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

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

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

Problem Solving Through Connection

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

Testing Promising Opportunities

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

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

Slow Down for Success

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

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

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

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

To learn more about the secrets to creating a 90 day roadmap, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Listen to “The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | With Shannon Martin” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

The 90 Day Roadmap to Customer Excellence | Shannon Martin

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. Fun topic, very fun topic. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a 90 day roadmap to customer excellence and to do that, we brought on Shannon Martin. She’s currently the Senior Director, Travel Partners Group at Expedia Group. Shannon, thanks for joining. How are ya?

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (01:06)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (04:29)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Key Takeaways From the Kustomer NOW Conference

Key Takeaways From the Kustomer NOW Conference TW

On Wednesday October 21st, thousands of CX leaders around the globe gathered (virtually and socially distanced!) to learn about the modern customer experience, and have some fun in the process. Attendees were able to gather insights from the brightest minds in the CX space, hearing perspectives from those that are not often heard from, and networking with their peers.

Whether hearing from Drybar founder Alli Webb about how her business was built from the ground up with the customer experience in mind, or learning how artificial intelligence changed the game for Glovo during the pandemic, there was no shortage of actionable and insightful sessions. After Kustomer NOW, attendees were sure to know what’s new, what’s to come, and what’s actually working in the world of customer experience.

But in case you missed it, we wanted to be sure you could still get the highlights. Read on for our recap of Kustomer NOW, the modern customer experience summit.

Delivering a Superior Customer Experience

When we get down to brass tacks, a superior customer experience should be at the center of everything we do. And the pandemic only heightened this need, as customer loyalty was more important than ever. Kustomer CEO, Brad Birnbaum, kicked off the day explaining how central the customer experience was to success in 2020. “Customers are still expecting a high level of responsiveness, the highest level of quality customer service. And that doesn’t change despite the pandemic, unfortunately, right?” said Birnbaum. “So those that were able to adapt, whether it be through tooling, whether it be through processes, whether it be through personnel… will come out of this strong. And those that are having a hard time are probably going to lose a lot of brand loyalty, customer loyalty because customers will find another alternative.”

Alli Webb, CEO of Drybar, realized the shortcomings of other businesses when it came to the customer experience, and vowed she would not do the same. “We were just kind of shocked by how poorly most businesses were operating, you know, and how they were missing so many little things that were so easy to fix and be better and make the overall experience so much better,” said Webb. “We wanted to create this beautiful experience, this beautiful space and concept, but where you would be treated incredibly well, no matter who you are, what you’re wearing or what you look like.”

While we all strive to deliver the best possible experience to our consumers, and use that as a differentiator, sometimes creating an effortless experience, versus “wowing” the customer, can drive just as much brand loyalty. Matt Dixon, in his session The Quest for Customer Delight Failed; What’s Next? explains that only nine percent of customers who have low effort experiences display any kind of disloyal attitude of behavior, compared to 96% of those customers with high effort, difficult experiences. “It turns out that when we do cost benchmarking, we look at companies who deliver high effort experiences compared to those that are low effort, easy experiences. There’s almost a 40% difference in cost per contact,” said Dixon.

Understanding what customers truly want is key to being able to deliver an effortless, superior customer experience. According to Mary Drumond, CMO at Worthix, if you are able to reset a customer’s expectations when something goes wrong, you no longer have that negative feeling of frustration. Drumond advises that you “make sure you have systems in place that can reset your customer expectations if you can no longer meet them. This is a make or break moment for your customers. Trust. So make sure you have systems in place to step in when something goes wrong.”

What ESPN fans wanted during the pandemic, was to talk sports. Most sports were on pause for months on end, and the role of the customer service rep shifted significantly. “We are fellow fans in the stands. We are not suits in the suites. We understand what you’re going through and if you want to talk a little sport, we do too, and that’s what we do. And our CSAT reflects that. So it’s one where we have, interestingly enough, a little more time for that dialogue and discussion,” said Doug Kramon in his session Keeping the Fan Experience Alive at ESPN During the Pandemic.

Modernizing CX With Modern Strategies and Technology

Another key theme during Kustomer NOW, was all around modernizing CX. What that means to every organization can be different. Whether it is adopting new tools, shifting to a DTC model or changing success metrics, the customer experience is constantly shifting and evolving and brands need to keep up. For Expedia, they chose to test and learn new strategies to understand what an ideal experience was for their customers. “We had an interesting test that we ran because we were trying to get our agents to shift from strictly problem solving to being more consultative,” said Shannon Martin, CX Executive at Expedia. “And so we said … you guys are no longer being monitored. We’re not even gonna look at handle times for you in this test month so that you can do this constantly. The result was that we saw customer satisfaction went up, employee satisfaction went up, revenue went up because those partners are learning how to do their business better and we saw return based on the revenue that came back to the company on the accounts that were in that test group.”

For an organization that isn’t as digitally native, tools and technology can be a springboard to modernize the experience they provide. Ernest Chrappah, the Director of the DC Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, falls into that bucket. He made a commitment to improve the customer experience by focusing on operational excellence, innovation and data-driven decisions. “As part of the reform, we decided, based on feedback from customers, we’re going to shift all our services from analog paper-based processes, into the digital age, so that we eliminate the need for a customer to physically have to visit our offices just to get a service,” said Chrappah.

AI and automation are powerful tools to not only offer self-service and digital-first options to customers, but also to scale customer service efficiently. Before the global pandemic, delivery company Glovo was already testing out automation and self-service, but the pandemic accelerated that need. “A conversation bot helped us to address some of the inquiries we were receiving from our couriers and from our customers, and we were able to keep our agents available for other … more complex inquiries,” said Ludovic Magnier in his session How a Food Delivery Startup Delivers Modern Customer Service with AI.

Dan Burkland, President of Five9, agrees that AI can seamlessly and effectively assist CX teams. “There’s ways to implement AI that is not disruptive. As an example, assisting an agent with post-call wrap up. I don’t need to change anything about what the agent has been trained to do, in the scripting they follow, and the various answers that they retrieve for their customers. But they may spend two or three minutes after a call, putting in their notes and then dispositioning the call and inserting that into a CRM. And nowadays, what we can do is because we have the ability to listen and transcribe the call and now pull out key summary data. We can actually summarize the call for the agent … and just automatically insert that into the CRM.”

In the end, a “modern” experience always comes back to the customer, and how businesses are able to deliver on their expectations in a prompt and personalized manner. “I think attention and compassion need to be the two leading elements of how we head into 2021,” said Luke Williams, the SVP of XM Institute at Qualtrics. “I think really centering in on what the value is that people are attached to, and then figuring out how to build a business around that. I think … in 2021, we’re going to see a lot of companies pivot a little bit towards something that historically they may not have done.”

A Whole New Way of Working

Practically overnight, the CX world transferred to a remote environment and agents were servicing customers with a whole new set of needs. Gordon Schleffer, VP of Customer Care at Magellan Healthcare, thinks that the companies who succeed in a remote environment have strong cultures, and keep their staff engaged.

HopSkipDrive, a vehicle for hire company that provides service to children, has had a remote workforce since inception, and was well-equipped for this new working world. “I think you really need the buy-in of everyone across the company to make a remote team work long-term,” said Michelle McCombs, VP of Safety & Support at HopSkipDrive. “You need your executive team to support some of the costs which… it’s a really easy ROI because you’re not paying for desk space, you’re not paying for parking … and people are happier.”

“You know, there’s always been a reluctance to do massive work from home or remote contact centers,” said Burkland of Five9. “And mostly it’s been due to the apprehension that… I’m gonna lose control and visibility and tracking and monitoring of the agent population.” But the pandemic forced many organizations to transform digitally, and many of them found that productivity either stayed the same or increased, and there were tools available today to make remote work successful.

As CX teams adopted these new tools and adapted to working from home, they also took on a new and extremely important role — being the face of the company. “There really is no face of a company when storefronts are closed, it’s all up to the branding and the marketing and then the customer service agents,” said Lauren Panken in her session DTC or Be Disrupted: How UNTUCKit Uses Conversational CRM to Win. “They’re the ones that are responsible essentially for reflecting the company values in the spirit of the company and making sure that, you know, the customers are served and nurtured and feel good after their interactions with the company. So, I feel like, truly, during this time, customer service teams really shined because of that.” Williams of Qualtrics agrees: “For some reason we’ve overlooked, I think until now, the value of what the agent is until companies figured out that right now, they’re the only human that your customer may actually interact with. And that’s a big deal. And I think we’ve been under investing there.”

A Diverse CX Team Is a Successful CX Team

For most businesses today, their client base is made up of a wide variety of individuals, across different genders, ethnicities, sexual orientations, geographies, and ages. Having a customer service team that can cater to all of these modern consumers is imperative for success. “I can’t think of a reason why it would not be better to have a diverse team,” said Liz Keys, Product Manager at Stella Connect. “Our customers are diverse people, all different types of people from all walks of life, having different experiences, and to be able to build that personalized, incredible support experience that we all talk about and strive for, there is no way you’re going to meet every customer where they are … and communicate with them in a language they understand if your team all looks and speaks the same and comes from the same background.”

David Cane, VP of Customer Success & Trust and Safety at Wag Walking agrees with this, and believes that inclusivity should be embedded within the culture of an organization. “I would just encourage companies… don’t just focus on the numbers, make sure that the culture is inclusive and you also give them equity, and they have parity with others and feel valued. That’s how you get loyalty. And you’re gonna get the best work and it’s going to increase your top and bottom line,” said Cane.

Brooklinen is a company that made sure to break the mold when it came to inclusivity, with over 80% of their manager-level employees being female. Not only does this diversify the perspectives coming from leadership in the company, but the CX team benefits from unique qualities that women typically hold. “It really is kind of an invisible ‘sisterhood’. People start to feel that it really connects us all in CX. There’s a lot of empathy… to be able to sit and listen and understand. Women are just great listeners,” said Caroline Nolan, Customer Experience Manager at Brooklinen.

Drumond of Worthix, sees similar benefits. “When you are in CX roles you are trying to walk in the customer’s shoes and pay attention to what their pains are and provide solutions,” said Drumond. “There is something remarkably female about being able to recognize the pains in others and truly do something about it.” But at the same time, advocates cannot stop after achieving equity in just one area. “If we are branching into this world of legislation, we should talk about every aspect of diversity. I think you can’t really have a conversation about female vs male without also taking into account race, age, and sexual orientation. Thought diversity is very important and very beneficial for business growth,” Drumond explained.

While the CX world of 2020 saw drastic changes and faced steep hurdles, it also became increasingly clear that the role of customer service is essential for business success — especially during challenging times. Whether creating a diverse team to cater to all the needs of your customers, adopting new tools to achieve modernity and efficiency, or really getting to the bottom of what consumers expect, the trends of 2020 are certain to carry over to 2021, and CX should continue to be prioritized.

“I think it’s a good time to look at customer service,” explained Webb of Drybar. “Everyone’s really on the edge. Everyone’s really sensitive. So make sure … the people that you’re bringing in to work for you, represent you, are being very sensitive and empathetic. Taking for granted that clients are always going to be there… this is an opportunity to say… oh shit, it’s not gonna always be the way it was. And now, I’m gonna have to work a little bit harder, to get back to it… And if you’re still a business that’s standing, take advantage of that time and be the best you can be.”

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