “why” questions. Go for it.

Gabe Larsen: (04:45)
Well, yeah. Why do people miss this? Or why did they not start here? Is it just something they dive into the details? It seems like a natural thing to do, but maybe an easy thing to forget.

Amanda Chavez: (04:57)
Yes. So what you’re saying is like one of my favorite expressions: it’s common sense, uncommonly practiced. And I think the “why” for it is like, you’ve got a boss who’s giving you a mandate. You’ve got shareholders who have earnings expectations above you. There’s a lot of drivers that influence, very real drivers too, that influence how people communicate to you about what you’re supposed to be doing. And a lot of times it’s not, the customer doesn’t really come into the conversation. I have noticed that after working for 20 years, that it almost never enters the conversation. So I think, this is why I think it also takes courage because you have to be the one to put it in the conversation. And it doesn’t matter if you are somebody working on the front lines of your occupation or if you’re sitting somewhere in the middle or at the highest levels, you have to be the one to have courage to advocate for that point of view.

Gabe Larsen: (05:58)
Yeah, somebody’s got to do it, right? And if it’s not you, it’s probably not going to be anybody.

Amanda Chavez: (06:04)
Yes, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (06:04)
So we can start with the “why” and really just try to figure out why you’re a business, why you’re serving your customers, get that kind of big picture. From there then, where do you go to kind of start to dive into the detail?

Amanda Chavez: (06:18)
Sure. So I don’t, I really don’t want to knock quantitative data. That’s certainly a part of the human-centered practice also, but instead of stopping there which is, I feel like, you were asking about a new way versus the old way, I think just a common way is to stop at looking at the quantitative data. And there is truly a place for survey data, looking at your AI analytics about how people are interacting with a given touch point, but you need to look deeper than that. So it, and this is something that costs like almost no money. It takes a little bit of time, but again, part of the common sense uncommonly practiced is take that data and that will tell you where the solar flares are, right? It will tell you where, it’s a symptom that there’s a problem. Take a look at that and then talk, just talk to the humans, right? Like things that we do all the time. Ask, you’re talking about “why” questions, literally all you need to talk to the humans is like the stuff that you learned in fifth grade English, right? Who, what, where, when, why, how. Ask them about their experience and really listen and even better, record it.

Gabe Larsen: (07:34)
Yeah. Sometimes it is about, I think I read once that, maybe this was for emails, it was like, “It’s best to speak at like a third grade level.”

Amanda Chavez: (07:48)
Nailed it then. A little ahead of you, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (07:53)
I was just like, “Wow.” Because I am, I’m a buzz. I’m like, “AI chat bot,” any other buzzword I can throw in there. CX experience management. It’s like, “What is experience management?” And I’m like, “Wow.” If I really started to just be real with people, I think that would probably help in sales and marketing and customer service. But I can imagine as you go and talk to these people and you have a real conversation, the news, I’ve always called them the newspaper questions. I don’t know why, but –

Amanda Chavez: (08:29)
No, that’s it. The newspaper questions. You learned it in fifth grade.

Gabe Larsen: (08:32)
Yeah. I actually need to Google that one like is that a thing or did I just make that up, the newspaper questions?

Amanda Chavez: (08:39)
You didn’t. I was actually going to say the journalism questions.

Gabe Larsen: (08:42)
Yeah! There is some. No, I knew it!

Amanda Chavez: (08:43)
See? You were right all along.

Gabe Larsen: (08:43)
No because, like yeah. The basic newspaper guy, woman, man would be like, “What, who are you? What are you doing? What happened here?” Like that’s the base.

Amanda Chavez: (08:56)
Oh, and can I also say too when you’re asking these questions, so set aside, listen, I have a whole method for doing this. And I get really like, if you’re like an expert in this, I will like punish people for not asking questions the right way. But if you’re somebody just getting into this, it doesn’t matter how you ask the questions. But one thing you do need is to shut up. Like, you need to ask the questions and do not add your color commentary, let that person speak and dig in deeper. Like what you’re doing on this podcast, Gabe too, you’re asking follow-up questions, you’re digging. When somebody gets really excited about something and they start to gesticulate, not that any of us is ever going to talk to anybody in person again, but you hear them talking and you can tell that they’re getting excited or you hear them kind of take a step back, pause and get reflective, those moments where something changes and how somebody is talking, that indicates that there’s a high level of emotion going on, either positive or negative. Dig into those places. Follow up. Ask your newspaper questions.

Gabe Larsen: (10:07)
I like the follow up. Yeah. It’s about going, I’ve found that in multiple aspects. Actually, I was just interviewing a candidate and was really feeling the benefit of that. Like, “Tell me about this and then well, what happened here?” And then we went down like five levels. It was just really, it was like, “Oh, that’s, I think this person really knows what they’re doing,” or you really got to the root of it because you did, you went five levels down. Maybe five –

Amanda Chavez: (10:33)
That is, no, that’s the magic number for root cause. Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (10:36)
Yep. Well see, I know so many things, Amanda. You just didn’t, weren’t aware of it. I know newspaper questions. I know third grade reading level.

Amanda Chavez: (10:45)
Gabe, seriously. I mean, we’re very lucky to have you here.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
Yeah. That’s what I was wanting you to say that. Thank you for saying that.

Amanda Chavez: (10:55)
You’re so welcome. You’re so welcome.

Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
Okay, so you got point one. We’ll come back to that topic in a minute, but we’ve got point one, it’s all about the “why.” Point two is how did this, finding the right data. I love the questions. Diving deeper. I love your idea of it’s not, you don’t have to say the perfect thing, but dive into it. What’s number three? Where do you go for kind of your third big point on figuring out this human-centered design?

Amanda Chavez: (11:14)
Sure. So, and the reason I recommended to you recording it, so you have to ask permission just so that, I mean, I feel like a lot of people know that, but I don’t want to make assumptions. So if you’re ever, there’s a free open-source software out there, I want them to give me a cut because I advertise them without sponsorship all the time, but Otter. It’s Otter like the animal. Otter.ai. If you enter that into a web search, they have an open source free platform for you to record conversations and they transcribe them for you. And then they even do like sentiment analysis. Like, I mean, it’s, it’s bananas. Like there, it’s, if you want to do like CX on the cheap, you could do a lot worse than Otter and I’ll be collecting my check from them later, but the reason –

Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
I’m looking at them now. Keep going. I’m looking at it though.

Amanda Chavez: (12:12)
Oh sure, no problem. But once you collect that data, because that is what you’re doing, you’re, I mean, it’s a softer touch, going in and talking to the humans, but it’s nonetheless it’s data. So collect that data and then start to look for what the themes are. So talk to a couple of people, right? Talk to people who represent the extremes of the experience. People who have, either people who’ve had the ultimate high or the ultimate low with the experience, find out what they’ve got in common or demographically, right? Sort of customer segments. Looking at people across different customer segments or people who are, who represent the extremes of an experience, and then from there aggregate what they’ve got in common. What are the themes that they’ve got in common? Because by looking at those different segments and seeing what they have in common in their experience, that tells you, and again, compare it with your quantitative data too, but that tells you sort of in a really graphic way, what’s going on with your customers and what their experience really looks like. And then from there, you can map out their journey, right? From literally from their own words, you can begin to map out their journey. And I know that probably most of your audience knows how to do a journey map, but –

Gabe Larsen: (13:39)
What have been some of the just, I wanted that last part because people do ask about that a lot. I mean, what are any experiences or stories, and I guess it could be on any of these points. But as you’ve gone through these exercises, fun things you’ve kind of discovered, interesting pain points. Like, “I’ve never thought we’d find that to be a problem and we found it,” or something that can kind of bring some of these points just in a little more of an example.

Amanda Chavez: (14:05)
Sure. No, thank you. You would, by the way, you’d make an amazing human-centered researcher. Like you kind of do it naturally. So, but yeah, because we ask for examples. We ask when we’re talking to customers. We ask them to give examples. So some of the interesting, oh man. I don’t want to get into like dark night of the soul stuff, especially since we’re having such a lovely conversation –

Gabe Larsen: (14:31)
Oh no, let’s do it. Those words are intriguing. Dark night of the soul.

Amanda Chavez: (14:35)
I know. Yeah, but I mean it. So I’ve been, so NuAxis, we work with federal customers and that’s where the majority of my, the second half of my career has been working with government, federal government customers. And the cool thing about the federal government is that they touch every problem and every person and every like customer segment. I mean, it’s amazing the reach of the federal government and so I say that to say that it, one of the first human-centered design projects that I did was for sexual assault prevention. And that’s why I’m like, “Oh, the dark night of soul stuff.” What we realized through that research and talking with people who were, who had been on, like who had been victims of sexual assault, as well as perpetrators, people who had perpetrated it, was that there’s so, I mean, one of the biggest things for me was that there were so much gray for them in their perspective. I mean, really going in and talking with people and it’s a big challenge to stay objective, especially when you’re talking with like people who have perpetrated sexual assault, but there was so much gray for them. And so much like misunderstanding sort of leading up to the event and then after the event. And I think in our minds, we kind of like see it as a black and white thing. And that was sort of, that insight alone really kind of shaped my thinking about a lot of different things that sort of, that insight sort of has permeated my understanding all these years later that each of us sort of has a movie in our mind and we are all seeing it so differently. And that came from literally talking with people and just hearing their stories and hearing their perspectives. And I mean, I know that that sounds really like mixed up to say that you can have empathy for people who have even been on, but it does once you talk to people and you understand them, you can’t help but have empathy.

Gabe Larsen: (16:53)
Hmm. Interesting. Well, that’s a fascinating experience. I didn’t realize those, that you worked on projects like that. That’s wow.

Amanda Chavez: (17:03)
Yeah, well it’s been all over the map.

Gabe Larsen: (17:04)
No, it’s a great example though. I think of kind of double-clicking into that idea of this kind of human-centered design as you, wow. Geez. That’s crazy.

Amanda Chavez: (17:16)
Sorry, I didn’t mean to, I told you it was going to be dark night of the soul.

Gabe Larsen: (17:19)
Yeah, in my mind and the gray area comment. That’s right. That really resonates, fascinating. Well, we might just, man, we might just have to have you come back. I want to hear three or four more experiences. Maybe not as interesting as that, but I –

Amanda Chavez: (17:37)
Like a little less interesting for the next time. Totally, totally. We’ll keep it lame.

Gabe Larsen: (17:42)
But it might be fun to have you come back and talk through some of those examples, but I appreciate kind of the framework. We did it on a couple of different ideas. In summary, as you think about CX leaders who are trying to get to more of this human-centered design, or maybe just get better in CX, what would be kind of thing you’d want to leave with them?

Amanda Chavez: (17:58)
So, I mean, I, again, I think I would just want to go back to start somewhere. You may not have a perfect process mapped out. You may not have sophisticated AI running in the background or the means to interpret the analytics that you’re collecting, but you can always talk to the humans and you don’t have to have a fancy formal process. You will walk away with just deeper understanding of who your customers are. And if you have that north star, that intention that you want to improve their experience, I mean, we can all be talking about all the tools, tips, and tricks in the world, but really the basics, again, you could do a lot worse than to just go with the basics.

Gabe Larsen: (18:47)
And you got to add your, what’s your common and uncommonly phrase? I think we just, we got –

Amanda Chavez: (18:52)
Common sense uncommonly practiced.

Gabe Larsen: (18:55)
Yeah. We got to end with that one. That’s such a great, I got to steal that one. I just don’t, it’s such a tongue twister. I don’t know if I can do it. Alrighty. Well, if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about human-centered design, what’s the best way to do that, Amanda?

Amanda Chavez: (19:09)
Oh my gosh. Email me. I would love to have a conversation about it. Do I give my email here?

Gabe Larsen: (19:14)
You can absolutely. Or you can do LinkedIn. What, any preferred –

Amanda Chavez: (19:19)
Like normal adults. Yes. You can look me up on LinkedIn. Yes. You could do that too. Rather than posting my email like a billboard.

Gabe Larsen: (19:29)
No, no. Well, yeah, we do transcribe this, so we would probably get your email out there, but either –

Amanda Chavez: (19:35)
LinkedIn, that’s it. LinkedIn. I’m there. Yes.

Gabe Larsen: (19:37)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, it’s been fun to have you and appreciate the talk track and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Amanda Chavez: (19:47)
Thank you, Gabe. Thanks everybody.

Exit Voice: (19:54)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Establishing Employee and Customer Engagement with Suzzanna Rowold

Establishing Employee and Customer Engagement with Suzzanna Rowold TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen uncovers the secrets to establishing employee and customer engagement with expert Suzzanna Rowold. Suzzanna has over 12 years of leadership experience and is currently working on a PhD with a focus of entrepreneurship and innovation. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Suzzanna transforms CX teams to excellence.

Tips for Hiring Talent and Lowering Turnover Rates

Hiring is one of the earliest engagement touchpoints in which an organization can set clear and specific expectations for interviewees and incoming customer experience agents. The hiring process for a high-performing CX team in organizations can be quite difficult, especially with high turnover rates. Recognizing how brands with high turnover rates struggle to efficiently produce the best CX, Suzzanna says:

So really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive.

Keeping this in mind, she offers some helpful tips for hiring managers to help keep employees motivated to stay. By detailing expectations on the job listing, setting clear standards in the interview and coaching new employees as soon as they are hired, this helps retention rates skyrocket and turnover rates lower. Additionally, Suzzanna discusses how certain modifiers can get organizations in legal trouble in some areas around the country as those modifiers on job postings tend to discriminate against qualified applicants (i.e. “You must have 4 years of experience”). To steer clear of this, it’s best to offer each applicant an opportunity to present their strengths and qualifications.

Helping Employees Identify Their Purpose

When shaping a company culture, two of the most important things customer experience leaders can do is to align their CX reps with the company values and to help reps find a purpose in their roles. When employees feel that they have a purpose in their role and when they are wholly aligned with the company’s values, time after time successful customer engagement interactions and high NPS scores shine through. Suzzanna notes when walking into a new office space, “You can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior.” Not only is it important for employees to feel they have a purpose to pursue with determination, it is also important for CX leaders to find the value within their employees and to hold themselves to a high standard of excellence. Suzzanna remarks, “So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital.” Ultimately, the success of a CX team reflects on the example set by the leadership.

Creating a Culture of Learning by Habit

As a highly regarded leader in the realm of CX, Suzzanna helps other leaders to establish habits of success within their daily operations. One of these habits is urging leaders to invest in their employee’s success and to provide opportunities for growth. To do so, Suzzanna advocates that leaders should regularly be having these conversations with their employees. Another habit is to create a safe work environment in which CX agents feel safe to voice their concerns or problems they may be experiencing which is crucial to smooth operations. “Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake.” Creating a learning environment for CX employees and hosting a culture that encourages discussion will help employees stay in the long run. Suzzanna leaves the audience with one last helpful tip before signing off, “Don’t leave room for mediocrity.”

To learn more about establishing employee and customer engagement or how to lead a CX team to excellence, 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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Full Episode Transcript:

Best Practices of Employee and Customer Engagement | Suzzanna Rowold

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 employee and customer engagement and the best way to do that and our special guest to help us on this journey is Suzzanna Rowold. She is currently an Employee and Customer Engagement Expert. She’s actually setting up her own consulting business, working on her PhD in organizational development. 12 plus years in leadership. Fortune 100 companies, brings a lot to the table. Suzzanna, thanks so much for joining. How the heck are ya?

Suzzanna Rowold: (00:44)
I’m doing great. How are you doing?

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Well it’s good. It’s always fun to have a guest, especially with somebody with your background. You have a lot of things going on right now. Tell us a little bit about some of the fun things you’re working on both current and maybe even in the past.

Suzzanna Rowold: (00:58)
Sure. Sounds great. So I’m currently in the process of completing my PhD. I’m wrapping up my last four classes before the fun dissertation starts. That’s always exciting. People think I’m insane because I cannot wait to get to the dissertation part, which is always funny. So that is actually in organizational development and leadership and I am specializing in entrepreneurship and innovation. So it’ll be exciting because my background is as a licensed clinical therapist for behavioral health. So once my PhD is done, I will have the full gamut of in individual behavior all the way through organizational behavior and can stand across that whole segment. And then in addition to that, like you mentioned, I’m in the process of setting up my own consulting business, looking into some other options of potentially teaching at college levels and things like that. Definitely something I want to get into is moving forward. And my history and experience has been working for large national companies, different markets, multiple states, tens to a hundred of employees that have reported through me. And really in behavioral health when it comes down to it, even being a leader in behavioral health, most of that scope really does have a customer experience component to it because you’re either dealing with providers or hospitals, your internal different departments, as well as those members that are receiving those services. And so customer experience and customer excellence is very much at the top of what needs to happen and really be focused on for all of those staff.

Gabe Larsen: (02:50)
I love that. Yeah. What a well-rounded, the clinical background. You’ve got the PhD. You’ve got experience in customer and in employee. Now all I’ve got to do is see if I can suck out of you some of this knowledge, your experience and knowledge because I know you know a lot of it. So, appreciate the overview, let’s dive into the topic. So throughout your career, you find different ways to be successful. You and I were talking pre-show a little bit about some of the secrets. Things maybe people don’t often think about as much in the way you’ve been able to be successful in your career. Would love for you to start at the top. What’s kind of that thing that comes to mind first? Your first secret and why you’ve been able to be successful in different elements of your career.

Suzzanna Rowold: (03:39)
Well, I think that the primary area that you have to start is understanding really the why behind what those secret tips are. And so really looking at the cost of turnover for an organization, if you have constant turnover, how can you be effective in customer service? You can’t because you’re constantly training new staff. So you never get up to that level of efficiency. And in looking at that, the research has shown time and time again, the United States alone is spending over $600 billion a year in turnover costs. That’s expensive. So that just keeps continuing to rise as well. And then you look at the other component of what are those drivers of why staff leave their company. That primary area falls to being more times than not, the lack of professional growth and development. And who’s your leader? Are they supportive? Are they providing the things as a quality leader that they really need? That is the two major areas that are going to drive that staff satisfaction, their engagement and their dedication to the customers.

Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
I love that. Yeah, it’s funny because we often think of employee engagement around just compensation and certainly there is a base of that. I’ve always found if you pay 50% below market, yeah, you’re gonna have a hard time keeping people, but assuming you’re in the ballpark, it does, right? It moves to different elements like the career path. I love the leader, the manager, somebody you trust that inspires you, that cares about you as a person, right? Those types of things, it’s harder because sometimes they’re a little softer. I think I’m with you on that being a big driver of the overall turnover. How do you feel like the engagement of employees then translates to the impact customer service?

Suzzanna Rowold: (05:43)
So really, without having those employees who feel like they are fully part of that company, they have a purpose, they really have that investment because they’re seeing it on the other side. That comes through in their every interaction. And you can tell just walking into an office that maybe you know nobody in, you can tell which of those employees are actively engaged simply by their demeanor and their behavior. And so those are key elements that people think of, “Oh, customer service is one specific area or foresight that you need to focus on.” But at the same time, when you really think about it, you’d need to look to the internal side of the organization and what those behaviors are that are being shaped.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Interesting. Yeah. I just feel like that’s often one of those misconnections. They feel like they want to go after the customer experience, but they forget that obviously the employee drives that so much. So let’s dive into a couple of these employee elements. Want to start a little bit with one of your top tips around hiring and onboarding. How have you felt like you’ve mastered this and, or potentially maybe lessons learned or mistakes you’ve made to kind of overcome this barrier of just getting the right people on the bus?

Suzzanna Rowold: (06:59)
So one of the very top parts of ensuring that your onboarding is really focused to your needs is setting those clear expectations. You really need to have your job descriptions and what you’re posting for those positions be exactly what it is that you’re needing them to do. I know for myself, during the times of looking through different postings and positions, it’s very difficult at times to be able to really see, what does that mean? Every company calls it something different. Every company wants something different, there’s different expectations. And there’s always that one little catchall. So the more specific and detailed you can be to what that environment is going to look like and setting those clear expectations once somebody comes in the door is going to be very critical for that success of both that staff and the company and hiring them.

Gabe Larsen: (07:54)
Yeah, do you feel –

Suzzanna Rowold: (07:54)
And then you want –

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
So I’m just curious.

Suzzanna Rowold: (07:58)
Oh, go ahead.

Gabe Larsen: (07:58)
Do you feel like people, where do people miss on this? Is it mostly on the expectation side of the house? Where’s the big gap when people try to tackle this hiring element? And I might be jumping just a little bit ahead. I apologize.

Suzzanna Rowold: (08:15)
No, that’s okay. So when it comes to the preceptor of the hiring, many times employees aren’t filtering their recruitment accurately, or they are creating too strict of a bucket for those candidates that they’re letting through the door. Many companies now, especially large organizations, are utilizing different identifiers that automatically disqualify people just through a computer system or through a talent acquisition staff that immediately eliminates some really great qualified people that you don’t understand their backgrounds with, or you don’t get where they really could excel because you’re only looking at a sheet of paper, or you’re only looking at a submission online. And so you really have to be cautious of those things, not to mention using modifiers, such as you must have this number of years of experience. Really, there are many, there’s many counties, there’s many states, there’s many nations that can get into a lot of legal trouble by using those specific things that discriminate against a quality candidate getting through the door.

Gabe Larsen: (09:35)
Wow. Yeah, that’s really interesting because that’s been, I feel like a big conversation lately around using science in hiring, right? It’s like, how do you do that? But what I’m hearing you say is that sometimes you got to be careful. That science can point you in the wrong direction.

Suzzanna Rowold: (09:51)
It really could. And I mean, even myself for example, my background is very unique. And so when people look at that, they immediately make an assumption about what those qualifications are, what those strengths are. And many times they couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just what people associate to certain aspects and certain competencies that may or not be accurate.

Gabe Larsen: (10:17)
Yeah. Yeah. That’s really interesting. I think that’s a really different way to look at it. A lot of people, I do think that, and it’s this whole AI conversation with data. It’s like, if you ever let the machine completely run your business, there’s probably a good chance you’re, it needs AI data analytics. How does it enable us, not eliminate us? And so I think you make a good point on that. Okay. So you talk a little bit about clerics, but continue down the hiring. How do you continue to optimize that one?

Suzzanna Rowold: (10:49)
Sure. So once you have somebody in the door, you need to shape that environment of feedback, openness, transparent communications and coaching that needs to happen right from the start. Without those things, you are shaping a culture that does not embrace them and however you set the stage for an employee coming in the door is going to be what you are going to get out of it. And same thing with effectiveness and applicable training. Really making sure that they’re getting all of those resources and tools and training necessary to be successful in that role, the minute that they’re coming in the door. And those are really, those three primary areas for that onboarding once somebody does get hired.

Gabe Larsen: (11:33)
I like that. So you got kind of the expectation idea. You’ve got the feedback, environments, coaching, and then you just have a dedicated training. Any examples you found that can kind of help us visualize a little bit more on this training example or different ways you’ve actually set clear expectations, something like that?

Suzzanna Rowold: (11:53)
So what I’ve done in previous roles is developing a whole employee life cycle of surveys. And so utilizing new hire surveys, inquiring about their experience with the onboarding, with the candidate process, looking at different, even seasoned staff surveys, are important as people are there for awhile. Also looking at the missed candidate surveys and being able to capture information from people that you wanted to hire in, but they declined the offer. And so that gives you a lot of insights. Now, the biggest catch with all of this though is you actually have to do something about the data that you’re getting. And so, as you’re doing the onboarding and as employees are going through your training programs, when you’re getting feedback about the efficiency of it, you need to make those tweaks and adjustments if it’s not hitting the bar.

Gabe Larsen: (12:47)
Hmm. Yeah. That iterative process seems like that’s always something cognizant of it’s just iterate, iterate, iterate. Okay. So we hit a little bit about hiring, onboarding. Where do you go next as far as some of your secrets?

Suzzanna Rowold: (13:01)
So next is really looking at the focus of aligning the individual to the purpose of their roles, as well as their purpose and contribution to the team metrics and as a whole for the organizational strategic goals. So you really need to think as a leader for how and why each of those staff make a difference and how directly that difference impacts that customer experience. And that’s both for internal and external stakeholders. Both of those are extremely vital. In the past, I’ve created a career mapping to where as part of the regular quarterly reviews, staff looked at what their role was and worked with their leaders to really identify concrete on a document that they kept at their desk to be able to see how those things linked. And so maybe one person deals with providers and that level of satisfaction builds into some of the team metrics for maybe an NPS score that somebody needs to have as a measurement for their overall goals, which then ties into the success factor of expanding network when it comes to an organizational standpoint. And so really showing staff how, especially your frontline staff, how those pieces link and how they really contribute to that overall goal and effectiveness because they need to know their values.

Gabe Larsen: (14:30)
Yeah. So it’s about really getting, it’s kind of what you were saying almost [inaudible]. We just have to align people with that overall vision, the strategy, where the company wants to go. It is funny. It’s, I sit in sometimes these Kustomer town halls and things like that, and I’m always amazed to see leaders present the numbers as if people care about them. And I say that a little bit with an offensive joke, but I know and don’t get me wrong. The number the company has to grow with, it’s capitalism at its finest, but to kind of have that be the front and center like, “We hit our number. We didn’t hit our number,” rather than have kind of like this mission goal. Like, “Are we actually helping 10,000 new businesses turn themselves around?” Or something that people want to aspire to? I am always, and I’m guilty of it, but I’m just, I was in one the other day. And I was thinking, “Does this person actually think that anybody cares about the LRR?” Some data metric. What does that even mean?

Suzzanna Rowold: (15:45)
Well and [inaudible]. Nobody knows what that means. Nobody even knows if you say, “Oh, we have an NPS score of 40.” Okay well, where does that relate to the rest of the nation? Is that good? Is that not?

Gabe Larsen: (15:58)
That’s right. That’s right.

Suzzanna Rowold: (15:58)
Nobody knows what that means.

Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Yeah. But bringing the two together. If you can connect, because I love the big picture vision and I love when I go into organizations and they have that just transformational mission that they keep moving towards and kind of aspiring to. But then to your point, tying it together with what the frontline is doing is awesome. Examples of how you figured out how to do this? This one’s a little harder. It’s a, how do you kind of bring this one to bear?

Suzzanna Rowold: (16:30)
Well, and as I mentioned, I mean that really is something that needs to be discussed with your employees in both a team concept, as well as an individual concept when you’re having those lunch and learns, your supervision, your department meetings, those need to be the things that are openly talked about because not only do your staff need to know how those relate, but the leader needs to believe that that relates and they need to be able to demonstrate and show that and show that the leader actually values the fact of what purpose each of those staff bring. The reality is no company is going to be successful without those frontline workers. They are your largest volume of staff. They’re your largest workhorses. Like you need that support and efficiency at those levels and they need to know how their behaviors and their expectations trigger over to the bigger picture. And so many just don’t.

Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
Yeah. There’s so many that just don’t. Very true. Okay well, I want to continue. I want to make sure, our time’s close, I want to get to secret three, where do you go for secret three?

Suzzanna Rowold: (17:41)
Sure. So in secret three, this really comes into where you have to invest in your employee’s success. You need to provide opportunity for growth and development. You need to regularly have those conversations. Developing a culture of learning is extremely important for not only internal satisfaction, but external satisfaction with the company. Creating a safe atmosphere for a fail fast mentality. Nobody should feel like they’re going to be retaliated against for bringing up concerns about things that aren’t going well, let alone making a mistake, but setting up the culture that if you make a mistake, the expectation is you learn from it and we don’t continue to make that same mistake. We improve and we continue to drive forward for what our purpose is.

Gabe Larsen: (18:29)
Right.

Suzzanna Rowold: (18:30)
I mean, really for myself and for any of the teams that I’ve ever been over, my thought is you don’t leave any room for mediocrity. So if that’s what you’re expecting, that’s what you’re going to get. Just like they say, what you measure is what you get. So set the bar high and strive for it and work together as a team to get there.

Gabe Larsen: (18:53)
Oh, fun. Yeah. I really liked the fail fast mentality. It just, it’s a hard one to get into a culture, but when it’s working, it really creates a different, really creates a different atmosphere. How have you kind of, any examples of how you brought this to life or brought this to bear in different organizations?

Suzzanna Rowold: (19:09)
Yeah. So with this, what I have done in the past is set up an annual customer service training theory and that focused on building quarter after quarter with advanced skill sets, leading up into pulling that into culture. As well as running different decision-making and solution-focused, problem-solving rounds so that when some staff were dealing with certain challenges, it was an open forum and discussion to be able to piggyback off of each other and being able to demonstrate how that can be generalized into more common scenarios that staff are facing. And really helping them understand how to have effective and meaningful resolutions without jeopardizing that integrity of the relationship with whichever stakeholder that was. And really looking at one of the things that are my absolute favorites for this area is a quote by Aristotle. So, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” The leaders need to role model that because after all, all of their staff’s success is a direct reflection of them. And if you look at it that way, that creates a bit of a different mindset for how you’re interacting and developing your staff to really be that extension of you and success.

Gabe Larsen: (20:37)
Okay. Well said. Really fun secrets, Suzzanna, appreciate you jumping on and talking to us about these different things you’ve found to be successful in your career. If somebody, if we, as we wrap here, if somebody wants to reach out to you and get to know you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Suzzanna Rowold: (20:56)
LinkedIn works great. That’s probably the easiest way to find me.

Gabe Larsen: (21:01)
Awesome. Awesome. And we can, and we’ll make sure we put that in the show notes. So Suzzanna, again, want to thank you for the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Suzzanna Rowold: (21:10)
Thanks so much, Gabe for having me. Have a wonderful day.

Exit Voice: (21:18)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

How Operations Play a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman

How Operations Plays a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by John Timmerman to talk about operationalizing the customer experience. John currently serves as Vice President of Operations at Mercy, providing exceptional customer and patient service. He serves for the betterment of customer experiences and helps lead teams to excellence. Listen to the podcast below to find out how you too can transform your customer experience through operationalization.

How To Hire the Right Talent

Overseeing multiple aspects of the healthcare realm and having plenty of experience in the service industry, John Timmerman demonstrates what it takes to build a successful and memorable customer experience. Transforming a customer experience team from subjective to objective is no easy task or a quick one. To help CX leaders on their journey to building a successful team and finding the right talent, John discusses the importance of hiring the right people who enhance the customer experience. He says:

So we’ve got alignment between our brand positioning and the criteria for a selection of our talent, how we onboarded them in a very intentional way to orientate and co-locate them into our cultural values. Organizations do a good job of typically giving people technical requirements of the role, but not the belief system. How we reinforce that is through repetition.

John believes that everyone is born with talent that can be utilized for success. He urges leaders to ask the right questions when hiring CX agents and to be frank in their interview process. In his experience he finds that holding frank discussions and asking questions that easily display the point, he has been able to find top-tier talent and save time by using this vetting process. It wastes time when employees don’t live up to the company standards and expectations and by asking the right questions, time and resources are saved because the best talent is found.

Defining Values that Resonate

Companies would be wise to define their core values and beliefs early on in its creation. Doing so can help in the decision making process and in setting goals. All too often, executives create these company values and paste them on a wall but forget about them as soon as the first meeting comes around. Identifying, sticking to, and incorporating company values is essential for building lasting success, especially when the brand as a whole is aligned with those values. When hiring new employees or agents, these values can be brought up in the interview however, it can be extremely taxing when working with pre-existing employees who do not align with new values. On this topic John expresses, “It’s so difficult if you’re inheriting people that aren’t aligned with those values to begin with. And it’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to put together a stage plan to have a lot of critical conversations over time and fairness for them and the organization.” There is no singular correct set of beliefs or values and these change from company to company depending on multiple factors. The biggest takeaway from John is to implement and remember those core values in all aspects of CX and business operations and to align the brand with its purpose.

Journey Mapping with Employees in Mind

Journey mapping has become quite a hot topic in the customer experience world as of recently. Typically, a journey map includes every touch point of the process it takes for a customer to achieve a goal within the brand. John presents the different approach of creating a journey map with employees in mind. One of the most distinctive features of this strategy is the connecting of different departments and helping them understand their expectations of one another. Noting his experience at Mercy, John explains, “We have some of the brightest clinicians on the planet that work at this organization, and yet they really haven’t had the opportunity to step back and clarify expectations in these interdisciplinary teams. So that’s kind of like the first step before you do the sophisticated approach.” Furthermore, this is especially effective when expectations are broken down into feasible action plans, focusing on particular steps of the journey map. For example, when working for Ritz-Carlton, John implemented a tactic to improve specific areas. He found ways to improve areas such as the arrival and the departure that further structured the relationship between the organization and the customer. Not only does this tactic work for hotels such as Ritz-Carlton, it is also applicable to all businesses that serve customers. Keeping the employees in mind in the journey mapping process works simultaneously to build customer loyalty.

John hopes CX leaders will streamline their processes from subjective to objective experiences with his helpful advice. To learn more about operationalization, 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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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Activate a Customer-Centric Organization | John Timmerman and Vikas Bhambri

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 really excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about operations and how that really plays into the role of helping you transform your customer experience and to do that, we brought on a good friend of mine, John Timmerman. He’s currently the Vice President at Mercy. John, thanks for joining. How are you?

John Timmerman: (00:32)
Good. Thank you, Gabe. Delighted to be here with you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
Yeah, yeah. We want to take a minute and we’re going to dive in. I think the talk track will be fun. A lot of cool stuff in your background to dive into, but before we do, can you take just a minute to maybe introduce yourself just a little bit more on some of your background?

John Timmerman: (00:50)
Certainly, Gabe. I work at Mercy Health Care in St. Louis and I oversee service lines, support oncology and cardiovascular, respiratory, food service, environmental service, a number of areas that are all operational and how we bring our patient family experiences alive. And we do it here at Mercy through our mission, which is to bring the healing ministry of Christ alive every day with compassionate care and excellence. And prior to Mercy, I worked as the Global VP of operations for 4,700 Marriott hotels. Prior to that, Global VP of quality and operations for Ritz-Carlton brand worldwide. And then health care before that. So I was a hotel worker. Cleveland Clinic was the first health care organization that I was part of.

Gabe Larsen: (01:44)
Yeah, well you’ve definitely seen the movie before so I’m excited to jump in and then as always, we’ve got Vikas Bhambri, Head of CX and Sales at Kustomer and myself, Gabe Larsen, Vice President of Growth. So let’s dive in real quick, wanting to start with this one, John, a lot of companies run into this problem of trying to transform their customer experience, but it just feels soft, right? They’re often talking about the subjective side of the customer experience. The thing I’ve admired about you as I’ve followed you to talk to you, you just seem to always have such an operational mindset, this fanatical maniacal focus on data and process and systems and structure. Big picture, how do you, how do you kind of coach organizations to shift from the subjective side to the objective side?

John Timmerman: (02:34)
Well, it’s kind of common, organizations understand that they — “Survival is not mandatory” as Dr. Deming has said. And so they know they need to evolve around the consumer, their requirements, wants, needs and expectations, but how they do it is usually the failure point. So they’re looking for a campaign, plug and play recognition program, training, and there’s a lot of good training organizations, so nothing against training, but we would have a lot of people come to us at Ritz-Carlton and go through our training program. There’s other good ones like Disney. And so, there’s a lot of good ones out there, but they’d always be surprised when they kind of get an insight of how we activate the customer-centric organization and how we hire the talent. So we’ve got alignment between our brand positioning and the criteria for a selection of our talent, how we onboard them in a very intentional way to orientate and co-locate them into our cultural values. Organizations do a good job of typically giving people technical requirements of the role, but not the belief system. How we reinforce that is through repetition. And so you take a look at something like our organization was architected on personalized service and in your first 30 days, we’re going to reinforce personalized service 30 different ways for you to touch, feel, and be a part of that. So it’s not abstract. I think a good example I would give is one of the things I would do when I was younger is teach scuba diving. And that’s a sport where there could be some really high stakes for people who [inaudible] and we train a student, we would reinforce any technique 15 different ways before we felt comfortable putting them solo. And it’s similar to, if you want to activate a customer-centric organization, there’s no quick fix. Folks can give you insightful information and training programs. You might get a few golden nuggets, but you’ve got to really engineer the processes to reinforce, align those behaviors, those expectations you’re looking for. And that’s the hard work that organizations most times miss.

Gabe Larsen: (04:56)
Yeah. Yeah. I liked the re-engineering of the process. You mentioned a couple of things and I want to go back to one thing you said before we go into process. Sounds like one of the secrets you found is on the hiring side, which is not, a lot of people are talking about customer journey. They go into that re-engineering, they’re like, “Okay, well, let’s get customer centric. We want to get more data-driven, we don’t want to be soft. Let’s map the customer journey and see how we can optimize it.” But you talked about the hiring process. I mean, it always seemed like, at the Ritz-Carlton in particular, with my experience at Disney, like they hire different people. How do they do it? What’s the secret?

John Timmerman: (05:43)
Yeah, so it’s kind of funny because well, I was with you, Gabe, at Gallup, they’ll be flying around all the world, talking to CEOs and COOs. The common thing would be the C-suite would say, “I don’t like my culture. I want to change it.” And they ask “How long will it take to change?” And I’d ask well, some basic questions like, “What’s your turnover,” right? And so it’s 25%, maybe four years, because if you don’t hire right, it’s very challenging to align someone to something that’s not natural to whom they are. And I believe God’s given everyone talent. It’s just, the problem is you might not be in the organization that best fits your talents. And that seems to be the problem. So the first thing is defining what are those, what are those core principles? So when I talk about Ritz-Carlton, it was a personalized service. When I, the Cleveland Clinic, it was around patient-centered care. When we’re at Mercy, it’s activating the healing ministry of Jesus Christ. And so there’s no one right value system or brand positioning, but you have to define it. And once that’s defined, you have to look at people that naturally do well, the top performing and those that don’t do well, the contrast group, and kind of see what’s driving those behaviors between those two groups and then start to develop some recruiting, some employer, brand marketing. So the messaging that you send out is incredibly important. Not here at Mercy, but I was working at another large hospital organization and they were having trouble with their nursing staff. And when we did the root cause analysis, it was just the communication they were sending out is on the recruitment front end of it. But once you get that, then you have to look at how do we identify? Do these people have these innate behaviors with them? And so you’ve got to have the right guy to ask the right questions of the individuals to know if they’re going to conceptually match to that environment. And then you’ve got to kind of not assume they’re just going to activate themselves because people can have these innate talents, but they have to be brought out in many cases. And it’s a spectrum. So some people, just there’s no off switch and they’ll go from day one. And other people require a lot of coaching and creating the right environment to help them activate it and everyone in between. But it really comes down to what is our brand positioning? What do we want our consumers to say about us? We want them to see, touch and feel. And then what are the people in the organization? You probably have some, no matter where you work, that are doing that today. Let’s study them, don’t study the people that are no better than the average, because you’re going to just get average results, but study the ones that are doing it today and let’s figure out how we can recruit to those behaviors as best as possible through both the communication, the brand positioning and the employer base comms, as well as the questions and the discernment that you think through people through when they come into the organization. So for Mercy, we’ve, our hurdles, our first few are the technical requirements, the experience, the credentials and education, and the second hurdle is you have the talents for the role. So if you’re going to be a manager, do you have management talents? Can you develop a team or if you’re in a business development, can you influence? And then the third one is our Mercy fit. Do you, are you going to feel comfortable with, on activating everyday, dignity and excellence and compassion and service and stewardships and charisms like bias for action and entrepreneurship? And so once you’ve got that, that’s at the front end of the funnel, then he got to kind of have to look at the entire journey of the employee especially through the first 21 days, because that’s usually when you get them really aligned or you kind of lose them, they start to go off tracks and those organizational norms start to kind of have an effect on them.

Gabe Larsen: (10:05)
No, I love that. Vikas, go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:05)
I was going to ask, I think one of the things you mentioned is about the brand value or brand promise that people call it. You mentioned some amazing examples, including Mercy. I think one of the things I see as a challenge is people create these values. They put them on a wall or whatever it is, but it never really permeates through the organization. So that would be question number one, if you could give some tips or tricks or how do you actually then orchestrate it through the organization? And two is not everybody always comes on board, especially if this is an evolution that a company may be going through. How do you then kind of identify those people that aren’t in line with the new philosophy and kind of gracefully exit them out of the business if they’re not a fit? I’d be curious about your experience there.

John Timmerman: (10:55)
Yes. All great questions. I’ll answer the last one first, and that was VP of Operations at Ritz-Carlton. We would open a hotel. So then you have a chance to do it right from the beginning as you’re hiring 200 to a thousand people depending on size of the hotel. And to get that, so you know, we selected one out of 20 qualified applicants that had our DNA.

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
How many was that?

John Timmerman: (11:22)
I’m sorry?

Gabe Larsen: (11:22)
How many was that?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:24)
One out of 20.

John Timmerman: (11:24)
One out of 20.

Gabe Larsen: (11:26)
One out of 20.

John Timmerman: (11:26)
So that means we were willing to go without people to get the right person, because we knew that we had the wrong person, it just cost you dearly. And that’s a discipline, some organizations just quite frankly don’t have. They lower that requirement. And when I would meet with new employees and we’d be opening a new hotel or bringing on a new department, I’d be very frank. I talk about our values and say, “If there’s anything here that you feel uncomfortable with, please, we’re going to take a break and do not come back because this is not the right organization for you. There’s an organization out there for you. We’re just not the one. And that’s okay. We want you to kind of come to that self-discovery now.” It’s so difficult if you’re inheriting people that aren’t aligned with those values to begin with. And it’s a lot of hard work and you’ve got to put together a stage plan to have a lot of critical conversations over time and fairness for them and the organization. So anytime you go to hire someone new it’s like, “Let’s get it right,” because downstream is just so much more difficult. But in terms of, what’s the second part of the question or the first part of the question?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:46)
Yeah, [inaudible]. How do you permeate it through the organization?

John Timmerman: (12:49)
Yeah, most of those are quite worthless to be quite frank because you have some consultant or some marketing company, and they could be good consultants and marketing companies, but they developed some textbook vision statement, mission statement, whatever word, label you want to put on it, and it gets transferred to posters and to a buttons in a campaign. And then it collects dust over that. And so really the proof point is, how you can wire it in to create an affinity to one your human resource processes, and then two, your leadership processes and three your operational processes and four your information now with analytics processes. So for HR, we talked about, it’s like calibrating that to the psychometric or that the hiring criteria for leadership processes. And it’s just a basic, “What’s my role as a leader for activating this in my communication?” And so if I had a meeting here at Mercy or Ritz or at other organizations I’ve worked, one of the things is typically the values tend to be at the bottom of the agenda, but it’s intentionally bringing it to the top. So the first thing you talk about is mission, vision, and values, or whatever you call it in your organization, clear. And even though profit is a fuel that keeps us moving forward, and you got to talk about that by all means, that’s not the first thing. And by the way, I’ve been all over the world and profit gets the leader excited, but I’ve never met a frontline employee that get excited on –

Gabe Larsen: (14:24)
Amen. Amen.

John Timmerman: (14:27)
So talk about the things that are going to resonate to them. And it’s the things that are relevant, tactile to them and how that relates to the values. One of the just quick best examples, I can’t mention client names, but we were working a large banking client and the banking client were developing a value system, and this is in California and they were, they were just dead set that the executives were going to define this. And we pushed back a little and said, “Yeah, the executives have a big role for defining those, but really it’s your frontline that’s going to be the proof point for this.” And we kind of had some healthy discussion with them and we finally agreed that, “Hey, the executives will develop a mission statement, and then you get consultants, go ahead and create something with the frontline and we’ll work at it and consider it.” And so we did that. Parallel tracks and an executive did a great job, but the final test was we took the mission statement, the values that the executive created. We took the ones that project team of frontline workers created, and then we randomly picked frontline, these were bank tellers and cashiers and such, and we asked them, “Take a look at these two value statements. Which one gets you excited and in less than 30 seconds, which one can you create a story right now about how you’ve either done this or how are you going to do this?” And take a guess which one they picked?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:49)
The frontline.

John Timmerman: (15:51)
Yeah it was. Frontline wins every time. And so, it needs sponsorship of executives, but if these things don’t resonate within the culture that you have, it’s dead on arrival.

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Wow. Wow. So maybe one follow up to that, John, I just feel like a lot of people ask, especially when it comes to the Ritz-Carlton, these, the it’s, and maybe I’m just, maybe I’ve heard rumors, maybe it’s not true, so maybe you can dispel them. But, when someone like goes in a room, the operational rigor that before somebody checks in like what that person actually does in preparation to get that room, like there’s a 50 point checklist or a hundred point checklist, or there’s a lot of operational rigor that goes into actually providing that optimal experience. I’m trying to think of some of the examples I’ve heard, but maybe you can confirm or deny. How operational significant do you get on some of these small things to make it that Ritz-Carlton-type experience?

John Timmerman: (16:53)
Yeah. So, and a good reference for this is, it’s a Gallup book that was published a while ago and it’s around the notion of how do you create excellence? And when you take a look at a new coworker, employee in an organization, against a requirement, first got to make sure, is there a requirement well defined? So you’re pretty close, Gabe, in that in a guest room, we had about 127 key points of cleanliness and operational requirements. And then you take that and then you say, “Well, how do I make a highly reliable system against that?” So you wouldn’t get the training, the hiring, the inspection process. And so one example would be you just, you have worker fatigue if you kind of ran them against 127 points for 16 rooms. They would clean [inaudible] cleaning a room at a clip of a room for every 30 minutes on average. And so you take that and break it down to what are the 14 vital things that are important to the customer that we got to get a hundred percent, right? So the 127 are still important. We’re not going to ignore them, but we’re going to allow a different level of variation for 127 versus these 14, have to be just bulletproof a hundred percent right. And then be really rigorous on our inspection and reinforcement on those things at high frequency rates. So that’s every room, every housekeeper. One of the things we learned with our housekeeping staff too was, we got to a point where we said, “Hey, we’ve got some people that are so good where they just don’t even need inspection.” So we stopped the inspection and we got pushback from them, they said, “You know what? We know we’re really good and we got low error rates, but we actually want leaders to come in and recognize the great work that we do,” So be careful too, when you go to complete self inspection with top performers. Sometimes those employees value the feedback and the validation that we give them. So it’s designing the right level of inspections so that we’re not burdening with a lot of unnecessary costs, preventative costs, but it’s making sure that for those things that are vital to you, you got a high reliable system. Like one of the things we can never guarantee when we were checking in a customer at Ritz was they’d get the room they wanted. The right view, the right floor and all that. So we stepped back and said, “Well, what can we guarantee?” Well, we can guarantee and we can operationalize that. We’ll use their name at least three times when they check in. And so how do you do that? Well, at the bell services, the door, they’re trained to look at the tags on the luggage. And then they got them. We give them a tool, a microphone, and a radio to communicate it to the front desk. And then we got a follow up call from someone on duty once they checked in the room to see how they’re doing. And so there’s constraints in any order. And then people also say, “Well, you probably pay people more at Ritz-Carlton. That’s why you got it.” Guess what, we paid the same market rate as the Red Roof Inn and any other brand. It’s just that we had some really super good processes and the same would be for Mercy. We focus on, there’s an ocean of things you can work on and that are important so you’ve got to have those accounted for, but you got to really narrow it down to how are you going to differentiate and what’s going to be critical that has to have a hundred percent reliability, and then just really design around that. Because if you try to design a hundred percent reliability, especially in a human dynamic situation where you’re relying upon human technology and not automation, you got to really pick the areas that you go for very carefully.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:44)
John, you made a great point at the end there, which is a lot of times people, when we use brands like Disney or Ritz-Carlton, et cetera, people are like, “Look, of course people are paying $800 a night or a thousand dollars a night to stay there.” You’re going to, and the assumption is that you said that we’re paying our people more. My belief has always been that there’s some core elements that you can have in any business, whether you’re a restaurant, whether you’re the local delicatessen, whatever it is, that it doesn’t matter if you’re the Ritz-Carlton. What are some of those kind of key principles that really any business can adopt? You said you’ve got a 127 point checklist, but there’s 10 things that every business should think about or consider or adopt to provide that premium level of customer experience.

John Timmerman: (21:36)
Yeah. That’s a pretty common question. And I’m not going to skirt around it, but I would say that I’m a little bit hesitant because of sharing specifics because then, as you know, Vikas, Gabe, people run out and try to implement that and may not be right for the context. When I first got to Cleveland Clinic from Ritz, they said, “Make us like Ritz-Carlton.” I said, “Well, let me come back to you in 90 days and tell you if that’s right.” And there’s some things we use from Ritz, but there’s a lot of things we didn’t use too just because of the context and the brand positioning. So, but here’s what I would say though, I give you some fallacies to stay away from. So maybe I’ll go the other direction, not saying what to do, but what not to do. The one thing is to draw the assumption that training’s going to solve it. And I learned this as a young 20-year-old manager, when Ritz was just being formed. When I joined the organization, the president Horst Schulze, we all the time, you get general managers with, you would call them excuses. Excuses why they couldn’t deliver a perfect customer experience for our guests. And the typical excuse was training. And then what Horst would do on the phone, Horst would say, “I’m flying down to your hotel right now. I’m going to offer everyone of your employees a thousand dollars if they can do this the way that we’re asking them to do it. What time do you want me to show up?” And the GM would always say, “No Horst, don’t get on the plane. It’s not a training issue. There’s other issues. We’ve got to clarify the expectation. I got to go back and make sure they’ve got the tools and resources. We need to know if we’ve got the right measurements and metrics in place to answer the question. How do we know this is being done the way that we want it to be done? Are we reinforcing the right behaviors, both positive reinforcement as well as you gotta be truthful.” Hey, there has to be negative consequences when these things aren’t done after you’ve given everyone, you’ve set the table with what they need to be able to do it and you can’t just say, “Happy employees and happy customers.” Yeah. It’s easier to serve customers if the employees are happy, but there’s other processes and tools and resources that have to be brought in to play too. I really wish it was that easy. Then we’d all be getting better customer service across the board. So stay away from that training fallacy. Also stay away from the fallacy that if we just paid more, because for any savvy manager, put the data aside and the data sites this, is that pay is abhorrent. So that’s not right, it’s an obstacle. But if it is right, it’s very short-lived and what’s going to give you, get you in terms of performance. And if there’s one thing I always learned from Gallup, when you look at what drives behavior, you have to ask, you have to know that it equals one level with each coworker. So for someone, it might be economics, for other people, it’s going to be public recognition. Other people, I mean, they quit if you gave them public recognition and it’s some autonomy and their job, and it just varies across the board. And that’s why leadership is not easy, not for everyone, because you’ve got to dial into those nuances of people once you’ve set that table and give them those basic tools and environment.

Gabe Larsen: (25:03)
Wow, I like that. I want to talk just for a minute about the, you hit some of the operational elements, but a lot of people talk about this customer journey map concept and how you can actually start to go from end to end and start to find some of the checkpoints or the areas you do need to improve. How would you coach organizations to go through that process? I mean, it seems like you’re so methodical in the way that you walked through that customer journey yourself and find things that, I remember this one we did at Toyota together, and you were thinking of things I didn’t even, there were so many signatures, you were like, “That guy had to sign 130 times. Like that’s crazy.” And I’m like, “Oh, I didn’t even see that one.” Is it just take an eye for it? Or how do you do a customer journey map, John Timmerman style? You know?

John Timmerman: (25:52)
Yeah. The most I’ll give you is, if you’re at maturity stage one, but the first thing to do is to most, and by the way, most of the breakdowns occur in service organization between handoffs, between departments. And so if you kind of know that, and that’s a working hypothesis, then one easy thing is just to get two departments together and clarify requirements and expectations. So I can’t tell you the number of times I walk into a hotel and meet with the culinary and the banquet servers and ask the question, “Do you know what you want from them? And do they know what they need from you?” And they’d be working together for 10 plus years and really not have a clear definition around how they support each other and those requirements. And that’s true for hotels and hospitals. We need, we have some of the brightest clinicians on the planet that work at this organization, and yet they really haven’t had the opportunity to step back and clarify expectations in these interdisciplinary teams. So that’s kind of like the first step before you do the sophisticated approach. Let’s say you got some clarity around basic requirements between departments, teams, multidisciplinary units. Take the customer experience at Ritz, we calculated that there was 1800 potential touch points for travel or stay in 1.5 nights. So again, that’s the ocean of what can happen. And then you got to say, “What are the critical phases of the 1000 plus that inform the consumer’s opinion of you?” And really determine whether they’re going to come back and what they say and feel all that. And you break it down into a little bit, the arrival phase. It’s like mom said, first impression. So let’s focus right now on the arrival phase and get that right. And then if it’s not the arrival, maybe you got that, we know recency theory that the departure, the fond farewell thing. So maybe let’s go take a look at that. And then maybe let’s circle to what’s in the middle between those two bookends of the phase, and let’s look at it, or what are the transactions, the things that they’re doing? Like filling out those application forms. What are the things that we’re doing to reinforce relationship? How do we intelligently design something unanticipated? Organizations don’t have endless resources to gold plate, the experience. So you’ve got limited amenities and things you can do for consumers to drive their loyalty. So whether it’s on the site, visual site with gamification, or it’s a physical interaction, how are we going to find design, design in some of these things that are going to drive delight and make this more than just a reliable, transactional thing, but also experience that drives relationship and some level of memory and printing for that experience?

Gabe Larsen: (28:57)
Hmm. Interesting. I like it. Do you, as we get to kind of close here. Certainly the world has changed and that’s changed for Mercy. It’s changed for Ritz-Carlton has changed for so many companies with all that’s happening in the world. What are some of those things that you’ve learned through this change that you would want to leave maybe with customer experience leaders trying to transform their businesses, knowing that digitization is on us more than ever, knowing that COVID is obviously changing everything we do? What are some of those principles that you’ve kind of maybe either had to adopt or didn’t you feel like you could pass on to an audience of customer experience leaders?

John Timmerman: (29:36)
Yeah, I actually, a great question. I actually have three of them. There’s many, but three. The first one is this is a tragic situation that’s occurring. A lot of people are put in a very bad situation and let’s take this bad situation and try to use it for good as much as possible. And you can do that through many different ways. One is compassion. So we don’t lower our standards but we’re also looking at things through the eyes of not just our consumer, but our coworker. And so maybe there was a policy that you never compromised in the past and not suggesting what organizations do or don’t do, the policies, but let’s reevaluate it through the lens of, you’ve got one parent that’s trying to juggle somebody at home and another one that’s trying to juggle their job and the school’s closing. And let’s reevaluate policy through an eye of compassion for people and make sure that we put them at the center of it. The second one is let’s just try to automate as much of these things as we can. So, per capita, the US, we’re extremely high in terms of per capita cost for health care. And so if we can take out some manual process and automate it and allow people to practice at the top of their license and allow people more human contact versus paper shuffling, let’s do that as much as possible too. And the third thing is for leaders, I can speak for myself and the leaders I work with, you’re going to have to take a step back and rethink the new requirements because the world has changed. And a lot of the things that I would do yesterday that would drive performance results and success just quite frankly don’t apply today in this new environment. And so we’re all having to learn how to, if you’re right-handed, write left-handed. And make sure you’re spending time with your teams to define, “Hey, what are the new requirements? Because things have changed.” I just can’t say that it’s the things of yesterday are going to work today and give people the breathing room to kind of go through that discovery phase because the demands of co-workers, of consumers, of leadership, I suggest is very different today and that’s going to require some change and growing for I think, all of us, that whole leadership responsibility.

Gabe Larsen: (32:14)
Awesome. Awesome. Well John, love having you on. Vikas, closing thoughts or closing questions on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (32:18)
One, I think we could do another 30 minutes.

Gabe Larsen: (32:21)
Yeah. Dang it. I’m sad I only booked 30.

Vikas Bhambri: (32:25)
Can we do a part two? No look, I think the key thing, and we learned a little bit about this last week with our previous guests is, your customer journey mapping is all the rage and everybody’s doing it. But I think my key takeaway from John’s discussion is the employee side, because, it is, there’s two parts of the equation and the employee, everything from hiring to then enablement, and then the management of those of those team members is absolutely critical in delivering that ultimate customer experience. So thank you so much, John. That was my big takeaway.

Gabe Larsen: (32:58)
Yeah.

John Timmerman: (32:59)
God bless. Take care.

Gabe Larsen: (32:59)
How many touch points was that again, John? It was how many?

John Timmerman: (33:04)
It was about 1800 plus per just for a 1.5 length of stay.

Gabe Larsen: (33:10)
That is just crazy. Alrighty. Well John, again, really appreciate you joining and taking the time. Vikas, as always, thanks for being on and everybody have a great day.

Exit Voice: (33:22)
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Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle

Four Tips for Transforming CX with Hunter Schoettle TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Hunter Schoettle from PatientPop to uncover the four secrets to transforming the customer experience. PatientPop offers support to private healthcare practices and Hunter’s team is able to handle every aspect of CX with these four helpful tips. Listen to the podcast below to find out how you can transform your customer experience.

Tip 1: Build a Strong Base for Relationships

Being the Head of Customer Experience at PatientPop, Hunter understands the importance of having CX that goes beyond the standard. Hunter has developed four tactics for transforming the customer experience to a standard of excellence. The first is caring for the people within the company. Hunter creates a principle of honesty and understanding within PatientPop by hosting a work environment in which his employees feel cared for and comfortable in. Hunter explains:

I think that having happy employees, happy people, is going to drive those positive customer interactions. And even if you’re talking about the technology itself, having happy engineers working on your product, they’re going to be a lot more dedicated to driving results and delivering things that are going to help our customers.

When the people who work at the company are happy, their satisfaction scores are more likely to increase and customers are more likely to continually use the product. Even those who don’t interact with the customer on a daily basis are better able to provide superior products and services because their happiness in the workplace reflects on the customer satisfaction scale. Building a strong base for relationships between employees and leadership is just the first step to transforming the customer experience.

Tip 2: Utilize Data Effectively

The second step is to use data to the company’s advantage. According to Hunter, data is key to making decisions because it offers unbiased and emotionless information that when utilized effectively, can greatly benefit the company as a whole. In order to correctly use this resource, it is important to automate data availability to save time and talent. Further, it is also important to continually update and analyze the collected data. Because data offers an unbiased look into how the company is performing altogether, it is a valuable resource that should be constantly monitored and used in all aspects of implementation of policy and decision making. Hunter mentions, “Put a lot of thought into how you’re going to organize it (data) and what you’re going to look at if you want to be successful in the long run.” Questions can be answered through looking at data. If a CX team wonders why a customer is leaving or what needs to be fixed to keep customer loyalty, the team would benefit greatly from looking at collected data and implementing it into aspects of improved CX.

Tip 3: Step Outside of the CX Role

Hunter’s third step to transforming CX is to step outside of the CX role and engage with other parts of the company. This method effectively optimizes the customer experience because of the insights gained from other teams working together to provide the best products, services and experiences. To further expound on step three, Hunter says:

Really what I mean by that is I love getting outside of my role and knowing what’s going on in the rest of the organization. I want to know what sales is doing. I want to know what implementation is doing. I want to know what the customer success team is doing, support, product, so on and so forth. And I think that knowing all of those things and having a pulse to some extent around those areas really gives me the ability to be proactive.

When teams are interconnected not only in the customer experience side but throughout the whole organization, the company is more likely to retain customer loyalty. When asked how to better insert oneself into different roles within the company, Hunter says that persistence is fundamental in getting insights from other parts of the company, especially if the others are standoffish at first. Additionally, having a strong agenda with a clear direction helps to get started on working with other teams to collect more data and insights.

Tip 4: Actively Listen to and Learn from the Customer

The last step to transforming the customer experience is to listen to the customer. Hunter sees that many CX agents say they are listening to the customer; however, he finds that most of the time they are not really listening with intent but are just waiting for the opportunity to get the job done as soon as possible and to move on to the next person. Generally, the customer is going to tell a brand everything it needs to know about the products or services offered through their feedback. Hunter notes a difference between actually listening to the customer and hearing the customer. He says, “So I think that really, truly listening to your customer and actually understanding the issues that they’re having before trying to solve them is one of the biggest things that a lot of companies miss on.” Allowing customers the time needed for them to fully speak and express their issues, taking notes, actively trying to understand their problems and figuring out efficient solutions are all imperative to gaining customer loyalty and useful data. This tactic helps eliminate wasted time on misunderstandings and helps to create a customer-centric culture in which customer feedback is valued and is essential to improving upon the brand as a whole.

Hunter urges organizations to implement these four helpful tips to transform their customer experience. To learn more, 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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The Four Steps To Transforming a CX Organization | Hunter Schoettle

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 transforming. How to do that on the customer experience side with a little bit of a healthcare focus and to do that, we’ve got Hunter Schoettle joining us. He’s currently the Head of Customer Experience at PatientPop. Hunter, thanks for joining man. How are you?

Hunter Schoettle: (00:29)
I’m doing awesome. Thanks for having me.

Gabe Larsen: (00:31)
Yeah. Yeah. Excited to have you. It’s fun to have a little bit of a different flavor around customer experience and some of the things you guys are doing in the healthcare space. I think from the product standpoint or the service, all the things you, it’s so different, but I think kind of this customer experience will be fun to hear your per view on it. So before we dive in, tell us a little about yourself.

Hunter Schoettle: (00:54)
Sure. So right now, like you said, at PatientPop. They’re a practice growth platform for private practices across pretty much every specialty. So I work with everything from med spas to dentist to neurosurgeons. So get a really diverse group of people there. I, like you said, running the customer experience department, so we still have a startup vibe. We just got the series C so really, really kind of growing more into a mature company at this point, but I definitely still get to wear a ton of hats. Had a lot of background in sales, which taught me that kind of just, figure it out mentality, get stuff done, whatever it takes. So I enjoy having a challenge. I handle everything from customers threatening legal against us, contract law, I’ve read copyright law, all the way to just managing our Google My Business. I respond to the reviews on there. So the main bread and butter, main focus though is on customer attention and that’s really where my department thrives and gives the most value to the company. Using those frontline interactions to both gather data and then analyze and use that to help continually improve the product.

Gabe Larsen: (02:09)
I love that. And tell me one more time, the primary customers that you guys are servicing, one more time, or what type, who are they again?

Hunter Schoettle: (02:16)
So private practice doctors, pretty much any specialty right now.

Gabe Larsen: (02:22)
Interesting. Yeah, that’s going to be fun. And then just for the audience, if you’re wondering, you do not say his last name as you think you [inaudible]. Don’t ask his last name because I can’t even say it again. So you’ll have to hit him up on LinkedIn if you want the phonetic spelling of, or the phonetics of how to actually say –

Hunter Schoettle: (02:46)
You nailed it on the intro though.

Gabe Larsen: (02:46)
– phonetically put it in there. All right, well let’s jump in. I mean, you’ve been doing this for a while. I’m interested to see if I can pull from you some of these keys or secrets to the way you’ve been able to transform that customer experience in your space. Where do you start?

Hunter Schoettle: (03:02)
So there’s really four main things that I’ve kind of looked at. I think the most important one to me is always the people, which sounds counterintuitive when you’re talking about tech and SAS and all that, you really think that tech and whatnot is more but, more important, but everything behind that is always going to be the people. And I think that having happy employees, happy people, is going to drive those positive customer interactions. And even if you’re talking about the technology itself, having happy engineers working on your product, they’re going to be a lot more dedicated to driving results and delivering things that are going to help our customers.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
Yeah. I mean, that’s something that I think most people, they say but it’s easy to talk the talk, it’s hard to walk the walk, or people kind of intuitively know it, but they have a hard time figuring it out. Anything come to mind that you’ve been able to actually put that into practice where you have actually been able to get that engagement level of your employees to a level that does translate to happier customers?

Hunter Schoettle: (04:05)
Yeah, absolutely. So I think a couple things, one is the, that question actually sparks a different story that was originally coming to mind, but I have one individual on my team. He is a rock star performer, always doing great, but he’s really, really hungry for more career growth then he wants to move up and so on and so forth. And I think that everyone thinks that career growth means promotions, merit increase, et cetera, et cetera. But realistically it doesn’t always have to come in that. So he was always a good performer, but I started having him train the new hires, work with people that are newer on the team, getting him a lot more exposure to some of those hard management skills. And that changed his entire attitude in the office and his performance numbers, even though they were already great, he was already leading the team, we saw a definite lift in those and the feedback from the customers in turn has also improved. So we constantly monitor that as well.

Gabe Larsen: (05:10)
Interesting. Yeah. And sometimes everyone thinks it’s about the money, right? Or they think it’s about the physical things, but sometimes it’s different. I think each person is different. Sounds like you figured that out [inaudible]. So people, I mean, have you thought much about the hiring? It seems like people always struggle getting the right people in the door and then engaging them. Quick thoughts on the hiring process, anything figured out there?

Hunter Schoettle: (05:35)
Yeah, absolutely. So I think there’s a couple of things around hiring. One is just really investing in the interview process and making sure you’re learning everything. I mean, that’s kind of obvious, but once someone’s in the door, it’s investing in them personally and professionally. So, I like to build really strong relationships. I like to where people are personally. I think that knowing that someone’s family member is sick and changing how you interact with them that day, that week, whatever, goes a long way to making sure those employees feel supported, feel engaged, and if an employee likes their manager, likes their director, likes their leadership, they’re going to work a lot harder, on the flip side as well. So and then it also comes to supporting them professionally. So you have to support your careers and I think that’s the bigger part about hiring is if you want top talent on your team, you have to support the top talents, careers. You can’t hold on to them and try and keep them pigeonholed into where they are performing great on your team. You have to be okay with supporting them, moving on if you don’t have the right opportunity for them. And I actually just ran into that. I know we had spoke about that before. Before were on here I had one a woman on my team who I’d been working with for two years. She’s been my direct report, seen her grow tremendously and she’s gotten to the point where she has a lot of options. I don’t have the right opportunity for her growth right now. But we were talking and I actually choked up teared up a little bit when I was telling her that I would give her a great reference, whatever it was. But that level of relationship is really what I look to build with my people.

Gabe Larsen: (07:23)
Cool man, yeah. I mean, I think a lot of people say their people are their assets or it’s just hard to actually do it, to find a way to get beyond the general conversations and get to a personal level. And sometimes actually, I’ve heard other people discourage that like, “Hey, keep it professional. Don’t get to that level where you are really good friends.” That sounds like you’ve felt like you found a pretty good balance on that front.

Hunter Schoettle: (07:46)
I’d definitely say it’s a fine line. I think there is, too personal is definitely a very real thing, but I like to have some personal relationship for sure. But there definitely is a way too personal. I still have to keep it professional, of course. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (08:02)
I think that’s fair. That is, I think finding the line is what separates great leaders from others. So people’s one side. The second place you talk about a little bit is based on the data piece. Talk to me about how you’ve kind of found a way to break through and make data something that enables you to transform.

Hunter Schoettle: (08:22)
Definitely. So I think that data is one of the most, I mean, I guess it’s redundant to say one of the most important things when we’re talking about the most important things, but data is huge. I use it every day, all day. And really when it comes to decision making, everything, I try to keep the emotions out of it. I keep my feelings, my thoughts, all of that out of it. And I just stare at the data, look into what’s actually going on, what the facts are. And I think there’s a couple things that I really key into here. One is automating data availability. So if you have to do a huge manual effort to get the data that you’re after, then you’re wasting resources. So being able to access the data that you need regularly is one huge factor there. And then another is just generally the analysis of it — what you’re looking at, where you’re going with it, so on and so forth.

Gabe Larsen: (09:23)
Got it. Yeah. Is there a certain, feels like people, and this is another one where I think people are like, “Yep, yep. We need to use data, but I don’t know. One, my data is so dirty or it’s in disparate systems.” I’ve been hearing that a lot lately.

Hunter Schoettle: (09:36)
Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (09:36)
Like, “I know I need the data, but part of it’s in my CRM and the other’s in the ticket system, I got a chat program over there.” It’s like, I keep saying it on here, this guy told me about his frankenstack and I just can’t get over it. It was such a funny word. He’s like, “You mean my frankenstack?” I asked him about the technology stack and he’s like, “You mean my “frankenstack?” But is there a certain, so is there certain metrics that you’ve found that are outside of the norm that actually tell the story you want? Because sometimes I’m feeling like we’re looking at numbers and I did, I had a call today where a woman was saying, “You know, we’re looking all about call handle time. But what we didn’t realize is our maniacal focus on handle time was really decreasing our net, our overall customer experience. And so we had to like find this balance.” Any thoughts on metrics? How to watch them, which ones are right?

Hunter Schoettle: (10:27)
Definitely. Definitely. So the first part of that statement, very true there’s data all over the place that’s housed in many different areas. So I definitely feel that still. I haven’t solved that problem myself just yet but I think that is another big one is how clean your data is leads back to how everything else, how your decision making is, et cetera, et cetera. But some of the main things that I really focus on is you got to start early. You got to really sit down and think about, put a lot of thought into how you’re going to organize it and what you’re going to, what you’re going to look at if you want to be successful in the long run. And what my team has done, we’ve built our own custom object that we work out of which is a case or whatever. I don’t want to use too much Salesforce lingo, but it’s our own custom object within Salesforce. And we’re constantly tooling it to make sure that we’re adding data points, changing, adapting, moving on, and we put them into big buckets. And so it’s products, service, customer service, expectations versus performance, costs versus value, things like that are really the things that we’re looking to gather. And the main metric that we’re actually looking at is when customers are requesting to cancel and when customers actually do cancel, why are we losing customers? And how can we fix the issues that cause a customer to leave us? And I think that if you’re, if you’re focused on the end of the funnel there and fixing those main issues, you’re going to be getting the best return on investment from a customer experience standpoint. Because A, you’re going to be increasing your customer attention at the end of the day, but you’re also going to be those mad customers that maybe aren’t mad enough to cancel it are still going to be having those same issues. And you might be shifting the NPS needle to moving them into more promoters and then even upstream, you’re fixing the same issue and can increase your new sales. Kind of a backwards funnel approach.

Gabe Larsen: (12:37)
No, no. I think that’s, I haven’t heard somebody or I haven’t had somebody explain it that way, but I like that. I think that’s a different way to look at it, but maybe the backwards funnel, that’s an interesting way to kind of frame that. Maybe we need to frame it differently because sometimes I think we’re getting off in the wrong direction when it comes to metrics. Okay, so you got the people side a little bit, all data, where do you go next?

Hunter Schoettle: (12:57)
So, I think one of the big things for me is, what is customer experience? To me, it’s the entire customer journey. So I think that if you’re in a customer experience role and that’s something you’re really focused on, you really don’t have a role. And I, what I really mean is get outside your role. So I’ve actually never even read my job description. I don’t know what it says. I know it says, “Do these things and perform in these areas.” And I hit those. I hit my goals, all of that, but really what I mean by that is I love getting outside of my role and knowing what’s going on in the rest of the organization. I want to know what sales is doing. I want to know what implementation is doing. I want to know what the customer success team is doing, support, product, so on and so forth. And I think that knowing all of those things and having a pulse to some extent around those areas really gives me the ability to be proactive when it comes to leading back to that data is what am I going to be tracking? Maybe I need a new data point based on what someone in sales is doing. Maybe sales is trying new price floors, or pitching a new product, trying to get a higher attach rate. And I can put new data points that my team can start tracking moving forward to see on the end of the funnel there, is that a positive or negative effect to when you’re looking at those cancellation requests?

Gabe Larsen: (14:22)
Yeah. Is there any advice on doing that and getting out of your box? I mean is it just the umph to do it? Is it setting up a weekly conversation with somebody outside your, or any quick advice for people who kind of want to do that, but are lacking kind of that, what’s the best way to kind of operate a little bit outside my box?

Hunter Schoettle: (14:43)
So, I mean, first one is definitely persistence. I think that there are a lot of, a lot of people love opening up and letting others come into their org or their department and like explaining it. But sometimes it can feel intrusive. So sometimes people are a little more standoffish to having you involved in some of their department’s meetings, but I think it’s just being persistent and being able to show the value of you being around and working together. And then you hit the nail on the head. I think that weekly meetings or bi-weekly meetings is huge to just continue looking at trends. And I think that as long as you have a good agenda and are going over the biggest trends, pertinent trends, and focusing on more bigger picture items opposed to, a lot of times, people want to get nitpicky into like one account, things like that. I think as long as you have a strong agenda and focus on bigger trends, bigger items, then you can get a lot of really valuable things in terms of, I work with sales on a bi-weekly basis and we look at different trends and processes that they’re working on to continue improving, which then leads into implementation. They have better accounts, better expectations set, leads and so on and so forth throughout the journey. But there’s a lot of different ways. It all starts with persistence though.

Gabe Larsen: (16:08)
Yeah. I think the persistence, someone used the word pleasantly persistent or something. It’s kinda like we were talking about the personal and professional. There’s this line of persistence, pleasantly persistent. This is what I do. And I’m like, “Okay.”

Hunter Schoettle: (16:24)
There’s also a big relationship key there as well, which you touched on there, but you got to build relationships across the departments, which leads into once you have those good relationships, that personal relationship, you can start using that to start accomplishing some of that and using that persistence with those people more directly and intentionally.

Gabe Larsen: (16:47)
Yeah. The relationships make a big difference. So, all right. So we’ve got people, data, getting a little bit out of the box and then where do you end?

Hunter Schoettle: (16:56)
So this has got to be the most obvious one for sure. But I think a lot of people don’t do it and it’s to listen to your customer. The customer is going to tell you everything that you need to know. And I think the reason that I even bring that up is a lot of people think they’re listening to their customer, but they’re actually not. And so a customer might say for example, “I have an issue with the product. The product’s not working.” And then say interaction with the support rep. Product’s not working. Support rep just jumps on it and starts trying to fix the product. Or really the issue is not that the product’s not working. The issue is that the customer doesn’t know how to use the product, or hasn’t adopted the product in the way that it’s supposed to be used. And it’s really more of an educational issue where that support rep, they tried to solve the problem before they knew the story. So I think that really, truly listening to your customer and actually understanding the issues that they’re having before trying to solve them is one of the biggest things that a lot of companies miss on. And the way I put that into interactions with my frontline in my department is the first five to ten minutes of our calls is just the customer talking. We have a quick intro and then just let them talk. And then it gets silent. They say, “Oh, I have an issue with this.” Get silent. You wait five, ten seconds. And then they open up and go then just line by line. We take notes. And then, and then once we’ve got that full story, that’s when we go in to actually solve the issues for them. And I think training across departments with things like that is a super important thing. Our frontline, my team, hears it all the time. “You’re the first person that truly listened to me.” And that’s something you don’t want to hear very often. You want to make sure that you’re truly listening to your customer.

Gabe Larsen: (18:50)
Yeah, yeah. That is, that’s another one that I think people talk about, but they, your point, they don’t do as much. So I like that. I think that’s a fun talk track. Hunter, appreciate you taking the time to join us today. If someone wants to reach out or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Hunter Schoettle: (19:08)
I’m fairly active on LinkedIn. If I get messages, I usually look at them. I’d say that’s probably the, probably the best way for now.

Gabe Larsen: (19:19)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, really appreciate it. Transforming customer experience in healthcare. Those are some of the lessons learned from Hunter. So Hunter again, thanks for taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Hunter Schoettle: (19:32)
Absolutely. I appreciate it, Gabe.

Exit Voice: (19:39)
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Building a 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence and 3 Simple Tips with Shannon Martin

Building a 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence and 3 Simple Tips with Shannon Martin TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Shannon Martin to learn about building a 90 day roadmap to successful customer service. Learn how Shannon has built an excellent team to provide world class customer service by listening to the podcast below.

Problem Solving Through Connection

Senior Director of Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group, Shannon, reveals the secrets to structuring a successful CX team with a 90 day roadmap. The first step to 90 day success is to build a connection through asking questions. Doing so is sure to uncover problems that need to be solved within the brand that customers are experiencing. This is an especially effective way to cater the ultimate consumer experience because this method is created by design-led thinking. When asked to evaluate a design-led thinking company culture, Shannon says, “Even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact of the customer? What is their experience finding the problems?” By asking questions to the customer and further quantifying problems that need to be solved as a result, a company becomes more vigilant and better customer service outcomes are sure to ensue.

Testing Promising Opportunities

The next step of the 90 day roadmap is to test and learn based on the data gathered. Once these problems have been identified, it is important for CX leaders to look at all of the options to find the most promising opportunities. As Shannon says, “You really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start.”

A prime example of testing and learning was when Shannon’s team identified how to better provide a customer experience. She understands how difficult it can be for brands that have CX teams across the globe to implement change. Shannon believes that one of the best ways to effectively implement tests and change is to start with a focus group and if said group shows positive results, change can then be implemented globally. To do this, Shannon’s test group displayed a more consultative approach to CX, rather than that of a strictly problem solving approach. Additionally, her team cut all handle times and allowed the agents to provide service at their will without constraint. This ultimately led to higher customer satisfaction scores, employee satisfaction scores and a profound increase in revenue.

Slow Down for Success

The final step to creating and actualizing an effective 90 day roadmap is to take things piece by piece and day by day. Something a lot of newer brands evidently struggle with is they tend to overleap oneself and become overwhelmed with amounting problems that need solving. Shannon’s solution is to find the right opportunities and to create change in small and effective steps. She mentions:

Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?

Starting from scratch and working in small steps can bring long-term benefits and success. Working each day towards a goal and doing what is necessary in increments to achieve that goal can help launch CX teams to their biggest wins.

CX and CS leaders alike could greatly benefit by using Shannon’s 90 day roadmap to customer service excellence. Identifying problems by creating a connection and asking targeted questions, testing and learning from data, and solving problems day by day have all proven to transcend teams to CX greatness.

To learn more about the secrets to creating a 90 day roadmap, 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 “The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | With Shannon Martin” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | Shannon Martin

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. Fun topic, very fun topic. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a 90 day roadmap to customer excellence and to do that, we brought on Shannon Martin. She’s currently the Senior Director, Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group. Shannon, thanks for joining. How are ya?

Shannon Martin: (00:30)
I am great. It’s a lovely rainy day here in Texas, which for most people may not be exciting, but for Texas, it’s a great day.

Gabe Larsen: (00:39)
I love it. I love it. Well we appreciate you joining and want to jump into some of the lessons learned from your cool career. But before we do that, maybe tell us just a little bit more about your background.

Shannon Martin: (00:51)
Sure. Even though I am part of the Travel Partners Group at Expedia now, prior to that, I was the Head of Global Customer Experience Operations for HomeAway, which became Vrbo, which was acquired by Expedia.

Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
Yes.

Shannon Martin: (01:06)
So I’ve got at least 20 years, I don’t want to say exactly how many, in the customer service world, starting with frontline management and then going all the way through to everything that supports customer service.

Gabe Larsen: (01:19)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, yeah. You look at, check out her LinkedIn and you’ll find that she is, she’s seen the movie once or twice, so it’d be fun to kind of dive into this idea of starting up and optimizing your customer excellence transformation. So let’s start at the top. As people think, I think this is one of the big challenges, I’m new to a job. I’m thinking about trying to kind of optimize the structure, the strategy, but there’s so much coming at me. How do you start? How do you start thinking about this 90 day plan of being able to just do it and do it right?

Shannon Martin: (01:52)
Well, if you’re coming new into a company, you obviously don’t know what you don’t know. The big thing these days is design-led thinking, take your approach to those first 90 days in that design-led thinking framework, then you realize the first thing you need to do is figure out what problems you need to solve. And then from there you can start thinking about, “All right, I’ve figured out a problem. What are some of the things that I might be able to address?” And then start designing some tests to see if you can actually make a difference in those areas? Because even those incremental tests could start to show you some goodness that you can expand on in a broader base later.

Gabe Larsen: (02:34)
I, yeah, this design-led thinking. It seems to be a little bit of a buzz, not a buzzword, but something that I think not everybody knows about. Could you just double click on that a little bit because it does, it is for some, a newer phenomenon. How would you explain that? What is it?

Shannon Martin: (02:49)
What’s funny about it is in the customer service world, I think customer service people are naturally designed to do this, but you always want to start with the customer’s problem. What problem are you trying to solve? And so once you understand what problem you’re trying to solve, then you can think about, “Okay, what are the processes that impact that problem? How does a customer get to the point where they have that problem?” And then you start looking at breaking that problem apart and what can you then fix? And then it all becomes a question of testing; test and learn. How do you tweak this one thing? Does it make a difference? How do you, and then expand that to different parts of the process? So even though it’s a bit of a buzzword today, I do think customer service professionals have done this for years because our concern is always what’s the impact on the customer? What’s their experience finding the problems?

Gabe Larsen: (03:44)
I like that. I like that you’re right. In some ways it’s been around for a while, but it does take a couple of new avenues, a little bit more structure in the way that you kind of talked about it, right? Problem and process and product and bringing those all together. Let’s maybe double click into some of those thoughts. I like the design-led thinking of how you then approach those 90 days. Where do you typically start?

Shannon Martin: (04:03)
Gosh, the first thing is you need to go out and you gather your data right on the problem. And the best way to gather the data is talking to people. This is actually a twofold benefit. Not only can you start to understand the customer’s problems and concerns, but you start to build relationships with the people on the front lines. At VRBO, our customer service agents talk to 10,000 people a year.

Gabe Larsen: (04:29)
Wow.

Shannon Martin: (04:29)
And my joke was they had the Vulcan mind meld with their customers. If you wanted to know how something was going to go over with a customer, talk to customer service agents. So that’s where I start, like just getting their information, getting in their ideas, round tables and surveys, and just going down to someone’s desk and saying, “Hey, what are you seeing? What are you hearing today about X, Y, and Z?” So again, not only are you starting to gather your data on what the customer problems are, you’re also hearing directly from the folks that probably have ideas on how to solve those problems and building the relationships with those teams. It’s all gonna give you a lot more trust in grace when you start to suggest some changes later.

Gabe Larsen: (05:14)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, people feel, I feel like people, they do try to get to their customers, but sometimes they don’t get the information they want out of it. It’s like, I love that you kind of talk about this idea of building connections by asking questions. Is there certain ways you’ve found to get the right information out? Is it about structuring the right questions? Is it about just getting to the right people or make sure you get to the right customers or any thoughts on kind of that double click on actually extracting some of the goodness out?

Shannon Martin: (05:43)
There’s so many frameworks and how you can do it. I have usually taken a little bit more of an unstructured approach and I might start out with, “Hey, what are you hearing about our billing issues right now?” And it’s something, I mean, that seems like a fairly broad topic and there can be lots of questions or lots of answers that could come about. But oftentimes agents have something that’s very top of mind and they’ll say, “Well, what we’re seeing right now is that refunds are taking more than the normal amount of time.” “Okay. Tell me more,” and it really becomes like the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” once you have that breadcrumb to go after, then you can actually start looking at more structured data to figure out how big the problem is. So if you’re seeing a payment issue in New Zealand, like, “Okay, what payment provider are we using in New Zealand?” Well we’re using this particular one, I’m not gonna name names. And so then you actually start, you go to the case management system. It’s like, “Okay, how many contacts did we have? How many bookings do we have? Okay, we’ve got a fairly good percentage of things that are not happening.” And then you go to engineering and it’s like, “Okay, are we seeing anything happening here?” So you start gathering all your data now that you have that breadcrumb or that starting point that identifies a problem. Because once you, you have some anecdotal problems, but then you need to quantify them. How big of a problem is it?

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Yeah. Yeah. I was thinking as you said the, “Tell me more, tell me more,” concept of somebody saying something like that. They said the five whys. It’s like you’re having a problem, why? Well this. Well, why? Well, why? And pretty soon after the fifth one they said, usually you’ve got down to the root cause of what’s really driving this person or what they care most about, or what’s really kind of putting them in that position. That, “Tell me more,” that’s fun. I’d forgotten that. Okay. So getting the connections and asking the right questions is number one. Where do you kind of go to next, as you think about this road map and this design-led thinking transformation?

Shannon Martin: (07:52)
Right? The normal, the thing that we normally look at, so before you come up with a specific solution, right, you have to, there’s some maybe policy process kind of the softer things that you need to figure out. And in that case, you also want to look at all your options. So let’s say you identified 20 different problems like, “Okay, I’m going to narrow it down. What are just a couple of promising opportunities that we have here?” And they could make a small change that can make a big difference, or it could be a big change that happened that fixes every customer. That’s like, not as likely, but you really want to pick a few promising opportunities, the ones that look like you’re going to get the biggest bang for your buck. And there’s no guarantee that those will be the one, but it will give you a place to start. It will help you feel like you’re not boiling the ocean, right? Everybody’s like, “Oh, I need to fix these 20 different things in my first 90 days.” No, you don’t. You definitely cannot do that. It’s impossible. But if you can find a few promising things where you can start to make incremental change, over time, incremental change actually becomes huge. And that’s really the only thing that you could easily expect in the first 90 days is, where can I make some really promising, incremental change?

Gabe Larsen: (09:17)
Yeah. You, and this might go into your back on a little bit but I’m always interested. As you’ve gone through some of these exercises, and you found some of these few promising opportunities, have there ever been some surprises where you’re like, “Oh man, here’s a fun one. A fun part of the process that we could change or part of the customer experience, or even something in the employee experience, that we could change that would ultimately kind of produce bigger results.” Anything come to mind that again, some of these maybe few promising opportunities, that you’ve found in different situations?

Shannon Martin: (09:54)
I’m trying to think. We, there have been so many along the way. I’m just thinking of something particularly goofy that springs to mind but, there’s a whole idea just in how you finish your call, right? You never want to leave the customer with a negative, right? So the standard question has always been, “Is there anything else I can do for you?” Well, the answer then is no, which is a negative and that’s not necessarily how you want to end a call.

Gabe Larsen: (10:25)
Oh, interesting. Interesting.

Shannon Martin: (10:25)
And so we actually tweaked how our agents completed their calls and said, “Have I answered everything for you today?” And, and at that point, then the customer has the opportunity to say, “Yeah, actually you have,” or “No, wait a minute. I have one more thing.” Just that one small thing, again, very small thing in the process. And we saw a shift in our customer satisfaction scores.

Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I love that.

Shannon Martin: (10:51)
Customers were left feeling more positive, especially in a case where the agent had no ability to change the outcome, right? So it’s perhaps a policy thing, or perhaps in our case, a traveler was unable to get a refund from the property owner because of the property owner’s policies, whatever the case may be. But it definitely helped the customer recognize that now this agent has done everything they can, and it was reflected on the customer satisfaction scores.

Gabe Larsen: (11:21)
I like that. No, that’s fine. I appreciate that because sometimes it is those small and simple things that lead to big changes, big results. And sometimes those are the things you need to be able to find, especially if you’re new or you’re trying to map out that. It’s always, I feel like quick wins. If you can find some of those things while you work on the bigger pieces that allow everybody to be satisfied. You, your boss, your customers, your employees, everyone wins.

Shannon Martin: (11:47)
Yeah. [Inaudible] Hear about it. They’re like, “Oh yeah, that’s kind of nice to be able to say that.”

Gabe Larsen: (11:52)
I like that. Okay. So we have building connections–kind of getting the questions right, simplify it down, focus on some of those quick wins or find those promising opportunities. I like the way you talked about it. Then where do you go last here?

Shannon Martin: (12:07)
And the last one is where it can really be fun and sometimes requires a little bit more creativity. And that’s where you test and learn. So you’ve identified your promising, some places to start and you need to be able to test your theory. And again, if you’re going to make a small change and you have 3,000 agents globally, you’re not going to be able to test it across 3,000 agents. Like that’s just too much to ask, but you identify a set of agents, maybe in a single region, or even a single team, depending on how much time you have so that you can have them try something just to get a signal. So we had an interesting test that we ran, because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative. And when we first started it, they were struggling with that. They’re like, “Well, I’m not a salesperson.” Like, “We know that, but you’re helping the partner or customer run their business better with our tools. So you have the technology, you can teach them and consult with them on how to do that better.” Well, guess what happens when you go into consultation mode and you’re having these great conversations? Your handle times go up. So then our agents were struggling with trying to, we didn’t cap handle times, but everyone kind of watches handle times. And so we ran a test and said, “Okay, no holds barred. You guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test, all so that you can do this consultation.”

Gabe Larsen: (13:51)
Wow. Wow. Awesome. Awesome.

Shannon Martin: (13:55)
In the results that we saw, customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners were learning how to do their business better. And we saw a return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group. So it was one of those things that we got enough signal on that test. And I think we ran it for three months, that particular one. I was like, “All right, this is how we’re going to run it going forward,” because we know giving up control over that handle time, allowing the agents the freedom to have those great conversations with our partners, led to an overall better experience for everyone.

Gabe Larsen: (14:38)
Yeah. Wow. I love that, the idea of kind of nail it and scale it. You got to find a small group of people that you can inject that change on and then see if you can actually do it. I love the idea. So funny, we find ourselves, as you were talking, I’m just, we think we’re being customer obsessed sometimes because we’re looking at things like handle time. But really that’s actually disabling the customer to have a better experience because we’re so interested in this metric, but yet we think we’re being customer obsessed, but really we’re being customer not obsessed. But –

Shannon Martin: (15:16)
Metric obsessed. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
It’s interesting that sometimes the metrics can not lead you astray, but sometimes they can give you mixed messages. I’m feeling, I’m hearing that a lot. Like people are like, “Well, my numbers are good, but my overall customer experience is not good.” It’s like –

Shannon Martin: (15:36)
I always say you get the behavior that you encourage. And if you’re encouraging shorter handle times, the agents, they’re smart. They’re going to figure out how to whip through those things and move customers through faster even though they may not want to.

Gabe Larsen: (15:53)
Yeah. Oh, fascinating. I need to send this recording to a few people. So, okay. Well Shannon, we really appreciate your time. As we kind of think about wrapping, we’d love to just get a quick summary from you. You hit a bunch of different things, but you’ve got different CX leaders, CS leaders out there trying to kind of get this transformation or get into this excellence mindset. What’s that last piece of advice you kind of leave with them?

Shannon Martin: (16:18)
If you get just a tiny bit better every day, then at the end of the year, you’re going to look back and you’re going to see, “Wow, we’ve made some incredible improvements.” So, it really is those tiny steps. As long as you’re doing everything you can to get a little bit better every day, you’re going to get big wins down the road.

Gabe Larsen: (16:37)
So yeah, that’s the small crawl, walk, run, I’ve often said. Crawl, walk, run. So if someone wants to get in touch with you or continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Shannon Martin: (16:48)
Definitely on LinkedIn. So Shannon Martin, and I guess the LinkedIn handle is S-L-E-A-R Martin.

Gabe Larsen: (16:55)
And I can attest, she does respond. That’s how I found her, on LinkedIn. So she does respond.

Shannon Martin: (17:03)
Definitely. Definitely. Always willing to share.

Gabe Larsen: (17:03)
Awesome. Okay. Well, I really appreciate the time today, Shannon, and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (17:16)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Transforming CX in a Post-COVID World with Carrie Lemelin

Transforming CX in a Post-COVID World with Carrie Lemelin TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Carrie Lemelin to learn the secrets to delivering exceptional customer service in a post-COVID world. Learn how Carrie leads her business by listening to the podcast below.

How to Adapt CX and Build Customer Loyalty

CEO of Be ExtraOrdinary, Carrie Lemelin, identifies some of the challenges modern business leaders are facing in the times of COVID-19. One main challenge businesses face is adapting to an online world of service all while striving to provide the best customer experience possible. When COVID-19 came to the forefront of the world news, businesses had to adapt to stay afloat. When asked about how to properly measure customer satisfaction in this new world, Carrie says, “Basically, it’s about being more agile and being more responsive to the changes that are happening.” Not only is it important to adapt to the changes COVID has imposed, it is also important to continually have a human-to-human connection with customers. Carrie mentions, “Make sure your customers are satisfied along the way and a way to make sure that your customers are satisfied is to listen to your customers, to have the ability to interact with your customers in a variety of different ways.” One of the best methods to retain customer loyalty in a post-COVID world is to maintain human-to-human connections and to make sure your customers feel genuinely heard and listened to.

Digitizing the Customer Experience

Popular in today’s business world, remote workforces are being utilized to provide a modernist approach to CX. It is becoming increasingly more common to find self-service CX on company websites. A huge positive to the digitization of the customer experience is real-time feedback and customer information, which is critically important for CX teams to use when improving upon their service skills and methods. Carrie understands that the most important aspect to successful CX is learning from the customer. To better explain this concept, she suggests, “Your customers that have the loudest voices mean they’re the most angry and those are the customers that have the real good information so that you can actually make a turnaround.” When a customer provides negative feedback, this should be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow as a company. As Carrie says, “Actually, the biggest gift a customer can do for you is to complain.” This advice is particularly helpful when it comes to the digitization of customer service. Bugs can easily be fixed and a seamless digital experience can be delivered when real-time feedback is utilized.

Why Outsourcing Can Be Beneficial

A common question businesses in the COVID landscape are asking is whether or not to outsource customer service agents or other systems. Carrie believes that businesses should absolutely be outsourcing, especially with new growth, as she sees it as the best option to help handle a larger customer base. Having outsourcing experience herself, Carrie notes, “My philosophy is to keep it local if you possibly can and support local businesses that can outsource according to your mission and what you’d like to portray to your customers.” Additionally, Carrie knows that data is key to a successful outsourcing experience. A business should be the sole owner of its data and in doing so, is better able to hold their vendors accountable. Finding the proper balance between internal and external experts is sure to help maximize CX efforts, especially when each agent is aligned with the brand’s mission.

Carrie urges companies to keep their end-user (the customer) in mind with every aspect of CX. Doing so will keep the customers happy and loyal. COVID has certainly impacted businesses in many ways. As Carrie puts it, “The way you handle change is to educate people, to measure what they’re saying, what they’re liking, what they’re not liking and the ability to transform.”

To learn more about the secrets to measuring CX in a post-COVID world, 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 “How to Drive Customer Experiences in this Post Covid World | Carrie Lemelin” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Drive Customer Experiences in the Post-Covid World | Carrie Lemelin

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 how to drive customer experiences in this post COVID-19 world. And to do that, we brought on CEO of Be ExtraOrdinary. Carrie Lemelin. Carrie, thanks so much for joining. How are you?

Carrie Lemelin: (00:29)
Very great. Thank you for having me, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah. This is a fun one. I’m glad we kind of, truthfully stumbled over your LinkedIn profile a little bit. Wealth of experience. You’ve been doing this for 25 years. You run your own company, all focused on customer experience. You’ve done facilitations training, coaching sessions, definitely an expert in the space. Can you kind of fill in a couple little blanks in your background? You’ve been doing this for a long time. What are some of the fun, fun things you’ve done?

Carrie Lemelin: (01:02)
Oh, some of the fun things I’ve done. So it’s kind of ironic how I got started in this. I’ve actually been in the energy space for a very long time, never thought I would, but one of the major projects that I’ve worked on recently was a very large $55 million smart grid initiative, where I was responsible for customer experience from start to finish. So being able to pull 15,000 customers that didn’t even realize that they were going to be involved. So getting people’s attention to be able to educate them, to be able to do regulatory compliance, to be able to take it from soup to nuts. So it was a great experience because what we had to do is we had to reach customers, energize customers, and to be able to have customers be satisfied, which it’s very hard to do these days, especially –

Gabe Larsen: (02:02)
It is. And the industry too is fun and unique, right? I do feel like every industry has its own challenges with customer satisfaction. So some of your experience in a little more unique industries will be fun to bring to bear and bring to the audience. So let’s jump in. You and I talked a little bit pre-show. Certainly the world has changed and things are just different. I am getting used to saying, they’re not going to change back. They are just going to be different. And so whether you want to change or not, you have to. So want to hear some of your things you’re thinking about as people are adjusting to all this different world stuff. Wanting to start with kind of the idea of measuring customer satisfaction. Talk to me about why that’s important, how you’ve done it yourself, or coached other organizations to do that.

Carrie Lemelin: (02:54)
Sure, sure. So it’s funny, we’re talking about post-COVID, but actually, I think it’s going to be an ongoing saga. Just like you said, basically it’s about being more agile and being more responsive to the changes that are happening. And one of the, your earmarks, if you will, is to be able to make sure your customers are satisfied along the way and a way to make sure that your customers are satisfied is to listen to your customers, to have the ability to interact with your customers in a variety of different ways. You know, we’re talking about being digital with customers because we can’t be face-to-face with our customers a lot of times. So for instance, you’ll have retail establishments that have curbside service. Well, how do you interact with a customer? First of all, how do you get the order? How do you notify the customer that you’re here? How do you interact real-time? And many organizations do not have it all pulled together. They may have pieces of this all in different places, but they don’t have it all pulled together. And you have to be able to do that. Having real-time access to how customers feel, especially as customers are frustrated, is the ability and having a system that can help you to notify you that there’s a problem and then fix it on the spot to be able to keep your customers happy.

Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
And do you feel like, I mean, people, obviously they all want to get to that goal of keeping people happy, but it is a little bit hard to figure out what are some of the right things to measure. How do you kind of get into the, “What?” What should you be measuring as you think?

Carrie Lemelin: (04:55)
What should you be measuring? Well, I’m going to put this back on you, Gabe, and I’m going to say, how do you measure today? Because first of all, a lot of times what organizations will do is they’ll look at their happiest customers and they’ll put that proudly on the wall as satisfied customers. But the fact is, and they have a multitude of channels, whether you’re interacting via, let’s say you’re doing electronic billing or electronic payments or text messaging, did they measure all of the variety of channels? Okay. So having real-time access to this information is mission critical, especially as you’re changing, something like that. So first of all, you have to be able and I say, measure it all. Measure it all real-time, as close to real-time as you possibly can, and then not only look at your satisfied customers, actually the biggest gift a customer can do for you is to complain. Your customers that have the loudest voices mean they’re the most angry and those are the customers that have the real good information so that you can actually make a turnaround.

Gabe Larsen: (06:07)
Yeah. Yeah. I like the channel. I mean, the channel thing is just something that a lot of people are talking about because there’s so much change and customers are trying to interact with them in more ways, more channels.

Carrie Lemelin: (06:21)
Think about – I’m sorry.

Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
No, finding that ability I think is just spot on. Sorry, go ahead.

Carrie Lemelin: (06:26)
No, think about Kustomer. Think about the companies that have the best interactive websites. You have self-service because everybody’s moving to self-service. Those that actually have the ability to give your feedback real-time, those are the best websites. They’re easy to understand. They’re seamless and not too much information, just in time information.

Gabe Larsen: (06:52)
How do you feel like people are, there’s obviously more disgruntled customers than ever before. People are, “Where’s my order?” That seems to be one that’s talked about a lot these days. But people have been kind of just more antsy about it and I feel like people have been, because they’re more antsy they’re sometimes a little bit less satisfied. How do you measure and manage those disgruntled customers?

Carrie Lemelin: (07:21)
Disgruntled customers. Well, It depends if you’re dealing with them live or whether you’re dealing with them. So the best time to deal with a disgruntled, if you’re on, let’s just say you’re on the phone. So you’re talking on the telephone, you’ve got somebody who’s really hot. What you want to be able to do is let the customer be heard, make sure that you’re listening to the customer. The closest you can be to the real-time interaction, the best that you can be responsive and you can actually respond to what it is that they’re upset about. Sometimes customers are unrealistic in their expectations. It’s okay. Being in this COVID world, unfortunately what’s happened is our bubbles, our personal space bubbles have increased. Our tolerance for customers has decreased. And our willingness to interact as humans has really taken a turn. So you just have to be human and you have to listen and you have to interact.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
I feel like the human part, we often talk about customer service and customer experience, but this is being human. It still is human-to-human interaction. I think that’s super, duper important.

Carrie Lemelin: (08:33)
And I’m sorry. And being able to say that you’re sorry. If something doesn’t go the way it is, you say, “We’re just learning too. We’re trying to do this better.”

Gabe Larsen: (08:42)
Interesting. Want to switch gears just a little bit from measurement to this idea of outsourcing. I know you have some experience with it and definitely people are talking about different facets of outsourcing, right? But a lot of people are, they’re growing very fast. And so they’ve had to look for outsource. A lot of people are outsourcing technology. Maybe a different facet as they go from on-prem to the cloud, right? So this word seems to be happening a lot. When should you, why should you, how should you, what’s your thoughts on outsourcing?

Carrie Lemelin: (09:17)
Excellent question. As we’re growing, as we’re changing, especially as you talked about going to the cloud, during COVID, we’ve had to move to a remote workforce, we’ve had to leverage technology in ways that we’ve never had to do it. And should you outsource? Absolutely. So you don’t have to be in control of everything, but it’s where strategically that you outsource. As a business, you want to outsource in areas that you can commoditize. It’s never in a business’s best interest to outsource, sorry. So it’s always holistically to one provider. You want a variety of providers in certain areas where there are expertise. So many companies are trying to package things together. They may be very good in moving to the cloud, but then they want offer you this whole package, which isn’t necessarily in your best interest. So you want to have internal experts as well as external experts. You also absolutely want to own your data, own your data. Do not, so many companies, I’ll see, you’re talking about outsourcing IT. What ends up happening, is you give the keys to the kingdom, you give them access to the data and all your tools. And then when you want to make a change, you have to go to them and you’re beholden to the outsource person. It’s always in your best interest to have expertise on your team. It’s also that you own your own data so that they can, and to keep your vendors accountable and then to be able to, whenever you have someone that you’ve had just a long-term relationship with and they have it doesn’t, usually it’s not as cost effective for us as business owners as we’d like it to be.

Gabe Larsen: (11:20)
Yeah. Yeah. I definitely, I definitely agree. I like that idea though. Keeping the data. Some stuff you do need to make sure you have the capability on. You still, it’s still your business and you’re still the quarterback. So don’t give up ever. Keep your data. You don’t give up everything. There’s certain things you still need to keep control of.

Carrie Lemelin: (11:40)
Along the lines of customer satisfaction as well. And customer, a lot of call centers when you’ve had high volume call centers have outsourced to third world countries or others. Let me give you an where we actually outsourced. And we were from the Northeast and we actually outsource to a company down in the Southeast. And we had a lot of accents and the people that were answering the phone and they knew that they weren’t from the Northeast. And we actually got push back because we weren’t hiring local. Now in certain circumstances, it makes sense to outsource. But my philosophy is to keep it local if you possibly can and support local businesses that can outsource according to your mission and what you’d like to portray to your customers.

Gabe Larsen: (12:33)
Interesting. Yeah. I feel like I’ve struggled with the outsource concept. It’s just, I think being, outsourcing, you need to, that’s not always the case. I feel better when I feel like I’ve got something that I can give to an outsourcer that they can then take and kind of scale. And I don’t have it internally figured out. I always have a hard time going with with outsourcers. But then sometimes I get stuck in that ever evolving loop of, “Well, you’ve never got it perfect so how can you go to an outsourcer?”

Carrie Lemelin: (13:04)
It could be. So Gabe, think about this. It doesn’t have to be your bread and butter calls. Maybe it’s just in an emergency situation or to be able to scale, to meet the needs of customers. So you have to look at areas that you’re willing to outsource and not. From a call center perspective, I was always against, pretty much, because my, being extraordinary is all about providing that extra level of service and the way you do that is hiring the right people, having satisfied employees that really want to make a difference for customers. And it’s very hard to hire for that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:41)
I love that. I think that’s, I think you nailed it. And just our last couple minutes, I wanted to get one other aspect from you and you’re multifaceted. So I hope you don’t mind me switching topics around a little bit, but the other big push in this post-COVID world is just the push to digitization. And I’ve seen some stats saying we’ve accelerated six years in kind of our move, globally speaking to more of a digital world. And a lot of companies weren’t ready for it. A lot of companies struggled with it. A lot of companies trying to wrap their head around it. Quick thoughts on getting digital?

Carrie Lemelin: (14:19)
Sure. So we’ve all had to. So we got hit in the back of the head and we’ve had to go from paper to digitization overnight, overnight. Paper processes no longer work depending on where you are. But my guess is we’ve got, like I said before, we’re going to have some ability to digitize information. I mean, think about it, Gabe. When you print something on a printer and you scan it, you’ve got a digital image of all this content that you have. What are doing with it? Are you printing it out and doing something with it? You’ve already got a digitized. So what it means is you have to be able to put it someplace. A database that you can search it, you can store it, you can retrieve it. And it sounds simplistic, but it really isn’t. And then to be able to automate where it makes sense. Now that’s going from basic paper to having systems that actually integrate and work together and having the ability to manage that. So that’s digital transformation at its best where the vast majority of companies are right now is just cobbling standalone systems together and trying to get access to information.

Gabe Larsen: (15:44)
Yeah. I had someone tell me, I said, “How’s your CX technology stack?” I think I’ve mentioned this on another episode, but it’s been so funny. He’s like, “Oh, you mean my Frankenstack?” Yes. I guess you could refer to it as that. He’s like, “Well, that’s the problem. I’ve got this chat program that doesn’t talk to my CRM and I’ve got a ticket system that doesn’t talk to anything. And I’ve got this order system that sits over in Florida and doesn’t talk to anything.” And he’s like, “It’s just a Frankenstack.”

Carrie Lemelin: (16:21)
Frakenstack. That’s notable.

Gabe Larsen: (16:21)
Yeah. Anyways. Well, Carrie, it’s been so fun to have you on. I do think there’s so much going on. A lot of interesting points around digital, around measurements, around this idea of potentially outsourcing. We’ve talked about a lot. If you were summarizing, what’s that kind of leave behind or that leaving advice you’d give to CX/CS leaders trying to kind of navigate these interesting times? What would you leave them with?

Carrie Lemelin: (16:45)
So, perfect. Thank you. So to have a platform that has the ability to scale and to be agile and to be changeable, to be able to maximize your ability to outsource where you can for cost savings, but also to keep in mind your end user, which is your customers, and to look at how they are in times of change. The way you handle change is to educate people, to measure what they’re saying, what they’re liking, what they’re not liking and the ability to transform. That’s what I would say.

Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
I love the word transformation. That’s what we’re all trying to do, whether we’re trying or not, we’re all having to transform. So Carrie, if someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about what you guys do, what’s the best way to do that?

Carrie Lemelin: (17:39)
Probably, LinkedIn is probably the best platform.

Gabe Larsen: (17:42)
Oh, I found you.

Carrie Lemelin: (17:42)
LinkedIn’s probably the best.

Gabe Larsen: (17:47)
I love it. Alrighty. Well, thanks.

Carrie Lemelin: (17:49)
I mean, I can give you an email address and follow up.

Gabe Larsen: (17:52)
I think LinkedIn’s probably a good place to start. So definitely feel free to reach out to Carrie you guys, if you have additional questions, but thanks so much for joining Carrie and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Carrie Lemelin: (18:03)
Thank you very much. Have a great day, everybody.

Exit Voice: (18:10)
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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)
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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.

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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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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.

Listen Now:

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

You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:

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

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

Growing Your Connection to Retain Business

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

Small Changes Make a Big Difference

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

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

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

Align Your Company With Your Purpose

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

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Power of Connection | Sioban Massiah

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sioban Massiah: (08:25)
Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sioban Massiah: (15:00)
Absolutely.

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

Sioban Massiah: (15:07)
Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran

Calling All Community Builders with Scott Tran TW

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

Laying the Foundation for Support Driven

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

Using Slack as a Means for Effective Communication

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

Building a Sense of Community and Connection

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

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

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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 Improving the Customer Experience With Christine Deehring [Podcast & Transcript]

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience with Christine Deehring TW

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

Empowering & Uplifting: Strategies to Improve the Customer Experience

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 supports 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 at the center of every element of their business, from packaging and marketing to phone calls. Simply put, Bump Boxes is embracing a customer-centric model of CX operations.

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

 

Customer Loyalty: 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 build a company 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 by saying, “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.

Optimize Customer Interactions 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.

If you’d like to find out more about Kustomer and how we can help, get in touch for a demo. You can also check out our handy (and free!) Buyer’s Guide to Your Customer Service CRM Platform, if you’re looking for more information on how to deliver superior customer service.

Listen Now:

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

Secrets to Optimizing the Customer Experience | Christine Deehring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (15:12)
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