Consumer demands are at an all time high. According to Kustomer’s latest research, a whopping 90% of respondents think contacting customer service should be easier, and 85% of respondents think customer service should be faster. Quick service also continues to outrank all other customer service qualities in terms of importance, no matter the demographic.
But in order to prepare for the future, brands need to consider how to deliver on these skyrocketing expectations. Luckily, our research also shows that preferences are beginning to shift across generations, with younger demographics preferring more self-service options, and seeing the benefits of intelligent chatbots more clearly. Read on to learn what the data says about the need for CX speed and how self-service options can deliver.
Self-Service Appeals to the Consumers of the Future
An entire generation of consumers have grown up with the answer to any question in the palm of their hand. And after the pandemic, habits have shifted across all generations. Consumers that may not have shopped online previously, known how to book an appointment online, or had never been on a Zoom call, were forced to become digitally savvy overnight. What this translates to is a large cohort of the population that is willing, able, and even prefers to get questions answered on their own.
More than half of surveyed consumers (58%) reported that they prefer to solve customer service issues on their own versus talking to a company representative. Whether via an FAQ page or through a chatbot, talking to a human and dealing with the roadblocks that can often come with the process, seems to be falling more and more out of style. This only becomes more true when we break down the data by generation. When asked to rank the top three preferred customer service methods or channels, consumers under the age of 35 rank self-service amongst their top three. This means it will only become more important for businesses to invest in self-service tools as this generation ages, becoming the heads of the household and retaining their “help yourself” mentality.
How Self-Service Can Deliver on the CX Need for Speed
When businesses aren’t able to deliver fast service, their customers can become furious. And when we say fast, we mean immediate. According to our research, 72% of consumers expect their problems to be solved INSTANTLY upon contacting customer service. That means that wait times, holds, transfers and searching for information simply won’t be tolerated. On top of that, the threshold where consumers start to experience frustration after contacting customer service — meaning the point at which that furiosity begins to take shape — is at the four minute mark. This threshold was seen across all customer service channels and all industries, meaning that the appetite for quick service is universal, and a speedy response should be consistent across channels and audiences. Additionally, 46% of respondents think businesses don’t respect their time, with that number growing to over half of consumers aged 55+, who may still prefer slower channels like phone.
The question becomes, how can you deliver on this need for speed? Businesses need to tap into technology tools and AI to eliminate the menial, repetitive, and time consuming tasks with intelligent automations that can detect intent, collect relevant information, automate agent interactions, and route conversations based on customer data or request type. Self-service options should always be available, and intelligent chatbots are now able to deliver contextual and personalized information that feels human, and can seamlessly hand off to agents when necessary. With the right technology, agents can focus on building relationships with customers and fixing complex issues in a timely manner.
Want more research data on the CX need for speed? Download our latest report here.
The nature of the customer experience within e-commerce has never been more vital to the life of a brand than it is at this moment. While e-commerce (buying over the internet) has been growing in leaps and bounds before the pandemic, online shopping quite simply exploded in 2020. In August and September, Digital Commerce 360 asked 100 e-commerce executives what their budgetary priorities were for the coming year and 51% reported back that e-commerce platforms were at the top of their list. So while research showed that prior to 2020, 15% of Americans purchased products online at least once a week, and 28% shopped online a few times a month, that number has expanded exponentially with the onset of the pandemic and doesn’t appear to be slowing.
At the close of 2020, e-commerce sales accounted for 14% of all US sales. And while 2020 was a year that had very specific limitations, the e-commerce landscape continues to grow and thrive. At the forefront of this growth and expansion is the customer experience. With a world of options, the ability exists to forge bonds with a brand and cultivate ongoing, consistent consumer loyalty. Successful customer interactions translate to yielding higher profits, and position a brand to enjoy success in the long term. E-Commerce customer service trends tell us that consumers value their experience over goods and services they receive. They expect highly personalized interactions which demonstrates the importance of actual connection over generic, robotic responses.
How Can You Make the E-Commerce Customer Experience Work
There are several avenues that can not only improve the customer experience but also enhance brand visibility. From social media to return/exchange instructions, to clearly articulated warranties to shipping practices to software solutions to an empowered customer service team, these factors can all make a profound impact on the customer’s experience with your brand.
Leveraging a customer-centric, omnichannel approach for e-commerce retail is key to addressing service issues, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Not only is the omnichannel system not confined to typical business hours or time zones, it imparts a personalized experience each time the customer engages with a brand. Incorporating digital-first support strategies, like utilizing a chat widget, in-app messaging, and efficient email practices will ensure that assistance and resolution are just a click away. Helping consumers resolve issues quickly and reducing the need for direct communication vastly improves brand equity and customer loyalty.
When interaction beyond self-service support is necessary, an omnichannel approach also empowers your team members. An omnichannel strategy, versus multi-channel, links all customer touchpoints for a seamless rather than siloed and disjointed experience. Whether via live chat or phone, this strategy provides context for the service agent. For example, if a customer sends an email on a Sunday night, and then reaches out again via live chat on Tuesday, omnichannel support software can capture the history of communication, no matter tha channel, in a single view. When the agent reaches out, they have a full context to immediately address the customer issue in a personalized manner. An agent who is empowered with knowledge can deliver a positive brand image while going that extra distance on behalf of both the consumer and company.
No matter what stage your e-commerce business is in (whether starting or scaling), it is important to set the foundation for success within your e-commerce customer service team.
Working the System
In addition to enhancing the e-commerce experience by establishing a comprehensive software system, there are other facets that will assist in supporting and bolstering overall customer experience. Refining and clarifying each step of every interaction, not just the product pages themselves and point of sale, will encourage and maintain those important customer impressions. Avoid hiding or minimizing information that will assist any customer in handling and resolving an issue, even if it is returning a product.
• Policy Information: Documentation gives your team a set protocol to refer to when they have questions, as well as seamless access to information needed to answer questions without delay.
• Shipping & Delivery Policies: Eliminate second-guessing with clear shipping updates and options as well as delivery notifications.
• Exchanges & Returns: Making the policies clear and understandable from the start of the shopping experience will foster customer trust and clarity in the event of a return or exchange.
• Warranties: Providing detailed and accurate product information is key. This includes clearly defined specs and descriptions of each item as well as transparent warranty information.
Consumers value brands that are honest and transparent. More and more they are gravitating toward brands that stand for something, have a strong mission or ethos, and share similar values. Social media is a powerful way to engage your customers and share your business’ victories, social justice work, and even any brand challenges. This is certainly true of last year. The pandemic created all kinds of interruptions, delays, and shortages. Communicating challenges and delays via social media became an important facet of customer relations. Your customer will always appreciate transparency and knowing what’s going on, and why, will impact their impressions of the brand and buying experience.
Proactive rather than reactive support measures are optimal. Better to anticipate needs rather than be in the position of constantly reacting to complaints or issues.
While we emerge from the limitations of Covid19, e-commerce shopping remains embedded in our new normal. It’s become part of our collective lifestyle rather than merely a novel or occasional shopping choice. It is critical that your customers receive quick, personal responses to their questions and issues in order to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.
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.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Drive Customer Experiences in the Post-Covid World | Carrie Lemelin
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.”
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)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.
I would say that 2020 has been unprecedented, but let’s face it — we all want to permanently retire that word. From both a personal and professional perspective, it is undeniable that the past year has brought immense challenges, and you wouldn’t be alone to wish it was all just a fever dream.
While we are literally counting down the seconds until the clock strikes midnight on January 1st, 2021, it goes without saying that there are some permanent lessons that can be learned from the hurdles we faced in 2020. It was a year of success for Kustomer, with immense product developments, award wins and acquisitions, but customer service was also more important than ever before.
Without further ado, here is Kustomer’s look back at 2020.
Lessons From a Challenging Year
Many organizations are struggling to understand when they’ll go back to “business as usual”. And the fact of the matter is, they likely never will. The new way of working that 2020 forced upon CX teams will have lingering effects, and consumers are now used to doing business in a whole new way.
Changing Consumer Attitudes Means More Digital Commerce
While it is inevitable that commerce will partially shift back to brick and mortar once things go back to “normal”, there is now a massive new pool of consumers that are comfortable shopping online, and you can expect this increased volume of e-commerce and digital inquiries to continue. Consumers that perhaps would walk into a store to ask a question, or call a customer service number for assistance, now may find it more convenient to click on a chat widget while they browse your site online, or reach out to you on social after seeing your ads.
In fact, according to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, live chat continues to grow in popularity with consumers, now ranking as the second most popular channel to get customer service problems solved. Consumers are also more open to self-service options, with 53% of consumers preferring to self-serve versus speaking with a company representative. The same percentage of consumers also think that chatbots improve the customer experience, with that cohort growing to 62% among consumers aged 18-24. It’s therefore important to consider new, digital-first service options for 2021 and beyond.
Speed and Efficiency Beat All
Many CX teams were forced to do more with less during the global pandemic. An unfortunate result of forced closures meant that the economy shot into a depression, and organizations needed to be scrappier than ever. Kustomer research revealed that 63% of CX organizations needed to cut costs during the global pandemic, and 46% reported a need to reduce staff. At the same time, the volume of customer inquiries was rising (by 17% on average), and 57% reported needing to deal with more complex problems than usual. Sixty-four percent of respondents reported an urgency for more efficiency, and 59% reported the need to adopt more automation to achieve efficiency.
While it is true that some organizations have seen digital inquiries somewhat normalize after a spike earlier in the year, the pandemic has revealed significant gaps in CX strategies. What seemed like a nonurgent need—adopting new technology to increase efficiency—is now staring CX organizations directly in the face and preventing them from being successful. Whether it’s a similar unthinkable event that shakes the economy to its core, or simply a busy holiday shopping season overwhelming agents, organizations must be prepared to scale efficiently, at lightning speed.
Customers Are People Too
As AI and automation take on more of the busy work in the CX space, and more consumers shift to online vs. in-store shopping, customer service agents will take on a much more important — and challenging — role. They will become the face of the company, reflecting it’s values and building lifelong relationships. Think of all of the DTC disruptor brands with cult-like followings— yes they have chic branding, but they’ve also built a community of advocates based on how they treat (and value) their customer base. We could all take a page out of their book.
To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and enables them to deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service. There’s no need to waste the customer’s or agent’s time by asking for repeat information. Instead, that information is available at the click of a button, allowing the agent to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.
Kustomer’s 2020 in Review
This wasn’t just an important year for the customer service space, it was also a momentous year for Kustomer as an organization.
January – Kustomer kicked off the year at NRF, where we not only rubbed (pre-COVID) elbows with CX retail experts, but also learned about the importance of delivering an exceptional experience to create customers for life.
February – Kustomer launched our first ever podcast — Customer Service Secrets — to help leaders transform their customer service, with practical information from thought leaders and practitioners who share their secrets to delivering exceptional customer service.
March – COVID-19 transformed business as we know it in March 2020, and as a result Kustomer began offering our Unlimited Package to customers for free, to enable seamless cross-functional communication and dynamic team oversight in a remote environment.
April – In April Kustomer officially launched Kustomer IQ, the artificial intelligence engine embedded across the Kustomer CRM platform. Kustomer IQ leverages advanced artificial intelligence to help agents more efficiently analyze and take action on customer requests, which was even more impactful during a time when agents were being asked to do more with less.
May – Kustomer kept the momentum going in May by acquiring Reply.ai — a top-rated customer service automation company — and began offering enhanced chatbot and deflection capabilities in the Kustomer platform.
June – For the first time, Kustomer was recognized in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center. We believe this recognition underscores Kustomer’s important role in the space, where we are paving the way for the next generation of customer service CRM, driving intelligent and scalable experiences.
July – In July, Kustomer kicked off a new and exciting partnership, after being selected as the only enterprise customer service CRM platform in the Shopify Plus Certified App Program. Our enhanced integration with Shopify Plus helps brands and customer service agents optimize and personalize their experience, all within the Kustomer platform.
August – Kustomer was honored to be named the fastest growing SaaS company by SaaS magazine. Driven by the move to digital-only experiences, changing consumer behavior, and demand for omnichannel service, businesses in many industries turned to Kustomer in record numbers in 2020.
September – Kustomer released powerful new consumer research in September, breaking down what modern consumers expect from the customer experience. The research revealed that consumers rank customer service as the second most important attribute they consider when shopping, right below price, speaking to the importance of delivering on consumer expectations.
October – While we couldn’t get together in person, that didn’t stop Kustomer from hosting our premiere event of the year — Kustomer NOW. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, like Drybar founder Alli Webb who spoke about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind.
November – In November we took the next step in the “Kustomer Journey” and announced that we signed an agreement to be acquired by Facebook subject to customary regulatory review. Once the acquisition closes, we will be able to help more people benefit from customer service that is faster, richer and available whenever and however customers need it.
December – Close on the heels of the announcement, Kustomer hosted Social Commerce Live, an action-packed, free digital event showcasing the power of social channels to build lifelong relationships with your customers. You can still watch on demand and gather insights from brands like Glossier and Bravo.
Kustomer Top Content
In case you missed it, check out some of Kustomer’s top content from the past year, where we explore break down the current state of affairs in CX:
One of the biggest shifts over the past few years? A digital-first mindset. While phone support isn’t going anywhere, when you force consumers to switch platforms in order to get their questions answered, you give them a reason to abandon their purchase or generate negative feelings. The less effort, the better — and with the digital-first consumer, chat is often better.
In an effort to understand how brands are currently using live chat for business, why some have not yet done so, and whether there is a disconnect between customer needs and brand expectations, Kustomer went out and surveyed over 100 CX professionals and compared these findings with our recent consumer research.
What is Live Chat for Business?
Live chat is a customer service widget that allows your questions to be answered effortlessly within the web browser. Live chat allows customers to effortlessly communicate with customer service representatives in real time, without having to leave the platform they are already doing business on. The live chat allows customers to communicate with customer service at stores or brands in real time without having to talk with a customer service representative.
Why Consumers Love Chat
Think about the online shopping experience. You find the perfect Christmas present for your son, but have a question about whether batteries are included. So, instead of picking up the phone or searching for an e-mail address to contact the business, there is a chat window right there on the page that can allow your questions to be answered effortlessly. While switching channels may not sound like a deal breaker, the data says otherwise.
According to recent consumer research conducted by Kustomer, 79% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact customer service on their preferred medium or platform, and 81% of consumers would abandon a purchase due to a poor service experience.
Chat, as well as social media messaging, allows you to instantly meet your customers where they are, whether that is browsing online for products, checking their shipping status, or perusing your social channels. Research from Matt Dixon revealed that only 9% of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude or behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. And chat does a great job of delivering this effortless quality customer service experience.
The Business Disconnect
Curiously, businesses are not aligned with these consumer preferences and wants. Only 25% of surveyed customer service organizations are currently using chat, and 18% report they currently use chatbots. When taking into consideration the effortless, fast service that modern customers demand, the vast majority of businesses are missing a huge opportunity and leaving themselves open to competitors.
The top two reasons that companies have not yet adopted chat software, speak to a lack of time, resources or strategy internally: the organization does not know where to start, or they have staffing constraints when it comes to managing more channels. However, the third most popular reason speaks to the massive disconnect between CX organizations and consumers: businesses report that they don’t think their customers want or like it. However, according to Kustomer’s recent consumer research, customers rank live chat as the second most popular channel or tactic for contacting customer service, right below phone.
Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chat
Don’t know where to start
Customers don’t want / like it
Lack of customizable solutions
Lack of executive buy-in
Additionally, many organizations report that they are prevented from adopting chat because of the lack of customizable solutions. Seventy-five percent of CX teams say that matching the chat experience to the overall brand experience is important, so slapping any old chat widget on your site just won’t do. Make sure that your customer service CRM can allow your business to build or integrate chat widgets seamlessly, ensuring that all customer data and history is integrated within the chat experience, while maintaining brand guidelines.
When it comes to chatbots, the reasons for lack of adoption differ slightly from live chat:
Top Reasons CX Organizations Haven’t Adopted Chatbots
Not sure of the benefits
Lack of resources to manage chatbots
Customers don’t want / like it
Tried, isn’t effective
Lack of executive buy-in
As chatbots are quite new, and often involve buying a pricey solution or building one with an internal team, the top reasons for lack of adoption make sense. But 61% of the younger generation prefer self-service over talking to a company representative, meaning that the benefits are clear: your customers now expect chatbots as an option.
Additionally, chatbots free up agent time for more complex and proactive support. They can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like initiating a return or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support.
Look for a platform that leverages chatbots and AI-enabled deflection to act as a first line of defense, optimizing a customer’s ability to self-serve so agents can focus on the most important cases and deliver the highest impact.
Want the complete findings from our research on chat? Download the report here.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Matt Freedman from Kustomer to evaluate the formula for high performing CX teams. Learn how Matt has successfully built brand loyalty in a new economy by listening to the podcast below.
Enterprise Account Executive Manager at Kustomer, Matt Freedman, knows how to build a company from the ground up and understands what it takes to produce successful customer experiences all while building brand loyalty. To explain the new economy, or as Matt puts it, the me-economy, he says:
It really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands.
He finds that 57% of the me-economy says they are loyal to specific brands solely due to their experience with proactive and efficient customer service. Challenging the older CX values and tactics, this new generation cares more deeply about good experiences over poor experiences, and is more likely to give positive feedback on great CX.
5 Ways to Create a Customer Obsessed Brand
Matt and Gabe discuss the five ways to create a customer obsessed CX team: personalization, an effortless experience, adoption of self-service, being on the channel of choice (COC), and being in real time, 24/7. A customer obsessed brand starts with personalization. Actions such as knowing the customer by name, showing empathy towards their questions, and using customer data to tailor each experience results in better customer care. Customers are happier when their experience requires little to no effort on their part; they expect the care agent to adapt to their needs. Low effort experience can also be accomplished through self-service and filtering customer issues through the proper channels. Additionally, Matt notes that personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. “It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you”. To further expand on this point, Matt discusses how CX representatives should be available in real time to their customers, meaning that they are readily available and empathetic to their needs.
Difference Between High and Low Performing CX
Matt explains that there are two strategies to keep CX teams competing in the me-economy at a high performance level. The first being tech and the second being strategy. Not only is it important for brands to have the technology aspects of CX up and running, it is imperative that brands develop strategies on how to implement such technology into building customer relationships. He notes,”Stick with what has worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about.”
Matt expresses that a self-service supportive CX team will help the customers quickly find a solution to their question by funneling issues through self-service, bots, and agents. If a customer has a question, they can turn to the brand website and look for information on the help page. If their question is not answered there, they can live chat with a bot who can solve low effort issues, further funneling more complex customer questions to agents. Matt explains that the main goal of CX is to treat the customer as a human, as family, as someone known personally by the company. He says, “People want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.”
Matt urges brands to take advantage of the current me-economy and to adapt their CX teams to better suit the new customer.
To learn more about the formula for high performing CX Teams, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
The Formula for High Performing CX Teams with Matt Freedman
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:09)
Hi, welcome everybody. Today, we’re going to be talking about the formula for high performing CX teams. I think this is going to be a fun one. To do that, we brought on Matt Freedman. Matt’s an expert in customer experience and really a focus on building brands so Matt, you and I have been going back and forth. I’m excited to jump in, but thanks for joining. How are you?
Matt Freedman: (00:31)
Doing great, Gabe. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (00:33)
Tell us just real quick, maybe just a little bit about yourself and kind of the passion that you have around content, brand building, and customer experience.
Matt Freedman: (00:42)
Yeah, I appreciate it. So back in about 2012, I founded a direct to consumer brand that was selling golf shoes online over Shopify and built an e-commerce company. So, just fell in love with that process; then just being super customer obsessed and trying to build human relationships with everyone that was buying shoes from us. We were a small scrappy startup and really caught the bug at that point. So I’ve been sort of at the intersection of technology, e-commerce, and customer data ever since throughout my career and landed here at Kustomer for all of those reasons. So really excited to be here.
Gabe Larsen: (01:21)
I love it. Alright, man. Well let’s dive in. You got some slides. I’m going to ask some questions as we go through, but let’s start talking big picture of the formula for high performing CX teams.
Matt Freedman: (01:34)
Yeah, for sure. So in a lot of ways this is just really some learnings and some things that I’ve found correlations between really high performing CX teams, companies, and just this general customer obsession. And it seems like there’s some tethered synergies or strategies around these brands that seem to outperform or outpace the rest of their industries. So I’ve spent a number of years really compiling all of this data, putting it together and something that I was trying to just get a modern take on. Obviously in this current Corona economy, everything’s a little bit different, but some of these general themes resonate and have stayed the same regardless. So I just wanted to put something out there that might be helpful for others trying to become customer obsessed or build that really high performance CX team. So a couple of things that we found, there are distinct and clear strategies or almost philosophies that brands are adopting that outpace or outperform their industry. It’s not necessarily always right in front of you, or what they serve, or the channel that they’re on, or the type of service. We’ve obviously all read The Effortless Experience and learned that going above and beyond, surprise and delight is not always a great future indicator of loyalty. So I started to really take that to heart and try to understand, okay, well if people really just want what’s expected of your brand, why are some companies so far ahead and have such higher C-SAT, NPS, loyalty scores than others? And I dove a ton into the data across a bunch of different industries and really kind of surfaced something really interesting that I never thought about before. And it really had nothing to do with the function or the tactic. There’s a lot of tools out there. Obviously Kustomer is the world’s leader right now in conversational CRM and the things we’re doing. But the brands that seem to be really outpacing the rest of their industries have understood and built their support organizations around this thought of what I’m calling the me-economy and what the me-economy is, is 22 –
Gabe Larsen: (03:53)
You better be defining this here. You better define what the me-economy is, but I like the term. I like it.
Matt Freedman: (03:59)
Thanks. It’s something I’ve been jamming on here for a little while, but it really just encompasses this on demand generation that you and I are both a part of. It’s Millennials, it’s Gen Z that grew up with Zappos, Netflix, Airbnb, Uber, everything is on demand right now at your fingertips. It never shuts off and the conversations are endless. They don’t stop and what I realized is that the me-economy really has an incredibly high set of demands that they’re putting on brands. And what we’re seeing is the brands that are optimizing their entire CX organization from tech stack to philosophy, to agent training and coaching are really the ones that are outpacing and really outperforming the rest of their industry. So I’ll just take a pause there and any thoughts or what you think on just kind of the general gist of this me-economy and what we’re seeing?
Gabe Larsen: (04:59)
I mean it resonates, I think, right? I mean, right now you feel like there is, if you look at the makeup. Yes, I love that 50%, right? That’s the problem that we’re running into now is that with the change of guard, which basically means a change of genetic makeup, Millennials, that group is taking over. They’re taking over leadership positions, they’re taking over companies, they’re taking over a lot of the population. They are a lot of the buying power now and as that group starts to take over, this has been talked about a little bit, but when it comes to our world of customer success, I feel like it’s been talking about more than the buying side. I don’t know if we’ve talked about it enough in the customer experience side. And so I think it’s super relevant knowing that the numbers are encroaching. It’s like, whether you like it or not, it’s now coming. The question is, how do you deal with it? But I love the framing of the me-economy because the numbers are proving that this is a different population than it was obviously just a few years ago.
Matt Freedman: (05:56)
You’re a hundred percent right. These are no longer fringe cases. We now make up the biggest consumer group of, with buying power with the actual populace. And just when you’re thinking of this and trying to internalize it, it’s really the on demand generation really comes to mind. So as you’re setting expectations, now, obviously going through this new world virus economy that we’re living in, it’s a great time to kind of pause and reset and just rethink, “Man, am I really set up and optimized for not only these fringe cases anymore, but this gigantic new wave of demand, expectation that this on demand economy has?” So I think it’s a perfect setup, just a little bit of the performance playbook that we found across all of these brands that are outpacing everybody. There’s really five basic things that we saw that were key themes in terms of the demand. And it comes back to a number of these stats, but personalization is no longer just a suggested strategy. It is absolutely required. 72% of me-economy consumers expect you to know who they are and what their issue is regardless of what the channel is when they’re coming to talk to you. You know, the second being low effort experiences. 96% of customers across the board throughout this generation who have high effort experiences will be disloyal to your brand. So if loyalty is important to you, low effort experiences have to be one of the key tenets of what you’re trying to drive. The other incredibly interesting thing that was really eye popping to me was the amount of adoption among the me-economy around self service. Obviously there’s a number of different tools, starting with chat and such, but self service is a requisite of being a high performance CX team when dealing with the me-economy and I think we’ll talk a little bit more about that and being on the channel of choice, we have a fun little acronym for this, but this is one of the biggest shifts and trends that we saw throughout the data. Currently, it sits about 32% of me-economy consumers require you to be on their desired channel. Now overseas, we’re seeing way more adoption in China, in Brazil of WhatsApp and social messaging apps as the preferred channel for CX to be handled on. From the data, the U.S. is almost a laggard in this group, and it’s interesting to see more adoption here, but that is a massive opportunity here in the States for you to outpace your industry and CX is to adopt social messaging channels now, and the 24/7, “be in real time,” always on, always listening for everybody everywhere. It’s incredibly difficult to just say that and to adopt it immediately. But you need to start thinking about these things, no longer fringe cases, now, requisites of what’s happening with industry leaders in CX today.
Gabe Larsen: (09:08)
Yeah. I like this summary, Matt. I think it’s great to see these on one sheet. Certainly we’ve heard personalization, right? That word has been in use over the last couple of years. “Be in real time,” 24/7, that’s a little different flavor there, probably a little newer with your point me-economy, the channels. We’ve started to see that expansion of channels, but the way you framed it there being on the channel of my choice, basically, is different than just being omnichannel. It’s like, “Be where I am, you punks.” Certainly we’ve seen a rise, I think in this self service. That is a real push for the trend, but I like how you’ve kind of framed. These are the five real playbook pieces that you’re going to need to be able to do to win in this kind of me-economy dominated society. Got it. I like it.
Matt Freedman: (09:58)
Yeah. The funny thing, Gabe, is you mentioned omnichannel and everybody, it’s such a buzzy term and everybody’s trying to solve for omnichannel. And to me, it’s a big puzzle that if you kick it up a level and think more strategically about what your customer wants, your customer isn’t asking you for omnichannel, your customer is asking for you to be on my channel. So if you’re able to take a look at these trends of where the me-economy is going, omnichannel may not include phones for some brands as this generation trends away from wanting to sit and get passed around with live agents. It’s almost a really good time to rethink what omnichannel actually means because some of those channels that may be dated, may not make the cut. So it’s interesting.
Gabe Larsen: (10:51)
I like it.
Matt Freedman: (10:52)
Awesome. So one of the things that really stood out to me in this me-economy and some of the stats that we got through are, 57% of the me-economy says that customer service is one of the main reasons they feel loyal to a brand. And what’s really interesting about this is that there is a tremendous amount of loyalty with the me-economy. They tend to really, they’re 78% loyal to brands that they feel that they’ve chosen as sort of their brand of choice for a particular category. There’s a ton to be gained by winning this market over. But the biggest driver, other than price that we found is that customer service is the biggest sticking point with this generation of folks.
Gabe Larsen: (11:39)
Ah, wow. I see that. I wonder if the audience would be surprised at that. That feels, if you are surprised, I love it. I have a handful of people watching that comment. That sometimes I think with this new age mentality that maybe customer service isn’t as important, right? That it maybe should play a lesser role, but that certainly is the majority of that group is more or less kind of saying, “Hey, that is still true. We still care a lot about this.” Which is maybe interesting in this light, Matt, that for a long time, we have relied a lot on loyalty around brand building. Then you have all people know this. So, you know I shop at Nike because I’m a Nike guy. I just always have been and there’s this loyalty to brands, but in this me-economy, these five pillars become more important. Like honestly, I don’t care where I can get it, direct to consumer style, right? I don’t care where I can get it as long as it’s effortless, right? As long as they can do this piece, right? So maybe that’s the big takeaway on this slide is that although brand is important and it always will be, this me-economy is starting to put some things over brand building like the five plays you talked about, right. Effortless experience, et cetera.
Matt Freedman: (12:56)
Sure. You just think about the way that we shop. Everyone goes to Amazon for everything just as a first touch point to see if you can get it there. You can’t compete with next day, same day or two day in most cases. So that experience and what you’re promising me, the brand promise of when you’re going to deliver it, can I guarantee that it’s going to be here on time? You look at the rise of the subscription economy now, especially more than ever, people not really wanting or being able to leave their homes. That on demand mentality is more important in some cases that the data shows than the brand or the product itself. It’s more, “When am I going to get it? Can I rely on you and is your price competitive?” That almost outweighs the brand or product itself.
Gabe Larsen: (13:43)
I like that. I like that takeaway. I think that’s a big, it’s something we got to just continue to just, that is real. We need to adapt. Not probably fight.
Matt Freedman: (13:54)
Sure, and what’s interesting too, I don’t across again, just this first pass at looking through some data, less than 30% of brands really feel that they’re equipped and ready from a technology perspective with things like those on demand chat channels, social messaging, having a really highly intelligent knowledge base, the self service factor. People don’t feel that they’re necessarily ready for this or haven’t fully adopted. And I know it’s a newer concept, but there’s just so much room right now while we’re all sitting in our homes, working from home, to just maybe rethink, “What does the next two to five years from my company look like? Are we really set up to solve and really engage with this new market?”
Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
I love it. All right. Keep going.
Matt Freedman: (14:48)
Here’s the one big takeaway of some of the value drivers. If you’re a CX manager or a leader, and you’re trying to sell up the chain to your e-team, or to try to get some funding for some of these tools and this new philosophy to inject some new life into your CX organization, here’s some of the things that you stand to gain. And a lot of these stats are just public domain that we know about high performing CX teams. This is tailored towards Millennials and Gen Z, but we touched on one, the loyalty factor is massive. 78% of me-economy consumers feel more loyal to brands. The one thing that really struck me that I thought was crazy that I almost didn’t believe when I saw it was up to a 98% C-SAT score appears just by plugging in some of these social messaging channels as a primary channel, which was absolutely stunning to me.
Gabe Larsen: (15:43)
Why do you think that is? Is that just because of, I mean those are the channels that we’re familiar with. We know them. So once I’m able to use them in a platform, it makes more sense. It’s easier for me.
Matt Freedman: (15:53)
Yeah, absolutely. To me, it’s the channel of choice.
Gabe Larsen: (15:56)
Say no more.
Matt Freedman: (15:57)
We as peers, that’s where we’re talking.
Gabe Larsen: (16:00)
Matt Freedman: (16:01)
This generation tells more people when they get great care than they tell people when they don’t get great care. And that’s the first generation to do that. Typically you’ve seen in older generations up to 20 people will hear about a bad experience. The me-economy is kind of bucking that trend. So another interesting little nugget there. In the last to really come down to the balance sheet, here’s really, if you’re talking to your CFO and you’re trying to gain more momentum around your organization, these people spend up to 21% additionally for great customer service. And it’s proven around 70% of this me-economy says they already have spent more money to do business with brands that offer great customer support. So I’ll pause there really quick, Gabe. Any thoughts there? We’re going to start to dive into more of the model of how to sort of adopt or build a framework of how your CX organization can start to build the tenets of what this looks like to solve for this me-economy. But anyway –
Gabe Larsen: (17:05)
No, I think you’ve set it up well. I think you’ve set it up well. I think the big next question is, got it. That maybe is a problem I wasn’t seeing as much before. Some of these types of elements, the question is, “How do I start to move in this direction and maybe adopt some of these principles in a real way to tactically or tangibly change the way I deliver service?”
Matt Freedman: (17:24)
Yeah, sure. There’s a lot of different information out there. There’s a ton of opportunity of different ways outside of just this. Just kind of taking a baby step, crawl, walk, run approach. But if you’re speaking specifically and candidly to this me-economy market and the demands that they have to be competing with these high performing, outpacing industry leaders, these are kind of the two basic things you can do today to start thinking about. And the first is the technology stack. Obviously at Kustomer, we’re a bit biased here of the things that we offer, but irregardless, we built a model that we’re going to talk about in a moment called SLS. And that’s a funny little acronym for self-service, live support, and the last S being social messaging channels. So we’ll dive into that in a moment. But from a strategy perspective, if you were to weigh these two, technology and strategy, it’s almost 50-50. I mean the technology can get you so far, but if you’re not going to adopt it as the source of truth and the source of just having this new generation lead the way for your company, we’ve built this model called the Now Philosophy that you and I, Gabe, have talked about. But it really is, it’s adopting the always, everywhere, for everybody model that the demand is being driven by this me-economy. So split this right down the middle. Half goes to tech, half goes to strategy. That’s the two basic fundamental tenets of how we can split this up.
Gabe Larsen: (19:00)
Yeah. I liked that. The funny, the way when you project that, right? I think for a long time, we’ve talked about people, process and technology as being like the fork, some of the fundamental principles of driving an effortless experience, great customer experience. The way you kind of framed that was technology, it needs to be brought to the forefront that it almost is at the core and then you build your strategy, in a lot of cases, around that because it’s playing such an active role. Again, it often felt like people, process, and then add some technology on. Now it’s almost more like, no, no, no. Get the technology. Build around that technology [inaudible], which I think that’s a slightly different frame of mind than we have in the past.
Matt Freedman: (19:45)
Yeah, you’re probably right. The people, process model dates back to what, Henry Ford and even beyond. So maybe this is a little bit disruptive, but at least from what the data tells us, if you want to serve this new market, which is now the majority, not the minority here, these are the two basic things you can enact now. So let’s dive into what that means really quickly. From the technology side, again, you’re looking at self-service, live, and social are the three basic tenets of how you can win here. We are certainly not suggesting that you abandon things like phone and certainly email. Stick with what’s worked, but as you’re moving and maturing and evolving your CX organization, these are the things that you should be thinking about that others in your industry will be thinking about. So there’s a lot to this to unpack because within each of these categories, there’s several different types of widgets or platform products that you can stand up that can build your own version of this stack. But what we’ve heard is that an intelligent knowledge base is where the me-economy starts. Almost 80% of those inquiries are now starting on a self-service basis. So the first place they will go is a knowledge base that’s public on your website. So if they can’t find the answer of what they’re looking for there, the second piece of that is enacting some kind of live chat that could be with a bot to deflect or suggest an answer first with a conversational CRM that Kustomer offers, obviously the data component of that being hyper-personalized and understanding, and even anticipating why that order may have been missed or why that person is reaching out to us. These are those little tiny micro nuggets that are the difference between high performers and low performers. So having all of that experience connected on the back end. So when the agent walks in, in the morning, they know they’re set up to succeed because when someone comes in, they can almost anticipate and say, “Hey, Gabe. Saw you reached out. You don’t have to give me your order, number, your account number. I see that you’re waiting for a package. I get it. It’s a grill. It looks great. Is that what you’re reaching out about?” That’s the difference of being reactive versus proactive and that’s what this economy is demanding of you. And the final bit being the social messaging piece. This is the channel of choice. Be where I am. And this is where peer to peer, we’re talking. We’re talking over Facebook app and WhatsApp and other apps, and that’s how people want to be treated as a human, not as a ticket number, not as a case number. And that’s that huge barrier between high performers and low performers.
Gabe Larsen: (22:37)
Yeah. I feel like on this one; some of this, you’ve heard, but it is some of the adoption of it. As I look at some of the expectations I have as a consumer, when I email a ticket or email in, and if someone creates a ticket, I’d probably have in my frame of mind, it’s, I don’t know, maybe a 24 hour response time. When I Facebook message someone, I’m probably thinking a handful of hours. When I’m live chatting with someone that’s a tough, that’s that real time. You’ve got to be real as soon as they feel like you’re playing with multiple tabs and jumping around you’re out of it. But it’s like, what this has really forced us to do is I think you’ve got to then take these concepts and be able to almost dive into some of them individually and teach your agents some of the best practices and strategies, because it isn’t just email anymore.
Matt Freedman: (23:27)
Gabe Larsen: (23:27)
It’s not. And so, yes, you’ve maybe heard some social messaging. Like I got to do that. Maybe some of you flipped it on, but I’m telling you, if you flipped it on and then haven’t kind of gotten with the, this is not email, this is something. So there’s a recognition that these are key components. And I think you’ve laid that out well, but I think the second point is, as you think about implementing this, know that it’s just like when you first implemented the email channel or the phone chat, this takes a full different mindset because expectations of consumers are different.
Matt Freedman: (23:57)
100%, and it’s the perfect setup for the following. It’s the other half, it’s that other 50% of why this is important, how it can be implemented? How many of us in our history, and it dates me back to having our own brand, how much technology do you buy and only adopt 10% of it? So you have this shelf collecting dust of all these technologies that you should be using more of that you’re wasting money on. So it’s almost the philosophy adoption and the strategy around using the technology almost has to be aligned to the same north star as the tech itself. So, I’ll end with this, but on the other flip side of the coin is adopting this philosophy. And the demand again, of the me-economy is just this. This is a derivative of what the demands are. It’s always, everywhere, and for every one; we have to be 24/7. We know that being everywhere on the channel of choice or on the COC, this will strip away the omnichannel thing for a moment and just realize the me-economy, wants you’re exactly where they are and they want an answer fast and they’re not willing to wait. Otherwise, that equals an effortful experience. 96% of those people will not shop with you again or become disloyal. So again, the tech is great to have it, but if you don’t have the strategy and the personnel to man those chat lines properly, it’s going to be all for not. And the final thing obviously is the biggest component of this, is treating your family, your brand’s family, like that, like they’re customers. They’re not ticket numbers and cases. When they reach out to you, it’s one thing to say that you can be empathetic, but how can you do that without data about that person right in front of you? When agents have to go fishing around in ten different systems, it totally negates your ability or your promise of being customer obsessed. So the data being right in front of you with that CRM is absolutely paramount to adopt this type of a philosophy as well.
Gabe Larsen: (26:05)
Yeah. I think these are the, I really like the always, everywhere, everyone. It’s great, because that’s one that isn’t as much on my mind, but you’re right. It’s the 24/7 one just keeps coming back. Like how do we always be around there? So that’s kind of one that I feel like I’ve got to wrap my head around probably more. It’s resonating most with me. Really liked that you brought in that build a community. This interaction, I feel like it’s happening more and more. People are talking Slack channels, people are talking Facebook groups, people are talking. And maybe that is also like be on a channel because for a long time it was, let’s build a community on our website. It’ll be hidden somewhere and they’ll never log in and know what happened with it. Now that we’re going with that channel of choice and we’re starting to integrate Slack communities or Facebook communities. Well, they’re being more adopted, but I don’t know if we’ve got ahead of that enough. I feel like you got some modern people doing that, but I think you’ve got a lot of people still lagging there, big time. People want to talk to each other and they’re scared. We’re scared to do it in some instances because that’s a live real time community that they –
Matt Freedman: (27:17)
Gabe Larsen: (27:17)
So how do you monitor it and how do you make sure that people don’t post bad stuff? And that’s kind of like, I can see that hesitancy to go there, but the importance on the flip side of kind of that real time, collaborative, interactive between people, not just you and them, but them and them, meaning them and the other customers, I think is pretty important. So, Matt if you were to kind of summarize, a lot of great points, companies, people who are trying to figure out how we navigate this kind of me-economy, what would be kind of the summary statement there?
Matt Freedman: (27:51)
Yeah, for sure. I threw it into a quick slide. I was hoping you would ask that.
Gabe Larsen: (27:58)
I promise I did not know that.
Matt Freedman: (28:03)
All good. We’re totally in lockstep here. So just some of the key takeaways, again, the big thing for me is to realize that this is a seismic shift that’s happening underneath our feet in real time, especially right now, while people are sitting at home, re-evaluating ways to take their businesses to the next level. So it was only a matter of time where this data surfaced. Where the economy of the Millennials and the Gen Z and the demand that they have, the on demand lifestyle that they’ve lived is driving a brand new generation or economy worth of requirements of your CX team. So we can take baby steps towards that over time. But I would almost recommend taking the weekend or taking a week and just really doing a hard eval on how you’re positioning and how you’re setting up your CX team for success. The first thing is just ditch the ticket. If we’re still referring to customers as tickets or cases, it’s just unacceptable in the me-economy. We’ve seen it proven. Adopting the SLS tech stack, the self service, the live and the social, continuing to focus on low effort experiences. Thank you again, Matt Dixon for putting that out.
Gabe Larsen: (29:24)
Trademark. Trademark Challenger.
Matt Freedman: (29:24)
God, I owe him so many times for having used that phrase. Know every customer by your name. One of the coolest exercises that you can do to prove to yourself or your company that you are customer obsessed. If somebody, if that term is even floating around your CX team, go to your leadership team and say, how customer obsessed are we or are we committed to being? And if they think they are now ask them point blank, who’s our best customer. If you’re a direct to consumer brand, prove it to me. Name our best customer and why they are our best customer? And what are we putting in place to know every single person that’s in our base like they’re our family? They’re the people paying our bills. It should come to that level of obsession. The now philosophy we talked about that encompasses a number of these, but the big takeaway for me, and I’ll tie it off with this, is really there are brands performing at this level of standard, and we’re going to continue to see them grow and put content out and to continue to see examples of them winning. But the resources are out there for any brand that wants to commit to being customer obsessed to do this now. It doesn’t take a radical change where you have to go completely turn everything upside down. There is a formula and approach based on what we just laid out that any brand can achieve this. And selfishly, to my understanding, Kustomer is really the ones leading the charge on how to get people to that level of customer obsession.
Gabe Larsen: (31:07)
I agree. I love it, man.
Matt Freedman: (31:09)
Again, I’m biased.
Gabe Larsen: (31:12)
You’re fine. You’re fine. Well, Matt really appreciate you taking the time. I like the idea. I think you’ve really laid it out well, the formula for how CX teams can win, especially in this kind of me-economy that you put forward. So thanks for joining and for the audience, I hope you have a fantastic day.
Matt Freedman: (31:32)
Thanks Gabe. Appreciate it.
Exit Voice: (31:34)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.
In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, Lauren Pragoff, and Matt Dixon in a virtual summit to discuss developing customer loyalty through achieving effortless customer experiences. Learn how each guest has successfully managed and handled customer service during COVID-19 by listening to the podcast below.
Effective Communication with Asynchronous Messaging
Brad Birnbaum is the CEO and cofounder of Kustomer with over 20 years of customer service experience. Brad has found ways to do more with less, meaning he is expounding on how to keep his employees busy all while offering top notch customer care. With the growth of asynchronous communication in our daily lives; social media, texting, emails, etc., Brad believes that asynchronous communication is the future of CX as it allows for reps to do more with less. He says, “it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base.” When the customer has the opportunity to chat with an agent asynchronously, it creates a sense of genuine human communication and allows customers to have their simple issues be resolved faster.
Guiding Customers Through Proper Channels
Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger, works with other companies to create low effort customer service through preparing their frontline employees. Lauren understands that CX reps have had to adapt to a new at-home work environment during COVID-19. While digital efforts are helping resolve some of the simpler issues, when customers call service reps, the reps are now dealing with the most complex customer issues. Not every problem can be resolved with one channel. Lauren summarizes this point by stating, “Not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important.” In this ever-changing, pandemic-created landscape, she ensures that agents are still providing customers with the same high quality service by guiding them through the proper channels to accommodate their needs correctly the first time around. The key to guiding customers through proper channels while creating the best CX, is having effective strategies to solve the customer’s issues at the first point of contact.
Low Effort Self Service Through Simplified CX
Matt Dixon is the Chief Product and Research Engineer at Tethr, a company that offers customer analytics through an AI-driven conversational system. In the discussion, Matt notes a shift in customer care toward self service. To paint the modern CX landscape, Matt explains about the current customer, “They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. ‘What’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website? I want to just try to figure this out on my own.’ But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. Customers want to be able to solve their own problems and find solutions on their own. True, customers are going to unofficial sources to find answers, but there are a few simple things companies can do to improve their websites and digital resources. First is updating FAQ pages on their website. By making sure those are up to date, customers will be able to find answers on the website a lot easier. Second, and as mentioned by Lauren, making sure that the right problems are being directed through the correct channels. Customer service used to primarily be phone call oriented but as technology has progressed, the customers have as well. The key to a successful CX experience is that the customer puts forth as little effort as possible. To Matt, low effort service makes for the happiest customers. As companies focus on these principles and ideas, their CX departments will be groomed for success in the coming months and years.
To learn more about how to effortlessly manage customer service during these challenging times, check out the Customer Service Secrets Podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
You can also listen and subscribe to our podcast here:
Full Episode Transcript:
How to Successfully Manage CX During a Global Pandemic
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody to today’s virtual summit, the Customer Experience Virtual Summit. Today, we’re going to be talking with leaders that generate loyalty through an effortless experience, and we’re excited to bring this event to you by Kustomer, Tethr and the Challenger Inc Effortless Experience. We’re so excited for this event. It turned out to be just a fantastic overall organization. We have 50 plus speakers. We originally were just going to start with a handful. We’ve got people like Mario from Vengreso. We’ve got Shep Hyken, Mary Drummond. The list goes on. We’re very thankful for each of the speakers who participated and gave their time during these challenging circumstances that we all find ourselves in. In addition, we now have over 2000 registrants. From an agenda standpoint, we’re kicking off today with the keynote here at 10:00 AM, but do know that sequentially, you’ll have a series of speakers that will be released and you can find that in the panel that you are currently logged into. So with no further ado, let’s dive into today’s keynote section. We have three guest speakers that will be having a panel discussion, talking about how to manage customer experience in challenging times. We’ve got Brad Birnbaum, Matt Dixon, and Lauren Pragoff. So with that, let’s have each person just briefly introduce themselves and let’s get going. Brad, why don’t you start?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:46)
Hi everybody. Brad Birnbaum, CEO, and cofounder of Kustomer. I’ve been in the customer service space for about 20 some odd years at this point. We’ve seen a couple cycles of challenging times, nothing like what we’re seeing today, but, I think this is our opportunity where we can all figure out how to adapt and shine and improve experiences for all. So looking forward to talking more about that today.
Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining. Lauren. Let’s go to you next?
Lauren Pragoff: (02:14)
Sure. Hi everybody. I’m Lauren Pragoff, Vice President of Effortless Experience at Challenger where we work with companies to consult and train their frontline staff on providing low effort customer service.
Gabe Larsen: (02:27)
Perfect. Matt, to you.
Matt Dixon: (02:29)
Hey Gabe. Thanks Lauren, Brad, great to be with you today. Super excited about this virtual summit. I’m Matt Dixon. I’m the Chief Product and Research Officer at Tethr. For those of you who don’t know Tethr, we’re an AI machine money venture out of Austin, and we provide conversational analytics. So helping companies take their unstructured data to surface business relevant insights. I, like Brad and Lauren, I’ve been in the customer service and customer experience space for a long time and we definitely have seen some peaks and valleys. This is a bittersweet moment for us. I think a bitter because I’d would rather be with everyone shaking their hands. The flip side is, what a privilege and honor to be with 2000 people today. We’re all interested in improving the customer experience and learning about how do we accelerate out of this morass that we’re in right now.
Gabe Larsen: (03:19)
Yeah and that’s where we want to dive into. I think that’s a good segue. A couple of stats, I wanted to highlight a lot of fun research out there and I want to just throw a few nuggets to kind of set the conversation foundation. 79% of customer service organizations say they’re being significantly impacted by COVID, no surprise there. 63% saying they’re reporting they actually need to cut costs. And a lot of organizations, almost 20% are saying their customer inquiries are increasing dramatically during this global pandemic. So with that, I’d love to just kind of start there. It is a different environment. Things are changing. What is kind of the biggest challenge that companies are facing and how are you seeing them overcome it? Lauren, can we start with you?
Lauren Pragoff: (04:04)
Sure. One of the things that we’re hearing the most from our clients has to do with shifting to a work from home environment. Remote reps have been an interesting topic of conversation across customer service leaders for the last 15 years and a lot of organizations have kind of dabbled here and there, but what we’re finding is that across the last six weeks, there has been just a massive shift in contact center reps working from home. And just like all of us now working from home, that includes balancing childcare and school and partners and spouses also working from home. So, yesterday’s remote rep program is not today’s work from home environment and I think we see just leaders spending a lot of time investing in how to make sure that it’s going well and that customers are continuing to get the service that they would expect.
Gabe Larsen: (05:03)
Yeah and I feel like to your point, work from home isn’t anything new, but it’s almost, it’s accelerated by 200% in the last four, six weeks. Matt, how are companies thinking about solving that problem? I mean, it’s all in here. It’s not going away. What have been some of the tips or tactics you’re seeing where companies have been able to say, “You know what? We’re settling in, it’s starting to kind of work now?”
Matt Dixon: (05:26)
Yeah, so it’s funny listening to Lauren talk about work from home. I was talking to a company just last week and they said, “You know, we’ve debated endless PowerPoints and business cases to put together a work from home remote program and then suddenly, boom, it just got decided for us.” So, the good news is no more business cases and PowerPoints actually required to make a case with us. It’s funny because if you look at one of the things we did recently, our data science team at Tethr, we took a sample of a million customer service calls since the WHO declared Coronavirus was a pandemic on March 11th. And so we took a look at a two week period across 20 companies. The top line was really bad news, as you can expect. And Gabe, it was the same exact thing you were talking about before. Looking at the level of effort or difficulty of those interactions. We saw them skyrocket, right? So no longer are reps dealing with that one off kind of issue with that really emotional, high anxiety kind of interaction with the customer. Now, it’s like, almost every single interaction. It is really critical stuff. It’s financial hardship. It’s in some cases, questions about insurance coverage, right? Not being able to pay bills, things that are really, really tough for our customers right now. The flip side though, as you said, there is good news coming out of this. And the good news is that leading companies, and I would say leading service organizations, are starting to figure this out and they’re doing it really quickly. So a couple of the things we found one is equipping frontline workers with the language techniques, such that they can reduce effort. So I think what customers are really frustrated by right now is that they’re calling in, they’re talking to reps and they feel like the reps are using policies that haven’t been updated since the pandemic, right? “I can’t give you that three month bill extension you’re asking for our policy is seven days.” It frustrates customers. They feel like the reps they’re talking to are not empowered to solve those problems. But what we can do is coach our reps on those language techniques that we know, even if it’s the same answer you’re going to give the customer, maybe the policy hasn’t changed. You can do a lot to actually manage the perception of effort too. We’re seeing companies really lean in on the coaching side. And this is absolutely critical right now is to make sure we are engaged with our reps, not in a one, every two weeks kind of way that most service organizations do, but on a regular embedded in the work kind of way, what we call integrated coaching. Number three, we got to get our reps even though they’re, to Lauren’s point, they’re working from home, they’re all on an island, right? They’re by themselves. They no longer have that colleague sitting next to them, who they can tap on the shoulder for some help. They no longer have that supervisor they can flag down. We’ve got to leverage tools, collaboration tools, to create that virtual community so that they can leverage the wisdom of peers because that’s going to deliver a better experience. And it’s going to make them feel like in this tough environment, they’re not alone. So we are seeing some of those tactics start to emerge and companies are seeing success there.
Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
Man, personally, the coaching one jumps out to me the most. As we’ve gone remote, I think that’s revealed some weaknesses and some of the coaching aspects and doubling down and trying to get the right tools, techniques to do that I think is the right approach to go. Brad, we talked about the work from home as a big challenge and some of the things companies are thinking about doing to overcome that. Other challenges you’re seeing, and tips or tactics on how organizations are trying to overcome those?
Brad Birnbaum: (08:46)
Sure. So, yeah, just as Lauren and Matt said, we, of course, are seeing everybody adapt to working from home in a different way. Not only within our company, but our customer’s agents, right? We’re seeing it across the board. Fortunately I think there’s a lot of good practices you could use. Some we employ real well, right? If you have the right software, whether it be on the CRM side, everything being Cloud based, support side, even if you have some of the modern telephony platforms, they work very well remotely as well. So that’s certainly helpful. But in addition to this, we’re seeing two things at competing odds with one another. We’re seeing inbound inquiries accelerating rapidly for a variety of reasons. We’re also seeing that some of these companies are having the higher amounts of inbound inquiries, unfortunately, have had to cut some of their resources for the reasons we all assume, right? So they’re at competing odds with higher volumes, but less people to service them. And then I’ve even heard anecdotes from some companies that do the bigger ones that do take advantage of offshore BPOs, that the offshore BPOs can’t keep up. They don’t have the same infrastructure they might have here in the United States. So, as an example, they may not have the ability to work remotely, right? They may not have the computing power or bandwidth. I’ve even heard anecdotes that in some countries there are physical security issues, right? Where you can’t allow your data to be in somebody’s home, right? Where other countries may be not be as safe and stable as we are in the United States. So all those things are playing in. Now how we’ve adapted and in ways that I think we’ve helped our customers, not only have we given anybody who’s the customer platform, our ultimate tier for free, which has a whole bunch of great remote working capabilities, things like unlimited collaborators and team pulses or agents are doing and enterprise queuing the route and all that. But, we happen to coordinate the timing of our customer IQ release, which was on April 1st. It happened to coincide right around this pandemic and so much of what the world needs now is deflection, artificial intelligence, machine learning; ways to do more with less. We’ve also given our deflection capabilities, it’s part of what we call Kustomer IQ Lite, to all of our customers. It’s a part of our free tier and everybody gets Kustomer IQ Lite. And we already are seeing with just the recent release of our deflection capabilities, a pretty significant rate of deflection that people are able to achieve, right? So let’s just say for argument’s sake, you’re able to do a 10 or 20% deflection rate. That moves the needle. That’s a significant amount of increase because people are seeing these bursts and by having the ability to deflect. And then when you go further and you really take advantage of AI and ML to help with suggesting responses and routing things more correctly, and understanding the intent of communications better, you can improve your efficiencies dramatically too. And those are the ways, how do you do more with less? That’s what we need to all do right now, because we’re all out being asked to do more with less; less money, less people we’re all being asked to do more with less and we need to take advantage of the tooling and processes out there to do that. So these are some things we’re investing in and we’re seeing work with it across our customer base today.
Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
Yeah. I like this word, I think it is coming up a lot. It’s do more with less, and whether it’s using AI to deflect, obviously in some cases, people are having to kind of literally do more with less people. I’ll open this up, but Matt, maybe we could start with you. When we think about doing more with less, how are organizations doing that? AI, we just got, maybe as one example. Are there other things you’re seeing where people are finding a way to kind of do more with less?
Matt Dixon: (12:33)
Yeah. One of the things that I think is exciting, and I’m sure this is an area that we’ll explore a little bit here is, how do we think about those trends that maybe we’re kind of bubbling below the surface, but are now here to stay. And I think one of them is a shift toward self service and I think some of that is wrought by the very long, candidly long hold times that people are having to endure because maybe that BPO is offline because the call center is closed and because of security reasons, and I’ve run into this personally, Gabe. The agents can’t actually handle your data from their home location, right? So you’re just out of luck. And so instead, you’re trying to get through to one contact center, doesn’t have the overflow capacity, the wait times are through the roof. So what we’re seeing is a lot of customers who might have dialed first, now going to the website first or the app first and I think there’s a tremendous call deflection opportunity there, or live service deflection opportunity. And I think what’s happening, just like coaching, you’re seeing companies kind of outed for under investing in their digital capabilities. This is laying bare that “Hey, we’ve been kind of getting by with a subpar digital experience, but when you take away the live service option through the phone and customers go to a digital channel and it’s sub par, boy that creates a really high effort experience.” And it’s forcing companies I think to invest in and transform aggressively there. I saw, and you guys probably saw this too, that kind of meme that passed through LinkedIn like wildfire, which was, “Which of the following three drove your company’s digital transformation? Was it the CEO, [inaudible] the CTO or C-”
Gabe Larsen: (14:17)
I think I’m the one who passed that? I think I passed that to Brad actually.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:19)
I think you did.
Matt Dixon: (14:21)
Yeah. It’s one of my favorites. It is the number one driver for digital transformation right now. Unfortunately it’s, it’s rapidly accelerating.
Gabe Larsen: (14:28)
Which is maybe something we all needed, right? It’s something we all needed. So we heard a little bit. I like some of the deflection points and you’re seeing that in multiple channels, right? It sounds like in chat, and phone. Lauren as you think about this idea of kind of doing more with less, maybe even on the people side, is there other things people are doing that kind of drive it?
Lauren Pragoff: (14:45)
Yeah. You know, it’s interesting. I would suggest doing more with less and maybe a slightly different interpretation because for every company that we’re hearing is slammed with so many contacts, there’s at least one other company, maybe 1.5 other companies, who are actually seeing a dramatic decrease in their contact volumes. And so in a recent survey that we did, a full third of survey respondents said that their contact volumes had dropped by more than 25%.
Gabe Larsen: (15:16)
Lauren Pragoff: (15:17)
Doing more with less, doing more with the people with less contacts, right? So what do you do to fill their time to make sure that you’re staying productive as an organization? We’ve heard a lot of really interesting things in that regard. So companies are being proactive. They’re reaching out to their customers where maybe they wouldn’t have before, helping to either educate them about products or services or proactively solving problems that they see coming. And we’re seeing companies sending their people on rotations, into other parts of the organization, working on special projects, things of that nature, or even fielding calls from other parts of the organization. So really trying to figure out, how do we do more with the people that we have so that we can keep them busy and we can keep them in their jobs even though the contact volumes are decreasing?
Gabe Larsen: (16:09)
I liked that. Yeah, you’re right. There’s always two sides to every story. And that you said a third of companies are reporting decreasing. I love the proactive outreach. I think that’s always been a best practice of customer service support teams, but now more than ever before, it seems to be being pushed to the forefront. I want to see if we can dovetail that into the conversation we were just having about digital transformation. I do think that’s worth probably a double click there. Such a trend that now, yes, we’ve had to go remote and yes, in some cases we have to do more with less, but as we look going forward, the amount of digital transformation that we’re all experiencing has been accelerated, as we were saying. That’s kind of the now forefront trend as we move probably into 2020 and 2021. Digital transformation, how are you seeing companies really take grasp of this and own it more to deliver that exceptional customer experience that they all want to deliver? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (17:02)
Yeah. So one thing that not only is in that theme, but in the theme of doing more of less is we’ve seen at Kustomer, we service, as you know, a lot of great brands and we’re seeing a rapid adoption to asynchronous communication because it’s another way of doing more with less, right? A little personal anecdote. I recently ordered from one of the large food delivery services. We increased our order, but the tip didn’t increase and we wanted to increase the tip because we want to do the right thing for the frontline worker bringing us our food and we couldn’t. There was no way to do it in the app, right? So there’s a digital transformation improvement that could happen, right? So, how do I do this? So I went to call and the only option was to call them, to change this and have a two and a half hour hold time. And I said, “Look, I can’t sit on the phone for two and a half hours, right? Just can’t do it. I would love to be able to text you, right? I’d love to be able to send you a Facebook messenger or WhatsApp or even the way customer chat works.” We either work in a synchronous or asynchronous manner, but some asynchronous way to just say, “Hey,” or even an email for argument’s sake, “I just want to crease my tip from X to Y can you do that for me?” I don’t want to sit on a phone for two and a half hours. That’s crazy! Not going to do it, right? They didn’t do it. What we did is we left the tip and cash on the door and called it a day but there’s no way I’m going to do that, right? So, but all I wanted was a simple fire and forget like, “Hey, increase my tip from X to Y. You guys don’t allow me to do it in the app.” So give me a simple, low friction asynchronous way to do it. If I would have been able to text them and get a text back response, even if it was eight hours later, I would’ve been super happy with that experience. Instead, I had a pretty poor experience. I had to go out of my way to take care of that remote worker who was helping my family with food. So there’s so many things that can be a part of digital history. Some of it is how companies construct their experience within their own products and offerings, right? But it’s not just how they allow you to communicate, and we all know how we communicate with our friends and families and loved ones and it’s not only one way. Async communications, super popular now in our daily lives and in our business lives, like whether it be Slack or you name it, across the board and it needs to carry through more to how we can converse with these businesses we work with. [Inaudible] And we’re seeing a huge uptick in Kustomer. We’re seeing these async channels going up dramatically and I think that trend’s going to continue.
Gabe Larsen: (19:31)
Yeah. With all that’s going on, it’ll be, we may see. I mean, I feel like you always see these articles and customer service and sales, is the channel dead? Is the phone finally dead? But the truth is it never, the phone and emails still dominate. This might just do it. This might just push some of those channels to the forefront. Maybe you will actually [inaudible] is too strong of a word for the traditional channels, but interesting. Facebook messenger, WhatsApp. Wow. Seeing these being pushed to the forefront, you might actually have some competition at the top there. Lauren thinking about digital transformation, where does your mind go?
Lauren Pragoff: (20:05)
Yeah. My mind goes to make sure that you are enabling the right issues in the right channels. So some research that Matt and I both worked on back when we were with CEB, really focused on making sure that you’re not sending customers down the wrong channel for the wrong issue. So not all issues are well suited to all channels, and making sure that you’re enabling the right types of experiences in the right channels is extremely important. Otherwise, what you’re doing is just creating a lot of effort for the customer who felt like, “Oh, I could just shoot off this email,” and feeling really good about trying to get their issue resolved. Well, 24 hours later, when you get a response and that response says, “Hey, so sorry, but you’re going to have to call us to resolve this issue, that’s like worst case scenario.” So don’t let the customer send that bad email the first time around.
Gabe Larsen: (21:04)
Yeah. So you’d need to. You can’t just roll out all these new channels. For example, you actually have to have a strategy for each of them or you might kind of ruin the whole experience. Matt, last on digital customer experience, kind of where does your mind go?
Matt Dixon: (21:15)
Yeah, I think this is, we all know digital and the shift towards self service has been coming. It’s like this big looking at your background, Gabe. It’s like a wave coming crashing down on us, right? So it’s true –
Gabe Larsen: (21:32)
By the way, you know that on the north shore –
Matt Dixon: (21:33)
– Of course. I didn’t doubt it for a second, but it is good that you assured all 2,000 viewers [Inaudible]. But I will say, back, we studied this in like ’07 – ’08 and what we found was, Lauren was on this research team at CEB, that 57% of inbound call volume was from customers who were first on your digital channels. They were first on your website trying to solve their problem. Now, a bunch of those customers were just using your website as an expensive phone book, but more of them, a bigger chunk of that 57%, we’re actually legitimately trying to find the answer to their problem, trying to do something online. Fast forward to just, I think last time we ran this research about a year ago, that number is like 80%. So customers are really, they are digital as the first stop and increasingly, a lot of those customers are going to non-company sources of information. They’re going to YouTube. They’re going to unsanctioned sources of advice to get perspective. Like what’s the hack, what’s the thing I can do to avoid not just not calling the company, but even going to their website. Like I want to just try to figure this out on my own. But again, customers are very keen and their first step is always digital. What I think is really interesting is, I’m totally with Lauren, we’ve got to make sure the issues are aligned to the channels. And then, Brad’s point about asynchronous messaging. This is one where I think we’ve seen, asynchronous messaging has been interesting because I always thought of it in the original research we ran, it was sort of like a fast email, right? It was sort of a replacement for email; good for kind of binary communications, but I think what’s happening now and I think this is forced on us by the pandemic, is that asynchronous messaging has to grow up and it has to mature in a really serious way to be able to handle more nuanced, more ambiguous issues that maybe once were handled over the phone with a person where context and background matters. The customer can’t get through on the phone for many organizations right now and they’re relying on that asynchronous channel to address that need in a sophisticated way. Now, the economies of that, that is a great do more with less to Brad’s point because we know the number of concurrent chats or WhatsApp exchanges, or SMS exchanges, a rep can handle is way more than the number of phone calls, which is one. We also know that we can use AI and bots and virtual assistants to automate parts of the interaction. So at least to triage it, maybe siphon off some of those live interactions or those messages, handle it with a bot, but other ones at least get them to the right rep around the right issue and get that rep teed up so they can grab the baton and finish that exchange in that interaction really quickly. The other thing I would say is don’t ignore the importance of getting your static content on your site right. What we find is FAQ’s knowledge articles is where kind of issue resolution goes to die very often. One of the most impactful things you can do is simply rewrite all this stuff on your website and write it with language simplicity in mind. We wrote about this in the Effortless Experience and there are lots of great stories of companies who’ve said, “Look, we’ve invested a lot of self service technology, but the thing that really got our customers to stay on our website and not get frustrated and pick up the phone to call is when we started writing at a grade five to seven reading level so that customers could absorb that information quickly.” So often our content is laden with corporate jargon, industry vernacular, stuff that the attorneys made us add in and it stopped making sense to our customers. And so go back, make it simple and it’ll stick with your customers and siphon off those live calls.
Gabe Larsen: (25:09)
I like that. I like that. The knowledge basis. That stat 80%, up from 50%, that’s a huge number. The last question I wanted to ask before we wrap here guys, is kind of this technology question. A lot of companies with the changes that have happened have been looking for quick answers and then a lot of times they have been going to technologies that they feel like maybe can supply that quick up, right? Like, can I do this better than I was doing it before? And, oh my goodness, we’ve heard about stories like, Zoom, right? It’s like, we’re all on video and that skyrocketing. Are there certain technologies and we don’t necessarily need to go into naming names, but types of technologies that you feel companies should be thinking about adopting more now than ever before to really make this change more successful? Brad, can we start with you?
Brad Birnbaum: (25:58)
Sure. So I think my answer is going to be pretty self-serving.
Matt Dixon: (26:03)
I was going to do the same thing, Brad, so –
Brad Birnbaum: (26:07)
– self-serving but, Kustomer, one of the things we do here at Kustomer is we are a CRM platform. So we aggregate all of the relevant data to provide that rich support experience. And in doing so the customers, they’re gonna get their answers faster, right? And as we’re ramping up on deflection and machine learning and artificial intelligence and customer IQ, and the bots that we’re gonna be rolling out shortly, those will take advantage of that data. So when somebody reaches out and says, “Hey, I’m Brad,” I’ll say, “Oh, Brad, we noticed you ordered sweater three days ago and it was supposed to be delivered and it wasn’t yet. It’s a little late, but guess why? It’s out for delivery today. Do we answer your question? Is that what you were reaching out about?” They’d be like, “Yeah.” So it’d be like, that was an awesome experience, right? I never had, so never touched a customer support agent. The customer felt like you knew them. They got their answer right away. Win, win, win, win, win across the board. So when you’re able to combine all these siloed pieces of information, these siloed communication channels, all these silos, the siloed knowledge base even, we were able to combine it all together with amazing data to support it, understanding the customer, these asynchronous and synchronous communication, omni-channel communication methods with RPA-like business process automation. When you do all that together, it is a technological shift to improving experiences. It’s a technological shift to higher levels of customer satisfaction. A technological shift to actually improve agent efficiency and we’ve seen this across our customer base, right. We’ve seen some of our customers say they saw a 20% improvement in agent productivity when they switched to the Kustomer platform and it’s a result of everything I just mentioned, right? It’s a result of combining data with omni-channel with automations and that is where that magic happens. So that becomes the biggest win, I think, for all parties. Everybody wins. It’s the best when customers win and the company wins, but I think that it was so, yeah, I’d like to think our technology is at the forefront. It’s something everybody should be using to help because it is working. So, yeah, self-serving –
Gabe Larsen: (28:14)
A little self-serving but I think there’s some nuggets in there, obviously. Now more than ever before, when I’m calling organizations, I am probably even a little more frustrated. Having that contextual information rather than just saying, “Give me your ticket number,” feels like maybe that probably is a little more important. We’re a little more on edge than we have been in the past. Matt let’s go to you and then Lauren, we’ll kind of wrap it up.
Matt Dixon: (28:40)
Yeah, sure. So Brad stole my my plan here, which was to also do a self serving pitch –
Gabe Larsen: (28:46)
[Inaudlibe] I would say my cell phone for that one –
Matt Dixon: (28:49)
I do. I mean look, I think it’s right. We always say we love the idea of being low effort for our customers but it’s hard to make the experience low effort if you make the job hard for your reps. If they don’t have the right tools and they don’t have that information Brad was talking about, you’re asking them to overcome that and then make things easy for the customer. It’s a pretty tall order. I mean, where we sit, one of the things we’re pretty excited about, and I think this is one of those things that we’ve seen over time, slow erosion in like survey response rates, specifically post-call surveys, which where most companies are, if they’re lucky in the 10% range, most companies in the low single digits now, and even fewer of those surveys containing actual, actionable, verbatim. Here’s why I gave you the score, the customer score [Inaudible]. So what we’re trying to do is help customers, companies leverage the found data that’s sitting all over the enterprise. So recorded phone conversations, chats, emails, case information, the information that sits in a customer and extract meaning from that your business partners can take action on and that you can take action on as a leadership team to improve the customer experience. And I think that’s a really powerful place to be. After all, I would argue, and I don’t know the latest data that customers today are even less likely to fill out that survey especially when they don’t know if they’re going to get a response back and they’re looking for companies they do business with, to do a better job listening to them, using the data they’ve already got. Now, what I will say, this is going to be, maybe a tee up for you, Lauren. But I also believe technology, you talked a lot about technology and self service and digital transformation, a lot of it being accelerated by COVID-19. I think the knock on implication of that for our people is very real, which is when the easy stuff or the easier issues go away, what ends up happening, and we’ve seen this for a while now, and I think this is really going to ramp up with COVID-19, is that what ends up getting through the nets to the live service representative is by definition, the most complex issues, the hardest to crack problems, the stuff that couldn’t be solved through asynchronous messaging, there was no knowledge article about it. And the customer just has to talk to somebody and they’re going to wait two hours on hold to get in touch with that live representative. So how do we equip our people to be successful in that world? So I think the talent side of things, we can’t ignore in the rush of digital. I think digital and rethinking the way we hire, engage and support our frontline, those are gonna be the two big things that emerge out of this in the new normal, customer service and customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (31:24)
Nothing more needs to be said, Lauren, that’s a good comment, probably segue to you.
Lauren Pragoff: (31:28)
Yeah. We like to say here at Challenger that in a world driven by technology, your people matter more than ever. The idea that technology is great, but to Matt’s point, what it’s doing is it’s siphoning off all the easy issues and what’s left is your reps getting a barrage of really complex issues, really angry and upset customers. And the other thing with technology is inevitably, there’s going to be a failure somewhere along the way, whether it’s the technology’s fault, whether it’s your infrastructure’s fault, something is going to happen, or maybe it’s a user error, right? Your reps don’t know how to use the platform that they have. When that happens, are your reps equipped to have a human to human interaction that provides a low effort service experience? So I think that companies need to be thinking not only about the skills that they’re training their reps on, but also how are they keeping their reps engaged because their job is getting harder, not easier.
Gabe Larsen: (32:29)
Yeah. Yeah. I like it you guys. A lot of great information talked about today. I think it’ll be a great day, fun to kick it off with Lauren, Brad, and Matt, and talk about how to really handle, manage, be successful with customer service during these challenging times. So for the audience, thanks so much for participating. For the speakers who’ve taken their time, donated their time, to help all of the different customer experience and service leaders figure out the best way to go forward and optimize their current environments, thank you for that. And with that, we’ll sign off and enjoy the rest of the day.
Exit Voice: (33:13)
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It’s no secret that a strong customer service strategy is the cornerstone of a successful business. Even if your products or services are exceptional, if the customer experience is tainted with one poor interaction, customer loyalty can be lost.
A stellar customer support strategy is meant to enhance the consumer experience as they interact with your brand. Whether they’re curious about the product and have questions, are making a purchase, or need to return something, the steps to accomplish this should be easy and engaging.
But it’s not enough to simply create a strategy and let it run its course. A company must be constantly working to maintain and improve the customer experience for continued revenue growth. Let’s explore some of the most effective ways to sustain your customer service strategy.
What Is Customer Service Strategy?
A customer service strategy is a well-thought out plan on how to handle interactions with customers. Many brands strive to offer a consistent experience throughout all channels, but it can be difficult to implement if you don’t first take a step back and think about what it means to create a winning customer support strategy — one where the customer sees the benefits and the company can scale effectively. Here are six ways companies can build and improve the customer experience without a massive reorganization.
6 Ways to Maintain a Strong Customer Service Strategy
We all know that consumer relations are an important area for businesses to gain a competitive advantage, improve employee and customer engagement and, perhaps most importantly, retain loyal customers. HubSpot recently found that only a 5% increase in customer retention has the potential to increase revenue by 25-95%.
It’s incredibly important to retain customers, not only because it’s more expensive to acquire new ones, but because repeat purchases have an overwhelmingly positive impact on a business’s bottom line. Here are six ways your organization can maintain your customer relationship strategy to improve the consumer experience and, in turn, retention rates and sales:
1. Regularly Communicate and Engage With Customers
From surveys and reviews to VOC and other tracking methods, organizations should be constantly communicating and collecting data to determine customer satisfaction long after they have made a purchase. In HubSpot’s “The State of Customer Service in 2020” report, they concluded that companies with high growth are more likely to understand their customers’ thoughts and sentiments about their brand. Some of the most successful strategies included tracking customer happiness and collecting direct feedback through a satisfaction survey.
Finding this information doesn’t need to be difficult or costly, simply continue to reach out to buyers throughout the customer journey and after-sales process. Ask them to complete quick surveys and monitor reviews to make positive changes and ensure customers feel heard.
2. Close the Feedback Loop
On the topic of feedback, it’s not only important to collect it; companies must also work to acknowledge it. When a customer reaches out to explain their negative experience or writes a less-than-stellar review on social media, there’s an opportunity to improve how they view your brand. According to CMS Wire, closing the loop means a company directly responds to customer feedback, no matter if it’s positive or negative.
Continue and end the conversation by offering to make changes or ask the customer to try their brand again while providing them with a discount to reduce churn. At the same time, if a customer leaves a positive review and a brand responds with a thank you, this can increase brand loyalty and turn passive consumers into promoters. Reaching out to consumers this way is proactive customer service.
3. Create a Longstanding Program
There’s no better way to increase customer and employee engagement than by encouraging them to interact and become brand promoters. Creating long-term programs dedicated to understanding the consumer, are great opportunities to receive and study feedback and turn it into action.
Customer-facing programs, like rewards and referrals, make existing customers feel like their individual experience is important, and introduces new consumers to the product or service in an exciting way from a trustworthy friend.
4. Invest in Self-Service Solutions
In the same 2020 HubSpot report, the company was surprised to find that building self-service solutions is a low priority (No. 10 out of 12 options) among businesses. Self-service solutions essentially help customers help themselves. Just like how a self-checkout at the supermarket can help shoppers who are in a rush and only need to purchase a few items quickly, tools like chatbots and other automation can create a better experience for online shoppers.
They can receive answers to their questions quickly, saving both them and the organization time. As customer expectations continue to grow and businesses must do more, self-service tools help everyone have a better experience and be more efficient.
5. Use Automation to Create a Personalized Customer Experience
Maintaining your customer service experience is all about continuously improving the interactions consumers have with your brand, and a big part of that is personalization. At a high level, this means knowing their customer history and personalizing interactions to treat them like a person and not just a transaction number. More specifically, it can also be about providing them with unique offers and opportunities that they would like.
Of course, getting to know a customer personally takes a lot of time and effort. It’s impractical to expect a customer service team to understand the intricacies of each customer, but that’s where having a unified customer data platform and automation can help. Smart chatbots with access to unified customer data can be used to a business’s advantage. While artificial intelligence of this nature isn’t a replacement of your people-savvy staff, they are an easy way to make customers feel heard and make their experience more immediate, without sacrificing personalization.
6. Improve Your Digital Customer Service
As more customers than ever make purchases online, it’s important for companies to improve their digital customer service strategy in hand with their in-person interactions. On top of utilizing automation and self-service tools that can quickly collect data and diagnose problems, digital systems must be integrated with other information stores for seamless customer experience.
Customers require access to support in whatever medium is most convenient to them in the moment. For instance, if they are shopping on your mobile app for the first time and have trouble navigating, there should be an effortless way to contact customer service within the app, vs. having to switch devices or channels. Today’s customers expect an easy and hands-off experience, and digital tools can help businesses achieve this by providing a seamless process for resolving problems.
Strive to Improve Your Customer Service Strategy
As you work to maintain an excellent customer support strategy, you should expect to make changes to your processes along the way. As you receive customer feedback and data, you may uncover untapped opportunities to improve their experience and use their advice to the benefit of your organization.
Customer service technology can help you maintain and improve your approach to customer service. Kustomer empowers your service team to deliver an exceptional and personalized brand experience driven by unified data and customer insights.
There’s an unlimited number of opportunities to impress customers and deliver an experience beyond their expectations, and the right tools help you capitalize on them. We are always keeping up with the latest trends to provide the solutions our partners need, to create, execute and maintain an exceptional customer service strategy. Request a demo today to schedule your quick 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help your business thrive.
In case you missed it, last week Kustomer hosted a series of events all around switching from traditional ticketing systems to a modern CRM for customer service. The week was action-packed, filled to the brim with insights from Kustomer executives and customer-centric brands like Lulus and Ritual.
It’s not too late to gather insights from the week. Below you can find four key takeaways from #MakeTheSwitch week, and what they mean for your brand.
1. Treat Customers Like Humans, Not Tickets
Many companies are still relying on the old model of customer service, where they treat each new interaction as a separate event handled by different people across a variety of siloed platforms. To personalize a customer’s experience, you have to know the customer—and that requires data. A platform that brings all the data about a customer into one place helps customer service agents understand the context of a customer’s conversations and helps them deliver more efficient, proactive and relevant service.
Amy Coleman, Director of CX at Lulus.com, thinks that the humanity of customer service is often lost in call center environments. “I think that one of the downfalls to old school ticketing systems is that it’s no longer about people. It almost becomes like data entry for those agents that are working on the same thing. It’s how many tickets there are,” said Coleman during a Thursday afternoon webinar. “We were never thinking in terms of the human beings that are on the receiving end. And I think that’s what Kustomer has really done for us, it’s allowed us to spend the time with the human beings that are on the other line and spend more time developing our team.”
Eric Choi, Community Support Manager at Zwift, said during a Friday afternoon LinkedIn Live that he made the switch to Kustomer because his team was looking for a platform that was more human, and allowed them to interact with their members in a more organic way. “The old ticketing system made me feel… like a deli counter. You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on.”
When all customer information is available at the click of a button, agents are able to personalize the customer’s experience by giving fine-tuned advice, addressing problems proactively, and suggesting other products or services the customer might enjoy. The result? An efficient but personal interaction that builds a lifelong customer relationship.
2. Unlock the Power of Data Through a Customer Service CRM
As Kustomer CEO Brad Birnbaum said in his Tuesday afternoon LinkedIn Live, an effective CRM should allow you to fully understand the relationship that your business has with each and every customer, and leverage data in order to do that. Legacy CRMs were built to manage cases, not customers. And you shouldn’t have to pay more for operational solutions AND modern communication tools in order to provide effective support.
Coleman agrees that e-commerce companies “absolutely have to be able to access data around what your customers are contacting you” about. Before making the switch to Kustomer, Lulus didn’t have any data because their platforms weren’t talking to each other, and that was a big issue. A modern customer service CRM should be designed to connect seamlessly with your other data sources and business intelligence tools, while taking the place of your support platform, contact center routing software, and process management solution.
3. Cut Down on Tickets With an Omnichannel Approach
In a multichannel support environment, each channel lives in its own silo with its own dedicated team of agents, with limited communication or sharing of information between channels. As a result of this fragmented experience, customers will have to take the time to repeat to the second agent what they told the first agent. In addition, multichannel support leads companies to focus on resolving tickets, rather than building stronger customer relationships, because agents lack a holistic view of each customer.
After switching to Kustomer, Coleman truly realized how many omnichannel conversations were taking place within Lulus’ customer base. With a truly omnichannel customer service CRM, Lulus “ended up merging or cutting [their] tickets down significantly.” Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels.
Michelle McCombs, Vice President of Safety and Support at HopSkipDrive, has now structured her team so they are all omnichannel. With Kustomer’s timeline view, and intelligent queues and routing, her team doesn’t have to go and find what they need to do next. All of her agents “live right there in their one space and… and get to work.”
4. Make the Agent Experience Effortless and Fulfilling
Ultimately, agent happiness directly translates to customer happiness. The more information that agents have at their fingertips, and the more they are able to focus on quality instead of quantity, the happier they will be, and the happier they will make your customer base.
Andrew Rickards, Director of Customer Experience at Ritual, has experienced this first hand. “It goes without saying customer service can be a thankless job and even … the best spirited individual can find those tougher days. So for me, it’s looking at the agent’s experience and understanding what the points of friction are and removing them, so what is already a tough job doesn’t have to be any tougher,” said Rickards. “When I talk about agent happiness, if you look at the internal surveys we do, to see just how people are on a quarterly basis, a lot of the questions that would indicate day-to-day stressors…we improved on those results post-Kustomer switch.”
Coleman agrees, and sees how making the switch to a more effortless platform can impact agent development. “I do feel that we’ve had less turnover due to the fact that the platform is easier, to the point where we’ve been able to actually focus our leadership on actual leading instead of micro managing,” says Coleman. “And what I feel is the most honorable and noble career, which is the service of helping other people, it gets lost in the abyss of really complicated workflows. And so Kustomer has given us, has given me as a leader, so much value, because I’m actually able to lead people for who they are based on their individual strengths and opportunities.”
Click here to learn more about how making the switch could be a gamechanger for your team.
Many of us look forward to the holidays. We get excited about the prospect of parties, family gatherings, holiday cheer and presents galore. But the holiday season also brings a big lump of coal: an increase in needy customers reaching out to your team in need of immediate support.
According to Kustomer data, inbound customer service inquiries increased by almost 120% during the holiday season in 2019, with particularly dramatic spike in activity on Instagram, e-mail, voice and chat.
Many businesses struggle to maintain a high level of support during spikes in activity. They may need to hire a flurry of seasonal employees who have a short training period. Last year, $284 billion dollars were spent between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday alone, so the stakes are high. The question becomes, how do you handle the seasonal rush without breaking the bank or disappointing customers? Read on to learn what customers expect, and how to deliver with smart strategies and smarter technology.
Customer Expectations During the Holiday Season
Spending isn’t the only thing skyrocketing during the holiday season — so too are customer expectations. Here is what consumers expect from brands during the upcoming holiday season.
During the holiday season, the turn of phrase “too much to do, too little time” hits a lot closer to home. Between normal day-to-day life, holiday celebrations, traveling and gift buying, consumers don’t want more of their time taken up by customer service.
According to recent Kustomer research, 77% of customers expect their problem to be solved immediately upon contacting customer service. Customers demand that you respect their time, especially during the busy holiday rush, and if you don’t, they are willing to leave for another retailer. In fact, 70% of consumers would not shop with a retailer again if they had to leave a chat before being helped, and 71% would do the same if they waited so long on hold that they hung up.
Available on Any Platform
Especially during the peak shopping season – Thanksgiving to Christmas — consumers are on the go. They may be traveling to spend time with family, taking a much needed vacation, or multitasking during the work day. What does this all mean? Customers are more willing and able to reach out on new platforms that are most convenient for them.
While 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer, availability on multiple platforms isn’t enough. Eighty-six percent of customers said they get frustrated when they have to repeat information to customer service agents. This means that if customers switch channels or need to be transferred, they don’t want the context of their previous interactions lost.
Most of the time, when a customer contacts a company, the team manning that channel will create a ticket. If the customer then contacts the company through a different channel about the same issue, a second ticket will be created with each team working their respective tickets. This results in a fragmented experience and the unfortunate need to repeat information.
How to Wow Your Customers During the Holiday Season (Without Breaking the Bank)
The typical strategies businesses use to please customers have one thing in common: they cost money, and aren’t scalable. What are some strategies and technology tools that you can put in place to wow your customers WITHOUT breaking the bank?
There’s something to be said about beating your competition to the punch. According to research by Digital Commerce 360, 56% of customers chose where to shop during last year’s holiday season based on past experiences. In addition to common seasonal marketing strategies, delivering a stellar experience NOW can help you drive business in the future.
The companies that are practically synonymous with brand love, and have customers that are loyal to the death, have one thing in common: they have prioritized customer experience since their inception. In fact, customer experience is becoming more important than price and product when it comes to loyalty. Ensure that during busy seasons, when your inquiries and orders quadruple, you can continue to make customers feel just as valued as on the slowest day of the year. By preparing early, you can put the right tools, staff and strategies in place to not only deliver the perfect holiday gift, but also the perfect holiday customer experience.
Get a Little Help From Your Robot Friends
When resources are thin, technology can make a huge impact on your team’s efficiency. Oftentimes the most tedious tasks on an agent’s plate are manual and repetitive, and may not require human intervention. Luckily AI can handle simple tasks like tagging and routing conversations to the most appropriate agent. And consider the power of chatbots during peak shopping periods. They are growing in popularity with both businesses and consumers. In fact, 67% of consumers prefer self-service over talking to a company representative.
Chatbots can be used to collect initial information, provide responses to simple questions, and even complete standard tasks like changing a booking or answering an order status question. While there is always fear of losing personalization when using AI and automation, with the right platform, businesses can actually do the opposite. For instance, if a business leverages customer data properly, chatbots could ask personalized questions based on an individual’s purchase or browsing history. These interventions save time for both the customer and agent, and increase the time spent on the actual issue rather than information gathering and low-level support.
Be Available Wherever Your Customers Are
Omnichannel support shifts perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building, which is incredibly valuable during the holiday season, when companies have the opportunity to attract an entirely new cohort of customers. Individuals have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. Agent collision never occurs when communication channels are integrated, because agents can view the conversation and maintain context even as customers engage through multiple channels. If executed properly, omnichannel support provides a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint after acquisition.
Ensure you have the right technology in place to integrate your combination of communication channels in order to capture the free flow of conversations across platforms and display the data in a single screen. A best-in-class solution should create a unified home for all your customer data, regardless of the source, not only the data generated from customer conversations.
Consumer expectations are changing daily, and technology has a lot to do with this. The digital age has made customers expect instant gratification; when technology makes just about any information available at the click of a button, more and more people are turning to their devices for answers. With this technological transformation comes many up-and-coming customer service trends that companies can get behind to transform their business and cater to the expectations of the customer. After all, Gartner research predicted that 85% of consumer interactions will occur without interacting with a human face-to-face.
Does this mean that companies should rely solely on artificial intelligence to run their business? No, but they can certainly benefit from using it as a supplemental tool.
What are Customer Service Trends in 2021?
Customer behaviors have drastically changed since the pandemic hit in 2020. There’s been a shift in what customers find valuable and important. The changes in consumer behavior and digital-first shopping transformed customer service trends have taken on a new identity in 2021. Throwing out the old and bringing in the new, here’s an analysis of some of the critical customer service trends happening right now that every business should be addressing.
Keeping up with what’s new in customer service trends can be difficult when trends emerge so regularly. However, we can help you navigate through the trenches and understand the ones that matter most. We recommend addressing these trends in your CX strategy:
1. Promote a Strong Company Culture
Customer service has always been dedicated to taking care of the customer. But at NRF 2020, Alex Genov, the manager of research and user experience at Zappos shared the importance of shaping the company culture of your business to reflect the customer care you want to provide. More speakers at the event detailed how they refer to their customer service employees as something more encouraging, such as “brand ambassador.” Empowering the customer service agent is one way to get the positivity flowing through the customer journey.
2. Make Your Customer Service Options Mobile-Optimized
Today, everyone you know has a smartphone. And if they don’t, it’s rather shocking.
With so many people using devices that bring convenience right to the palm of their hand, it’s advantageous for your business to make sure its website works on mobile. Specifically, it’s critical that your customer service options are optimized for mobile. According to a Gartner survey of nearly 9,000 customers, the most preferred device for issue resolution was the phone at 44%.
The more channels your customers have to reach you, the better their odds of doing so and feeling satisfied with your ability to communicate.
3. Build Strong Customer Connections
Making the customer feel as though they’re a part of a community when they purchase your products or services is a great indication of strong customer service. This builds brand loyalty and advocacy and strengthens the relationship between the consumer and the business. When customers trust your brand, they’ll feel more comfortable and confident reaching out to your customer service representatives if something does go wrong.
4. Take the Omnichannel Approach
This isn’t exactly one of those new trends in customer service, but it’s still very important to consider in 2021. Often confused with multichannel support — or offering customers more than one option for contacting your customer service representatives — omnichannel support is guaranteed consistency in customer service as they shift from one channel to the next, so conversations are picked up right where they left off. With the right technology, your business can achieve an omnichannel approach with ease.
5. Focus on Self-Service Opportunities That Benefit Your Business
Many customers are confident in their ability to navigate your page and figure out the answer to their problem without feeling the need to contact customer service. While we do encourage having additional options like chatbots and live agents, one way customers can answer some of their own queries is through your Knowledge Bases (KB) or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) page.
As explained by Knowledge Owl, a KB and FAQ page are similar pieces of collateral that are each considered a self-service option that, giving your customer service agents a break from the repetitive questions that tend to flood their inboxes.
Building these pages up on your website can enable effortless self-service. Just make sure customers are directed strategically back to your customer service agent as needed
6. Be Responsive on Social Media
Just like owning a smartphone, most consumers have a social media presence on one or more channels. Not only are they using these platforms to communicate with family and friends, share pictures and laugh at memes, they’re also turning to social media as a way to connect with brands from a customer service standpoint. Patrick Cuttica, Director of Product Marketing at social media management company Sprout Social, told Business News Daily that brands should focus some of their customer service efforts on social media to satisfy their customers.
“Brands need to be thoughtful about which social platforms their customers are using [and] … focus their engagement efforts there,” Cuttica said. “A successful customer service strategy requires that a brand be present and available across the channels their customers prefer.”
7. Use Chatbots to Your Advantage
Contact forms are becoming less attractive to consumers. Why? Because they want fast, convenient service when they have a question or problem that needs to be solved. Chatbots are a great way to get the conversation started with customers without resourcing your agents to stand by every time a customer enters your site. Chatbots can pull information from knowledge bases to serve answers up to customers. Plus, they can be used to answer low-level support questions and provide 24/7 support, saving agents thousands of man hours.
8. Continuing to Utilize Live Support
Remember: While chatbots are highly advantageous, that doesn’t mean that AI should replace your talented human resources. Your business can benefit from bringing both together to increase scalability and drive efficiency across all customer service channels. AI can automate manual tasks and provide initial information about customer problems, giving agents the information they need to solve customer problems without compromising quality. This makes customer service more convenient for customers and can even improve your engagement and satisfaction scores over time.
Does Your Digital Customer Service Strategy Deliver?
Customer service technology can help you incorporate these new trends into your current strategy. Kustomer enables you to deliver effortless, personalized customer service, powered by intelligent insights and unified data.
Understanding how to deliver on growing customer expectations can be challenging without the right tools. That’s why we’ve created our Buyer’s Guide to provide the resources you need to evaluate potential partners, measure your success and pick the perfect customer service software solution. Request a demo today to schedule your 15-minute introductory call and learn how Kustomer can help.
By Mark Kersteen from Kustomer and Maggie Lin from Solvvy.
Customer service automation is the hot topic of conversation these days, and more specifically, how bots fit into the mix. While intelligent automation is core to both Solvvy and Kustomer, we encourage our customers to not simply take an automation-centric or bot-centric approach, but to first take a step back and identify what your key goals are.
We’ve seen companies jump the gun and add a bot because they felt like everyone else was doing it, only to find it delivered sub-optimal/disappointing results.
In reality, not everyone is using a bot—but many are experiencing mixed results. In our recent webinar, 67% of participants shared that they aren’t using any bot technology today and 72% of participants who have tried a bot have experienced issues.
So, what can we take away from this? It’s important to see the big picture and identify where automation can add value, rather than implementing point solutions like bots and hoping they make an impact. We’ve all been there–it’s easy to get swept up into adding a piece of technology just because it’s what everyone else is doing.
In this post, we’ll tackle a key goal we’ve frequently seen from our customers: how do we increase agent productivity to improve our overall customer experience? We’ll share how intelligent automation can effectively support this goal in two ways by 1. increasing efficiency for customers and 2. increasing efficiency for agents.
Increasing Efficiency for Customers
Empowering customers to resolve questions on their own means agents handle less repetitive questions (and less tickets). This translates into getting back to customers faster and focusing on high-value questions that require the human touch. Increasing efficiency doesn’t have to be complicated. Depending on where you are in your support team maturity, ways to improve include investing in content, intelligent self-service, and end-to-end automation.
While it seems obvious, when companies are scaling quickly, a lot of focus is given on agent enablement versus customer enablement. But, at the end of the day, customer enablement helps agents at scale. In an organization where customer interactions are often 1:1, investing in content is 1:many and scales with the business. Taking the time to create help center articles can save your support team hours of copy-pasting a macro that should be public to customers. Publishing content that helps customers find answers on their own frees up your agents to deal with more complex questions.
Investing in content is step one. Intelligent self-service is the next step to making it easy for customers to discover this information. With intelligent self-service, it’s important to understand the underlying technology used to determine user intent. A lot of bots fall short here because they are keyword-reliant or rules-based and ultimately aren’t able to understand the context of a question and the relationship of words unique to a specific business. Self-service eases the workload for agents, but if a bot is falling short of expectations, it can create friction when a customer reaches an agent and has to repeat their question.
The ability to fully automate repetitive transactions is a huge opportunity in customer service. These could be questions around order lookups, returns, refunds, and subscription changes. By handling these types of questions without an agent, support teams can direct attention to complex questions and take on proactive initiatives that scale. The interface for end-to-end automation can be guided steps, or it could be a bot in a chat window. Whichever way you deem the best customer experience, it should be clear that it’s not a human and that it is an automated experience.
Increasing Efficiency for Agents
We’ve spoken with agents who have expressed anxiety about chatbots or other technologies taking over their roles. It’s totally natural to be wary of new technology, but our answer has always been clear: We don’t think there’s anything to worry about. In fact, there’s a whole list of ways that bots and automation can assist agents and make their lives easier. Bots can take over the boring, repetitive, and mechanical tasks that drive agents up the wall, freeing up their time to focus on the interpersonal connections and more emotionally complex tasks that likely attracted them to the profession in the first place.
Just because it looks like a bot and acts like a bot, doesn’t always mean it’s a bot. Conversational forms are robots in disguise. When a customer opens the chat window, they’ll feel like they’re chatting to an immediately available agent. The conversational form will start asking the customer questions. These include important queries for identification—name, email address, phone number, shipping info, and whatever else is necessary—as well as more quantitative questions, like asking them to describe the issue they’re having. This way the customer gets the instant feedback they expect on chat, and the agent can jump into the conversation with all the info they need.
The scariest thing about pursuing a chatbot strategy is the lack of control. Once you switch on that feature, there’s nothing standing in between your customers and an algorithm that may not always provide the best experience. Enter suggested responses. This system works like the suggested text feature on your phone, but just for service. A computer processes the conversation and generates answers, but instead of sending them straight to a customer, the agent gets them first. This speeds up their reply time, and the system can also learn from the agent’s choices to become smarter. The more agents use the system, the better it gets at helping them, so you can be certain that automation is helping your experience, not holding it back.
Further Uses for Automation
There is a whole world of automation-enhanced solutions to everyday problems for your organization—and the majority of them work behind the scenes. Using an automated system to suggest tags, categorization, macros, and helpbase articles for your agents can save tons of time, and can be much simpler to set up and operate than a customer-facing chatbot. Assisting your agents’ everyday workflows and reporting may not be glamorous, but it can have a massive knock-on effect towards streamlining your experience and increasing efficiency. As Peter Johnson, Kustomer’s VP of Product, summarized in our recent webinar: “Automation is not just about helping the customer, it’s about helping your support organization scale, and identifying areas the product team can improve.”
If we can leave you with one bit of advice to take away, it’s this: before pursuing a bot or automation strategy, do your homework and consider your options. It’s crucial to have a strategy, and that you don’t just jump right in. As Kaan Ersun, Solvvy’s SVP of Marketing, advised on our webinar: “Number one, define a strategy, and figure out where the bot can be useful to you, where it won’t work, then pursue new opportunities. Start with the big picture, then move towards implementation.”
Look at the data available to you, and use that to define your strategy going forward. Take some time with your reporting, and see what the most common issues are and where customers are asking for support. Once you start spotting patterns, those can dictate where you’ll go next. Maybe something as simple as an updated help page or self-service tool can cut your service volume in half? If your agents are constantly doing the same things over and over again, solve for those issues first. If your goal is to increase efficiency, then you should be focusing on finding the best method, not using chatbots for their own sake. By looking at the patterns within your support organization, you can start identifying issues that are holding back your experience to dictate your strategy, which is great practice as a whole. That’s the best way to figure out how automation will fit in.
With the right groundwork, you can be certain that when you do start to explore and use new technologies, your efforts will be a success—and will make a meaningful difference for your customers.