3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by CMO of Unbabel, Sophie Vu. Sophie has years of experience in the CX realm and shares her secrets to keeping up with the modern customer by moving beyond language barriers. Listen to the full podcast to learn more.

Navigating the New Economy and the New Customer

Now that the world’s returning to a somewhat normal state, many leaders are scrambling to relate to their customers in this new economy. Customers from all across the globe are opting for the digital experience for shopping and communicating with brands, and with this high demand comes a rich diversity of languages – this is where Unbabel shines. Unbabel is a translation platform powered by AI, for the benefit of agents and users. Having an understanding of your customer is key, and what better way to do that than speaking their native language? Tools like Unbabel help propel companies ahead of their competitors, giving them a language optimization edge. Sophie’s goal is to help CX leaders understand that just because your customer doesn’t speak your language, doesn’t mean that you can’t help them. “One thing I think that’s really exciting…is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them on their expertise.” Teaming a seasoned agent with the power of AI creates the ultimate experience.

Speak in Your Customer’s Language with the Help of AI

Imagine the surprise when a non-English speaking customer contacts your company and is greeted in their native language, full of nuances and terms that are familiar to them in their region. This is all possible through AI, which can be extremely useful across the entire customer journey, not just at the point of first interaction. The way that AI helps in these situations is it detects the customer’s preferred language and connects them with an agent who speaks that language or helps to translate the customer’s words into the language of the agent. AI’s certainly a hot topic in the CX realm that leaders were initially apprehensive to include, but the more it’s integrated into everyday business, the more leaders and consumers become comfortable utilizing this modern technology. The brands that do it right have AI as well as a team of qualified people working together to provide the best experience possible. “Humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect.” As technology advances and more leaders integrate AI, the more efficient agents will be.

Want to be Global? Try Language Translation

Translation software is an amazing tool because it adds that human element back into CX. It allows your company to expand on a global scale, which is so important for leaders trying to make their brand accessible. If your brand only caters to those who are English speakers for example, then your brand cannot truly be deemed global. It’s so important for leaders to understand their customers across the map and to make an effort to relate to them on every level. AI isn’t always going to be the magic pill that fixes everything, but it can streamline the process and make things much easier for the customer and agent. Best of all, AI’s approachable and manageable, meaning that the leaders who are considering using this tool should absolutely take that next step and do it! Find a way to integrate AI into your CX team where they work together to make your company more accessible for the global customer.

Sophie leaves listeners with one last piece of advice: “It’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak.” By focusing on the customer and recognizing them as a human being, it makes them feel more valued and connected to the brand. Add AI translation software to the mix and you’re absolutely going to see successful results and better scores.

To learn more about how you can benefit from AI-driven software to remove language barriers, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

3 Strategies to Achieve Growth with Customer Satisfaction

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re back. You’ve got Gabe Larsen here with Kustomer, my colleague, Vikas Bhambri, who runs Success and Sales over here at Kustomer, and we have a very special guest joining us today, and we’ll be talking about a really fun topic. Sophie Vu is joining us from Unbabel. Sophie, thanks for joining and how the heck are you?

Sophie Vu: (00:35)
I’m great. Thanks for having me Gabe. I’m excited to be joining and using this platform. I’m going to self-limit newbie to this platform, so excited to be here. Thank you.

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
I love it. So maybe tell us just a little bit real quick about yourself and Unbabel, if you can, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (00:54)
Sure. So I’m based in San Francisco, Unbabel and I’m the CMO. So I lead go to market and operations for the company and specifically, what we do is we get to work with some global, very customer-focused brands, like Booking, Logitech, Microsoft, and really enable them to interact with their customers in any language. And Unbabel is an AI powered solution combined with human editors. So we have a global community of professional and casual translators who obviously passed certification to enable us to provide great quality translations in near real time. So enabling companies that promise a customer-centric vision and brand and by creating empathy by speaking your customer’s language. That’s Unbabel in a nutshell.

Gabe Larsen: (01:46)
Love it, love it. Yeah. And we’re going to be talking a little bit more about that. So let’s dive into the topic. I want to click into kind of just what you were talking about. You guys play in a little bit of an interesting space, this idea of kind of language operations. Could you give Vikas and I a little bit of an overview of what that is, why you think it’s important, what’s going on in that space?

Sophie Vu: (02:08)
Sure. So self-admittedly, we are creating a space, a category, what we call Language Operations. And so you can think about it as a holistic approach to enabling organizations, to leverage people, processes, and technology, to enable this multilingual communication. So think of Language Operations as a way to roll out, centralize, and scale multilingual capabilities across every function in an enterprise, right? We’re starting with customer service, but eventually we want to obviously enable marketing, sales, product, HR, legal, or what have you, to be able to function in this global world that we live in. So language operations are technology, people, and processes the entire concept.

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. I want to just flash this, as you kind of talked a little bit about that for the audience. It’s kind of a different concept, but it definitely seems like it’s something that as companies scale, it’s becoming extremely important. I wanted to throw it out to Vikas. I mean, Vikas, as you interact with all these different companies, everybody seems to want to go global or come to the US or go Europe, what role do you feel like language is playing in that? I mean, it seems like it’s been a barrier for a long time.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:21)
It has. And I think this is an exciting time and I think Unbabel is the right place, right time. Allowing brands and companies of various operations, we’re obviously looking at it from a customer experience perspective, but the think globally and act locally. And I think that is something that if you look at what has challenged brands in the past of really scaling, was that, I now need to have people in local region that speak local language and with a platform like Unbabel, that’s no longer the case. So just, let’s look at it from a customer experience perspective, having an English speaking agent sitting in the US who can now engage a Spanish speaking customer in Spain or Columbia or Mexico in the language in the local tone that’s required, is truly unique.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:25)
And that allows somebody that, like I said, can think globally act locally, but also look bigger than they actually are, because you might only have a team of, 50, a hundred, 200 sitting here in the US or actually sitting in Ireland or wherever it might be, but then being able to engage a global audience of customers. And as Sophie said, that’s the first wave, but then you think about other use cases where you can have that. Do I need an HR professional in every single geo that I operate in when I can have an HR team sitting in England? Let me not just be US-centric, but sitting in England or sitting in France, but then communicating with employees that are global. So I think that’s kind of the exciting thing about what Sophie and her team are doing.

Gabe Larsen: (05:20)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s so funny. I had this experience the other day, I was chatting with somebody and he kind of walked through what you just talked about, Vikas. It sounds almost futuristic. He’s like, “Look, I’m sitting in London, but I’m, I speak Chinese.” And he’s talking with a restaurant chain on chat. And somehow that person actually, he was then speaking with the Chinese person, although he was in London, I was just like, it was just really cool that it could, his location was different, but the chatbot could recognize the language. And then he was routed to a person that could speak it. That sounds amazing. So to see it in action, I think, is pretty cool. So Sophie, kudos to you and the team. I want to, we’re going to come back to this language thing in just a minute, but I do want to back up a little bit more and tie it into some of the things going on in the market. So many interesting things are going on in the state of customer service. Language is one of them. And we’ll talk again a little bit about that in a minute, but Sophie, you guys have recently done a study. Want to talk and hear a little bit about some of those big picture trends you’re finding and hearing, and then let’s dive into a couple of them and talk about what we’re seeing people do to win as those trends appear.

Sophie Vu: (06:32)
Sure. Yeah. So we did a recent study focused on customer service and customer support, and it covered about 600 leaders across US, the UK and Germany. And we just wanted to understand what was keeping them up at night and what were their goals. So some of the findings were, you would think customer service departments usually are all about cost optimization, but they’re actually looking to spend more this year. And I think that’s due to just the demand during COVID. Demand for digital interactions, certain industries had higher demand than others, as you can imagine. And it was really about how they can reorganize and rethink their offering. And make it more digital, more self-service. And so that was one of the big trends. The other one was, everyone talks about AI and AI as a way to help augment and really scale these operations. So you have limited people, but how do you make these people be more, do more with less?

Gabe Larsen: (07:41)
Right. So, yeah. I can’t argue with AI. Maybe we can start there and then circle back. What is it, do you feel like that is, with this AI thing, obviously it’s a buzzword. Why is it becoming more adopted? Where is it becoming more adopted? How do you see it playing out in customer service organizations?

Sophie Vu: (08:01)
Sure. So I think AI has come in different ways, right? It started out as this grand thing. “Oh my god! Robots are taking the world!” To them, “Oh, we don’t need humans anymore.” And I think everything kind of calmed down a little bit to understand that AI can actually help augment and supplement the things that we’re doing. And humans will always need to be involved, especially in language translation. AI machine translation is not perfect. They’re going to miss the context, the nuances, the cultural differences in tone. And so it’s really that combination. But I think, for example, it’s about incorporating AI in processes to help optimize and streamline it. And people are doing that in very strategic ways. It’s not all or nothing. It’s applying AI where it matters most.

Gabe Larsen: (08:51)
Yeah. I like that. I feel like it’s something that is still being talked about, but it does feel like people are getting the hang of it. Like we’re starting to see it actually not just be talk, but there’s a little bit of walking going on. Vikas, what’s your take on how people are playing this game of actually getting it into play and seeing a difference in their business?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:08)
Yeah. I think what we’re seeing in the customer service side is, there are three key areas. One is on that point of interaction with the customer, being able to automate the suggestions that we give them, the help articles, being able to help them troubleshoot their own issue or challenge. Because reality is, I think you’ve got more and more customers who don’t actually want to engage a live human agent if they don’t have to. The second piece is then how do you use AI? If the person basically raises their hand and says, “You know what? I tried, but I can’t do it.” Or, “I need further assistance.” To identify who they are and what their challenges are, and some of the areas where you can do that, right? You can look for obviously anything that they share with the bot or the automation, you can look at the sentiment of any free-form text that they deliver.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:07)
You can look at the language of what they’re, what language they’re speaking in. You can look at all of that detail. And of course, if you have any data about who they are, then make sure that you route them to the right individual or team that can service them most effectively. And then lastly, I think Sophia alluded to this, which is how do we empower that human being with AI? So how do we give the agent who’s sitting there now trying to help this individual who tried to troubleshoot themselves and couldn’t, how do we recommend suggestions or solutions to them so that they can be most effective and efficient? So really using technology and AI across that entire journey of that particular conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:54)
Yeah. I feel like it’s, I love the analogy. My nine-year-old actually made me watch the Robert Downey Jr. Now I’m forgetting –

Sophie Vu: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:04)
Iron Man?

Gabe Larsen: (11:06)
Is there a movie called Rocket Man? For some reason, I said, oh, was that rocket man, rocket man? I don’t know. Anyways, I thought, I was thinking what a cool analogy of that. And as you were talking, Vikas, it’s like, at some point you will be, you’ll take this regular kind of customer service agent and you encompass them around, it’s not just in chat bot, but it’s this, you encompass them with almost like a JARVIS-type experience where it’s recommending or it’s telling them or feeding them or guiding them. And I was like, wouldn’t that be cool? I think we can actually get there in customer service. I don’t think we’re there yet, but I thought that was a fun analogy. And it’s not Rocket Man. It’s Iron Man. Sophie, what do you, on the language side of things, do AI play a role in that in some form or fashion? How are you guys thinking about that specifically around this language offsite then?

Sophie Vu: (11:53)
Yeah. Absolutely. So, I am guilty as a marketer. I think a lot of companies have said they do AI and actually made it worse for people to understand what AI actually is and how it’s applied. But am I kind of, I guess BS neater is like, if you remove the AI from the product, is that company still around. Does that product exist? And I think if we remove the AI from Unbabel, we don’t have a solution and technology, we are truly AI powered in the sense that the entire process of translating involves AI to automate and create better efficiency across our translation pipeline as we call it. So it starts even with viewing the incoming message, right? Like we can, like sentiment, language, those nuances to even anonymizing the data, because obviously we do care about respecting PII compliance to then obviously machine translation as well.

Sophie Vu: (12:54)
So obviously AI is a big part of that and then just routing to our translators, if needed, based on the quality. So we also have a proprietary quality estimation system and then just thinking about not only writing, but then also thinking about how do we improve those systems? So frequently asked questions, there’s going to be things that are going to recur and reoccur. And then I think, Vikas, you mentioned about optimizing the agent’s experience, right? So predictive things like, okay, anticipating what that answer will be. Rounding them to the right answers, figuring out who has that expertise within the agent pool as well. So one thing I think that’s really exciting is that with language operations, tying it back there, is that you no longer have to hire agents based on their language skill. You can basically hire them based on their expertise and who doesn’t want to have the right answer and hear it from a knowledgeable person when you have a problem with a product or a service?

Gabe Larsen: (13:55)
I know, I love that. That’s interesting to hear how that can kind of play a role in the language piece. One other thing I want to hit on, when I look through the study, I love this concept of channels. It’s something obviously near and dear to our heart here at Kustomer. When we think of the customer service world, more of an omni-channel experience, just want to throw that out there. Some of the things I was reading in the report around people’s preference of channel, how channels continue to expand. I wanted to get your guys’ take on, obviously people, the omni-channel thing is, it’s there, and I think people are experiencing it. Where do you think we go from here when it comes to channels? What is the next field, green field? Is it more channels? Is it a better combination of synergistic movement of the channel? Vikas, maybe I can start with you on this one. Thoughts on channels and where we’re going there?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:45)
I don’t think there’s any real stopping the number of channels. I think that’s the real challenge for anybody, which is saying, where are my customers and where do they need to be served? And unfortunately you don’t find out until the customer starts knocking on a door in some universe that you then need to answer. And I think a great example of that is TikTok. I remember as much as, you both got a chuckle out of that one, but funny enough, about, probably going back just before I think it was my last trip before the pandemic, and I was sitting down with a CEO of a fashion brand who was really pushing for TikTok as a channel and kind of had the, we had the reaction that you did, which was who you going to talk to on TikTok?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Now, a year later you’re seeing brands engage consumers, not only for marketing purposes, but for customer service on TikTok. That’s just one example. So what’s the next TikTok? What’s the next messaging platform? What’s the next tool that somebody is going to use where you’re going to have to exist for you to effectively communicate with your consumer? And I think that’s a really interesting challenge for any new CX leader is identifying that. And I remember, I’m not going to age myself here, but I remember when we started talking about chat, people had that same reaction. Nobody’s going to want to chat with us. The phone 1-800-NUMBERS where it’s at. And obviously, chat is now the default channel, right? You kind of get out of the gate and chat and email. And by the way, we talked about things like email and even the phone at one point dying as channels, and they’re not, they still exist. And if anything, they’re growing. So the challenge is you have to exist everywhere. You can pick and choose which ultimately your consumer will be there and there’ll be there before you are.

Gabe Larsen: (16:45)
You know, I have this funny, I had a sit down with our, we’ve been talking about how to expand our marketing center. I sat down with our preferred agency and we were talking about different channels, further international, et cetera. They did. They brought up TikTok, they’re like, “Have you thought about going deeper into TikTok?” And I was like, “I haven’t even thought about TikTok.” And then truthfully, they brought up this kind of new platform club, near clubhouse, if you guys, I’m on one. You can tell, I’m not an expert at clubhouse either.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:19)
You’re doing it, Gabe. All you do is talk.

Gabe Larsen: (17:23)
I’m on it, but they’re like, “Hey, are you active there?” And I’m like, yeah, like you said, Vikas. I’m getting old. I’m just like, “Can we just talk about Google?” But it’s like new channels coming on, coming online. And are you where your customers are? Sophie, thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (17:39)
Yeah, I mean, I came from the social customer service space. I was trying to make that happen 6, 7, 8 years ago. And, well, I’m not the reason. So like I wasn’t learning brands like, hey. They weren’t getting anywhere in these email labyrinths and they’re going to go on Twitter and tell the whole world the problems they’re having with your brand. And, you know, they had a voice. Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp from a global perspective. So I mean, customer service teams need to be prepared. They, it’s just going to be continuing when it’s an existing platform, that’s going to keep continuing and staying there and then adding additional new ones.

Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
Yeah. I can’t argue that. I got two more questions than we can wrap on this. You guys, one is, we’re obviously coming out of, I want to move just a little bit away from the research for a second and get your opinion and then maybe closing arguments here. How do you think people can adapt to the changes coming out of the pandemic? Do people need to be doubling down on AI? Do they need to be refocusing on omni or is it just kind of business as usual? Anything you guys are thinking about seeing clients do as they maybe need to adjust to the, I mean, they had to adjust to kind of the pandemic world and now, is it the post pandemic world? And if so, what do they need to do? Thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:59)
Yeah. I actually heard this term the other day, so I’ll steal it. Somebody was alluding to this as the vaccine economy, the next phase. So I’ll steal that one. And so here’s what I would say there. I think what customer experience leaders are going to have to identify, they certainly went through and we talked about this, Gabe, you and I, 12 months ago, the biggest kind of stress test that the customer experience industry has faced in forever. Which was this high volume, this surge of inquiries, the staff being in disarray, going to remote work, et cetera. So they really got the crap kicked out of them. And I, fortunately, so many people were able to make smart decisions, partnering with different technology providers and really being able to address it and come out of it.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
The question then is now, what learnings do you take from that experience and continue to invest in and adopt? And like I said, AI slash chat bots might be one area, right? Also the agent infrastructure, right? Oh, wait a minute. Remote from, remote work worked in some cases. In some cases, it didn’t. There were certain policy decisions. I think brands were much more forgiving of consumers. Does that continue to stay? So I think there’s a lot of those things that people are going to take, a lot of experiences. And then the question is going forward, because what is the consumer mindset now, coming out of it? And what are they going to expect of brands, is going to be extremely interesting to watch and observe, and actually be a part of, because I think consumers and particularly depending on where you are in the globe. So as much as I think it’s a very US-centric world to talk about the vaccine economy, because there’s large parts of the global population that are still knee-deep in it. So I think brands are going to also have to be very sensitive to that and also how they go out there and talk about their services and offerings, especially global brands. If you’re an Uber as an example, or somebody like that, you have to be, once again, think globally – act locally. And I think that’s going to be very important as they move forward.

Gabe Larsen: (21:20)
Yeah. There is a lot to learn. I think people, I mean, it was long enough. If it would’ve just been a couple of months, I think maybe we wouldn’t have been forced to kind of change to adopt and learn. But I think a lot of us were forced to learn and there are hopefully some good things coming out. Sophie, thoughts on this? How are you kind of seeing this play out?

Sophie Vu: (21:36)
Yeah. I mean, I had a different perspective. I agree, it’s the vaccine economy, but I like to say there’s also, re-entry anxiety that’s happening. How do you operate in this world? Like, what are the rules? People are still debating whether mask or no mask. And, but I think one thing that’s accelerated is globalization of companies and of people, and you have people moving everywhere in the world that you can live anywhere and be able to interact with brands, people, your company, your employers. And so I think it’s really about thinking about people as a whole and their skillset and their values and less about where they come from and what language they speak. Focusing on that expertise, and I think that’s something that is encouraging, I think. Honestly.

Gabe Larsen: (22:28)
That’s a valid point. Yeah. That re-entry, what’d you call it re-entry –

Sophie Vu: (22:34)
Anxiety.

Gabe Larsen: (22:36)
I think it’s interesting. This is, I’ll try not to go into any political realm here.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:46)
We’d rather you didn’t, Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (22:46)
Politics, but yeah. There are a lot of different perspectives, I think on how this is going to move forward. Some people want the vaccine, some people don’t, some people have the vaccine and don’t want to come in unless this is in and they don’t, some people want to stay home. And I mean, I’ve been hearing a lot. I know some people are very comfortable talking about their medical, like they’re getting vaccine. Some people are like, I don’t want to actually be asked that. So do they, are they going to shop more or are we still going to still see the online stuff? Being able to adjust to that and for your business to adapt to it quickly, I think is probably right. I think here, I think you’re definitely on to something Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (23:23)
Hybrid. Like the same thing, you’re gonna, you got an offer to go, not just in the room and dining anymore. You got to, your customer has evolved. It’s very multifaceted, right? And so you get one channel, even physical and digital now. You got to navigate these new environments that we’re in.

Gabe Larsen: (23:46)
Yeah. And I think that I like that word hybrid. I think people, companies, and this is across the gamut, I think going extreme in one way, like pushing all your people back to work or trying to just be an in-person restaurant, like, how do you do that hybrid? How do you match the world where they are, almost like the conversation we had about channels? I think the people who go extremes are probably going to run into some, they may run into some problems. So, awesome. Well, let’s wrap. Talked about a lot of different concepts, loved language ops. Thanks for introducing that, Sophie. I think you guys are onto something very special there. Sounds like an interesting study. And I want to hear, I want to see if we can end with that maybe as a call to action and get a link out to people. And then we talked a little bit about the current state of the market. What’s that one piece of advice you’d leave for CX leaders just trying to make it now? Summarize or one thing you’d leave with them. Sophie, can I start with you? Thoughts on that?

Sophie Vu: (24:40)
Sure. I think it’s not, I think it’s, understanding that AI is not Rocket Man or Iron Man, sorry Gabe. But it is approachable. It is something that can be applied very concretely. And that is what we’re trying to do with Language Operations and the Unbabel platform. But I think it’s trying new things, being comfortable that you’re not going to solve everything right away and that you can take incremental steps. And then you have a lot of people thinking about these things. And so for me, it’s about exploring these things and thinking about the customer. And when you think about the customer, it’s that you want to be open to new ideas because they’re ever changing. There’s not one monolith of a customer. So –

Gabe Larsen: (25:26)
I like that. That’s definitely coming out more and more of this kind of customer that they’re going to be different. Vikas, what’s your kind of closing take?

Vikas Bhambri: (25:33)
I think one of the things that we’ve experienced over the last 12, 15 months at various stages across the globe as this pandemic has kind of gone all over the place is the shifting in different economies. And I think any CEO or VP of e-commerce is going to really want to put the foot on their gas in terms of globalization sooner rather than later. So it doesn’t matter if you’re a two-year-old cosmetics brand that’s just coming into market or a retailer, or if you’re somebody who’s been around for ten years or older, right? Somebody’s going to really want to expedite that global penetration from a consumer acquisition standpoint. What obviously that creates for a CX leader is you have to be able to move fast and moving fast no longer has to be about bodies.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:26)
It doesn’t mean that you then need to go and scale your operations up exponentially. You don’t need to go and bring in BPO’s all over the globe to support that global alignment. And it doesn’t mean you need to serve people in your language and your local language, right? Whether that be English, French, Spanish, et cetera. So to me, that’s where my kind of take away is, language is no longer a barrier to entry. And I think, with technologies and Unbabel kind of leading the way here, I think that creates exciting opportunities for CX leaders to be able to focus on the business process and the customer experience and not worry about getting resources in different locales. And that’s pretty exciting because, you know this Gabe, we’ve built a scaling company over the last four years. We spend a lot of time just hiring people and as a CX leader, not having to do that and focusing on the process and the experience, it is a dramatic game changer from how we previously operated.

Gabe Larsen: (27:29)
No, I think that’s going to be the globalization of all companies – that the playing field has been so much leveled with the kind of the e-commerce movement, et cetera. I think you’re going to continue to see that. So, Sophie, if we can kind of end, again, you touched on a little bit of this research report, and I wanted to flash this just real quick. Because I liked your answer as you were ending there on this AI and how Unbabel is thinking through some of that. If somebody wanted to learn just a little more about this, your view on AI, a little more about this research, is there a place you could direct them or where would we go to find that?

Sophie Vu: (28:06)
Yeah. So I hope there’s some type of digital linkage and in posting comments, but I always want to show a visual because I think we always speak in platitudes and generalizations around AI. And I just wanted to be really detailed and concrete about how we use AI in the sense that it’s again, not rocket science, but close to it. But applied in a very concrete and applicable way. And so wherever you see those red arrows, it’s kind of where we think about where we’re applying AI, right? So pre-processing anonymization of the data that we’re getting, cleaning it and sorting it. We apply that there, obviously with machine translation, the quality estimation, which is basically this message, a certain quality to then be sent and shared, and then incorporating that into working with our humans. The translator community. And so this loop is basically the core of what Unbabel does to enable near real-time translations. But yeah, we have a lot of documentation and research about it, but I think it’s just helping people get over the fear of what AI is and how they can use it is what, is one of my –

Gabe Larsen: (29:19)
It makes a big difference. Absolutely. So we will. I’d like this, it’s nice sometimes to just break it down a little more simply to your point. So we’ll get the link. And the LinkedIn here, you guys, so you can access that research study. Some real great material as Sophie alluded to at the beginning. So we’ll wrap with that. So Sophie, thanks so much for joining. Vikas, thanks so much for joining as always. And for the audience, we’ll let you have a fantastic day. Have a great one, everybody.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:04)
Thank you all.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Thank you.

Vikas Bhambri: (30:05)
Pleasure meeting you, Sophie.

Sophie Vu: (30:05)
Likewise Vikas. Bye Gabe.

Exit Voice: (30:13)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

What are the Problems in the CX World? Take These Tips From the Experts

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas unearth the top problems facing CX leaders in the modern environment. Listen to the full episode to learn tips and tricks from these experienced hosts. 

When Your Employees are Engaged, CSAT Increases

If customers have a horrible experience with a brand, they are very likely to share their experience and opinion with others. This helps CX companies and departments understand that CX and the entire customer journey are some of the most vital elements to a brand’s success. To achieve CX excellence, leaders must first make company culture a priority because if your employees aren’t engaged with the brand, CSAT scores go down in the long run. The next key question companies should be asking is, how do you make a company culture positive and engaging enough to boost employee morale? Many leaders think having employees fill out an annual “how are we doing” survey is good enough. Don’t do this. One of the bare minimum tactics that has proven to be effective is to survey employees quarterly. Because the business world is constantly changing, leaders need to stay on top of their game to keep up with evolving employee and customer needs.

This plays into having a pulse on your agents and their feelings about the company. Many brands have the tools in place to sense customer tone and behavior, so why is it that these tools don’t exist for employee sensing, when the employee experience (EX) is just as important as the CX? According to Gabe and Vikas, this could be a game changer in their realm of expertise. Real time feedback has been incredibly important for customer data and they believe this should also be available for companies to get a grasp on how culture affects the employees. “Find a way to do it real time. Find a way to do it more active. I promise you this annual thing is not going to cut it.” 

Bringing Back the Humanity to Service

The customer journey should be seen as more of a loop rather than a straight line because customers aren’t just a one and done transaction. If you want returning customers, your company needs to be aligned on the purpose of CX. To do this, the experts recommend joining forces with leaders from other departments to create a cohesive mission for excellence. Involving the customer in several aspects of the business and staying customer minded gives the company as a whole, a sense of empathy for consumers. This empathy can translate into curated services, education, products, and policies. When the customer feels satisfied with their experience at your company, they’re sure to return time and time again, while also bringing more customers through positive word of mouth advertising. Too often brands forget who they’re talking to on the other end of the line. At the end of the day, we’re all human and deserve to be treated as such. “I think that’s something that B2B companies have to be more aware of is you’re dealing with a human being.” Sure, your company can be qualified as B2B or B2C, but what really matters is if you can be considered B2H: Business to Human. When you bring that human aspect back to the service world and look at your consumers as more than just a number or transaction, loyalty and success are a sure result.  

To learn more from the CX experts about problems facing modern leaders, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

What are the Problems in the CX World? | Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri on Spreaker

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. You’ve just got uno, dos, no tres here. Not a third person. You’ve just got Vikas and myself. So we’ll jump right in. Vikas, we got to do it. Introduce yourself and then let’s get rocking.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:26)
I’m your partner in crime, man. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer and your sidekick on these weekly LinkedIns.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, man. This is, as we said, Vikas and I have a fun time doing this, even if no one comes. You know what? Like I need to talk,  a couple of things on my mind. Wanting to get your thoughts on it. Been having this online debate on LinkedIn about employee engagement. You’ve been in the customer space for years and from what I understand, most companies are doing not a semi-annual, not an annual NPS survey, they’ve gotten to a place where they are doing customer feedback more often. Daily, weekly, little surveys, people joining, new customers joining, just seems like people are trying to manage it more on a daily basis. Is that true? I mean, would you agree to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:10)
Oh, without a doubt. I mean, I would say from a customer experience perspective, people are almost down to the interaction, right? Every time we have a conversation in the contact center where we’re reaching out with some sort of CSAT survey, we’re analyzing that conversation, et cetera. So it’s real time in almost every interaction.

Gabe Larsen: (03:32)
Yeah. Yeah. So you flip over to the employee side and I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but most companies, if they’re even doing it at all, they’re doing it on an annual basis. Yeah. I mean, no. I mean, there’s just so much data out there that like employee leads to customer, great employee engagement leads to higher customer engagement. And we think that we can measure that and manage it once a year. And like that’s enough. Like talk to me about how that’s even possible. I mean, is that bonkers?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:01)
It is. And we leave it as a company, we, and not just Kustomer, but I think any company, we leave it to frontline managers, right? So the lens into the employee satisfaction or engagement is in the hands outside of these surveys, in the frontline manager. The challenge you have is if there’s a conflict or an issue between the employee and that frontline manager or that frontline manager is not effective, then you’re in a real situation where you may not potentially find out about something unless the employee is proactive and comes to a different manager or a peer or HR. You won’t know about it until that engagement survey.

Gabe Larsen: (04:49)
But that’s usually what we’re, I mean, we’re trying to block. Oftentimes it’s like, “Don’t go above your manager,” right? I mean, that stuff doesn’t come out.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:57)
I would even say skip level meetings, right? That was one solution that the industry introduced. But I found with skip level meetings –

Gabe Larsen: (05:10)
I don’t like skip level meetings.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:10)
When you do them formally, especially, you get frontline managers, they get really weird about it.

Gabe Larsen: (05:18)
It is. It’s and I don’t love, yeah, I don’t know. I mean, skip level maybe is, maybe it’s a good thing to do. Well, let’s get into a couple of other solutions here just a minute, but how do you feel like, I’ve just been debating this, I mean, how often, if you really wanted to manage employees, you want to manage that culture. I just don’t think you can get a score once a week. I’m just wondering what should be the frequency, if you really wanted to treat your culture as something that’s a priority? Once a week, if not even once a week, once a year doesn’t seem like it’s right. How would you do that? I mean, you had a magic wand. What would you do?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:59)
You know what? If I had a magic wand, there’d be two things that I would think about. One, at the very minimum, quarterly would be, because so much changes in any business these days. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a multi-billion dollar company or a five-person startup. There’s just so much change. So I think one, quarterly at the minimum, the second piece of it is after, kind of let’s go use that customer example that we were thinking about earlier. Customer with a C. If we do customer CSAT surveys, after every interaction, maybe right after big events that take place in a company, maybe there’s a big product announcement, or you have a big, all hands or a big team event, right? So maybe even serving people around those specific events. So you’ve got your quarterlies. Then if there’s some big milestone event that takes place mid-quarter or even two weeks into a quarter, you do it again. So the more often you can do it, the better. I think the other thing is, especially if you’re in leadership roles or executive roles, how do you keep a pulse on individuals and what’s going on? And I think particularly here, as we’ve grown as a company, that’s become harder and harder. And especially now in this remote world, like I used to really benefit from being in the office and grabbing a coffee and just interacting with members of my team that maybe weren’t direct reporters to me, but were reporting to frontline managers. [Inaudible] that opportunity.

Gabe Larsen: (07:35)
Well, but it almost seems like, and look, we work for a tech company. So maybe I’m finding a reason to blame somebody, but I am like, I love the customer example. After every interaction they’re surveying, but a lot of companies are not even, I mean, they’re not even using surveys. They’ll actually take the behavior of customers and let that determine what they’re thinking, believing, and behaving. And then they’ll use a survey to like double click on something that maybe does seem like it needs to dive into.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:02)
There’s no like, maybe we’re onto something here, Gabe. There’s no like platform for the, on the employee side. Think about it. What if I could give you the analytics of how many times somebody on your team has been in Slack and I’m not the biggest Slack fan in the world, but in a distributed world, that shows a level of engagement. Really interesting to see how often are certain team members in Slack in a day, because if somebody is getting further and further disengaged from the company, you’re probably going to find behaviors like Slack starting to drop, or even the tone. What did we could, like we can detect the sentiment of a customer’s email. What if we could detect the sentiment of an employee’s Slack or email? Like maybe it actually will show that there’s a negative sentiment. They’re getting more and more disenfranchised or hostile in their emails, right, because they’re frustrated.

Gabe Larsen: (09:06)
Yeah because, I feel like, you brought up skip level meetings, like, and there are great things you can do, and it’s probably worth it to hit some things we’ve found to be helpful, but it does feel like circa, I’m stealing your word here, circa 2000. 1990. Like no, like, and I know we got to be respectful of employee data and everything else. So let’s just, obviously we’re going to do that. But there’s so many interactions. My email, my Slack, my Zoom, my, all these digital signals, my response time on email, that without, I think, kind of compromising employee data that we can feed up to leaders, that would be awesome to be able to be like, “What’s the current polls of my team? Like I got somebody who hasn’t been active on any digital sources for like three days.” Like that and not do it once a year on a survey that if I just had a performance review conversation, they’re just going to fill zeroes or lows in or highs in because we just had a fun party. Like I want real behavioral data. Like, that’s what we have on the customer side. Why aren’t we talking about that on an employee side?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:08)
Think about the amount of data. Like we track, as any company does, about customers. We track what events they come to. Did they hit our website? What if we knew, “Hey, we host a monthly virtual event. Which members of your team-,” like we had something yesterday, right? We did a Halloween –

Gabe Larsen: (10:31)
I didn’t go.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:31)
You didn’t go but how many of your team members went? You don’t have that data. So if somebody is, and maybe look, if somebody starts at a company and they never attend these events because of whatever family situations, they like to go to the gym at five o’clock or whatever it is, then it’s okay. But what if somebody was going to the event every, for the first six, seven months and then dropped off?

Gabe Larsen: (10:56)
Yeah. Yeah. You’d totally be able to see it and the thing with employee is you found, I hate the conversation when I get blindsided and it happens often, right? Employee comes and they’re like, “I’m done,” or, “I’m so frustrated. I can’t be brought back over.” And it’s like, “Well, why are you frustrated?” “Well, I didn’t have the tools and equipment I needed.” And I’m like, “What? Like, I can get that for you right now!” But it’s like, I need leading indicators on employee data. I, you know, you need it on customer data, right? It’s like, you can’t just measure revenue once a year. It’d be like, my business is okay. You got to have those things that are preventative and man, employee, real time employee data would be phenomenal. Now, obviously, I’m not aware man, if anybody’s listening and knows, maybe Vikas and I found our next startup. If anybody’s aware of something like that, by all means, let us know, but I’m not aware of anything that does that, but there’s a principle here, you guys, that I think we’ve got to find as managers. Which is, we got to find some more real time. What we’re learning on customer data, you got to bring to employee and it’s something about now. Customers want it. Now we’re giving them real time information. They’re getting information via chat. We’ve got to bring some of that into our employee morale and find ways to get more pulse data. Vikas, you were just saying, it’s like, after an event, maybe you do a survey. I know a couple of companies who they actually, when someone logs into their machines, I don’t know how they did it. And they just do one question each day on kind of employee engagement, that bubbles up to an executive of dashboard. And they’re kind of monitoring the culture daily. And I’m like, yes! That’s, it’s that important that if somebody, if something happens, you can kind of see. So we’ve got to find a way as leaders via technology, skip level meetings, Slack. I love some of these quick Slack messages that my leadership has done to me or vice versa. “Hey man, how you doing? What’s going on?” Get a quick pulse because I’m telling you, if you don’t get ahead of some of these things, you’re obviously going to get behind.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:57)
Yeah. One of the things that we did here at Kustomer was the donut slack.

Gabe Larsen: (13:02)
That’s a great one.

Vikas Bhambri: (13:03)
And just catching up with different team members every two weeks that otherwise, no, because it’s amazing. You will find where you may finish a day and say, “Wow. Even in a virtual world, I connected with a bunch of my, a bunch of, what we call the members of the crew here at Kustomer.” Then the interesting thing is, when I really sat down and thought about it, I generally speak to the same people. The same 7, 8, 9 people every day. So yes, I’m busy. My calendar is full, but am I getting a diverse population of who I’m engaging? That’s why once again, going back to the office, the physical world, the random interactions that you would have at the water cooler, at the coffee machine, coming out of the men’s room, going for lunch in the elevator, whatever it is, you don’t have those opportunities.

Gabe Larsen: (13:56)
Yeah. All right, man. Well, let’s, I want to hit one more topic before we close today. There’s obviously so much going on in customer support. We’re all feeling kind of the pressure with the current environment, et cetera. B2B versus B2C customer service has always been an interesting and fascinating thing to me. You’ve kind of been in a world, I think often, where you serviced a little bit of both. You’ve run, obviously your own on the B2B side. It does seem like B2C, for whatever reason they seem to just go deeper. They go, it’s more personalized. They go more data. And maybe because it’s a volume game, right? It’s like when you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of consumers versus three companies, you just look at it differently. I’m sure there’s lessons that can be learned from both, but specifically what B2B could learn from B2C, where would you start?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:50)
I think with B2C, there’s a lot of pressure in general, right? Because if you think about most B2C, it’s a point in time purchase, right? So the challenge for most B2C companies is when are you going to make that next purchase? You’re not quote unquote locked in, right? It’s not a high price item, et cetera. So I think for most B2B companies, even if they’re in the subscription business, the mindset is “Okay, well we’ve got an agreement.” So frankly, I think people don’t focus on it as much. And I think that’s where it has to start. You have to realize that the, what is the impact of not investing appropriately, right? One, that particular customer is not going to be happy. You’re going to lose advocacy down the line. You may lose a renewal or an additional sale or whatever it is. So I think number one is just the overall focus. And I do believe that more and more B2B companies are starting to think like B2C companies.

Gabe Larsen: (15:59)
I totally agree.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:00)
And I just look at ourselves, we have to, because look, we’re only as good, it’s software as a service for a reason. We’re only as good as our service because ultimately the service is more than just the technology. It’s how you support that technology. It’s how you consult on it. It’s how you educate on it, et cetera. So I think that’s the first mindset and then look, the same people that we’re dealing with, I think the key thing is you’re not dealing with businesses or consumers. You’re dealing with human beings. And if you, for example, one moment, you’re dealing with a food delivery company and you’re like, “Where’s my lunch?” The next minute, you’re dealing with your marketing automation platform company about something, you’re the same human being. Like, you’re not going to be like, “Hey, food delivery company. I expect really high quality service from you,” but “Oh, marketing automation platform company, you can keep me on hold for 45 minutes and then give me somebody who doesn’t know who I am, doesn’t understand what my problem is. Doesn’t understand what version of your platform I’m on.” So your expectations are the same, regardless because you’re the same person. So I think that’s something that B2B companies have to be more aware of is you’re dealing with a human being.

Gabe Larsen: (17:15)
Why do you feel like, one thing that’s always jumped out to me is, and maybe it’s a structural thing. Maybe that’s the problem, but in B2C companies, when they talk about the customer experience, versus when B2B companies talk about the customer experience, it really is different. And it’s different in the breadth of it. And B2B, it really is often talked about when that purchase was made, post-sales interaction. In B2C, it’s like the whole journey. It is like, “No, no, no, no.” Like when they hit the website, like when you think about it, the whole journey, B2B, it’s like, “No, no, they bought. Let’s start”. Is that a structural thing? Because it’s annoying.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:53)
It is structural. It’s structural, not only in the way that if you look at most B2B companies in the way they even outline their customer journey, right? Very linear, right? When it actually should be kind of like an infinite loop. Because as I said, whether you’re in a subscription business or not, it’s not just about that initial sale. Like, let’s say we were selling airplanes. We’re selling like, I don’t know how much a plane costs because obviously I don’t own one, but let’s just say plane’s a million dollars. It’s a big ticket item, right? You might sell somebody one plane, but don’t you want when they come around for the next plane that they’re going to buy it from you, don’t you want them if they’re a shake or they’re country, they’re talking to their friend, they’re like, “Hey, you want to go get a plane from that guy?”

Vikas Bhambri: (18:43)
So to me, the important still matters. And, but here’s where I think in B2B, it falls down. It really falls because the thinking is so outdated, the way we even structure our teams, the way we even compensate executives, to me is still fundamentally broken, right? We’re not thinking about, we can’t say like, “Hey look. If we all are successful and our customers are happy and they’re buying more and et cetera, the company is going to fundamentally grow. Let’s measure everybody by that.” It’s like, “No, we’re going to measure the sales leader by this, the marketing leader like this, we’re going to measure their customer success leader like this, et cetera, et cetera, down the line…Product leader.” And there’s no cohesion into even how we think and operate.

Gabe Larsen: (19:29)
Yeah, the customer often gets left alone. So I love, man, if you can, I don’t know if I’ve got a beautiful way to do it, but I do think it starts on B2B looking at that whole customer journey together, if you can. And then it probably flows down to your point in process, payment, et cetera. We’ve had some other guests say that if you want to do it right, you start with the way you compensate. And I forget that one, but I liked his comments. He went all the way to the way he was compensating his salespeople to make sure it wasn’t [inaudible] on the customer experience. One other thing that jumps out is the channel concept. And maybe that isn’t as, it just isn’t as a parent, but I mean, B2C, they just seem so more open to like, “No, no, no, we’re monitoring all the channels like social,” but in B2B it’s like, “No, no, you need me? You call me. You need me? It’s email.” That’s it. Like, there’s no way you’re getting a B2B company on social and maybe it is just from the use. Quick thoughts on the channel aspect of it?

Vikas Bhambri: (20:22)
I think, once again, just like in the B2C world, it it’s very dependent on the consumer, the customer, right? Because the most, I would still say most business people want to communicate on look, you’re sitting at your laptop, you’re working on something, you’re gonna email somebody or you’re gonna chat with them, pick up the phone. You are seeing B2B companies now, SMS is a very natural –

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
Yeah and some other things.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:54)
I think on social, they are listening but I think it’s more effective for most B2B companies to try to take that conversation offline, whether that’s direct message or pointing somebody back to chat or email or the phone, but they’re definitely listening on social. They have to be because once again, they’re dealing with human beings and if I’m off with my food delivery company and I’m going to go blast them on Twitter, guess what? If I’m pissed off at my marketing automation platform, I’m going to go blast them on Twitter.

Gabe Larsen: (21:28)
Yeah. You’re dealing with humans, it’s this, I got a force around [inaudible] was telling me that the consumerization of the B2B buyer. So, it’s like, we’re all humans. We’re all kind of doing, buying, with DoorDash and whatever. Now I’m expecting that same experience in my B2B interactions. And the digitization is forcing us to bring that together even more. So, awesome man. Well, those are the two things I wanted to tackle today. Employee engagement on the one, find a way to do it real time. Find a way to do it more active. I promise you this annual thing is not going to cut it. And you’ve got to break through that. On the second side, it’s about B2B, B2C. And I think probably Vikas said it best. It’s not B2B, it’s B2H. You are serving humans. Find a way wherever you are to get closer to that human, because when you do, personalization trumps, man. It makes a big difference. Closing statement from you, Vikas. Anything on your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:25)
No, look. I think the big thing is how, on the employee engagement side, just kind of closing the loop is how it applies to our world, which is customer experience. If your employees are not engaged, that’s going to reflect on the experience they deliver. That’s why it’s so hyper relevant and should be a priority. And I think as you said before, if anybody’s got any tips or tricks, reply on the LinkedIn, because it’s still something that you and I are still trying to figure it out.

Gabe Larsen: (22:57)
I love it. I’ll be waiting for those comments. All right, man. Have a good one. For the audience, enjoy the rest of your day.

Exit Voice: (23:07)
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How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre, Jr.

How You Can Add Value to Your CX with Laurent Pierre TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Laurent Pierre from Microsoft Azure to learn the secrets to making a CX team valuable. Listen to the podcast below to discover how Laurent and his team at Azure use customer-centric strategies to create the best experience.

Guiding Customers to Solutions Using Empathy

No longer are the days of bank teller-esque transactions where each experience is done as quickly as possible with little consideration for customer satisfaction. Situations like these leave the customer feeling like another ticket number or a tick mark while the teller counts down the minutes until they’re off for the day. Many companies, particularly in the tech sector, recognize that there needs to be a radical shift in how they approach modern CX. Azure is a branch of Microsoft that was created for the benefit of the customer through every step of their journey. Laurent attributes its success to the mindset of being customer obsessed since the very beginning and carrying that concept throughout the entirety of the brand’s decisions. Keeping the customer in mind or being truly customer obsessed means that each team member has empathy and passion for solving problems and guiding people to solutions. Rather than just solving the initial problem, Laurent emphasizes the importance of being proactive for the customer. “We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.’” A proactive approach gives companies a huge advantage over the competition because it shows the customers how much the brand cares about their experience and what they’re willing to do to keep them around for the long haul.

Employee Experience: The Missing Ingredient

A key component to the ultimate customer experience that many companies often forget is the employee experience (EX). This is just as important as CX in many ways. Providing an excellent EX starts with hiring the right talent. This is where leaders can make a difference in the employee experience early on by selecting the kind of people they want on their team. “I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once.” From there, it’s easy for leaders to deliver EX that boost office morale and employee satisfaction with their hand picked team of agents, further leading to higher NPS scores and customer loyalty. The employee experience is an integral part of CX because if your employees aren’t happy, your customers surely won’t be happy either. We’ve all been there, waiting on the phone for forever, hoping an agent picks up soon, only to be met with someone on the other end of the line who sounds like they couldn’t care less about the product issues. A little bit of friendliness goes a long way with customers and when they feel like their problems have been addressed and listened to, they’re more likely to continue shopping with your brand. When employees are passionate about the company, their role, the product, and the customer, lasting success happens as a result.

Partnering with Leaders Across the Board

Customer experience shouldn’t be the role of solely the CX team, rather, leaders from different departments should consider joining forces with leaders from CX and finding ways to incorporate the customer into all aspects of business decisions. Aligning departments is a great tactic to get the company as a whole on the same page of customer expectations. For Laurent, he has members of the Sales team jump on calls with Support and identify gaps where their software doesn’t work for the consumer. “You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from end to end and make sure that everyone is on the same page about it. Make sure that everyone is engaged so you have a customer for life.” By involving people who manage different branches of the company, it builds a sense of empathy for the customer and for the CX team on a much larger scale. At the end of the day, we’re all human and each customer interaction should be treated with a compassionate response.

To learn more about Laurent’s work and how to add value to CX, Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Drive Business Value With Your CX Team | Laurent Pierre

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’ve got a fun talk track. We’re going to be talking about CX transformation, really this idea of driving business value with your CX team and to do that, we’ve got a special guest: Laurent Pierre. I’ve been calling, I’ve been saying that wrong and he corrected me just a minute ago in a true Americano/American accent or whatever. But do you mind just taking a minute and introducing yourself? Tell us a little bit about your background.

Laurent Pierre: (00:43)
Sure. Hi, my name is Laurent Pierre. I’m the general manager for Azure CXP and that’s the customer experience wing in engineering for Azure. I joined here about 10 months ago after a 14 year stint at IBM.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Awesome. I’m excited. I think you’ve got a fun background. It would be fun to tap into that, talk about CX. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:04)
Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer. Gabe’s partner in crime.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Awesome. Then I’m Gabe. Run growth here at Kustomer. So let’s dive in. I’m wanting to talk big picture and start with this. It does seem like when it comes, I’m hearing this more and more, that CX, we are just having a hard time figuring out how to talk to the CEO and really drive that kind of business value. They talk about things like CSAT, they talk about things like NPS and they are important often, but when they go and try to get money or they try to get buy in from that executive level, sometimes that CEO is like, “What does NPS mean? I talk dollars and cents, like, how is this affecting our top, the bottom line?” And there is a little bit of a disconnect. Vikas, I wanted to maybe start with you. What would you add to this? I mean, you play a bulk here as a CX leader and you had executive experience. Why is this? Is this a problem? Why is it a problem?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:03)
I think it goes back to the very nature of looking at a contact center customer experience team, a call center. And that, I think, ties to a very antiquated way of thinking about how you do business with your customer. It’s a transaction, right? I do a transaction. I sell you something and in a nirvana world, I never see or hear from you again, right? And, oh my goodness, you have a problem. And now you want to reach out to my team, you know what? I just want them to solve it and I want them to make you go away. So I think that that kind of paradigm is shifted because at the end of the day now, every business is a subscription business. Every customer has to have high lifetime value because we, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. You’re spending so much to acquire that customer on the front end then if you don’t sell them more or you don’t retain them, you’ve lost money on that. It doesn’t matter that they bought something from you. So now, it’s not that I need these people to actually sell anything necessarily, if they don’t deliver that exceptional experience, I won’t be able to ever sell that customer again. That is –

Gabe Larsen: (03:17)
I like that framing. Laurent, how would you kind of think about this, Laurent? I mean you, big picture. How should CX teams be thinking about driving that value or what, is this a problem you’ve seen?

Laurent Pierre: (03:27)
Absolutely. It’s a great question because when I look at where I, when I started in the industry 20 some years ago, it was all about the metrics and I always hate using this phrase but it fits here, where often sales teams are referred to as coin operated people, right? And so one of the things I learned over time is that you have to pull the sales team into the process and you have to understand what their targets are. Not only from a number perspective, but from a customer view of one of their projects. And so, as I evolved and grew up in support, I realized that, let’s park the metrics. Let’s get involved with the customer, understand their projects, connect with the services team that’s delivering it because oftentimes, we find customers spend ten, 20, 30 million dollars, but they don’t have the skillset to do it.

Laurent Pierre: (04:14)
And so what we ended up doing is we started taking our support team leaders and plugging them into the monthly calls with the sales teams. Then in addition to that, we started identifying gaps where the customer purchased technology, but couldn’t maintain it, which ended up in a support call, which ended up in a bad experience, which also ended in customers coming to support to solve things that should have been solved via services. And so if you don’t connect those dots along the way, through the CX journey, you’re going to have multiple touch points that are problematic, full of friction, and then ending up with a customer who says, “Give me my money back.”

Vikas Bhambri: (04:50)
Right and you know this, Laurent, in the early days, particularly in software, right, salespeoples’ mentality was, and literally, “I’m shipping you a disk then I’m done.” And I remember in the early days of my career, I was a sucker who was left [inaudible]. It was a nightmare because the customer was like, “Wait, this is what he or she told me it did. Oh, wait, I have these three other requirements that aren’t addressed here and all of those other things.” But at the end of the day it was a, I mean, what were they going to do? Like sending the disc back? No, but now as a service world, it’s like, “Wait a minute. If you don’t have what I need, I either won’t renew or even worse, I’ll call out material breach and I’ll just shut you down completely.”

Laurent Pierre: (05:35)
Exactly. That’s exactly right.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Do you feel, Laurent, I want to go into some of the details that you’re talking about, how do you start to connect that business? How do you get the value to the forefront? And some of the ways and methods you found this to be successful in previous lives or in your current life? You talked about a couple of them, but maybe start at the top. What, how do you, where do you, where would you start to advise people to start as they want to get down to this kind of business value?

Laurent Pierre: (06:01)
I think the biggest thing is identifying and knowing where you are in your CX maturity model and your journey, right? Some people are just getting started. Some people are dabbling. Some are pretty mature. You have your startups, your mid-size companies, and you have large companies like Microsoft. And so you often have a lot of things that are culturally based, but then when you start looking at it, you have to tie the CX program to the business objectives, right? Because in most cases, I’ve been at companies where the CX budget was a million dollars and they said, “Good luck, Laurent.” I’ve been at places where it’s ten, I’ve been at places where it’s been 20 million. And each time when finance comes back and says, “Okay, what did we get for the ten million dollars we just gave Laurent to run CX?” And so what we ended up doing is we started attaching ourselves to those projects where we were influencing what was happening quarter by quarter.

Laurent Pierre: (06:47)
So it wasn’t enough to wait until the end of the year to get funded. Every quarter, we were sitting there with the sales team, identifying the projects, the digital transformation projects with the customers, and then looking at how we can partner with education and services. And then what we started doing was had the sales team actually tag in the system our influence from a CX perspective. And so sometimes a customer didn’t have, for example, the highest level of support and they needed it. So I just partnered with the sales team and said, “You know what, I’m going to give you my best guy and put a SWAT team together. Anything that happens this quarter, our SWAT teams are going to swarm on top of it and make sure that it’s not an impediment to close the deal.” And as we started doing that, we started finding new ways to engage with the customer. And customers actually started inviting us to the technology selection and other vendors were there as well. And so that’s what we started doing to change the dynamic and not see us just as the break-fix reactive support organization.

Gabe Larsen: (07:43)
I like it. I do feel like if you told most CX leaders, one of the keys to driving value is to go hang out with salespeople, I don’t know if they’d like that. Those two are sometimes oil and water. What do you say to that, Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:57)
Well, look, we’ve taken a very unique approach at Kustomer. At Kustomer, the buck stops with me. Sales and CX report into one leader. Now that might not necessarily be operationally feasible that a company like Microsoft or a large-size company like that, but it’s more around the premise, right? For us, the reason we did this and we did this intentionally when we set up the organization, was having one throat to choke or hand to shake. It says, I own the customer journey from beginning to end, right? From the moment we have that first discovery call all the way through their life cycle, that partnership being cemented, but more importantly, as a software service business, that continuing iteration with our customer success team, our support professional services team, and actually our sales team as well because our sales team is also always engaged.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:52)
For me, having that end to end leadership and visibility is extremely important, particularly in a software service business. But as I said earlier, whether you know it or not, and if your CEO doesn’t know it, shame on you, every business is now a software as a service. You have to have that mentality of looking at the customer journey from beginning to end and making sure that every piece of the puzzle, everybody on your side and the customer side, as in forwarded, is engaged in how we want to make sure that we have a truly a customer for life, or look at that lifetime value also.

Gabe Larsen: (09:27)
I do think that will [inaudible]. Bringing the post-sales into that sales role and finding tangible ways to do it, like you’re saying, Laurent, because I think some people may say, “I get it but every week the role gets a little bit harder than tagging actually records or being part of the conversation, or actually getting part of the sales conversation.” Wherever it happens, that’s a differentiator of vendors, to your point, didn’t have that. I love it. Where do you go next? What other ones have you found that drive that value?

Laurent Pierre: (09:56)
So, I think the biggest thing for me is I always tell folks when we’re having these debates and discussions that you can’t deliver customer experience without EX. So, you can’t deliver CX without EX. And so if your employees are not understanding the process, they’re not skilled, they’re telling the customer some wacky things on the phone that really upset them, right? Just the little, the smallest things that you would think wouldn’t upset them would kill a deal. And so one of the things that we’re looking at, as well as making sure that our employees are equipped to deal with these enterprise-level challenges, these mission critical things that they know the customer, know the product, and probably one of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from customers is like, “Every time I call the support center, I have to, re-explain my environment. I have to re-explain my architecture.” And so that’s why it becomes important to understand your customer. Segment them but also align industry-related technologists that can speak not only the technical language, but the business language, whether you’re in banking or retail or manufacturing and aligning those together.

Gabe Larsen: (10:57)
Wow. Wow. So you’ve actually got the place. I mean, we’ve talked a lot about routing and trying to get the right person to the right person, right employee for the, the right customer to the right employee. But you’ve gone pretty deep on what it sounds like. You’ve gotten the ability where one, we’re trying to motivate the employees, but you’ve gone pretty deep in getting the right person. Technical knowledge, business knowledge, so that when that customer is actually interfacing with the employee, it’s a very real conversation because there’s a lot of knowledge transfer happening. Is that, did I get that?

Laurent Pierre: (11:27)
That’s exactly right. And so, for example, in retail, we have Black Friday coming up. For during the summer, we have these flash sales on their websites or throughout the year and aligning people who understand what that looks like and the October, November, December months are make or break for a lot of retail customers. You can’t afford to have a subscription down or a service down. So you have to align people with plan A, B and C to make sure if a region goes down or there’s a place impacted, that we are quickly there. And so monitoring and being proactive. Gone are the days of let’s wait for the case to come in to solve it. We’ve got to go out there and look at what’s going on with the customer’s environment and pick up the phone and say, “Hey, we noticed this is about to happen. We need to do something now.” And that’s what I’m finding. Even here at Microsoft. Again, I’ve been here 10 months, but those are the kind of things that we’re putting in place and are in place in many areas.

Gabe Larsen: (12:23)
Yeah, interesting. I wonder, sometime you mentioned the Microsoft thing and I think one, excuse, you probably hear, Vikas, you’re doing a little better at saying this than I am, but it’s well, yeah, we’re at Microsoft, so everything is possible, you know? I mean, you can throw resources at it. I don’t have that ability to be flexible, be proactive. How would you respond to that statement? I don’t know if it’s, I don’t believe it’s true, but it’s not always just about the brand and the resources. It’s gotta be something else.

Laurent Pierre: (12:53)
So, I mean, for me, I go back to when I worked for a a hundred million dollar company 20 years ago, and there’s smaller, maybe 300 people worldwide, right? And basically at that time, we didn’t have the resources. And as a matter of fact, we had to be creative with the small resources that we had. And so for example, to ask a customer who just spent a million dollars, a small business, on software to spend another $200,000 for premium support to get a technical account manager, was often not feasible. There was always this little gray area of, I’d like to have it, but I can’t afford it. So it was, we said, “You know what, let’s give them 60 days as they’re coming up or whatever time frame it needs to fill that gap, get them on the tracks and get them into a steady state. And then if they can afford it later, great.” If not, we disengaged and let them go to the regular process, but we don’t want to drain them as well.

Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
I notice all the time, people making excuses. I don’t want to use that word, excuses, for not delivering a great customer experience because we don’t have the resources. We don’t have, how do you react to something like that? How do you coach people through it?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:57)
You know this, we’re not Microsoft, but I didn’t get to finish yet. Here’s the key thing. At a company at our stage, versus even at Microsoft, it’s all about the mentality and how you’re thinking about it. And I’m sure Laurent’s only been at Microsoft for ten months, but I think anybody who’s read what’s in the public domain understands that there has been a fundamental shift at Microsoft. The thing we think about the customer experience, particularly under Nadella, right, the transformation that Microsoft is going through. We at Kustomer, by the very nature of our business and our mission from day one, if our mission is to help brands deliver amazing customer experience, then we as a company, we’re customer obsessed from day one. So, as I said before, we very proactively thought about even the leadership structure and the organizational structure, but then mapping out that customer journey, and that customer journey is constantly iterating on it as our customers change. They grow, we go global, we have to do different things. And then maturing each of the functions. The sales function and how they think about selling, the professional services team, the customer success and support, boosts that mentality of how will you really think what is the currency in the business? And for us, and it sounds like Microsoft as well, currency is that customer. As long as you’re thinking around that, it doesn’t matter whether you have the funding resources of Microsoft or that of Kustomer, or even that of [inaudible].

Gabe Larsen: (15:41)
I like that. Laurent, I want to come back to you on that. I mean, it does seem like Microsoft in general has kind of shifted from more of a product company to really just a customer obsessed company. I’m putting words in your mouth here a little bit, but let’s go like more of a whole company initiative. Any insights you would add of how companies can turn because, to Vikas’s point, if you don’t have the focus is the customer from the top down, bottom up, sideways in, whatever you want to call it, you just can’t really get there. Any insights in how Microsoft or your division has been able to really bring that to the forefront and execute on it?

Laurent Pierre: (16:17)
Absolutely. So interestingly enough, the division that I joined is specifically too, it was formed specifically to address that question, where we wanted to bring empathy into engineering and support. So understand what the customer’s journey is and not treat the interaction like a bank teller transaction, and no offense to the banking industry, but a transactional way, right? It’s basically, we wanted to get into the journey of the customer, lifting and shifting, understanding what it costs from a skill development standpoint to run their organization. And so our team, basically we start with the customer and Jason Zander, our EVP, has a phrase. “We want our customers to love Azure.” How do we do that, is we make sure that our people, when you talk to them, when you’re emailing them, when you’re engaging, they feel it coming off of our team members and how we’ve done that is we’ve assigned people, specifically to customers to get deep into that journey, not at the surface level, but all the way down to their projects, their delivery, and how that project ties into the business objectives for that particular year or forward.

Gabe Larsen: (17:22)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:24)
I love that you touched on empathy because to me, and you mentioned the employee experience, if your employees aren’t excited and passionate about product, mission, etc., it’s very hard for themselves to deliver empathy well. I think what gets lost in all of this, Gabe, at the day, is push come to shove. We talked about $30 million deals. And this project that, at the end of the day, when this conversation happens, it’s between two human beings.

Laurent Pierre: (17:55)
Yeah, exactly.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:55)
That’s all it is, right? And if somebody in our world, in the customer experience world, more than likely is coming to you because they have a problem. And so how you on the other side are equipped, intelligent and capable also to show them empathy, I understand you’ve got a problem. And I think that whole thing, the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction. I think that a fundamental flaw in this whole thing is that the very definition of a customer is somebody who does a transaction, but at the end of the day, it’s just somebody who wants help. And I think that empathy is extremely critical and kudos to you, Laurent, and your team, for kind of bringing that into the discussion in a tech world, which can sometimes be very unsympathetic.

Laurent Pierre: (18:43)
I agree!

Gabe Larsen: (18:43)
Very no empathy, right? So Laurent, we’ve got a couple of good secrets from you. Before we end, I want to see if we do one more. You talked a little bit about this idea of bringing sales into the conversation. We talked a lot about kind of empathy and employee, bringing the EX to the CX. What other things have you found getting this value to the top and making the CX team just really who they can be?

Laurent Pierre: (19:03)
I think the biggest thing is that when we’re on the phone solving problems or engaging with them online, one of the things that we find is that it’s not enough, again, to fix the problem. You also have to listen to other things that are going on in the background. And so when you fix that one break fixed issue, you say, “Hey, by the way, I also noticed that’s happening. Let me send you some best practices around this so at 2:00 AM when your system goes down, here’s what you can do.“ Second place is education and skilling. Oftentimes that’s also a coin operated part of the business where the education team is trying to sell education services. Throughout the weeks and months we have that material in house. We actually go out and do, we can do some workshops. At one of the companies before Microsoft, we actually went and created a webinar for one of our customers because they were asking for it. They just hired about a hundred people that weren’t skilled in our product. And we said, “You know what, let’s go in there and help them.” And guess what? Our tickets went this way. Our MTF went that way, because we are able to enable them, not that, it was at our cost, but that’s what we identified to say, “You know what, let’s just go get it done to make them better at using our product.”

Gabe Larsen: (20:14)
Yeah. I mean, so it’s a little going above and beyond, right? It’s not –

Laurent Pierre: (20:19)
Exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (20:19)
Not just watching your handle time or whatever, it’s providing, I think, using some, stealing your words, you’d mentioned before, these kind of memorable moments. I just don’t know how you teach that. How the, have you figured out any, I loved your example of the webinar, but it just seems like it’s hard to get CSRs to see those moments or see those things. Because they’re very focused on just solving the problem often and to then go above and beyond, any thoughts on getting people to see more than just the problem at hand?

Laurent Pierre: (20:51)
For sure. So for us, the proof in the pudding was when our NPS shot 30 points after a year of doing this, right? So that got everybody’s attention because that’s unheard of to have something like that happen, but we got it done. And it’s through those things. So in support, what, some of the times, especially when I was at smaller companies, we basically would mark some people and say, “Okay, you’re off the queue, you’re off support. You’re going to go and do these ten minute how to videos.” And we’re going to upload them to their website. We’re going to go through and collect. When I started working with AI at IBM, we said, “Let’s go find out what our customers are reporting issues about every week, the repeatable cases that show up time and time again.” We took our top 30, converted them to videos, and guess what? Those areas of the business, those calls went down. Our video hits on YouTube went to a hundred thousand a month in those same areas, right? And this is something that everyone’s like, “Oh, Laurent. Stop wasting your time. Don’t do this. No one’s going to watch them.” And we start, we saw it steadily ticking. And again, we didn’t ask for extra funding. I just carved out this small team at the time. I think it was maybe 60, 70 people, at the time. I said, “You two, you three, we’re going to go do this little [inaudible] project.” And that’s what, you have to be brave enough to do that. Take the pain in the front and know that the returns are going to be in the end. And if it fails, hey, you fail fast and you start all over again to something new.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:10)
I agree, Laurent. And the one thing I would add to that is for leaders like Laurent that are over these operations is it also starts at the hiring. And the one thing that I look for, in fact, I was on an interview with a potential member of my CX team for a while. I look for lazy problem-solving. What I mean by that is I look for people who love fixing problems, but don’t want to solve them more than once, right? It’s like that person who sees like the hose pipe is leaking and just keeps running it out there every day. And it’s like, “Oh, it’s leaking. It just keeps, I’ll just water the lawn longer.” The guy who’s like, “Wait a minute. If I wrap this once I only have to do it for five minutes next time.” That’s the ideal. And that’s, I think something is somewhat unique in the customer experience world. We’re actually looking, I just said it, we’re looking for lazy people who want to solve problems.

Laurent Pierre: (23:10)
I love that.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:14)
That’s my big giveaway. My little secret.

Gabe Larsen: (23:16)
I was going to say, I don’t know if we should tell people to look for lazy CX. [Inaudible] Like you always do. I love it.

Laurent Pierre: (23:27)
Listen. Hey, I probably would say it definitely the folks at Microsoft might start looking at me a little funny, but I understand completely the sentiment of what you’re trying to say for sure.

Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Awesome guys. Awesome. Well, as we route today, talking about providing more business value and recognizing that business value from the top down for CX teams, let’s get kind of a closing remark from each of you. Vikas, maybe we’ll start with you then Laurent, we’ll go to you. What would you leave with the audience today, trying to get their CX team to provide more value ultimately to a leadership team that wants that value?

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Look, here’s the thing. You, as a CX leader, you are delivering value to them. That argument is over. The question is how do you then reflect it back to your c-level, your CEO, CFO, COO, whoever it is? I think the key thing to look at, and we’re on a little bit to some of these, NPS is a key metric. Why? Because the more your customers are out there advocating for you when you’re not in the room, guess what? That delivers more prospects in business to the bottom line, right? The other is lifetime value, right? So whether you’re in the tech business like Laurent and myself, and you’re looking at increase in subscription, increase in ARR, et cetera, that’s one piece of it. But regardless is understanding how much more, I don’t care if you’re selling retail goods, garments, whatever it is, how much more is that particular customer applying from us over time that has interacted? It’s almost looking at like an AB task. Customers who never deal with our CX team, what is their level of future acquisition versus those that do engage in it? The data’s all there. It’s in your systems, et cetera. Make sure you can flush it out and articulate it back to your CX team as you look for this investment on a quarterly annual basis.

Gabe Larsen: (25:19)
I love it. Laurent, what would be [inaudible]?

Laurent Pierre: (25:22)
Well, I would add this, as I said before, you can’t deliver CX without a great EX, right? And in addition to that, I would say that when you’re looking at how we’re engaging your customers, you look at personalization, look at creating those memorable moments, and how we tie that back to the business is the CX program has to be linked to how we’re supporting and influencing the revenue generation. If you try to have a CX program and try to sell it only to the customers will feel good, right, it’s not going to be enough. You need to translate that into, “Oh, by the way, we’re doing this to reduce costs here, increase efficiencies there, and also make sure that that end to end customer journey is something that they will tell everyone else about. Have our stock software be sticky in their environment and make sure that they have a low customer effort score across the board.”

Gabe Larsen: (26:12)
I love that. I love tying it into some revenue streams. That’s a fantastic idea and something I think we can all do a little bit better at. So, Laurent, thanks for joining in. Really appreciate the talk track. Vikas, as always, really appreciates you. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Laurent Pierre: (26:23)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (26:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Going Digital: The Ultra Modern Approach to CX with Vasili Triant

Going Digital: The Ultra Modern Approach to CX with Vasili Triant TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by Vasili Triant to talk about all things digital CX. Vasili is the Chief Operating Officer at UJET, a partner of Kustomer, creating a product that delivers the ultimate experience for the modern consumer.

Is Voice Dead?

For nearly 30 years, experts in the CX industry have heard rumors that voice as a communication channel is dead and useless for navigating customer problems. With voice being such a popular mode of communication, one can’t help but wonder if this is true. According to Vasili, not only is voice still relevant to CX in 2021, but in the last year, all communication channels have skyrocketed in popularity. “The reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing….They’re all increasing.” More recently, the industry has experienced a shift towards digitizing CX, making good customer experiences more accessible on a multitudes of platforms. As more platforms such as voice, email, direct messages, chat, text, etc. are more commonly used in the CX space, the amount of interactions needed to solve customer problems also rises. “The number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem.” This increase in interactions is necessary for providing a more holistic experience to consumers.

Adapting to the Modern Customer’s Habits

A holistic approach to CX doesn’t stop simply at omnichannel communication. The modern customer lives in a world of mobile phones, uploading to the cloud and for companies to keep up with the ever changing customer-scape, they have to adapt to new technologies to stay relevant. It’s important that leaders stay informed on the latest CX technologies to keep customers happy. An agent should be equipped with the tools to meet their customer on their preferred communication method. For example, if a customer is having difficulty with an appliance, they should have the option to text a picture of the problem to the CX agent rather than describe it over the phone. When options like photo and video messaging are included in communication channels, it helps customers feel better understood and their problems are solved more efficiently. “A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be.”

Change or Be Changed

Change is inevitable, but why is it so hard to cope with? When Vasili urges leaders to take action and to start looking for places within their organizations to adopt modern CX technology, he isn’t pretending that change is easy to accomplish. In fact, he recognizes how hard it is to choose the right technology and the right time to implement it. Many leaders feel the pressure to fully integrate their systems and go digital but hesitate to do so because they don’t know how. The ultra-modern technology provided by Kustomer and UJET can help alleviate some of this pressure by offering the solutions to ticketing and CX problems. Keeping customers in mind is another helpful tactic for tackling new processes and technology. When it comes down to it, stellar CX is about creating a seamless customer experience and having empathy for the entire customer journey. As Gabe Larsen puts it, “It’s change or be changed.”

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

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Listen to “How Companies are Evolving in the Mobile Age | With Vasili Triant” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How Companies Are Evolving in the Mobile Age | Vasili Triant

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty, let’s get rocking and rolling. We’re excited to go today. We’re going to be talking about how companies are evolving in the mobile age. You got myself, Gabe Larsen. I’m the Vice President of Growth. Vikas, why don’t you take a second, introduce yourself? And then we’ll have Vasili introduce himself.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:28)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s sidekick and 20 years CRM contact center life.

Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Awesome. Vasili, over to you.

Vasili Triant: (00:38)
Vasili Triant, Chief Business Officer here at UJET. Formerly was the Vice President and GM of the contact center business at Cisco and prior to that, I was actually CEO of a cloud contact center company called Serenova. So happy to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, exciting to have you. Excited to get going today. Wanted to start maybe, Vikas, with you kicking it off and then I’m going to jump in.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:02)
Yeah look, I mean the cloud industry is transforming at a rapid pace. I think, what we’ve seen particularly in the last six, 12 months is that we are now seeing our customers and prospects in the market just adopt new technologies and the big drive and the makeshift to digital. And what we often hear from people in the industry, analysts, et cetera, is that voice as a channel is dead right? And no. Vasili, you mentioned you were at Cisco and now UJET. What’s your take on that? Does voice have a play in a world where people want to WhatsApp and they want to chat and they want to SMS? Where does voice sit in this market?

Vasili Triant: (01:42)
You know, we’ve, the voice is dead thing I’ve heard since the late nineties. And I think the idea originally started that with digital transition, people start using internet more, commerce started becoming over the web. The idea was, if you move to chat, you could reduce voice interactions. People wouldn’t want to go over voice and you would reduce costs of transaction. And that was a big move of the late nineties and pretty much the first decade of the two thousands around like, “Hey, how do we reduce costs?” The reality is consumers want to communicate with brands via channel, I’ll just call it X, and voice continues to be a big part. But the reality is it’s not that one channel is taking over another. All channels are on the rise. So voice is increasing. Chat’s increasing, right? So they’re all increasing. Actually the number of interactions per consumer is actually on the rise. So instead of having a singular interaction, we’re having multiple interactions to solve one problem. Like you may do chat and voice and maybe like a tweet at the same time, right?

Gabe Larsen: (02:54)
Yeah. It’s interesting to see these different channels, people from thinking every channel that’s added is going to cut down the conversations and it seems to add more conversations to the overall mix, but I love the phone is dead. It’s I mean, you probably, it sounds like you’ve been hearing it for now 30 years and it doesn’t seem like it’s going away anytime soon. So what do you think about the space? I mean, you’ve been doing it for a long time Vasili, and certainly the trends and the challenges have shifted. Consumer expectations have shifted over the last little while. Obviously COVID now playing a big role in consumer expectations. Where are we now? What are some of those big rock challenges that the contact center market’s facing?

Vasili Triant: (03:37)
It’s an amazing time right now, just overall, right? So I kind of see things in really kind of two dimensions at this point. And we’re in, by the most evolving, rapidly evolving transition in the contact center space, because unfortunately COVID has become this defining moment where, what used to be like, “Hey, I’ll get to a cloud transition at some point,” now it’s, “I have to because one, my business, it can’t be in brick and mortar or has some limitations on brick and mortar, but also the consumers are changing how they’re interacting my brand.” Like I’m not going anymore to a Macy’s or Nordstrom or a Dick’s Sporting Goods to buy things. I’m just doing everything online. So you have this change of how consumers are dealing with brands, and frankly, there’s a rise in just overall activity from brands and consumers in whether it’s retail or sports and buying things delivered to their home.

Vasili Triant: (04:33)
There’s a second dimension, which is we now have to evolve and where are we going? And those kind of break down into there are these legacy cloud solutions, we call them kind of cloud 1.0 solutions, that were originally migrated from on-premise into data centers. And we added multitenancy as an industry. And that’s a majority of the vendors out there. There’s cloud 2.0 which builds solutions that leverage infrastructure as a service, which really increased reach and the idea was to increase scale. But the problems really blanketed all of these vendors around reliability, scalability, reach, ease of integration with all these other applications. And now you have this rise of what we call cloud 3.0, which is purpose built for this era of consumer transition, of brand transition. It obviously, there was no prediction that COVID was going to happen, but there was a prediction or an idea that consumers and the world will be more mobile, be more smartphone centric and connect in different ways than we did before.

Gabe Larsen: (05:38)
Hmm. I mean, do you feel like when it comes to most of the market, this, COVID hit a lot of companies, fairly hard, meaning they worked, they weren’t remote ready. They were playing in kind of this on prem. You don’t necessarily have to put a number to it, but a fairly large number of people were kind of playing in that 1.0, 2.0 realm when it came to their contact center technology expertise, et cetera. Is that fair?

Vasili Triant: (06:06)
I would say that a majority of the people, there’s still 80 to 85% of contact centers are still in on-premise technology. You have another 15% that we’re playing with what I call the 1.0 or the 2.0 transition. So in that dichotomy, you have the prem folks that are like, “I have to do something. I have to get there and I’ve seen issues with cloud 1.0. Who can solve my problems in this modern era?” And then the folks that were in cloud 1.0 are now some of them are having booms in their business. And they’re saying we need platforms and solutions that can scale both, like scale number of transactions and users, but also scaling, “Hey, by the way, we actually have to get to CX transformation. Like we actually have to make customers happier,” because if I don’t like you, Gabe, I can just drop an ad or drop a website, just go to another website. Like it’s no longer what store you’re driving by or what restaurant you just saw. You’re looking at everything electronically most of the day.

Gabe Larsen: (07:07)
I mean, Vikas, you’ve played in this space for a long time, why haven’t some of these companies not be able to make that transition? As Vasili talks about it I’m like, “What a bunch of fools! Why are they waiting so long?” Why is it so hard?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
The change is hard, right, in the best of times. And I think when you look at these organizations, the three big prongs to any transformation, right? We’ve got the people first and foremost. And I think for a lot of these organizations, when they think about retraining their agent, when they think about [inaudible], when they even think about their training guides, they take pause, right? Like, “Oh my goodness. We’re going to have to do this all over again. We’re going to have to build it if doesn’t exist,” right? So I think that becomes one area. The second is their processes. I think a lot of them, to Vasili’s point, it’s less about the technology. It’s, have your processes actually adapted to the modern consumer? And look, I mean, you look at the, telcos are a prime example. They just haven’t. They’ve got a monopoly, there’s a reluctance to change or willingness to change.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:15)
But I think until those verticals or industries get disrupted, they really say, “Look, we’ll just going to handle things status quo.” And then ultimately it’s the platform challenge, right? The thoughts or concerns about going from 1.0 or 2.0 to 3.0 and the generalization. And you know, that consultants in the past that created this concept of, well, this is going to cost you millions of dollars. And a lot of times, if people are like, wait, I really, so I think those are the three things where it’s not we aren’t smart people, et cetera. Most of them that Vasili and I speak to will tell you, “We know we have to do it. It’s just a matter of the when and the why.”

Gabe Larsen: (08:53)
I’m surprised that it’s 80%, I’m seeing multiple comments of people. I just popped the, Sheila, she agreed with me, Vasili, that 80% is the number of people. So we’re not talking about a small, there’s a lot of people who have now been forced into a very uncomfortable position, but you know what? There’s nothing like –

Vikas Bhambri: (09:09)
Well here’s the thing. Like, and I’ve said this to you before, and Vasili, I don’t know if you’ve heard me say this. The pandemic, in a way, has created the biggest stress test that at least I, in my career, in the contact center, CRM industry, I’ve ever see., Whether it’s broken people’s technology where they’re like, “I want to send my agents to work from home, but they literally cannot pick up the phone and get a dial tone,” to, “My processes don’t work.” And now the consumers are barring them where Vasili said, we’ve seen interactions go up naturally in the course of years. Now we’re seeing four or five and we spoke to one CEO who’s said he’s seen 50 X the number, I mean, it was almost an unbelievable number, the number of interactions for the stress test.

Vasili Triant: (09:53)
One of the challenges that is actually happening right now, though, is there is, there’s kind of two pieces to this transition. One, I have to get my agents to cloud. So we’re just going out and buying cloud solutions. And of course you can look at the public markets right now in any SaaS company and in our space is frankly just booming regardless of what we call fit for purpose. The second part is, I need to get to CX transformation. Like, how am I going to be a better company than my competitor? And how am I going to like listen to my consumers? And it’s kind of most things like if your car broke down, is the answer that I need to find a car that works for how many kids I have, how far I’m driving, my budget on insurance or is it, I just need to go get a car, right?

Vasili Triant: (10:37)
And there’s a lot of companies right now that are like, “I just need to go get a car and then I’ll worry about the CX transformation later.” And what you’re going to see is kind of this double bubble of companies moving to cloud, then realize, “Okay, I got that problem solved. Now I actually have to improve customer experience because this didn’t meet my needs.” Or, like the common thing you might hear from some companies is, “Oh, we have outage Wednesdays or outage Thursdays,” because the platform just can’t meet those needs. And this is a lot of the things that you’re seeing out there. There are some companies taking their time saying we have to make the right move to engage our consumers because it’s about cloud, but it’s also about how do we improve customer experience because lifetime value is more important than either cost of transaction or just even general uptime.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:28)
Yeah. I would say to that point, I am speaking now more to the C level about this, than ever before. And I think it’s because this has become, once again, the stress test, that’s flagged this for a lot of CEOs, COOs and this is broken. And I think that the contact center to a degree has done a great job of shielding the executives from this, and everybody’s focused on top line growth, et cetera, right? So now these things are hyper escalated visibility. When you have slow down Wednesdays, or when people consistently are contacting your agents and you’re just like, “I’m swearing my system. I hate this thing. That’s like my, one of my biggest pet peeves. My systems are slow or our systems are slow today. My system just rebooted.” People are taking to the airwaves on Twitter and Facebook and all calling these brands out. So now it’s getting visibility at the exact level.

Gabe Larsen: (12:25)
Yeah, whether you like it or not, it’s coming. I think Kristen from the audience send us a messgae. Change is imperative. I think people are recognizing that, but how do they do it? As you think about some of these successful companies you’ve coached, you worked with clients specifically, how are then companies, they’re being forced to do it, how are they actually being successful in making that transition?

Vasili Triant: (12:48)
I think the biggest success that I don’t know if I’d say we see or I see or the companies that actually start looking at the problem from them being a customer of their own company, right? When I break it, when they kind of break it down one more level and say, “If I’m dealing with my own company, how am I entering? How am I, what are the touch points and what is my frustration?” A lot of times what we say is meet the consumer where the consumer is at, instead of pushing the consumer out to places maybe they don’t want to be. And so when we talk about how is customer service evolving in this mobile world, where is your consumer? Are they on their smartphone? Are they on their PC and their website? Like, you need to understand that and you need to meet them there.

Vasili Triant: (13:35)
One of the things that we hear a lot about is, “Hey, what about Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn?” And the comment there is, if your consumer is already at Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, they’ve already had a failure of customer experience with you. And now you’re trying to solve the problem after the fact, like they’re already ticked off, you got to get to the front end of it. And if you can do that and look at it from the consumer’s perspective, then you can figure out where is their journey and what are the things that we need to offer them? It’s really about digital transition right now, and being able to offer those options. And there’s not a lot of things that do it all. There’s a lot of great marketing messages. There’s a lot of like, we can talk about automation. So one hammer saying, how do we improve customer experience? But then there’s a whole other segment of the industry, it’s like, how do we automate the front end? Because if we automate the front end, we think people want to not deal with a live person. Or we think that we can reduce the number of agents which ends reduces costs and maybe it helps our P and L. The reality is you have to back up and think about it from being a consumer yourself, whether you’re viewing a banking application or insurance, or any type of on-demand tech, whether it’s Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, whatever it may be, right?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:53)
Yeah. That goes back to the early discussion we had around voice. And this whole thing that we’ve been hearing in the industry for 20, 30 years, that voice is dead, and nobody wants to call the 1-800 number. No, nobody wants to call your crappy line. Nobody wants to scream at your IVR. That’s like they speak to me and give me your number or give me yes or no and then don’t understand what I’m saying. And now yelling and screaming. It’s not that, we still see that when push comes to shove and consumers really want to get ahold of you, they want to speak to somebody else on the other end of the line, right? Because that’s a great example –

Vasili Triant: (15:31)
One, but yeah, the biggest thing, one context, right? That’s the other thing too. Like if I speak around my house and then all of a sudden I pick up my phone and I get on a website and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, there’s like a website that was just about what I’m speaking.” Like, there’s this expectation from consumers of what technology can do today, and so it’s like be smarter. So when I do call in, you should know that where I was either in your app or on your website, let me skip the first couple of steps. Like, why do I have to press one for English and two for Spanish? Shouldn’t you know that either I’m a Spanish speaker or an English speaker? And not buying like legacy things, just like caller ID, but like where I’ve already got it digitally authenticated at an application or on a website, like if I’m on your website and I already have it translated in Spanish, when I hit contact us and I go to a phone number for like either a web RTC call or something like, why are you asking me that question again?

Vasili Triant: (16:24)
Skip it. I actually called a major hotel chain that I deal with the other day and they put this big, massive automated speech thing in front of it. And they’re trying to solve my problem. Like, oh my God, I just want the person that I usually deal with so I spent a few extra minute, getting through all that, got to the person. And then they said, “How can I help you? Can you give me your information?” I’m like, “I literally just did all my authentication.” And they actually had it before and they lost it with this whole automated thing. It doesn’t pass the information all the way through. And that was, I said, “Forget it. I’ll just go to the website and just deal with it myself.”

Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And that’s the thing and I often talk about this and I think over the last 10, 15 years, no offense Gabe, we’ve seen a lot of investment in the customer acquisition side of the house. Sales and marketing technologies to that point of hyper personalization that Vasili talked about. I talked to my wife about, should we be buying a new bike for my daughter? And next thing we know we’re getting bombarded on every website we go to, every app we go to with advertising for bicycles. And then we acquire the customer, we sell them that bicycle, and then something goes wrong. The pedal breaks or the seat breaks and we’re like, “Oh no. Now we’re going to send you to this antiquated infrastructure back in the 1950s,” right? Kind of like black and white screen. And now you’re going to have to do all this to get your problem solved. So it’s amazing. And I think that the tide is turning where people are like, “I’ve invested in that acquisition, but I really need to have that same focus and mindset on personalizing the customer support service side as well.”

Gabe Larsen: (18:02)
Yeah. It does feel like it’s time. And the time obviously is now, so Vasili, recently, we both kind of announced a fun partnership between UJET and Kustomer, but I’m curious to talk some challenges and some of the successful ways people are overcoming those challenges. How is UJET jumping in and solving some of these challenges in addition by themselves, and then with the Kustomer addition to our partnership?

Vasili Triant: (18:25)
Yeah. So we’re just an ultra modern, like new way of looking at things. We built a platform that took into account how everything has evolved in this era of technology. So forgetting just infrastructure pieces for a moment, what are the common things that happen when a brand is trying to gather information and flow in order to then answer the problem and you start with data, right? So you need all the data in one place. What is everybody doing? They build all these systems and then try to integrate all these data stores or systems or records. We’ve purposely built our application for CRM and ticketing. In other words, we said, “Where are brands going to want all their information? They’re going to want it in their CRM or ticketing platform.” So we purposely built an application for that. We don’t store any of that, we actually put it in one place. It’s not about integrating and starting to have these data disparities, but more unifying it. Also, when you’re looking at something it’s all in one place, and then you can answer problems better. The second thing is the biggest thing, frankly, is where are consumers today? They’re on their smartphones. They’re on the web and meet them where they’re at. So we essentially embed the connectivity between a consumer brand in their app, and we don’t make the consumer go outside of it. So you can get things like, know how long they’ve been on either a page or a place within the mobile app. You can know geolocation data, all kinds of different things around the problems already looking at and skip steps. What does that mean? I may know that Vasili shouldn’t go into an automated attendant to start asking me all these questions and he needs to go to a live agent right away, or his problem might be simple. Let me put them into a virtual agent.

Vasili Triant: (20:11)
And I can connect through voice, chat and then do more advanced things like share photos, share videos. I was dealing with an appliance company the other day and I built this new house, put all these new appliances in, and I’m trying to explain the problem. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I just want to show you. What can I do?” “Well, we don’t have an email for individuals, but you can send it to this thing.” I mean, there’s like all these delays and we enable real-time communication through a lot of different methods so that essentially consumers can interact with a brand the way they want to. And we make it seamless between that mobile experience and web. And the reality is, this is where consumers are today. They’re on these devices. And so you need to be able to interact with them there. And we just do it differently. Now with Kustomer, it’s interesting because you all have taken an ultra modern approach to the ticketing and service problem. And then we’ve taken this ultra modern approach to customer experience. So the types of brands that are really looking for that CX transformation, what’s better than this ultra modern approach from two companies where it just blends together? The integration becomes seamless. You’re not looking really at two different applications, but essentially one solution to solve my customer service problem.

Gabe Larsen: (21:29)
Yeah. I love it. Vikas, what would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (21:32)
No, look, I think the key thing is that data and giving access to the agent, right? So you have that human experience. For me, it’s bringing in that data of who the customer is, where they are in their journey, right? All the data that UJET gives us in terms of where they are in our app, where they are on our website, what are they looking at, what did they do, who do we know? Because you can authenticate as well, right? Bringing that all then to the agent to get right to the heart of the matter, resolve that problem all effectively, for one, the customer’s happiness. But then the brand’s efficient. Now I can actually handle more of these inquiries, the surge that Vasili talked about earlier. So really it is a win-win for the agent, the brand, and then effectively the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (22:17)
I like that, you guys. We fit a lot today. As we wrap, we’d love to just have a quick summary. We got a lot of CX leaders out there, contact center leaders trying to make this transition. What’s that one thing you’d leave them with as they kind of get ready for a fun weekend here? We’ll start with you.

Vasili Triant: (22:35)
I’ll take that one then. I’d say we’ve got to find the solutions together that are ultimately going to make your customers happy. And that’s what we’re passionate about is making your customers happy at the end of each of those experiences and along the entire journey.

Gabe Larsen: (22:51)
Love it. Vikas, closing remarks from your side?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:53)
Yeah. The last thing, I think when a lot of people see the joint offering between Kustomer and UJET, their minds are blown. Like, “Wow, this is what I dreamt up. This is what I thought.” I’ve heard these comments repeatedly for the last three years. But then people are like, “Well, we’re not there yet”. It goes back to what Vasili was saying about earlier at 85% of these people on the 1.0. I think it’s really about working with UJET and Kustomer to say, “How do I kind of walk through a process or change management?” Crawl, walk, run. This stuff’s getting me there. Right? You don’t have to knock it all out. Especially the, I think a lot of the enterprises see it. And they’re like, “This is modern. This is new.” But it’s better for the new age company. And eventually those new age companies are going to come eat your lunch if you don’t figure it out sooner or later. So what I would say is figure out ways to kind of start the adoption process now.

Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
Oh, I love it. It’s like change or be changed. It’s happening whether you like it or not. Guys, thanks so much for joining. Vasili, it’s great to have you bring in that experience. Vikas, partner in crime, thanks as always for jumping on. And for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (24:05)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Enjoy the Ride by Switching to Kustomer with Eric Chon

Enjoy the Ride by Switching to Kustomer with Eric Chon TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Eric Chon and Vikas Bhambri to learn about making the switch to Kustomer to service their users. Eric is the Community Support Manager at Zwift – an MMO cycling and running game for exercise at home. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Enhancing a Zwifter’s Route with the Ultimate CX

Zwift is a physical training program that allows users to exercise from home and tour maps with other Zwifters on stationary bikes. Each player’s avatar is displayed on screen in a virtual world with varying levels of terrain difficulty. What attracts cycling and running enthusiasts to Zwift is the option to stay home and still have a great, sweat-inducing workout. As inclines change in the virtual world, cycling becomes more strenuous, which gives the game a more realistic feel. The game also has incremental awards that entice players to cycle more often, to join teams, and to interact with others throughout the trails. Because of this user collaborative environment, Zwift needs a strong CX backing to support users throughout their gameplay. Eric and his team made the switch from Zendesk to Kustomer and the benefits to their customers have been endless.

The Making of a Seamless Integration

Change is hard, especially for big brands like Zwift that require an entire support team of expert representatives to provide the best experience for users. For Eric’s team; however, changing from Zendesk to Kustomer was a seamless transition and they recommend that all leaders make the switch ASAP. The reason for switching CRMs, according to Eric, is he believes that CX is a human-to-human interaction and a platform that encapsulates those beliefs into one space is vital for customer success. Eric often finds that other leaders overuse buzzwords like omnichannel to gain attention in the CX world, causing such terms to lose their true meaning. Many companies think they’re qualified as omnichannel simply for offering multiple communication routes between customers and agents. For a brand to be truly omnichannel, their CX teams need to have the ability to switch between communication channels seamlessly to continue the conversation, rather than only offer direct messaging, emails and phone calls as chat routes on their own. “So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel.”

Throw Tickets Away – It’s Time for Human Interaction

Customer culture is constantly changing. Long gone are the days of customer delis where each ticket represents a person and the transaction is done quickly without much regard for customer satisfaction. When agents have a ticket counter or “deli” mentality, they don’t truly understand the why behind CX and how it helps brand loyalty in the long run. This is the responsibility of the leaders – to train their teams to have empathy for the why behind their roles, and to help them understand how each role impacts the company. The use of platforms like Kustomer helps teams maintain a sense of self and identity with their brand because it doesn’t force companies to adapt to new processes, rather, it works for the company as is. This way, leaders don’t have to copy and paste from an old system to a new one to make their processes more efficient and pretty. “When you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change.” Changing how agents approach CX by having an understanding of the why and taking advantage of modern CRM platforms like Kustomer will surely enhance the customer experience and result in lasting loyalty.

To learn more about Zwift’s transition to Kustomer and Eric’s work, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Switching CX Gears with Zwift | Why They Decided to Transition” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Switching CX Gears with Zwift | Eric Chon

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Today. We’re going to be talking about switching CX gears with Zwift. We’ve got special guests: Eric Chon, Vikas Bhambri. Eric, let’s start with you. Can you give us kind of just a quick introduction, who you are and a little bit about Zwift?

Eric Chon: (00:26)
Hi. Yeah, sure. I’m Eric. I’m the Community Support Manager at Zwift. Zwift is a online cycling platform and running, multi-sport to kinda get you off your keister and exercising. It’s a sports MMO, so you’ll be running and cycling with basically everyone else in the world that’s currently running or cycling on our many, many courses.

Gabe Larsen: (00:52)
I love it.

Eric Chon: (00:53)
It’s pretty cool.

Gabe Larsen: (00:53)
And then would you tell us just a little more about some of the things you do in that role as the community leader over there at Zwift?

Eric Chon: (01:02)
Oh, sure. So I set a lot of the policy regarding our support initiatives. I lead a team of 15, 16 people located all over the world: in London, in, well now definitely distributed all over the world. In Australia and Japan. And we basically handle all the volume that’s coming in and act as a kind of a liaison between what our members are saying and how our game is developed.

Gabe Larsen: (01:32)
Love it. Alrighty. Well, again, it’s exciting for you to join Eric. Excited to get into the conversation. Vikas, real quick, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:38)
Yeah. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales in CX here at Kustomer. Eric, I guess my one question for you, is there any truth to the rumor that the Tour de France is going to be done through Zwift this year because of the pandemic?

Eric Chon: (01:51)
Well, actually the Tour de France happened through Zwift actually. So it was the month of July, we hosted the first ever virtual Tour de France. We did two races every weekend and it was also the first time that there was an officially sponsored Tour de France for women.

Gabe Larsen: (02:11)
Very cool.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
There’s a big Zwift event coming up, right, in the fall? I was reading something about it, but yeah, I think it was a big global virtual race, right? That you all are hosting and coming up in either the fall or winter?

Eric Chon: (02:27)
I believe so. The big thing that’s really coming, I will say this, is what we call is Zwift Academy. And Zwift academy is our big initiative where we have these training plans all set out and then through this grueling process, anybody can join just to either increase their fitness, one man, one woman have a shot at becoming part of an actual pro team. And we’ve been running this for several years as well.

Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
It sounds like Vikas, you’re an avid. You’re a, how do you know all this stuff?

Gabe Larsen: (03:06)
Look, I’ve known Eric now for a couple of years and I’m a big fan of Zwift. I can’t lie and say, look at me. You can tell I’m not as –

Gabe Larsen: (03:13)
I was going to say, yeah definitely don’t exercise. I can tell you that. We actually only want to see your head.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:20)
Fair enough.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
Well, awesome. Well let’s get into it. So today we’re going to talk a little bit about switching CX gears with Zwift. You obviously made a platform change recently, Eric, where you guys jumped onto the Kustomer platform from a different platform. And today I wanted to just hear a little bit about the why, the what, and the how. So if you can, maybe start with the big picture and just tell us, why did you even start looking for a different platform? What were some of those pains you started to feel that maybe brought you to ultimately partnering with us?

Eric Chon: (03:56)
Well we wanted a platform that’s a little bit more human, that allowed us to interact with our members and potential members in a more organic way. The old ticketing kind of system made me feel too much like, I’ve used this analogy a lot, but like a deli counter, right? You pull a ticket, you get answered, you throw the ticket away and then you move on. And if you write back, the tools to know like where, like what problems you faced in the past, weren’t great. You kind of had to search for it. So we’re definitely looking, everyone always says omnichannel, omnichannel, omnichannel. That was the buzzword for a long time. And nothing really truly delivered what we were looking for.

Eric Chon: (04:39)
When we came upon Kustomer. Actually it was mentioned to us through FCR as a potential to take a look at because they knew that we were kind of dissatisfied with what we were at. So we checked it out and it was kind of weird to see like, this timeline is exactly what we want. This is exactly what we’re looking for. Every conversation, every email, phone call, chat, text message, it’s all in a line. You can kind of see the whole history the customer’s journey, right? From one day saying, “Hey, I want to join your platform,” to like, “Is this the right thing to get to? I can’t connect this thing because Bluetooth is all messed up.” And so any agent or colleague that kind of reads through that gets a complete picture. And that’s fantastic.

Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Yeah interesting. So originally you were, you had this kind of ticket-based program and you were feeling needs to be a little bit more customer centric. And then some of these things started to hit you in the right spot. This omnichannel. I got to just click on that real quick. That is a buzzword, right? And you kind of hit on that, “Omni, omni, omni.” What makes the solution not Omni channel because everybody says, “We’re omnichannel,” and everybody thinks they’re omnichannel. And what does omnichannel mean for you? And how did you kind of find that then in the Kustomer platform?

Eric Chon: (05:54)
It’s kind of interesting also because I haven’t heard it until everyone started talking about it and I’m like, “Oh, that makes sense.” Like what you want, you want all of your contacts to be in one spot and you want it to, if you want to switch, the idea to me, the idea of an omnichannel is where you’re supposed to meet the customer where they want to be contacted. And where we were before the chat program is very robust, but it was a completely separate program. It was an acquisition. So to pull data or to see things, it was, you’d have to have a separate tab, have a separate window. Same thing with the phones, cell phone support. All of this stuff was separate and it was harder for our agents to kind of tie that information together.

Eric Chon: (06:41)
What I really like is how Kustomer handles it again, like I said, it’s all in one timeline. If we’ve discovered that someone really wants to have us text them, we don’t technically offer text support yet, but the capability of like, “You know what, the last time you wrote in, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m just sending you an email, but could you text me a follow-up,'” you can do that. And it’s all part of the, it’s all part of the flow. You can reach out and connect with that person the way they want to be connected. There’s the golden rule, which is to treat people the way you want to be treated. But there’s the platinum rule which is to treat people the way they want to be treated. And I feel Kustomer allows us to follow that platinum rule.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:22)
Yeah, Gabe. I think this is one of the things that whatever Zwift’s moving to is what a lot of the traditional vendors, old vendors, to call more traditional is much more respectful I guess, is they just rebranded multi-channel to omnichannel. And for them, what that meant is we have all these channels and you can use email, you can use chat and you can get them into one ticketing platform. What they were missing were two key things that Eric alluded to. One is that ability for either the customer or the agent to change the channel. So for example, you send me a chat or an SMS, but I’m trying to get you to fill out a document. You’re not going to do that on your cell phone. I’m going to email you a PDF that I need you to fill out. You can, that is true omnichannel. Being able to go to these traditional ticketing platforms that market themselves as omnichannel; you get an email, you’re responding an email; you get a chat, you’re responding and chat. That’s not true omnichannel.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:19)
The other thing that a customer jumps in the middle of that same issue from a chat to an email or vice versa is merging that together. And what we, we look at it as a conversation into a single conversation, and we call it a multichannel omnichannel conversation where you’ve got different touch points that have come in, but the conversation is around the same topics. Really look, you can call something whatever you want, right? But at the end of the day, I think the true principle of what omnichannel is, is what Eric’s alluding to.

Gabe Larsen: (08:50)
Interesting. Interesting. I like that, kind of bringing it all together. Eric, it sounds like that struck a chord. Let’s be on the [inaudible] piece for just a minute. So I don’t know if it was the, kind of mentioned multiple screens, right? But also disability too. Now that sounds like a couple of different data sources in one view. Were you bringing in a couple of different pieces of data to kind of optimize that customer experience?

Eric Chon: (09:16)
So prior to that, yeah, it was, I’m going to use, I’ll use chat as an example here for sure. In order to get our chat information from one to, because everything was done in GoodData, which is a heck of a platform to try to understand. It’s very powerful, but we had to create a separate ticket for each chat that came in so that it would be funneled into the system. I don’t know if that’s still the case but that was a huge pain process to try to get that. And then to get the relevant data across, it really was hours and hours and hours of my time to even get it to some kind of semblance of understanding how many chats came in, where they were coming in, what they were asking for, and could we tie them to the same user?

Vikas Bhambri: (10:10)
One of the things, Eric, that we often hear from folks that are using ticketing platforms is that the ticketing platform is kind of the source of the inquiry from the customer. But a lot of the data that resides about the customer sits in other systems, they kind of, we call the swivel chair where I’m living in a ticketing system like Zendesk and the inquiry comes in from the customer, but then I’m going to another system to go and research it, or maybe find out more about them. Like for instance, what were the kind of the different systems that you were using that the support team had to kind of pivot between? And then were you able to bring any of that into one single view in the customer platform?

Eric Chon: (10:54)
Yeah, well between chat phones, our three main lines of contact, they were all separate systems. So getting them all together and one was a challenge. In Kustomer, they’re all in the same platform. And so they all filter into the same data set. It’s a lot easier for us to kind of see, “Okay, well, how many calls did we get? How long were they? Which teams worked on them and did that call turn into a chat? Did that chat turn into an email?” We can see that transition. We can see how many of those there are and have the tools to be able to see like, well, how often are we channel switching, right? From one to the other, that kind of information is just readily available at Kustomer.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:35)
And one of the things is, from your perspective as being this leader, change is hard, right? And particularly in the support world and you guys have gone through explosive growth and you have a lot of projects on your table. So the last thing you want to do is go in and implement a new customer service platform. What were some of the things that you considered in that as you were going through this process, the retraining of agents, the migration of data, and then how did that actually transpire as you were moving from Zendesk to Kustomer and working with the customer implementation team?

Eric Chon: (12:16)
I mean, we were younger, this is two years ago. I wouldn’t say we’re able to do riskier things, but for us, it’s a constant state of experimentation. It’s like, we want to find what’s best for us. And if we know we have the known quantity and we had all these known pain points and you’re like, “As we scale, this is not going to work for us.” We saw in Kustomer a huge potential to address every single one of those. And we knew that it was going to be, to switch from one to the other that we’ve been in for several years, it’s always going to be tough. But we know that the potential there was to not only just, I don’t know how to put this, to create a support platform that works for us as for us, instead of us trying to adapt to the platform itself was high.

Eric Chon: (13:11)
And that was one of the main reasons why we did it. That, and of course all the ability to keep everything on one channel. The implementation team led by Christina was phenomenal. Really, really smooth over a lot of the things that we had issues with. To be fair, I’m going to say with her experience, she even allowed us to improve our own internal processes. Taking advantage of what Kustomer had to offer and allowing us to think about things in a different manner that we didn’t think were possible before.

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
Yeah. So it sounds like the implementation went very smooth. As we, as you think about other customer experience leaders, community leaders, service leaders who are thinking about making that switch, I think you said it right, you were kind of embedded, it’s a little hard, no one wants to change, it feels uncomfortable, what advice do you have for them? What kind of things would you leave for that audience as they contemplate the same decisions you went through just a little bit ago?

Eric Chon: (14:16)
Document everything and it’s always going to be, it’s harder and easier than you think it’s going to be, right? Obviously, any kind of big switch, it’s always going to be harder than you think. But when you start seeing everything click, when you really start to see the advantages in the process, your mindset is going to change. How we decide to approach customer support evolved and that is huge. We are, it’s not just about the metrics, although of course the metrics are very important, right? But satisfaction with the ability to handle these things, customer satisfaction, customer effort, they all improved. So, you keep your eye on that and you’ll understand that it’s worth it. It’s worth it.

Gabe Larsen: (15:03)
I like that. Short-term, sometimes things can be harder. Long-term it does pay off. Vikas, what would you add? I mean, we’ve kind of experienced this. Coach people through it. What are they going to be thinking about as they switch?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:14)
You know, I think Eric started at the beginning, right? Which is you’re entrenched with whatever ticketing or system you’re using today. So first of all, being cognizant that change is hard, right? And it’s something, that whole change management process around educating your team as to the why. Eric was really articulated well. Why are we doing this, right? And it helps people understand why you’re going to go on that journey. And then it’s to really map out, we’re not just trying to cut and paste what we’re doing in an old system into a new system and make it a prettier screen. It’s using this as an opportunity to actually improve something. So whether it’s working with somebody like Christina on the Kustomer implementation team, or whether it’s even sitting back and revisiting some of the decisions you maybe made two, three years ago when you first implemented that other system, is there a better, or is there a different way that we could do today? But I think there’s really some unique opportunities, not just changing technology, but also not only changing the process, but in some cases seeing people talk about changing with people and helping inform the people, because it’s a very different world when you come in and you’re now interacting with humans. It’s human to human, as opposed to what Eric was saying, you’re this guy at the deli counter just taking these numbers or tickets. Right now, you’re dealing with human beings. You actually get to be more empowered. So we’ve actually heard from customers that their retention has gone up and people actually enjoy their role because they’re actually being able to get all this data and being empowered to deliver an amazing experience. With the ticketing systems, it’s really about that immediate transaction that you have with that particular customer.

Gabe Larsen: (16:59)
Awesome. Awesome. Alrighty well, Eric, really appreciate you jumping on. Vikas, likewise. For the audience, hope you understand. Hope you’ve got a great make the switch week. As we coach companies, as we think about helping leaders make the change, you can see Eric did it and he turned out all right. We’d advise you to do the same. So have a great day and we wish you the best.

Eric Chon: (17:24)
Take care. Thank you for having me guys.

Exit Voice: (17:32)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington

Eliminating Language Barriers to Personalize the Customer Experience with Edmund Ovington TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer are joined by Edmund Ovington to learn the secrets to breaking down language barriers. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Why Your Team Needs Language Translation Software

VP of Global Alliances at Unbabel, Edmund Ovington shares why language translation software is a hot topic in the world of CX and how leaders could greatly benefit from these services. As a CX leader, it should be a priority to relate to your customers on a personal level, as this generally leads to higher NPS scores and overall customer satisfaction. For the many companies that are struggling to expand globally, Edmund suggests investing in the superpower of resilience: language translation software.

And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay if no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine.”

The way these services work is through asynchronous communication, meaning there are multiple platforms that this translation method works through. The easiest is email; however, Edmund mentions that instant messaging or live chat works just as well. When a customer sends a message in another language, Unbabel instantly translates their words into the preferred language of the agent, and vice versa for instant digital communication.

Thinking Globally

Platforms such as Unbabel make it easy for companies to broaden their reach on a global scale without building in other countries and having to hire droves of native speaking employees. It offers internal benefits by allowing companies to stay centralized at an already well-developed location all while providing customer service benefits across the map. As Vikas points out, “It goes back to acting globally and thinking locally.” When a company removes that language barrier by adopting a mode of active translation, it opens up a whole world of possibilities for relationships with consumers on a much larger playing field.

You can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak.

Tools that enable brands to expand their reach are especially useful for leaders because they help to remove the extra steps for effective communication. Companies that use such tools have been able to enter certain markets and grow within those markets without friction.

Building a Deeper Connection with Customers

Lasting customer loyalty is earned through the creation of meaningful connections. Customers feel more confident in brand interactions when they can use their native language because it’s the language they’re most comfortable using. It can be exhaustive and frustrating for customers who don’t speak English fluently to communicate with customer experience agents who don’t speak their native language. When these customers can relate to an agent that speaks their native language, it wins the company major points and a deeper connection with that customer. They’ll stay loyal to the brand and continue coming back because they know they’re heard and understood. “You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections.” Breaking language barriers and taking advantage of tools like Unbabel will make your brand known for going above and beyond customer expectations; for doing more than just the bare minimum.

To learn more about international communication and building customer relationships regardless of language, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

Listen Now:

Listen to “How to Evolve with the Changing Needs of your Customer Service Team | Edmund Ovington” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Removing Language Barriers to Enhance the Customer Experience | Edmund Ovington

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about language resilience and this expansion of key superpowers. To do that, we have two special guests and I’ll just let them take a second and introduce themselves. Let’s start with Edmund. You’re up.

Edmund Ovington: (00:25)
Hey Gabe. Hey Vikas. Lovely to be here. Thanks for having me. My name is Edmund. I am the VP of Global Alliances here at Unbabel. Based in Atlanta and excited to chat today.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
And Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime. Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (00:43)
Awesome. Awesome. And you know me. I run Marketing over here at Kustomer. So, I mean, let’s start big picture. We talked about this idea of resilience and it’s definitely very relevant in this post-COVID CX world. Why is it so important in customer service and how is it actually a superpower?

Edmund Ovington: (01:00)
Yeah. You know, this year has been interesting and I guess the truth is the, whereas a lot of people have probably stood on stage and talked about resilience and agility and flexibility for a long, long time. Actually doing it has probably come back to roost this year and it’s been a fun test of whether people are just talking or already walking. So yeah, with language, I really think about this idea of two aspects. One being, if you’re a growing company, how easy is it for you to launch new markets, testings, but then also what happens if things go wrong? If regulatory means you get shut out of the market and you can’t deploy as you thought, or as the macro economic climate changes or whatever, and how you set up from day one to deal with that. Deal with the tumultuous journey that every scale-up consumer company faces, especially in a interesting world where you can kind of sell anywhere.

Edmund Ovington: (02:04)
You don’t really know where your demand is going to come from. And the world is not as controlled as maybe it was if you’d launched a business 20 years ago. And then the other side is if you’re a very large company selling to consumers again, this year is a great example of how do you maintain and how do you have the DNA to keep an amazing experience for everyone globally when the world is changing so much, right? Whether it’s country shutting down or whether it’s suddenly, you’re not able to ship things to people because borders are sharp, whatever it might be. How do you keep the integrity of your expectations, your own bar of excellence around customer experience without just constantly firefighting, right? How do you keep some sort of strategy, some sort of thread rod through the middle? And we’re finding, we’re all seeing obviously that the best companies in the world have set themselves up for this, that they’d really built this in from the day one and they’re not now scrambling to put it together.

Gabe Larsen: (03:02)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, Vikas, you’ve seen this globally. In many cases, languages plays a role, it kind of can make or break the customer service experience. Why do you feel important as companies think about expanding globally that they consider language as part of that expansion?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:16)
Well, I think first and foremost, I think what Edmund alluded to is that the barriers to entering new markets has reduced greatly, right? Yes, there are regulatory; however, distribution, technology from a commerce perspective, there’s amazing platforms out there that allows you to do the currency of the tax. And you can get up and running pretty quickly. And then distribution into these new markets, it has become a less friction, more frictionless, right? So I think that’s a great opportunity for any DTC brand, any retailer, any fintech company, et cetera.

Gabe Larsen: (03:55)
Yeah. Go ahead.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
The flip side then is if you’re going to do business in these markets, how do you kind of act globally, think locally? And I think that’s where language plays such a strong role, especially in building that customer relationship. It’s not enough to have your website or your app available in that local language, but now when people actually engage you, are you showing empathy and a desire to transact with them? We think about this at Kustomer, this concept of the me. The me and the consumer, right? And the consumer wants to be, they don’t want you to think of you as an American brand or a British brand, right? Yes, you might be but I don’t want to do business with you in your language, do business with me in my language. And I think that’s where we’re seeing the customer experience evolve to.

Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Has this been around a while, you guys? It seems like to your point, Vikas, people are so focused on the first part of the experience. The website needed to be in the language or the, but now it’s shifted. Like you have to have this post-sales experience in something that is not about you, but about them. Was there, is that, did I miss that? Or is that a newer trend?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:05)
No, it’s been around forever. However, it was something that was only available to the multinationals, right? Because at the end of the day, the way you went about it, in the olden days, quote unquote, for some of us who’ve been in the industry for 20 years, is you went and hired local language speakers, right? And so we’re going to do business in the Czech Republic. So we’re going to go and hire people that either speak or can write and track if that’s how we want to do business. And don’t want to force them to speak to us in English only. Well that doesn’t work if you’re a high growth DTC brand with a team of 20 and the team might be a mix of English and Spanish speakers. So I think technology was a limiting factor and it was something that was only available to these multi-nationals and Edmund, I’m sure this is something you can speak to because obviously this is your bread and butter.

Gabe Larsen: (06:00)
Yeah, Edmund, what do you say? Why has language becomes so important in this kind of post, well, let’s call it post-COVID, but in the general customer service arena?

Edmund Ovington: (06:10)
So we actually validated our company with this use case, if you like. Like where we’re coming on seven years old now, and the first few years, we were almost exclusively selling to B2C companies that were blowing up that were hitting the right moment in that hockey stick. And didn’t quite know whether it be they’re a social media platform or a DTC company as Vikas was talking about, just couldn’t predict. And so we realized that they could keep this lean team, this excellent, this almost SWAT team approach and deal with all the languages using our solution without having to hire those native speakers. And so we realized this was superpower, right? And we got that, but wow, hasn’t 2020 shown that that was not just a superpower, but like something you have to have. You have to have the ability to cope with the whole continent, going offline to some degree in terms of your on the ground resources and being able to shift things. For a lot of companies, this is shifting to work from home. For a lot of our customers, it was a moment switching off maybe Filipino agents and turning on Mexican agents as one of our customers were talking to yesterday, but within hours, right? Because you’ve got millions of customers to keep happy. And some of these organizations as well, although COVID was disrupting the world, the gaining customers, the peripheral customers, the DTC customers, their volumes were going sky high, right? So suddenly they’re dealing with more demand than they expected in a world where they can’t get any of their supply chain actually activated. And so you have to have this DNA of resilience to be able to say, “It’s okay. If no one can get to an office, we can keep giving great customer service to everyone, irrespective of the language they speak. And even better than that, actually this is our opportunity to shine,” right?

Edmund Ovington: (07:58)
This is if someone’s locked at home and they’re suddenly spending a lot more money online than they used to, if you can give them an amazing customer service and importantly in their preferred language, not their, not just because they happen to speak English and we’re all arrogant and think everyone does, like actually deal with them and make them happy in the language they prefer, you’ve won their heart, right? You’ve won them for the long term because they’re going through a hard time and that’s how you build emotional connections. So I think that’s what we’ve really seen this year for the best companies who have done this and we’re ready for this and now winning customers for life every day. Every second.

Gabe Larsen: (08:34)
Yeah. Well it definitely seems like it is. It’s a nice cherry on top, right? I think it makes you feel that added specialness, right? Maybe you could walk me through the process because I’m having a hard time visualizing it a little bit. But if I wanted to experience this kind of additional benefit, I’m a customer, I pop on somebody’s website, normally where I’m calling in or I’m on a chat, walk through. I chat in Chinese and they write me back in English, but how does this now work the way you guys see it in an optimal flow?

Edmund Ovington: (09:08)
Yeah. Let’s use that example. So you were based in Beijing and you write in simplified Chinese, right? The most [inaudible] in mainland China, form of Chinese.

Gabe Larsen: (09:19)
Give an example that I can understand because I don’t know if I can do –

Edmund Ovington: (09:24)
Yeah. Pretend you could and you’re right. So you’re writing on a website, you’re asking when your package is going to arrive or some sort of simple thing. So before, I’m the brand. I have to hire someone who’s both capable, but also happens to be able to write in that language. But maybe I’m based in California, right? And so finding people with that skillset, you want to work in that role, it’s pretty tough. For the first time now, I can have Vikas now answering that question, right? And he gets it immediately translated in real time to him into English, with all of the product names, everything perfectly translated exactly so he understands it and then he replies in English. But the most important thing is the end user gets a seamless, simplified Chinese experience that makes them think they’re talking to a native user and they don’t even know.

Edmund Ovington: (10:16)
And it’s, it’s exactly what the same response times, whether it’s an email or a chat that they would expect before. And so this kind of uninterruption of both the agent, so the agent does the same job they’re always doing. They do know it’s a Chinese customer, but they don’t have any change to their workflow. The system they’re using at Kustomer looks exactly the same. It’s beautiful. And then on the end, most importantly, the end user feels like they’re having a warm cuddle from someone who speaks their language and that’s exactly what you want.

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
Oh yeah. I can see how that works. What channels is that best for then? It’s really email and chat, is that where that’s typically going?

Edmund Ovington: (10:56)
So we predominantly launched in what I call asynchronous channels. Email’s the easiest one to comprehend, but there’s also web forms and many others. And then three years ago we started to deploy what we traditionally think of as live chat, right? Website chat. Like you just used an example that the one where you’re sat there expecting a response immediately, and that’s kind of the, it’s a real time exchange. But now actually, depending on what the brand we’re working with is setting in terms of expectations with our end user around messaging, it could also be a very asynchronous chat, right? It could be an in-app message where people are very happy to have a half hour response because they’ve written something longer. We can adapt to all of that. So basically our mission is to say that no matter what digital channel you or your clients choose, that could be WeChat, that could be WhatsApp, that could be Apple business messaging, it could be anything, right? The consistency of the experience is always that you always can pick the best agent to deal with that customer. Give them the best outcome in the channel that the client prefers in the language that the client prefers. And it kind of feels, if you think about that circle of the right agent, the right system with customer, kind of is the final part, right? It’s saying also the client gets to decide the nature, the language of that experience that they prefer.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:14)
And then think about that, right? I mean, Gabe, it just creates the more intimate relationship. I mean, you’ll often find for people that are multi-lingual will generally speak different languages in different environments, right? I might speak English in a business environment, but I might speak Hindi or Punjabi or Spanish or French at home. So now the brand actually gets to, if I choose to not speak my, quote unquote, professional language and speak my personal language with the brand, create that intimate relationship, because now I’m thinking of them as I would a family member or friend. So it just strengthens that relationship that the brand can have with the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (13:00)
And Edmund, is that, I mean, I assume it’s true. I mean, it feels like it’s true, but are you seeing some change in NPS or customer satisfaction? Are you seeing that this is moving the needle when it comes to that relationship? Indefinitely from an intuitive standpoint, it seems like it would add that nice cherry on top, but any success stories or movements you’ve seen, as companies have experienced this kind of change in language equals a change in relationship?

Edmund Ovington: (13:24)
Yeah. So for me, there’s two layers of that. The operational layer is the, just full stock, you get to pick the best agent, right? And so what we see, if you look across all of our deployments, you do see an increase in C-SAT. And we’d like to take a little bit of credit for that. But in reality, a lot of it is just because for the first time you can pick the place in the world, maybe the BPO vendor, that has the best agents, and you can bias towards the agent’s tenure scale suitability to the job, not just the fact they speak Dutch, right? And it’s suddenly, the pool widens, the talent gets more specific and everything goes nicely in place. So yes, we see a significant increase. And then secondly, yeah, I remember it was three and a bit years ago now, but I remember having a wonderful conversation with one of the big Telcos in Canada because a lot of my family lives in Toronto and we were talking about how Toronto is like one of the most beautifully diverse cities in the world.

Edmund Ovington: (14:22)
And how, if you are a utilities provider to assist you like that, wouldn’t it be an amazing USP to be able to say, “We don’t think that just because you moved here, you should be forced to talk to us in English. You should be able to have, if you prefer, the language experience in Portuguese, in Hindi, whatever you want, that makes you feel like you’re valued as a customer.” And that suddenly becomes something that actually companies can put forward. And I think especially in 2020, maybe that’s a very powerful message, is that you can be a company that doesn’t just do the bare minimum. You don’t just serve customers and say, “Yeah, we responded to their email,” and you actually go out of your way like you’ve been standing on stage and saying, and really deliver a personal service because that’s the term that’s been used for 15 years now. Personalization. Personalization is a very human thing, right? It doesn’t mean you send me the answer I want. It means you speak to me in the language metaphorically or in real life that I would want it to be spoken.

Gabe Larsen: (15:21)
Is personalization 15 years old? Is that right?

Edmund Ovington: (15:24)
So it was like exactly the length of my career. So yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (15:28)
Dang, [inaudible]. I need to get with the flow.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:31)
Well, the thing is it’s been used in the marketing world, right, for ages. I think reality is, I think we’re just now seeing it in the customer service world, right? And I think this is why you and I often joke about the term customer experience and you’re like, “Customer experience has been around.” And I’m like, “Yeah, because you marketeers have stolen this, kind of stolen this term. And now, customer service professionals are starting to think about the customer experience, right? So that’s kind of the pivot that those of us that have been in the contact center world are definitely observing.

Gabe Larsen: (16:07)
All right. I can take that. Well, and then I like this concept. I can see how the customers could be more satisfied, but you highlighted some internal benefits that I don’t know if I had seen as much. One is the hiring concept and you just passed over it a little bit, but you’re right. I mean, I’m opening an office in Abu Dhabi and now I’m like, “I got to make sure I get these right languages because this is where I’m going to do it.” And all of a sudden it’s like, “Well, hey. Language, maybe it doesn’t matter.” You move to scale. Is that what I heard you say?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:37)
Well, think. If Edmund, if I can interrupt, just think about this, Gabe. Let’s say I’m a US-based company and I’ve got my support operation and I’ve got it three layers deep, right? I’ve got a tier one, tier two, tier three. Now I’m going to go and operate in France. To go and create that same tier one, tier two, tier three structure in France is going to get extremely expensive. And also there’s a time to ramp, right? So now, just as an example, you could actually run everything from the US but maybe because of time zones, you’re like, “You know what, we’re going to have tier one in Paris, but we’re going to actually run tier two and tier three out of the US but in French using something like Unbabel,” right, where now to the French consumer, it’s seamless. But if they go beyond what the tier one can handle, because I think that’s the challenge, particularly for a lot of high-growth companies is I would basically have to replicate this odd in each language. And that’s why before it was only something big companies could do and not something that was available to the masses.

Gabe Larsen: (17:43)
Yeah. You were at that point of just having to not open an office and maybe you don’t even want to open an office in France. Open it up and you can run that out of what already is a well established facility in California. That’s pretty powerful. How does this work with in house and versus outsourcing? Does this, I mean, is there any kind of overlap here, Edmund, or is everybody just doing this in house when they’re kind of hiring employees in this category? Does that fit into this at all?

Edmund Ovington: (18:13)
Yeah. Great question. So I think the things I’ve been learning since we pivoted from just really helping fast-growing companies to now being predominantly, actually focused on large enterprise companies. And the reason that we realized this is powerful is that they’ve lived in a status quo of painful operational decisions, a huge scale based on language, right? Whether it be the vendors they choose from an outsourcing perspective, whether it be the location strategically. And as you say, the in house versus out out house and national versus offshore is painful, right? And what we found is that when you remove languages, the inhibitor of a decision, you suddenly open up a new world. And what we’re finding is that each company has, I think of it as like three circles. Then each company has various, different deployments within these areas. So number one is the idea of like the SWAT team, which could be tier four, tier three excellence in terms of the technical stuff. But quite often, they’ll want this at HQ, right? So quite often they’ll want this either at regional HQ or global HQ, the best of the best, often in-house. And allowing them to deal with every language is powerful.

Edmund Ovington: (19:24)
Then the second layer is saying, “Okay, then we want like the volume end of this. Then we want to be able to deal with whatever happens, whatever. We launch a new Xbox at Christmas. Like that’s going to blow things up, but we don’t quite know how much,” and that’s out of flux and deal with that. So maybe they pick India or the Philippines with an outsourcer who can hire 2000 people in a week without blinking, right? Very different. And they can do, they can have that in all languages.

Edmund Ovington: (19:48)
And then the final one, which is maybe the most exciting this year is also saying on top of that, maybe you want a gig economy model around that, right? So maybe you want to use one of these new gig providers. This is more, literally anyone anywhere in the world on a per transaction basis that provides that final layer of scale. And the beauty for me is I don’t care what a company decides to do. I can layer on top of all of that and make sure that all of that’s in every language. And that’s kind of the exciting part is whatever journey a company wants to go on, either now to fix their mess, or because they’re small and growing to plan and build resilience for the future, they can do it all without just without language becoming a blocker or a confusion or a pain.

Gabe Larsen: (20:32)
Yeah. I like it. Removing language to enhance global expansion. Alrighty. Well, Edmund, really appreciate it. Let’s see if we can wrap. Talked about a couple of different ideas. As you think about organizations trying to expand, dealing with post COVID. I mean, you know better than anybody, I think about some of the challenges they’re facing, sum it up for us. And then, Vikas, we’ll give you the last word. How can organizations expand and scale, thinking about language maybe not as an inhibitor anymore, but as maybe an advantage?

Edmund Ovington: (21:00)
Yeah. Well, I always think the answer is as simple as the question, right? But the beauty is that in 2020 and beyond, whereas the last decade was obviously largely dictated with deploying your resources based on where you can find people who speak the language, you no longer have to do that. And you can make strategic decisions that allow you to expand as fast as you need or provide as much resilience as you need or be in the countries you want to be in. And you can do that all whilst providing an excellent experience globally to everyone, no matter what language they speak. And that’s a whole new paradigm, right? Which is a very cliche thing to say, but it is really well. Which means if I was building a company today, that’s a B2C brand, I have a whole load of new opportunities to think about the way I test markets, I grow markets, I aim my way into markets, whatever I want to do, without friction. And that’s pretty cool. I’m really excited that that’s now on the table for the partners we’re working with and your customers are very much in the same place

Gabe Larsen: (22:02)
I love it. Don’t ever worry about saying cliche things. Vikas gives me all the time for using all the marketing buzz words. I’m like, “Kustomer is a conversational, AI powered….” He’s like, “What does that mean?” I’m like, “It doesn’t mean anything. That’s the beauty.” So you’ll never get me to say cliche. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
You know, I think it goes back to acting globally and thinking locally. And I think for me, the biggest thing is whether you look at a combination of Kustomer and Unbabel, but just unlocking opportunities that once were only available to the big companies, right? You mentioned the Xbox, or like Microsoft. Yeah, of course, we’ve got billions of dollars. We’ve got tons of resources, but now I could be releasing an app, right? That’s now going to be available globally and I could deliver the same experience and I think that’s a very unique opportunity for people that are thinking about it. It’s obviously something that can be used by enterprises, but if I was starting a brand new DTC brand today, it would allow me to go and penetrate these markets and deliver an amazing experience. So I think that’s a tremendous opportunity for anybody who’s thinking about how they set up an operation today that wasn’t available to them five, seven, eight years ago.

Gabe Larsen: (23:25)
I love it. I love it. Alrighty. Well, hey guys, really appreciate you taking the time. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (23:36)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

How to Scale Your Team Globally with Michael Windsor

How to Scale Your Team Globally with Michael Windsor TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Michael Windsor and Vikas Bhambri to learn about managing CX teams across the globe and building a strong foundation for success. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Why You Should Expand Your CX

Senior Director of Global Customer Experience at Skybox Security, Michael Windsor helps leaders expand their CX teams worldwide. For some, this may seem like a daunting task; however, Michael clarifies the importance of scaling teams across the globe if a company wants to retain its international customers. When customers outside of the United States are connected to agents who understand their perspectives culturally, they feel more connected with the brand as a whole. The first step to creating a global team is to truly understand what you are offering to your customers.“You really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them.” As teams expand across the world with a common understanding of their customers and brand mission, it builds a sense of empathy for how customers interact with their services. Trust and empathy create a bond between brand and customer, resulting in lasting loyalty.

Educating for Cultural Differences

One of the most important aspects to scaling CX teams globally is educating agents on the appropriate cultural norms for the areas they will be servicing. Cross-culturally, there are many differences in human interactions that are acceptable depending on the region of origin. When discussing his CX team in Israel, Michael mentions, “Israelis by chance are very direct to the point… sometimes that can come across as disrespectful.” To help close the gap between cultures, Michael suggests that CX leaders should actively be engaged in educating their agents as well as their clients on market expectations:

I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.

When both agents and customers are educated and have a common understanding, operations can run much smoother. As more leaders make this a priority, surely they will experience some cultural bumps along the way. Michael ensures that success comes in increments, through operational tweaks – leading to company adaptation, growth, and “customer stickiness.”

Effortlessly Globalizing Your Teams

A strong global team starts with a solid and consistent foundation of understanding, which is essential for success, according to Michael. For leaders who are expanding their teams, he encourages them to start small and take wins and losses into account before broadening their reach. He explains, “That’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.” On top of that, Michael adds that customer-minded companies can scale easier because every decision is made for the betterment of the customer experience. “Really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are… Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey.” When teams are consistent throughout the entire organization, leaders can do their jobs more efficiently, without getting lost in the details. Many experience what Michael calls “analysis paralysis” from overworking their efforts to fit each team, rather than building on a basic set of expectations for all global agents. Ultimately, for the greatest CX management globally, a strong foundation is key.

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Grow & Manage a Global CX Team | Michael Windsor

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about managing global CX teams. The why, the what, the how. We got two special guests. I’ll let them take just a minute and introduce themselves. Michael, let’s start with you.

Michael Windsor: (00:27)
Sure. My name is Michael Windsor. I’m the Senior Director of the Global Customer Experience here at Skybox Security. Work in the cybersecurity space. Excited to be here.

Gabe Larsen: (00:37)
Yeah. Yeah. It’s a fun company. Exciting career. But before Skybox, Michael, where are you? You’ve done a couple of things in the space, correct?

Michael Windsor: (00:46)
Yeah, so I worked for a competitor actually called AlgoSec, where I ran enterprise support that included technical account management globally for the company. And then prior to this, I actually worked in the HCM space. So I used to work for a company called SilkRoad Technology. So it’s, I actually was the Vice President of Global Support Services for the company. I could talk about that position for days, but, started there and been in cybersecurity the last seven, eight years.

Gabe Larsen: (01:20)
I love it. Love it, again. Well appreciate you jumping on. It was fun connecting with him on LinkedIn. And cool story. Thought it’d be fun to share with the audience here today, Vikas, over to you, man.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:29)
Vikas Bhambri, Head a Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Gabe’s a partner in crime. Mike, I’m looking forward to the conversation. We here at Kustomer are embarking on scaling out our support team globally. So this is, selfishly, this is a great learning opportunity for me as we’re in the midst of our strategy here at Kustomer. So we’ll go to the conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (01:52)
Nothing better than free consulting. I didn’t tell that, but that is actually the reason that we’re doing. I got you for the next hour, Michael. You’re on camera now, sucker.

Michael Windsor: (02:03)
Excellent.

Gabe Larsen: (02:03)
So start big picture, thinking about managing this idea of global CX teams, where do you go? It just seems such a, like a, it’s like how to solve the world’s problems. It’s a big topic. Where do you start to even digest a topic like this?

Michael Windsor: (02:23)
Well, I mean, ultimately you have to understand, so to give you some backstory – when I came here to Skybox Security, I came in, it was a brand new function that we had never had. And so they’re like, “Mike, tell me, explain to me actually how we’re going to do this, what it looks like, what are some KPIs?” But the first and foremost thing is that you have to really understand where your customer base is. Here at Skybox, we work with clients and partners, and so we had to figure out exactly where we wanted to have, as I say, boots on the ground. So ultimately, we started in North America, I hired my first person, he’s kind of my right-hand person now. His name is Greg.

Michael Windsor: (03:05)
And so we essentially said, let’s build out this model. Let’s look here in the US. Let’s do lessons learned. And then from this let’s scale it globally. Not only looking at one, where our customer base was, but two, where our offices were. So ultimately there’s this whole premise to say, “Let me keep a team closer to my backend services such as RND and support,” and I think there’s good and bad with that. So, I mean, in terms of how we structured that, those are the two things that we really looked at is offices and where our customer base was located virtual versus how much we wanted boots on the ground. Because I always say, pre-COVID is that there were a lot of countries like Germany, as an example, when you want to build trust and respect with them, you have to have that face-to-face interaction. I’m trying to do things over Zoom and virtual meetings and go to meetings and all the other platforms that are out that exist now is sometimes very tough. So, I mean, that’s how we initially started it. We didn’t want to roll it out all at once just as in any project. Let’s do it in a smaller sample set. Let’s do lessons learned and then kind of grow from there.

Gabe Larsen: (04:20)
Hmm. I like that. Do you feel like the offices thing is always interesting to me. So you guys now have offices in a handful of places, correct?

Michael Windsor: (04:29)
We do. That’s correct.

Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
And how did you choose the different offices? Was that just based on the customer base? Is that where you decided to kind of anchor it or were there other reasons that kind of came into play?

Michael Windsor: (04:40)
No, I mean, it’s part of it. One is, being in cybersecurity, we’re in Silicon Valley. We have an office, big office in San Jose, which is where most of our executive team sits. The thing also about cybersecurity, I have a big office in Israel and for people that have done business in Israel that know Israel, they are very, very good in the cybersecurity space because they actually kept, most everyone has been in the military. And so when you were doing that to keep your country safe, as opposed to working for a corporation, you usually get the brightest and smartest people from that. So we do have a big office in Israel for those exact reasons is that there’s a big, strong cybersecurity presence in the IDF, which is the military in Israel. And so we have a lot of people that actually work within that capacity that actually work for our company. And you’ll find that in a lot of cybersecurity companies that you talk to in the, that are over in Israel.

Gabe Larsen: (05:42)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:44)
Michael, one of the questions I have, I see a lot of not just us at Kustomer, but a lot of our clients, in the early days try to have a hobbler initial location, which they create their support team from. I think you said you kind of did in your journey and then kind of pushed the limits of how far they can stretch that team. Maybe starting earlier, ending later. Maybe support the three US time zones, but then maybe Europe. And then you get that tipping point where it’s like, “Okay, this is no longer going to scale because,” and I’m curious as to, is that an effective strategy? Do you need to go global right away? And then when there’s the question of global, I always think there’s that crossroads that most companies face, which is organic versus BPO. What are your, some of your experiences with some of those challenges?

Michael Windsor: (06:37)
Sure. What I would tell you is that even taking a step back, you really have to understand what you’ve promised to customers because again, if you think about customer success or customer experience, it’s all about what you need to do to make them successful just in the services and support that you offer through them. So, one is, what did you contractually agree to? Again, we offer like a premium support product that is 24/7. So I had to develop a follow the fund model as part of this, to be able to support them kind of in, again, multiple time zones. I think my team right now is in 16 different time zones. And so we had to make sure that, as based upon what we have contractually agreed to, that we actually had a support offering to actually mimic that.

Michael Windsor: (07:27)
So you want to push that, but again, when you start talking about a global team, it would only make sense depending on what you propose or offer to your client base, right? So again, if that’s something and if you have clients again, whatever you contractually agree to, one, you have to start off with that foundation. But two, as you start talking about expanding it, the whole thing about customer experience and customer successes is client stickiness. I use this term and you’ll hear it in a lot of the CX or CX space, is that you really need to think about, “Okay, what foundation do I need to start off with to make ourselves successful?” And then in terms of your question is that, “What do I need to do to go above and beyond that?” So what foundationally do I need to do to really start off with a good focus base? And then from that, what other additional offerings we need to offer such as a customer experience team, customer success team, technical account management team, which all worked very closely with the support side to make that happen.

Gabe Larsen: (08:33)
Yeah. Got it. Do you feel like Michael, I mean, so many different countries, so many lessons learned, as you’ve kind of went from one country to another. You mentioned Germany as an example, a little more face-to-face in that environment. Has there been other lessons learned whether it’s country-based or just setting up new offices that would be kind of fun to share to the audience?

Michael Windsor: (08:53)
Sure, absolutely. So, it’s like we have an office in Israel and for those people that have done business in Israel, Israelis by chance are very direct to the point. And sometimes, that comes across to, if you’re taking a team like in Israel and supporting other countries, sometimes that can come across as disrespectful. So again, APAC. Again, the whole thing with our teams in India, sometimes there’s preconceived notions about what those teams do, how they operate, how they interact and stuff like that. And then that client base again, just in those regions have different expectations just in terms of how you’re going to work with them on a day in and day out basis.

Michael Windsor: (09:35)
So it’s really understanding, okay, you have these teams based here. Here’s who they are, culturally. Here’s how they interact day to day. You as a leader have to figure out, okay, so if you’re going to support clients outside of that region, what do you have to do from a training standpoint to get them to make sure that they understand or don’t come across a way that might be considered disrespectful? And then, how do you set proper expectations with your clients, just in terms of dealing with those teams? I think as a whole, North America or the US in general would be considered more of a customer centric or customer, more customer-satisfaction focused than a lot of countries, but that’s not necessarily the case. It’s really just adjusting, educating peoples on ideas and opinions they have about those markets.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:33)
How much of it is consistent? Obviously you’re a company, you want to service all your customers. How much of it is consistent across the board? And then what’s the variability from region to region?

Michael Windsor: (10:47)
Foundationally, it is consistent across the board just in terms of what we do and something that my leaders train their team on is just to tweak those expectations, to tweak those opinions. So foundationally, it’s all the same. And you want to have a consistent foundation because as you’re building functions, if you don’t have a consistent foundation, you’ll get, I call it analysis paralysis. That you’ll get lost in the details. So foundationally yes, they’re all the same again, because ultimately the customer experience or customer success starts from when that first sales call all the way in terms of how they’re supported. So not only do you have to make sure that the teams that you manage are aligned with that, you really need to understand that entire customer journey and keep it foundationally the same. Yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (11:41)
Yeah. Do you feel like there’s certain, we obviously play in the technology space, so probably less vendor names than otherwise, but as you think about really scaling globally with technology, any lessons learned on that front? It seems like you’ve got security things, you’ve got, I assume there were some challenges trying to get everybody on the same page across different areas and regions, et cetera.

Michael Windsor: (12:07)
Yeah. It really wasn’t a challenge because I think the tools nowadays that most people use and the tools that we use, and I won’t mention any names just to show favoritism for that, I mean we use one of the largest CRMs, again, from the front end of a back end. The web conferencing tools that we use are very internationally-focused tools. So there wasn’t a lot that we had to do. We had to understand data privacy and there was some specifics from a security standpoint that we would have to understand, but most of the tools that you use as you’re building it out, I mean, again, if you don’t have access to these tools, you just have to make sure that there’s no country restraints. Now, thankfully for us, we used some very big global tools to begin with.

Michael Windsor: (12:53)
So we didn’t really have those constraints or concerns as we got into it. But one of the things that as you talk about now with the diverse workforce as part of COVID is that you really have to understand when you start, you just take a centralized team and you disperse them to their homes, what exactly does that mean? And that’s what security challenges are, but we have a very good security team in place that went in and addressed that as we went along, but working with our vendors, it wasn’t hard because not only did we have these challenges, other large companies did as well.

Vikas Bhambri: (13:32)
Michael, one of the things I’ve seen as people have gone and scaled their operation globally, is they’ve taken the pod that they’ve built in the HQ, the country of HQ, which might be the US it might be, UK, Israel, et cetera, and basically replicated that pod in the next location and then the next one. I’ve seen others that have said, “We’re going to have a pod here in HQ location that HQ country, that’s going to remain the same and then we’re going to have a tier one in other countries, but tier two will remain here in HQ,” and then people are sliced and diced in various ways. What was your approach to scaling globally in terms of how you thought about each additional region that you added on? Was it a different skill set or was it just a replicant of the initial premise? How did you go about that?

Michael Windsor: (14:23)
It was actually a replica because again, one of the things that I said that I wanted to make sure is that we were consistent in the process, but really this goes back to your customer base, is that again, what did we contractually agree to as we were doing this and then foundationally, what did we need to put in place? So like, I’ll give you an example. I have a tier one team in the Ukraine. I have a tier two, tier three team, not only in Israel, but also the US. Foundationally, what they do is exactly the same, because the thing is, you’re building a team and as you start taking a pod and then kind of replicating it, you really need to think about what you’re going to do from a leadership standpoint. Because again, if you have a leader in the US, a leader in Israel, a leader in somewhere else, and you start trying to change that foundational function of what they do, you get into leadership challenges, not only from a senior leadership standpoint, from my standpoint, but also leadership challenges as those as those teams work together. So foundation, we started with what we said would work. We looked at the nuances just in terms of what happens within these other countries and other regions, and then ultimately built from that foundational model.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:39)
Any difference in hiring? obviously you’ve got different skill sets in different regions, but anything that you’ve looked at or you want to share with the audience about hiring personas or hiring profiles in the different regions that you operate in?

Michael Windsor: (15:52)
Yeah, and I think the big thing when it comes to customer success, customer support, client stickiness, one of the things that you have to make sure, always make sure that’s consistent, that when you start talking about different languages. So one is the languages, language and region. Also that whole verbal and written communication skills. So say you have a tier two team and let’s just take Italy as an example. They only speak Italian and you say, “Well, can I really need them to help my US team?” That’s probably not gonna work. So you have the nuances of, again, what is your customer base? Again, most of our clients around the world speak English, I think some choose, it’s easier for them to speak in their native tongue.

Michael Windsor: (16:38)
But with that, you have to think about, “Okay, what is my customer base? How do we communicate with them?” But two, how are we going to make sure those individuals that we hire communicate with our internal teams that might only be English speaking? And then the third part of this is that all the tools that you use day in and day out, if they only speak or understand something, as an example in Italy, how are they going to work with tools that are only in English? So again, it’s tools, it’s what your client’s expectations are. And then two, as you’re hiring, back to your original question, it’s just making sure that when you set up this model and you’re saying, “Hey, here’s who they’re going to support that they actually understand that there’s probably some good verbal and written communication skills, and there’s also maybe some customer satisfaction or customer success skills that you’ll have to tweak based upon the different cultures.

Gabe Larsen: (17:40)
What do you say to CFOs or executives that look at first thing when you tell them, “Hey, we’re thinking about,” especially for US-based companies, “thinking about setting up a support operation globally.” They’re like, “Oh, cost arbitrage, right? We’re going to be able to save some bucks.” What do you say to those people who are looking at it maybe just from a cost saving perspective?

Michael Windsor: (18:02)
Sure, I would tell you that, again, there’s a premise that it’s not about you. It’s not about your CFO. It’s really about your customer base. And if you start with the customer success or customer-focused approach, again, when you start talking about hiring teams in other regions or other countries, as an example, you have time zone constraints that you have to deal with. And I will tell you, it’s easy to set up as I call it a first shift support function, support organization. But if you start looking at second and third shifts, second and third shifts, you worry about burnout. You worry about quality. You have to have leadership to support those functions as well. So I would say yes, ideally, again, a CFO’s premise is to save money, do more with as little as possible. You got to take yourself out and say, “What is best for our customer base?”

Michael Windsor: (19:01)
Once you understand that you have to say, “Okay, what team do I need to be to put in place based upon what my client expectations are?” And three, “How am I going to manage that from a leadership standpoint as we do this?” And I think once you answer those questions, you can figure out the best model because the misnomer is yes. If we take it overseas, it will be very, very easy for us to do. It will be more cost effective, and that’s not necessarily true, just so you know, based upon some countries that if you decide to do this, but with that being said, you really, it’s not really about you, it’s really about your customers. And then you just have to make it about you once you understand that focus.

Gabe Larsen: (19:46)
I like it. I like it. Great words, Michael. It is really interesting to hear about how to kind of shape this global sales team. As we wrap, I’d love to hear kind of a summary. We hit on a couple of different things. People, technology, process, some of the lessons learned. For those people who are trying to build this out on a global scale, any summary statements, or kind of leave behinds you’d give to the audience?

Michael Windsor: (20:06)
I would just tell you, I would say really understand your customers. Really understand what their expectations are. I have this thing that a client’s perception is always my reality, and that will forever be burned in your head and your audience’s head because it rings true. So it doesn’t really matter what you think or what you want. It’s really what your customers think and what you want. Really understand their pains or threats of discontent, understand their entire journey. Again, start with a small pod and then build this out. Don’t try to do it all at once and then scale your operation as you get in once you feel that you have foundationally figured out what you need to do to make your clients successful. And I think from that, there’s no doubt that you’ll have success.

Gabe Larsen: (20:57)
Love that. Vikas, anything you want to add as we kind of wrap?

Vikas Bhambri: (21:00)
No, I think this has been extremely insightful for me. And I thank you, Michael. I think the one thing I’d leave the audience with is I just, my big takeaway from what Michael is sharing with us is there’s no playbook, right? And I think a lot of times we, as operational leaders are looking for the playbook. We’re looking for the sales playbook, we’re looking for the support playbook, the marketing playbook, et cetera. And I think with this, if you really start with your customer in mind and what is your obligation and what is the expectation of the customer that then will drive your playbook and strategy. So I think it’s going to be very different from company to company, depending on who they are, where they are and where they are in their maturity level, but more importantly, where their customers are. So that was my big takeaway. And I thank you, Michael, for sharing that with the audience.

Michael Windsor: (21:49)
Absolutely. And I will tell you, and again, that if anybody wants to reach out to me after this, again, I’m sure that you have, I mean, I would be glad to help them. I have an amazing team. I can even bring on some people on my team, of course, outside of work hours for all my executives that are listening to this, I would be glad to just to help you and understand because it’s a, I’m proud of what we built and I know there’s things that we could share that could help your listener audience.

Gabe Larsen: (22:18)
Thank you. Love it. Love it. All right. Well again, appreciate the time Michael. Vikas, as always. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Michael Windsor: (22:25)
All right, thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (22:30)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

How Visual Integration Helps Agent Efforts with Wade Radcliffe

How Visual Integration Helps Agent Efforts with Wade Radcliffe TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Wade Radcliffe and Vikas Bhambri to learn about visual integration to enhance the customer experience and how it boosts agent efforts. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

A New Communication Channel

Wade Radcliffe was the Director of Business Development at Streem, a company that offers a visual layer to the world of CX, and understands the need to integrate multiple channel communication. Many leaders are adopting channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn, chat and direct messaging. To this list, leaders should consider adding a visual element to further the communication channels and open the possibilities for cost and time savings. Visual communication saves time because it allows agents to directly help customers by displaying the resolution, rather than having to explain in great detail how to accomplish a task or fix an issue. According to Wade, customer calls that take around 15-20 minutes can be shortened to five minute conversations with an added visual element. Wade portrays, “So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.” This element to channel communication is especially helpful when customers and agents start talking in depth with copious amounts of detail, painting a picture for the other to understand them. When one starts to paint with their words, that’s when visual communication should come into play.

Why Leaders Shouldn’t be Hesitant to Adopt Video

Some agents and leaders are hesitant to adopt video as a means of communication for a multitude of reasons. Some stemming from security and how to navigate access to customer’s smartphones with ease of mind. To this, Wade reassures that much of video communication apps and software have customizable security features in place to protect both the user and the company. Another reason some might be skeptical of the benefits to visual CX is agents would rather not be face-to-face with customers when in difficult situations. Wade explains the importance of personal connection and how human-to-human interaction can actually be valuable to customer conversations. “Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video.” To make two-way video work properly, Wade suggests using an app or sending a text message with a link directly to the customer’s smartphone, which when opened, will allow the agent to see through the smartphone’s camera. Many businesses could benefit from this form of CX and advance their team’s efforts.

Opportunities Attached to Visual Platform Adoption

The opportunities for visual CX are endless. This method can be applied to a slew of businesses and field expertise, which in turn will save companies time and money downstream. For example, Vikas evaluates a situation in which a blinds company could benefit from agent visual services and avoid droves of returns by helping customers measure their window spaces correctly over video. Another example used in the episode is discussed where a customer has the ability to film the outside of their house so a field technician knows what tools and equipment to bring (such as a ladder with the appropriate height) that will fit the demands and resolve the issues most effectively. In closing, Wade urges leadership to give video tools a try and to slowly integrate visualization into CX. “Like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.” Opportunities for customer success are boundless as leaders integrate video channels, making the future of CX more accessible to all who have mobile devices with the camera feature.

To learn more about Wade’s work at Streem and how to integrate video channels, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “Why You Must Allow Your Customer to Have a Visual Customer Experience | With Wade Radcliffe” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

Is Video the Future of Customer Service? | Wade Radcliffe

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, you guys ready for the fight? Here we go. We’re going to be talking on the importance of a visual context in the customer service, customer experience, customer support. And to do that, we brought on two special people. We got Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer and Wade Radcliffe over at Streem. Wade, why don’t you take just a second and introduce yourself?

Wade Radcliffe: (00:31)
Hey, thanks for having me on today. So about 20, 25 years in the contact center world, and I’m excited about now that we’ve got everybody with smartphones in their pockets, adding a visual layer to contact center integration interactions when it makes sense. So we’re here to help people accomplish that.

Gabe Larsen: (00:48)
Love it. Glad you’re here. Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, Gabe’s partner in crime here at Kustomer. Responsible for Sales and CX and Wade and I have been around the contact center for similar amount of time. I’m not at 25 years yet, but just crossed the 20 year mark. So a lot has changed and I’m super excited to talk about the visualization in the contact center. I think it’s been a long time coming.

Gabe Larsen: (01:11)
And I’m Gabe Larsen. I am one year in the contact center space, so very excited to have you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:17)
This is Gabe’s unique way of kind of short-cutting his learning process, getting people like Wade on and just like an abridged MBA.

Gabe Larsen: (01:29)
It is, man. That’s, that is the cheat code. And it’s fun because I can tell that I have a reason to be kind of a punk. So Wade, we want to start off high level and say, I don’t know if we agree. I don’t know if I agree with you. I mean, why go visual? It’s, we have so many good channels right now. Phone. We have email. I mean, that’s been working for a long time. Why do we need to kind of open up the kimono and introduce a visual tools ideas into the customer service process? Start big picture for us, give us the watch.

Wade Radcliffe: (01:58)
Sure thing. So, I mean, I guess the first thing to know is that you don’t apply a visual to every business workflow, right? So there are times where, let’s take resetting a password, for example. It’d be crazy to have a visual layer for that, but if you have what is typically a 20 minute call to have somebody work through fixing their ice maker, for example, or walking them through their house to quote some services, visual can take that 15 to 20 minute call and bring it down to just five minutes. So we’re not out here saying it’s the perfect tool for every job. We’re just saying that wherever you have to paint a picture with your words or using voice only, it’s a challenge.

Gabe Larsen: (02:42)
Vikas, I mean, you’re out and about. Give us your kind of big picture thought on just digitalization in the customer service world.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:48)
Sure. I’ve seen customers explore it, dabble in it, over the last, I would say five to seven years in particular, but I haven’t seen them, you go back to them six months later. “So how did that project go?” “Oh, we wound it down,” right? A lot of it is, and I think to Wade’s point, and maybe Wade, you can touch on this, is kind of the success rate. The other challenge, Wade, historically was also that the customer was on so many different platforms that it was hard for a company to say, “Okay, I’m going to adopt a technology and it’s going to work for my,” just as a quick example, “iPhone user and an Android user, and if somebody is on their iPad,” right? And so that became a challenge. So how have things progressed, obviously in the last few years?

Gabe Larsen: (03:38)
I love that.

Wade Radcliffe: (03:40)
A lot to unpack there. So we’ll start with the fact that we’re not out there pitching that you should do visual chat for this. So what we found is that one-way video and two-way audio works best typically, because you’re both looking at the same thing. You’re co-browsing the environment, if you will. You have a shared experience. And because if something’s not working with the system that I just bought, I don’t want you to see me with my cranky face on. And the agent doesn’t necessarily want to have people see them, plus on a typical video conference call, if I’m seeing myself, I’m looking at me and not other people, right? So we’re not focusing on the issue at hand. So one-way video is a great way to accomplish resolving an issue. Second thing is on the fact that before we had some ubiquity and standards, we had to be on a certain platform and that was a challenge. Now that more and more people have a smartphone, typically an iOS or Android, 90 to 95% of the time, it’s a lot easier. Plus we can go through the mobile browser, as opposed to having to download an app. So these, with HTML5 and the extra bandwidth that people have these days, you can pull off a visual layer when it makes sense, a lot more easily.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:59)
So Wade, I think this is interesting because I think clients, when I was talking to them about this, because there’s nobody, there’s no playbook, right? It’s not like, to your point, voice or chat that’s been around for years. And everybody, I think they were kind of dabbling in different things. I even had one customer that was like, “Well, I’m going to integrate Zoom into my experience.” And automatically, I was thinking about, as you said, the customer showing their face and does a customer want to show their face in this kind of interaction? And then the agent. There’s actually pushback from the agents going, “I don’t want to show my face to that, look, I mean, I –

Gabe Larsen: (05:34)
“We didn’t get ready in the morning.”

Wade Radcliffe: (05:36)
Or, “I may want to roll my eyes.”

Vikas Bhambri: (05:39)
Right. Right. Or yeah, exactly. “I want to show my expressions of frustration, like pull my hair out or something like that.” So it’s interesting. You guys have actually changed the conversation. I’m almost thinking about it like, maybe I, am I thinking about this the right way where I’m on my phone and I’m just showing what I’m seeing, not myself and I’m not necessarily seeing the other person?

Wade Radcliffe: (06:00)
Exactly. So you’re seeing what you’re seeing and the agent is seeing what you’re seeing as well, and now they can draw on your screen and kind of guide you around resolving an issue.

Gabe Larsen: (06:11)
Got it. So do you not recommend that, I gotta, do you not recommend the kind of the face-to-face or is there a time and place where someone who would actually show their face from a customer view and the agent would show their face or is that, to Vikas’s point, nobody wants to do that actually?

Wade Radcliffe: (06:25)
There’s a time and a place for it. Let’s say that we’re looking at your living room and talking about furniture and we’ve spent about 15 to 20 minutes so far talking about who you are and what you’re about. At some point, you can get that human connectedness by applying some two-way video for awhile. So, “I’ve seen your space, now let’s have a face-to-face conversation about how we go about ordering furniture,” for example. So it’s nice, like a lot of things in the contact center world, you kind of want to move your channel or have your channels work for you, as opposed to you trying to make a certain channel work perfectly.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:01)
Wade, I don’t know if you’ve encountered this, but I tell you one use case that I think was so brilliant was I had a customer who was in the blinds business. And if you don’t know how many people botch the measurement of their blinds, you would be shocked Gabe. Especially a guy like me who was like the anti-DIY guy. So to measure out end to end, how much blind with you need, and length I can handle, but width is where most people mess up. And so what they were finding was the number of orders that they were having to go through. So to your point Wade, like video would have been great for them to actually say, “Show me how you’re measuring this.” Like, you know what I mean? “Let me walk you through, are you measuring from end to end? Are you going from window to window or what it is?” So that’s the one that I personally –

Wade Radcliffe: (08:00)
Yeah, it’s a perfect match and yeah. Whether or not you’re inside the window casing or outside the window casing, those are very important things to know. And what we like to see is that with that visual layer, not only are you saving some time in that particular session, but you’re saving some downstream time as well. You’re not having to send somebody out, which costs you a few hundred bucks every time you do it, or you’re not dealing with a return because they bought it a little bit too long and a little bit too short. So if you can save some of those downstream actions, such as truck rolls or returns, the visual layer has really paid for itself.

Gabe Larsen: (08:36)
You know, it’s funny, Oh go ahead, Vikas.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:40)
So am I oversimplifying this to think that in anywhere that I think of a world where there’s a field service technician, it sounds to me like, I’m not trying to say you’re going to switch out the field service technician, but you guys could be a, at least a level one, right? Like, “Let me try to walk you through doing it yourself before I send out a technician.” And then you mentioned, I think another use case you mentioned was kind of the home styling or interior design element, which kind of ties into the blinds example I gave. Are there other industries that are using this kind of technology? Maybe it doesn’t come to mind immediately and you’re like, share that with the audience.

Wade Radcliffe: (09:20)
Sure. So anybody that does consumer goods that might have a little bit of complexity to them are very good. Utilities are very strong because we can take some pictures of the outside of someone’s home or building and then when we send that field technician, they know exactly what they’re getting into. They know what tools they have to bring. They know they have to bring a 12 foot ladder, those kinds of things, and they have an approach into that home. So there’s, utilities are big. Insurance companies. Sometimes refinances and home appraisals. It’s nice to walk a property and we can grab GPS, make sure we’re talking about the property we’re appraising, as opposed to, their rich aunt’s or uncle’s house. And if you’ve got a loan to value of maybe 20, 30, 40%, you don’t necessarily need to do an in-depth appraisal because there’s so much equity in that home. So there’s lots of ways that you can leverage –

Vikas Bhambri: (10:13)
It’s interesting. I just, oh, go ahead, Gabe. Sorry.

Gabe Larsen: (10:15)
Yeah. Check this one out, Wade. I don’t know if you can see that on the screen, but –

Wade Radcliffe: (10:18)
I can.

Gabe Larsen: (10:20)
Customers, by Fatema, you’ve got some car features, so service centers, that’s kind of different. Sounds like they’re exploring that. Fatema joins us from Dubai. I think we’re going –

Vikas Bhambri: (10:32)
One of the things we were thinking about was, my wife didn’t want to go to the dealership, is man, if you had a person in the dealership who could walk you through the features, functions, obviously you could do everything, but test drive the car, using a technology like this, or as you were saying, realtors. We just, I think our last show, Gabe, we had a guest who was moving from San Francisco to Denver and he said he bought the house sight unseen, but imagine a realtor walking you through a home in Denver. So maybe other use cases for this type of technology.

Wade Radcliffe: (11:06)
Yeah. I want to stick with your dealership example for a moment. So let’s say that they’ve actually bought the car and they’re at home and they’re trying to get their Apple CarPlay to work and they’re getting frustrated. They don’t want to spend two hours of their day going to the dealership or interacting with people face-to-face. This would allow them to walk them through it. They’ve learned something. They’re empowered. And you get the issue resolved right then and there without tying up that bit of time on their dealership too.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:36)
I’m getting more and more excited.

Gabe Larsen: (11:36)
Yeah, I’m seeing Vikas’s eyes get big. I’m interested in –

Vikas Bhambri: (11:41)
When we started the show, it’s been a long time coming. And I think the challenges, as Wade alluded to, were the technology limitations, we didn’t have ubiquitous device where you could just say, “Here’s the standard,” right? We only have to support, and now we only have to really support two main devices, no offense to Microsoft, but it’s Apple and Android, right? You don’t have to worry about all these 15 different environments. And then I think what Wade’s doing at Streem is writing the playbook by how you do this. Because like I said before, so many people were confused as like, “Well, do I do this? Do I show the agent? Don’t I show the agent? Do I see the customer? Is a customer going to want to download software?” That was another big issue in the past. We asked them to download something, so that seems to be no longer an issue. So the hurdles are moving and now we can really have some fun with the use cases.

Wade Radcliffe: (12:34)
Absolutely, yeah.

Gabe Larsen: (12:36)
That, Wade, I want to get to the playbook, but do you have a quick comment on this one from Bruce? I’ve seen Zoom tends to perform better via app versus smartphone. Are you seeing the same?

Wade Radcliffe: (12:45)
Yeah. So when you’re actually using the mobile app, you’re actually, can get inside some of the goodies of the device. So for example, you got a gyroscope, an accelerometer inside that device. So if I’m moving it around, I can get an idea of depth and I can take measurements and it’s a little bit stickier, and those kinds of things. Yeah. It’s getting pretty exciting. And going through the browser via HTML5, you can’t necessarily pull all that off. So yeah, definitely the app’s a little cleaner, if you want to do some rural, funky stuff. If you’re just wanting to see what the person can see and co-browse their environment and draw on the screen, then typically you don’t need an app to do that.

Gabe Larsen: (13:21)
So do you, Wade, this playbook idea, I mean, we’ve hit some of the common hurdles, I think Vikas, and you’ve seen over the years in the industry, but if you were coaching somebody now to start this journey, how do I start to think about visual? Is that, I mean, I’ve got to identify the use cases. I need to know, I mean, you’ve talked about it a little bit, any five step process and best practices as people start to take this journey, you’d recommend?

Wade Radcliffe: (13:43)
If I were to go into a contact center, I’d say, “What calls are long and frustrating on average, if you type them?” And then once you’ve typed those, you can start to listen in on them and say, “Where are people getting hung up?” I said, it’s very much like it was prior to video. And you just, you prioritize, you run your priority charts, you pull out where your stickies and points are. And then to my surprise, video is so much easier to implement than I thought. I thought it was to be a big, complex thing and tough to do, but we’re actually able to do integrations, including integrations with customer, within an hour and you can trial it and see how it works and kind of get your folks the right feel for it. Because there, I’m trying to think of how best to put it, but there are ways that you can communicate, “Hey, are you on a smartphone? Hey, can I see through your camera?” that the agents get comfortable with to allow for a smoother engagement.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:42)
So to that point, what does the customer engagement look like? So I’m on the phone. Obviously I have to be on my smartphone with the contact center. I’m speaking to the agent and the agent says, “Hey, know what? It’d be super cool if you could just show me what you’re looking at,” and do they send, SMS me a link that I hit the link and then it invokes it? Talk to me a little bit about the customer side of that experience.

Wade Radcliffe: (15:08)
So a call comes in, they’re having a discussion. Sometimes you have a power user that knows exactly what they want, and they got a part, they need a replacement. You’re not going to deal with that, but you have someone saying, “My barbecue is not lighting.” I can say, “Well, what kind of model do you have?” “I don’t know. It’s a black one and it’s a little roundish.” So they’d say, “Hey, are you on a smartphone?” Yeah, most likely, yes. “Hey, would you mind if I looked through your camera so we can see the same thing?” And then once they do that, they push a button from their agent desktop, and then that sends a text message and they tap on that link on the text message, and then they have to say, “Accept the privacy terms saying yeah, I can look through your camera for the next five minutes.” And then you’re off and running and you have that voice call still in place. So you’re never really abandoning the voice call. You just add that visual layer and they go, “Oh, you’ve got a XY 2000. This is a common problem. Let’s go down here and point to where do you want to” –

Gabe Larsen: (16:04)
Wow, I love it.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:04)
Very cool. How do you see working with folks that maybe are having a digital or text-based conversation, so chat or SMS with an agent, or is it primarily, is the use case voice?

Wade Radcliffe: (16:16)
And that does a couple, add something nice to it. So yes, absolutely. Chat’s a perfect example. You’re doing a chat and say, “Hey, are you on a smart phone? Let’s tap this link.” Or you can send them a code if they’re on something else and they can go to a webpage. But yeah, and what’s neat about that is that now we can get the voice through Streem as well. So if you wanted to do some analytics and do some crunching on what’s being said, and how it’s being said, some transcription, you can actually run the voice and the video through, initiated from a chat.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:43)
Wow. Super cool.

Wade Radcliffe: (16:46)
Or email or anything that’s text-based.

Gabe Larsen: (16:49)
Well, I love the examples, Wade. Is there another example? I mean, you’ve talked more about the kind of the consumer products, any other interesting stories or examples to kind of bring to light where you’ve seen this be very effective, again, maybe in a different industry that you could share?

Wade Radcliffe: (17:03)
Sure thing. Well we, one of our use cases is pretty strong as pro-to-pro conversation. So you’ll send a novice out in the field, or you’ve got a contracting, a contractor working for you. We have an airline that uses this to support their technicians. So technicians can know everything about every plane in a fleet. So they can actually call a lifeline if you will, and go back to the pro and their pro can walk them through a complex resolution.

Gabe Larsen: (17:31)
Got it. Got it. And do you find, I mean, as people implement your solution or visualization tools, where do they then get hung up? I mean, you’ve made it sound too easy, no offence, but there’s gotta be a couple holes somewhere. Where do people often be like, “Oh, shoot. I wish I would’ve thought,” or is it really as easy as you’re saying it is? I don’t mean to contradict you there, but it sounds pretty darn easy. Is there some place, is there some gotchas that bigger companies run into? Security? Something like that, that you need to be thinking about?

Wade Radcliffe: (18:01)
Well, most of the providers out there offer some pretty customizable security features. So you can, don’t have to store it here with us. You can store it on your own systems that got APIs, where you can really operate at atomic level to get rid of some of some things where you don’t have the feature that you need. The biggest issues that we see sometimes are like, someone’s screen lock is on and they want to turn it to the left. And then you’re looking sideways, just small things that people have, like when you’re walking your father-in-law or mother-in-law through an issue with their smartphone. So sometimes those are somewhat challenging to work through, but 80% of the time to 90% of the time based on your customer demographic, it’s quite smooth.

Gabe Larsen: (18:46)
Got it. All right. Well, Vikas –

Wade Radcliffe: (18:46)
Which helps, you can’t run this on dial-up.

Vikas Bhambri: (18:50)
Wade, are you seeing some of the traditional retailers, like the brick and mortar, adopt this? And I’m just thinking about now I’m in a store. I’m in, maybe a DIY store, like a Lowe’s or something like that, or I’m in a sporting goods store, and I’ve got a question about a golf club, or a grip or whatever it is, rather than having somebody, a lot of times, no offense, people on the floor no longer really know what they’re talking about. I can have like a centralized group that actually knows what they’re talking about.

Wade Radcliffe: (19:24)
Absolutely.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:24)
Are you seeing people adapt this to where customers in store can actually use this technology?

Wade Radcliffe: (19:31)
Absolutely. And I’m glad you brought up Lowe’s because we have a press release out with them. They’re incorporating what we do.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:37)
That was not teed up. I just want the audience to know I am not a shill. I did not get a check in the mail, though I gladly accept them, but I did not know that. That’s fantastic.

Wade Radcliffe: (19:48)
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So retailers do, first, they’re going to need to differentiate what they do, right? And Lowe’s is a great example where someone’s walking the floor. They’ve got an issue and this is not being done right now, but it’s a great idea, just to have a QR code, like if a supplier wants to put a QR code up in their, where their products are displayed, I could click on that and we can kick off a video session. It can kind of walk through some how to use a particular tool or in those kinds of things. So that’s a good idea. Plus, a lot of retailers, we see are doing actually some warranty work or first level warranty work for the OEMs. And this allows them to pull off some of that, without having to roll a truck, I think Lowe’s would have to go out and fix a dishwasher, for example. Wouldn’t it be great if they could do it over the phone with video?

Gabe Larsen: (20:39)
Yeah. Well, I’m sold. I’m sold. I think we could be using the video, more visualizations in CX. I didn’t think you’d be able to budge me over the edge, Wade, but congratulations. Closing comments, as we kind of wrap here. Wade, why don’t we start with you and then, Vikas, we’ll end with you. Thinking about, we talked about a lot, Wade, any things you’d leave for the audience as kind of recommendations or leave behinds?

Wade Radcliffe: (21:04)
Give it a whirl, give it a shot. Start small and see what you can pull off using visual. And thank you so much, Gabe and Vikas. I really appreciate the time to hang out with you guys and talk about what we’re up to in the world.

Gabe Larsen: (21:19)
Absolutely. Vikas, you convinced or you still doubter? I know you were a doubter to start but –

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Wade, I’m excited. You can see the smile on my face. I was a doubter just because I’ve seen the challenges in the past, right? And like I said, sometimes being a dinosaur, but I would say to the practitioners out there who are listening, they’re probably like, “Oh no. They just introduced another channel,” right? “I just got my arms around Twitter or WhatsApp or Facebook messenger and now these guys and my boss is probably listening.” And he’s like, “We got to do video.” But to Wade’s point, dip in with the appropriate use case. Start out with those items that are most challenging your contact center agents today. Those long conversations, the ones that are taking four X your normal conversation, dig into those. See if video can be a solution to what your, the customer is actually trying to solve for. And I love how Wade said, if they’re starting to paint with words, let’s use the visual. And I think that’s a great way to tackle some very specific use cases to get your foot in the door.

Gabe Larsen: (22:30)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Wade, thanks for joining again, fun talk track. I think you’re hitting on something that, yeah, to Vikas’s point, has been maybe around a little while, but it’s taken some leaps and strides and it’s starting to make some noise, I think, in the right places. So kudos to you and the Streem team. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining and for the audience, have a fantastic day.

Wade Radcliffe: (22:48)
Take care.

Exit Voice: (22:54)
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Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard

Customer Recordings and Their Usefulness with Steve Richard TW

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

Are Phone Calls Dying Off in the CX World?

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

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

Team Development Through Data Analysis

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

How Companies are Winning with Phone Call Data

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Secret to Better Customer Support | Steve Richard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (21:21)
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Selling to Prospects Using an Effortless Experience with Kyle Coleman

Selling to Prospects Using an Effortless Experience with Kyle Coleman TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Kyle Coleman from Clari and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to understand how to make purchasing software seamless for potential buyers. They discuss the importance of empathy and understanding the different types of customers for a SAAS company. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Breaking Down the Demo Process

VP of Growth and Enablement at Clari, Kyle Coleman has a tremendous desire to help people and is well versed in how a software company should handle sales. In his experience evaluating a SAAS company’s software, Kyle finds that many organizations lack the presentation and demonstration skills necessary to hook buyers into finalizing their purchases. Noting that physical goods are easier to sell than that of intangible goods such as software, it’s vital that companies spend time evaluating their sales processes when dealing with potential clients. He emphasizes, “If you can really break down your process that granularly and think about it from the prospect side to optimize it that way, you’re going to see the results.” Breaking down the selling process into bite-sized pieces and optimizing each one is a great way to further enhance the demonstration phase. This in turn allows customers to fully experience the demonstration and get an in-depth feeling for the product; which any brand that is proud of their product should be drawing as much attention to it as possible.

Creating a Frictionless Experience

When purchasing a product online, it’s typically easier to find customer reviews, videos and images, as well as third party reviews for a tangible good. The same, however, cannot be so easily said about SAAS company products. It seems that most prospects of B2B companies are forced to search multiple pages to find information about the software they are shopping for. Most customers might not want to immediately contact a sales representative to learn more about their software, so it is crucial that leaders work to make the discovery process frictionless for potential buyers. Creating a frictionless process is no easy task and it takes great effort to polish an organization’s methods until prospect buyer success stories flow through. Helping leaders in their polishing, Kyle offers, “Make it as easy as possible for people to find out as much as possible about your product so that when you have those conversations, they’re as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible.” Companies that make their product information readily available and make it easy for customers to educate themselves on that product are more likely to win in competitive fields.

Adapting the Traditional SDR Role

Those in SDR roles are traditionally thought to be solely volume based and trained to bring in as many customers as possible. On that note, Kyle examines, “The role is way more strategic now. The capabilities of SDRs are far, far higher now, and therefore the expectations should be higher about what they are doing.” As the customer-scape changes, it’s important for companies to adapt to modern challenges and methods by updating role responsibilities internally. SDRs should now be focused on qualifying customers to partake in the software by asking the right questions and formulating a whole-picture take on what type of customer they are dealing with. If a customer is uneducated about the software, it’s part of the SDR’s job to unearth this information in their initial contact with that customer. Ultimately, customers experience everything during the sales process from pre-sale to post-sale and it is the company’s responsibility to make it effortless.

To learn more about selling to prospects using an effortless experience, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

If Your Prospects Want to Buy from You, Let Them! | With Kyle Coleman

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody today. We’re going to be talking about if your prospects want to buy, you should probably let them and to do that we brought on two guests. We got Vikas Bhambri and Kyle Coleman. I’ll have them just take a minute and introduce themselves. Kyle, let’s start with you.

Kyle Coleman: (00:26)
Hey. Hello everybody. Thank you again, Gabe, for having me on. Super excited to be here. My name is Kyle Coleman. I am the VP of Growth and Enablement at Clari. So I lead a group of teams that are kind of, sort of sales and kind of, sort of marketing, but responsible for creating and accelerating revenue. So that’s demand gen, field marketing, sales development, and sales enablement all on our growth department.

Gabe Larsen: (00:46)
Geez. I thought I had a lot going on. [Inaudible] Vikas, take a second and introduce yourself.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:54)
Sure. Vikas Bhambri. Head of Sales and Customer Experience here at Kustomer and actually now a two time Clari customer. So used Clari both here at Kustomer and brought it into my previous company as well. So excited to have the conversation with Kyle.

Kyle Coleman: (01:09)
Love to hear that.

Gabe Larsen: (01:09)
Yeah. Yep. And then I’m Gabe, I’d run the marketing over here at Kustomer. So Kyle, first and foremost, I got to ask, what’s the secret to being a LinkedIn influencer? You’re basically a LinkedIn influencer. Like this guy’s getting a lot of views and posts and Vikas and I want to be, so what’s the, what’s your secret? That’s what I really want to ask you.

Kyle Coleman: (01:32)
You know, it’s funny. I started to create a New Year’s resolution for myself, where I wanted to just sit down and think and write with no distractions, no devices, nothing. And so I started doing that in January and it turns out the only thing I think and write about is work. And so I, this LinkedIn just became kind of the perfect outlet for me. And I realized that I have a real desire for helping people. And if I can give people some tips that help them do their job, one, help one person do their job slightly better, it’s a worthwhile endeavor for me. And so that’s what’s motivating. It’s all about consistency, making it actionable, making it digestible, making it easy to read. So, nothing specific but it just takes effort,

Gabe Larsen: (02:16)
But you did actually get some award or something, right? I mean, it was like a LinkedIn influencer award or something, right?

Kyle Coleman: (02:22)
Yeah. Yeah. I got, I had the most engagement over some certain window of time in some kind of strange algorithmic way. I was the number one sales star. So I got that little award and then the next time they ran it, I was nowhere near the top. So it was just luck of the draw.

Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
Get you a little plastic trophy or something like that.

Kyle Coleman: (02:42)
Yeah, exactly.

Gabe Larsen: (02:44)
So that’s kind of what crossed Vikas’ and I purview was one of your LinkedIn posts and it certainly was a hot button for us. But really under this umbrella of customers who want to buy, how do we make it easy? I think there’s just, I thought this such a strong example because oftentimes we look at things from our perspective and what ultimately happens is we make it difficult for the customer. We don’t realize that it’s difficult for the customer. And you kind of pointed out a pre-sales interaction often found in technology companies that I feel like really alluded or highlighted this point. Any chance you can kind of take us through it then let’s break it down.

Kyle Coleman: (03:21)
Yeah, sure thing. So it is the demo request process which is just so broken and so many companies that when I’m trying to evaluate software, the number one place that I’m going to go is to see the product in action. I want a demo because I want to see it. Like a lot of times the aha moment, you can’t really get that in a white paper, just looking through a website or whatever it is so requested demo. Every single tech company in the universe is doing this to some extent. And what I have found as I’ve evaluated dozens and dozens of different software vendors is this pattern is unfortunately pretty common where I request a demo, I get followed up by an SDR a couple of minutes, or sometimes a couple hours later, they talked to me for about 10 minutes on the phone and I’m feeling pretty good. I’m like, “Okay, this company has a pretty good process. They now know what I need.” We get time on the calendar. And then I get set up with the AE and the AE asks me the same exact questions that the SDR already asked me. And I just feel like I’m now wasting my time. It feels repetitive and more important, I’m not getting the demos still. So now I’ve had a conversation with an SDR. I’ve had a conversation with an AE and I still haven’t actually seen the product. I haven’t learned anything new. So now we’re at the tail end of the call with the AE and he or she finally shows the demo, I get a two minute or five minute overview, and then we’d run that at a time. And they expect us, they say, “We’ll do a deeper dive on the next call with an SE.”

Kyle Coleman: (04:45)
And I’m like, “That’s not what I want to do. I want to learn about the product.” And so by that point, I pretty much will have lost faith unless I have some really strong testimonial from somebody I know and trust that the product is really killer. I’ll have lost faith and I’ll move on to the next competitor because there’s always a next competitor. And just hope that I have a better experience because what I’m thinking, Gabe, is that if they’re going to treat me like this now when I want to buy, what happens when I’ve bought and they already have my money? What’s the experience going to be like for me then? And I can’t imagine it’s going to get any better. And so that’s kind of what’s going on in my brain and part of the reason this is so important.

Gabe Larsen: (05:24)
Yeah. Well that definitely, I know it struck a chord with me because I’ve lived and breathed and kind of eaten some of that type of medicine. Vikas, what’s your response to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:34)
Yeah. I’m curious, Kyle, I mean, you know this because obviously you guys are in the same space, right? As a B2B SAAS company, what’s your perspective on the fact that, there are people out there who are quote unquote tire-kickers and the reason that you’re being asked, whether it’s the SDR with their 10 minutes or the AE, is to make that you’re seriously interested. And then the other thing I would say is, so that’s my first question. The second is I would say if the data that you’re sharing doesn’t end up in a better experience, then yes, it’s a wasted exercise, but are they using this data so that when you actually do see the product, there is a, something that’s tailored to you? Now, if the product is completely a horizontal product and it doesn’t matter who you are, then I would question, why do we even need people involved? So a couple of questions there before we continue.

Kyle Coleman: (06:30)
Yeah, sure thing. So my response to that, Vikas, is that this is the role of the SDR and I think a major miss in the way that the expectations that a lot of, especially senior leaders have about SDRs, is that they’re just playing a volume game. They’re just playing a quantity-based game and they can send emails and they can make a lot of phone calls and they can hand things off to AEs and that’s all that SDRs can do. And that’s not the case anymore. And maybe it was the case in the predictable revenue type model popularized by Salesforce in the two thousands and 20, early 2010s. But the role is way more strategic now. The capabilities of SDRs are far, far higher now, and therefore the expectations should be higher about what they are doing. What is their role? The role isn’t just to move things along from one stage in the journey to the next. It is to qualify, to ask questions, to do discovery, to understand, to gather the important data from me when I’m the buyer, so that when they hand it off to the AE, the AE can skip the discovery and go right into a demo that’s tailored to what the SDR learned about me. And the companies that do that well and are focusing on enabling and empowering SDRs to ask those types of questions, they accelerate the customer journey. They accelerate your prospect experience. And that’s how they can really frankly, skip a couple steps and ultimately save some time is just by enabling a group of people to do their job slightly differently, with more intent and more strategy.

Gabe Larsen: (07:55)
Yeah. I wanted to follow up on one piece on that and even go one step further back on the marketing side. Do you show your product? Do you not show it? Do you force to get a demonstration, the credit card information, the firstborn child, social security number? What questions do you ask to see products? Because in SAAS and sometimes I think in other businesses, do you show pricing? Do you not show pricing, right? Do you show the product? Do you hide the product behind the gate? Do you, how much do you give and take? I’m wondering your feedback on enabling buyers on that part of the process to maybe find out, learn more maybe without having to give up so much information. Where do you go on that?

Kyle Coleman: (08:40)
I’m pretty radical on this front. I think, as compared to many others, the way that many other demand gen leaders will think about things, I don’t care at all about MQLs. I think that MQLs are the sales equivalent of busy work. Like grade school busy work where we’re just creating MQLs and we’re handing it off because it makes us feel good as a marketing team, as a demand gen team. And so I don’t subscribe to that whatsoever. I think we have way more tools and technology at our disposal now than we’ve had before, where we can think more holistically about marketing qualified accounts and what suite of behaviors from a set of prospects are equivalent or make up an account that we want to go after. Therefore, my answer to your question, Gabe, is make it as easy as possible for people to find out as much as possible about your product so that when you have those conversations, they’re as close to the bottom of the funnel as possible.

Kyle Coleman: (09:37)
Buyers want to do research themselves. They are frustrated when they can’t find answers and there’s some crazy stat like they’ve done 60% of the research before they even reach out to an AE or to an SDR these days. And so you want to make your content as easy to consume as possible. Don’t put up that gate with 20 different form fields with all the things you mentioned, your mother’s maiden name. And I’m like, “Why? Why are you doing that?” If you have a con, if you’re confident in your content, if you’re confident in your product, let as many people see it as possible and let that content speak for itself. And then again, if you have the more sophisticated means of assessing the set of behaviors that’s leading to a qualified account, hopefully there are enough people within that account that are doing that type of research. That’s your cue to then go reach out to them and to try and spark a larger conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (10:26)
Yeah, I think Vikas, I mean, there’s a principle here. That’s the tactics I think can be debated all day. Some people are winning with this. Some people are not winning this, but there’s a principle here that is, what’s like the title of today’s session, which is if someone wants to buy from you kind of let them do that. As you kind of look at other brands in the market, other companies in market, maybe not just in B2B, you feel like this is also a challenge of people wanting to potentially buy from a retail brand or a financial services brand, but ultimately having a difficulty being able to find it, experience it, touch it, feel it, taste it? Your thoughts on that Vikas?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:01)
I think what Kyle is pointing out is the consumerization, right, of data. And I think we’re just so used to, for example, I want to go buy an above ground pool. When I go to Amazon, I can look at not only everything about the product, I can see videos of people in the pool to figure out is it appropriate for my kids’ ages, right? I can research the dimensions of the pool. How easy is it to set up? I can actually go through the instructions of setting up the pool because somebody like me, I absolutely need to know what it’s going to take before I buy something. I can look at reviews, right? I can look at third party reviews. I can, all of that data is available to me.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:45)
Why is it when I go to buy software, all of a sudden, it’s like, “Here is our high level kind of brand pitch. And that’s all you’re going to know about us.” It’s just counter to how we purchase today. And it’s really interesting, Kyle, that one of the things we talk about on the customer support side is think about yourself in the customer’s shoes. Think about, but we don’t do that on the sales side. Like we, to your point and I think you addressed it appropriately. It was like, look, there was a process that was defined. If you look at Salesforce, right, 20 something years ago, even greater. And we’re, a lot of software companies are still replicating that process today and it hasn’t moved on. So now what’s happened is customers are like, “I want to know about you. You’re not going to share anything with me. I’m going to go to G2 Crowd.”

Kyle Coleman: (12:42)
Yep.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:42)
“I’m going to go ring my friend. I’m going to go. I looked up one of your references. I’ve got a friend of a friend who works there and I’m going to reach out to them,” right? So you’re actually, you creating those barriers to entry is going to drive people away even further. And into your point, Kyle, they’re going to give up. If you make it too difficult, at some point they’re going to give up and the winner will be the brand or the person that makes it easiest. We talk about easy to do business with in the negotiation sales, end of the sales cycle, but who makes it easy to do business with at that front?

Gabe Larsen: (13:18)
I don’t know if we thought through that enough and I loved your statement. It’s like the consumerization of the B2B and the B2C buyer, right? Because everything we’ve done in B2C with Amazon has set our expectations, that it’s going to be easy on the front end. It’s going to, we’re going to be able to go see all those Q and A’s and almost like G2 Crowd, right? You get to see the dimensions of the pool and what it works with and what not works. And then oftentimes, and I don’t think this is just me, I think B2B is worse than B2C, but we do go to a company’s website wanting to buy something and we can’t find that. We can’t, we go to B2B and you’re damn right when it comes to B2B it’s like, you can’t find anything without giving stuff away.

Gabe Larsen: (14:02)
And we’ve kind of set the standard that that is impossible yet the expectation of the buyer is something that they’ve gotten from Amazon. And so Vikas, it’s interesting. You and I work in this space of customer service. We’re all so focused on that once the customer has purchased, how do we make sure that customer journey is optimized? But man, are we putting enough effort on that front end to make sure that we can allow them to do what they want to do? Self-serve, be educated before they buy, and ultimately maybe make the decision themselves without having to interact with us 50 times or even interact with a salesperson, right? Well, Kyle, do you feel like this is just a B2B thing, or have you experienced this in other industries, other areas? What’s kind of your take on that?

Kyle Coleman: (14:46)
Yeah, I think it’s probably both. I know that it’s both. I think that to your point though, Gabe, B2C companies obsess over it way, way more, and they, it’s their lifeblood. Like they don’t have an excuse to not pay attention to not just the funnel, but the conversion steps within the funnel for everything to be both efficient and effective. And they can run more experiments and like, I think B2C does a better job of this and B2B excuses ourselves, because it’s more, there are more humans involved and we say, “Oh, these are processes where we can’t control everything because there are different handoff points. And like, it’s just too complicated. And we can’t look at all that data and you know what? We could tell them to do something, but it’s still a human and they’re just not going to follow.” So we make excuses for ourselves in the B2B realm, I think way or more so and it’s a shame because I think Vikas hit on it.

Kyle Coleman: (15:39)
It’s a, to me it’s, this is what empathy is in sales. I know empathy is a hot topic right now in the COVID era, but that’s what it is. Putting yourself in your prospect’s shoes, in your buyer’s shoes and thinking about what their experience is. I think that a huge mistake that companies make right now is they think about what do SDRs need to do in a silo to make that SDR team as efficient as possible to get as many leads from MQL to first meeting as possible? And that’s what we’re going to focus on. We’re going to train them on the phone skills to sell the meeting, and they just optimize for the wrong metric, instead of thinking about how to make that SDR team as effective as possible, which is run the right discovery, get the right qualification, pass that information on to AEs, nurture that prospect between the call and the first meeting and set that up for success. And so there’s a big discrepancy between efficiency, which is such an obsession of go to market teams and efficacy, which falls by the wayside because it’s so much more effort.

Gabe Larsen: (16:43)
Yeah, no. I think there’s a lot of, Vikas –

Vikas Bhambri: (16:47)
Yeah. I think it makes, I think it makes it really interesting. And when you think about the role, Kyle mentions the SDR role, I would even say the sales role, what is the role of an account executive?

Gabe Larsen: (16:58)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:58)
And I think that also creates a nuance. Now I will say one thing though, because we’ve been talking about this educated buyer in the industry, corporate visions really was one of the key proponents of this, I would go even back as far as eight to 10 years ago. I would question how educated the buyer always is. And the concern I have is if we optimize for this buyer, like Kyle, who goes and does his due diligence and goes and looks at the website and tries to figure things out. Now we’ve got the challenge where that’s not always the case. And I would act, where all I’m disappointed is this thing about, what we’ve been talking in the industry about, 80% of buyers do their research before they engage a salesperson. That’s actually not true. And so a lot of buyers are like, “I just want to talk to a salesperson because I don’t want to go look at your website. I don’t want to go read your white paper. I don’t want to go look at this.” And so if you optimize for a Kyle, what happens when you get that quote unquote lazy buyer who’s like, “Just tell me what your product does,” because I showed up to meetings and it’s like, the person literally wants you to regurgitate the feature function. And you’re like, “Well, you can go see that on my website. We literally, on our pricing page, have every feature laid out, that’s in the packet,” right? And you don’t want to talk, you want to talk about business value. You want to talk about how do we help your business go from A to B? And they’re like, “But did your product do this?” And you’re like, “Yeah, it’s on our website.” Like, we don’t have to have an hour meeting to talk about that. Kyle, what’s your point, what’s your perspective on people who aren’t like you and don’t have that diligence?

Kyle Coleman: (18:40)
Yeah it’s a good question.

Gabe Larsen: (18:40)
See Kyle, you’re not actually, we’re only halfway through. Why are you alive Kyle? I’m sorry [inaudible]. It’s important, give it to them.

Kyle Coleman: (18:52)
I think it goes back to what, how you train the SDRs. How you think about that first interaction. And maybe it’s not SDRs. If you don’t have SDRs, then how do you train AEs to handle that kind of inbound demand? But let’s go even further up the funnel and say, optimize your site to give that person a channel to your sales team. When was the last time you saw a contact sales button on a B2B website? Like they seem to have disappeared. So try that. Maybe put that button up and run some experiments and see if that’s something that works for you. And think about your content from a content marketing and demand generation standpoint, as far as where, what it’s place is in the funnel. What’s your top of funnel thought leadership content? What’s your bottom of funnel, conversion content and gate that bottom of funnel conversion content, because you know that this is the type of content that people will look at when they’re ready to make a purchase decision. And so you can sort of prioritize who you follow up with that way, but again, it takes intent. It takes experimentation and there’s no easy answer. But I would say just train your sales team and SDR team to ask those questions, Vikas, so you can understand what type of buyer is this? Are they a value-based buyer that’s focused on the strategic vision of their company and they want to assess your products fit with that strategic vision? Or are they kind of a use case champion? Individual user who is a feature function oriented type person? And an SDR or an AE should be able to suss that out on an initial five to ten minute discovery call.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:24)
I love it. Love it.

Gabe Larsen: (20:24)
The other thing I like and, Vikas, you tipped me off to this not long ago, but, and I’m hearing it obviously on this side of the fence, which is the customer service journey, right? Like how do you map the journey of the customer? Because I think one thing you’ll find is you might be dealing with two different buyers, to kind of Kyle’s point, right? You might have an inbound buyer who’s requesting a demo who is very educated and maybe needs to be handled slightly different. In other cases in software companies, you go outbound to somebody who maybe is less educated and treating them similar to the person who just came through your website is very educated. Excuse me? They’re totally in two different worlds. They’re different parts of the process. And so expecting everybody to be on the exact same journey or to be the exact same buyer, and I’m not saying you need to have 50 paths, but maybe there are two. Maybe there are three and that way you actually optimize to that path. You might actually experience some differences and I know, Vikas, you kind of were chatting about –

Vikas Bhambri: (21:23)
No, I love, Kyle was definitely, made me think about, I go back to the post-sale experience and one of the things that in B2B we talk about now when I sit down with my professional services team is they not, they categorize customers, not just by the segment or the number of licenses they purchased. They actually look like technical affinity, right? They look at that because if somebody is really a tech savvy organization, then we can do a lighter touch. We can let them go and kind of do 80% of the tasks themselves versus somebody who’s not tech savvy, we got to do 80% of the activities. I think that’s another lens because I think on the sales side or sales and marketing side, we’ve often thought about buyer persona and very high level, right? You’ve got maybe a business buyer, you’ve got an IT buyer and I think what the lens that Kyle’s putting on it is, you’ve got that business buyer, but is it an educated business buyer versus an uneducated? And you almost, so, yeah, you don’t want to end up with 50 paths because it can get quite cumbersome. But I do think having that lens of how the buyer wants to buy is extremely important as you orchestrate your kind of go to market flow.

Kyle Coleman: (22:41)
I agree, Vikas, and I think a useful way of thinking about this is you need to attract people off, more often than not with persona-based messaging, but you need to speak with them and run the sales cycle with person-based messaging. How are I? I want to deal with this person as an individual, not as a persona with a set of characteristics that my product marketing team told me about, but as a person that is having an experience right now that has expectations, individual expectations. And so that’s a major difference that one, A, at the end of the word makes a big difference. But if you can find the right balance between the two on your sales and marketing and go to market strategy, you’re going to see the results pretty much immediately.

Gabe Larsen: (23:22)
Alrighty. Well I’m feeling like we’ve solved the world’s problems. I’m feeling comfortable.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:26)
Well, I tell you if that’s the one takeaway everybody has from this conversation. Just send us the royalty check because we’re going to make millions off of it.

Gabe Larsen: (23:38)
No check. We’re not even using checks. Like you could use –

Vikas Bhambri: (23:42)
I’ll post my Venmo on LinkedIn.

Gabe Larsen: (23:43)
All right, well we did hit a lot of different topics here. Just kind of summary thoughts from both of you. As we think about, I know we had some tactical things, but about this idea of enabling the buyer. Buyer enablement, customer journey optimization, pre-sales, not just post-sales. Let’s start with you, Vikas, and Kyle, maybe we can end with you.

Vikas Bhambri: (24:03)
Sure. I mean, look, I think for, you have to think about your buyer journey. And I think what Kyle is saying is really through the lens of the buyer and maybe different types of buyers, right? And understanding how do you make this process as frictionless as possible? Because if you don’t and somebody else does, then whether they have the best product out there or not, they’re going to win the game. And I know this from my own experience, right? When SAAS came to be back in the old days, because I’m a dinosaur, at Oracle, we were like, “Look, this is a fad. There’s nothing to it.” What SAAS did in the early days was it just made it easy for a buyer. Like I can go buy five licenses and now I’m a big enterprise I can get started and grow from there. And we were like, “Nobody’s ever going to buy software that way.” Well, it changed. That was fundamentally flawed, right? And then kind of gave the market to a small company called Salesforce. So I think from that perspective, it’s that time for reinvention again, to say, “How does the modern buyer now used to SAAS actually want to buy going forward?” And I think that’s going to be super interesting in the days ahead.

Kyle Coleman: (25:20)
Yeah, totally. Totally agree. Yeah. I would say for com, I totally agree with what Vikas said and maybe to get a bit more tactical to give people something to kind of think about and maybe take home is, think about the experience as the buyer, as the prospect. What happens when I request a demo on your site? And think about it, I’m the buyer now. I go and I request a demo and then I’m just sitting there waiting and what am I doing while I wait? And how can you improve that experience? Okay. Or I just get off the phone with an SDR and I have a meeting set five, seven days from now. What happens in the meantime? What happens in that five to seven days? What would matter to the prospect? If you were the prospect, what would you want? You should have some sort of pre-meeting drip that’s giving them content that they care about that’s aligned with the discovery and the qualification that was uncovered by the SDR. Now, after that first demo, I have a next step where we’re going to bring more people into the meeting. What, from the prospects I do, I want to happen in that next meeting and in the time in between? And if you can think about all the little stages in between, just optimize them one at a time, one at a time, because it’s going to take a while. But if you can really break down your process that granularly and think about it from the prospect side to optimize it that way, you’re going to see the results.

Gabe Larsen: (26:37)
Well, you given me a lot of work, Kyle. So I don’t really like this.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:42)
I was about to say, “Gabe, we got to go fix it.”

Gabe Larsen: (26:47)
[Inaudible] on the phone because now he’s going to hold me accountable to hearing a lot of things.

Vikas Bhambri: (26:51)
I heard MQLs. Don’t worry about MQLs.

Gabe Larsen: (26:55)
No, but I mean, truthfully, you guys, you know? No, I don’t know if anybody has the answer. It’s always great to have people like Kyle, come on and talk about a different purview. Especially when it comes to this customer journey. Don’t forget the pre-sales. Don’t forget the post-sales. Customers experience both of them, so we should optimize both of them. So that’s great. Guys, thanks for joining. Kyle, for taking the time. Vikas, as always, great to have you on board and for the audience to have a fantastic day.

Kyle Coleman: (27:20)
Thanks so much, guys.

Exit Voice: (27:26)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri

Competing and Winning in Challenging Environments with Matt Dixon and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by guests Matt Dixon from Tethr and Vikas Bhambri from Kustomer to discuss Matt’s most recent research on over one million customer service phone calls. In this episode, they discover what the research indicates and how leaders can utilize the data to their advantage. Listen to the full episode to learn more.

Adapting in the Biggest Stress Test Ever for CX

Soon after the WHO declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, Matt Dixon and his team of professionals quickly got to work analyzing data from 1,000,000+ customer service calls. This last year has been described as CX’s greatest stress test ever because teams are having to constantly adjust and adapt to the ever changing world. A year in the making, the data is showing what teams are and aren’t doing correctly in this new environment. Something that Matt hopes teams will make note of, is pre-pandemic, about 10% of customer service calls were classified as difficult. Seemingly overnight, the amount of difficult calls jumped to a whopping 20%, overwhelming underprepared CX agents. As history shows, greater difficulty in customer experience interactions leads to greater amounts of negative word of mouth marketing and upset customers. This then leads to more people being unwilling to purchase goods or services from a brand because of high difficulty interactions. To help teams adjust to a new normal and return to work, Matt offers some practical and actionable tips in the episode. He explains that making sense of collected data is key for all teams who want to be successful in the future. “Data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology that exists today.”

Using Data Proactively Now and for the Future

Data is constantly being discussed in modern CX conversations on a global scale. It seems that more and more companies are turning to using data to gather helpful information about their customers. No longer are the days of QA teams and reps who had to take detailed, tedious notes on every customer interaction to gather data and search for opportunities for improvement. New technologies allow for that data to be automatically collected, scored, and reviewed. Brands would be wise to implement data collection and implementation on a company-wide basis, as it plays a major role in customer success and higher NPS scores across the spectrum. Matt believes that in order for that collected information to be holistically useful, teams have to be proactive about the way they utilize such data – to not only solve immediate issues, but to use it to predict future issues and customer difficulty. Matt explains that data can be used to prepare for “The thing they’re (customers) probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months. … It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience.” In addition to this, Matt believes that so many companies spend too much valuable time concentrating on gathering survey responses that would be better spent on analyzing data that is stored within the technology they already have access to. As CX leaders learn more about their technology and how they can use it to collect data, customer satisfaction is sure to skyrocket.

Employee Satisfaction Leads to Brand Loyalty

The topic of employee satisfaction has gained traction in the CX realm. Leaders are starting to recognize the importance of having teams of agents that are happy, rewarded for their efforts, and satisfied with their contributions to the company. The year of customer experience calls that Matt and his team analyzed revealed that big brands are being exposed and their weaknesses are being made public. Their lack of training and agent accountability is contributing to public distrust of these big brands. Vikas uses the example of reps working from home without direct supervision that are telling customers to complain on social media because they don’t have the tools, permission, or training to properly help them. Matt and Vikas believe that it is extremely important to hire the right people, train CX agents correctly, and establish a level of trust with them so that they can work independently and efficiently. “If you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.” When these agents feel that they are trusted and have the freedom to make crucial decisions on part of the customer, brands are more likely to win. Evidently, customer interactions prove that when the agents are happy, trusted, and feel like their efforts are important to the company, customers are happy and have a greater chance of staying loyal to the brand.

To learn more about 1,000,000+ customer calls and what the data shows, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

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Listen to “What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tell Us About Why Your Team is Losing and How They Can Start | With Vikas Bhambri & Matt Dixon” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

What 1,000,000 Customer Service Calls Tells Us | With Matt Dixon & Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s show. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about customer service research. What 1 million, it’s more than a million phone calls, tell us what the heck you’re supposed to be doing to be successful in customer service. And to do that, we brought on a couple of special guests. One you know, Vikas Bhambri, and the other is Matt Dixon. Guys, why don’t you take just a minute and introduce yourself? Matt, let’s start with you.

Matt Dixon: (00:37)
Yeah, sure. Gabe, thanks for having me on. Matt Dixon, I am the Head of Product and Research at Tethr, which is an AI machine learning venture out of Austin, Texas. Prior to that, I hailed from CEB where I ran the customer experience and customer service practice for many years there. And I worked on all the research related to effortless experience, customer effort, score, effort reduction, some of which we’ll talk about today, hopefully.

Gabe Larsen: (01:04)
Awesome. Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:06)
Sure. Happy Friday, everyone. Vikas Bhambri, Head of Sales and CX here at Kustomer. Looking forward to the chat with Matt and Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (01:14)
And you know myself, Gabe Larsen. I run Growth over here at Kustomer. So Matt, what does it feel like to be a celebrity? I mean, people must come to you. This question, by the way, those of you that –

Matt Dixon: (01:24)
[Inaudible]

Gabe Larsen: (01:28)
People must come to you and be like, “You changed my life.” I mean you wrote Effortless Experience, you wrote Challenger. I mean, how does it feel to be a celebrity? I’m partially kidding, but those are big books. A lot of people have been impacted by them. So number one, thank you. But in all seriousness, what does that kind of done differently for you in the way you’ve kind of managed your career so far?

Matt Dixon: (01:49)
Well, thank, first, thank you for the kind words. I think they’re, the first thing I’ll say is this. Those books and all that research was a big team effort. So it, it’s a kind of an awkward thing to have your name on a book that you know there were dozens and dozens of people behind, putting that research together. But at the same time it’s been a pretty fun journey. We’re, I think in both sales and customer service, we’re a little bit different from a lot of the other folks out there. I mean, you and I know a lot of the same folks in the sales world. I know you hailed from that world as well prior to your time at Kustomer in the customer experience and customer service world. And I think there’s so many good expert, kind of subject matter experts and thought leaders out there. What I think makes some of this research different is the thing I still try to stick to today is I’ve never run a call center. I’ve never been a Head of Customer Experience. I’ve never been a call center rep. I think I’d be, probably be an awful call center rep. I’ve also never been a salesperson. I’ve never run a sales organization and I’ve not, I have not carried a bag for 20, 30 years like many of the other folks out there writing about sales. I think what makes me different, and some of the folks I worked with on that research, is that we’re researchers. We brought data to the air against some of the big questions people were asking.

Matt Dixon: (03:07)
So Challenger, it was, how do we sell the information to power buyers? And we’ve been taught for so long that it’s all about needs diagnosis and relationships and this kind of thing. Is that actually true? And we found with the Challenger research, a lot of that stuff was built on flawed assumptions, or at least it didn’t stand the test of time and the data currently shows a better way to do things from a sales perspective. In effortless experience, very similar. We’re all taught to believe that more is better. It’s all that delight and wowing and exceeding the customer’s expectations and we shouldn’t do that as companies. We should have a great brand that delights, a killer product that delights, great pricing that delights, a sales experience delights, but when things go wrong, we’ve found that’s not the time to delight. That’s the time to get things back on track and make it easy for the customer. Play good in customer service.

Matt Dixon: (03:52)
And so I think in some ways I like, I don’t know that I put myself up in the Pantheon of like the MythBuster guys from Discovery Channel, but I, and that’s kind of how I think of, my career has been a lot about that. Trying to bring science to bear, to test some of these assumptions that a lot of people have that feels so right. And then we never stopped to question whether or not they’re actually true and there’s a lot that we go and test and we find out it’s actually true, but there’s a lot that we tested we find out it’s actually wrong. And I think exposing that for sales leaders, customer experience leaders, contact center leaders, customer service leaders is really important and really valuable because it helps them proceed with clarity and allocate the resources better.

Gabe Larsen: (04:30)
Yeah. Well, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve appreciated about the methodology in the CX space. It seems like it’s fluffier at times, right? It’s a day on the phone with Zappos for 50 hours to make somebody feel good. There’s just so much kind of feel good stuff, that I remember reading the Effortless Experience and it was the first time I was like, “Oh my goodness, a data driven view into customer experience that I think maybe isn’t the standard.” So I do think it is nice to have some research. That’ll set up our conversation as we jump in. Vikas, I mean, your experience with the Effortless Experience, or it’s got to be one of those books, that’s just, you’ve talked to maybe a hundred thousand people about?

Vikas Bhambri: (05:09)
No, look it’s, Matt and team did a great job. It’s top of mind for a lot of folks right now, right? In terms of just how do you compete effectively? And I think the effortless experience in terms of that experience that you can deliver, not only externally, but internally with your team, and then how do you use data to iterate that experience, right? I think what Matt and team do is they’re looking at it at a macro level, across many customers and many trends. And then, what any operational leader needs to do is then apply it to their business and say, “Look, let me look at the metrics in my data. These are the bars that I want to aspire to. What do I need to do to get there?” And looking at the data within their own tools and tool sets and saying, “Where am I falling short?” So I think it’s that perfect convergence in terms of how do people effectively compete in what’s becoming a very challenging environment, right? New companies popping up in every space, almost on a daily basis.

Gabe Larsen: (06:05)
Yeah. Yeah. Well, let’s get into kind of then, some of the latest research and it may not be the latest latest, because it seems like every time I talk to Matt, he’s got something new on his, on his cuff, but –

Matt Dixon: (06:16)
[Inaudible] Now I feel lazy because I have –

Gabe Larsen: (06:23)
[Inaudible] four weeks old. What the hell?

Matt Dixon: (06:28)
[Inaudible] me lately.

Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
Yeah, that’s right. This isn’t good enough. So maybe kind of give us the backstory on this. Obviously it was COVID related. A lot of phone calls. Fill in the blanks as to why you started it, what it is.

Matt Dixon: (06:39)
Yeah. So we at, just a little bit of background. So at Tethr, we are in the conversational analytics space. I know a lot of the folks on the, listening on that are familiar with that technology. We’re one of the players in that space. And so we work with a lot of big companies around the world. And what was interesting is we take their phone date, phone call data, we take their chat interactions, their email changes, other other data, and we help them make sense of it. And to understand what’s going on in the customer experience, what the reps are doing to the good and to the bad. What the customer’s experience is with their product and their digital channels and so on and so forth. And one of the things we noticed is, with COVID in that, obviously it took the world like in a blink of an eye, just changed a lot of what we do. Think about a call center leader, multiple kind of dynamics at play. On the one hand, all of my reps who used to be sitting together in a contact center that are now all working from home. No access to peers, no access to supervisors, no shoulder to tap to ask for some help, really working on an island. And then you add onto that the fact that customers are now calling about maybe not entirely new issues, but much more acute issues. So think about, for instance, a utility company, we work with a number of utility companies. They’ve always had a certain percentage of customers that call for financial hardship reasons. I’ve lost my job. My spouse has lost their job. I can’t pay my electric bill this month. I need to go on a payment plan [inaudible] will shut my power off. That, we found in one company in our study, the number of financial hardship-related costs increased by 2.5x almost overnight in the span of like a couple of days. The number of people calling in saying, “I can’t pay my bill. I cannot have you turn the power off. And I don’t know when I’m going to be able to pay to pay you guys. So I need to, you got to come up with a plan and it’s got to be a new, creative plan, right? Because I don’t know when I can get back on track financially.” That produced this perfect storm for customer service leaders. So we started hearing from a lot of our customers, “Hey,” like, “let’s get under the hood of what’s going on in these conversations. What’s changed for our reps? What’s changed in the customers, with the customer’s expectations? What are the good reps doing that we need to do more of? What are the reps doing to the bad that we need to do less of, and let’s get our arms around this because this stuff is happening so fast.”

Matt Dixon: (08:57)
And so that’s what we did. We collected. We took a sample of calls. A million calls total from across 20 different companies. And we specifically picked those companies because we thought they represented a broad cross section of the economy. Some industries really effected like travel and leisure, some less so. And so we combined, we created the sample and we went in and we studied it. One of the first things we did was we scored all of the calls for the level of effort. So we had built an algorithm at Tethr, we call it the Tethr Effort Index, think of it like a predictive survey score. So rather than asking your customer at the end of a call to tell you how much effort that call was and for those of you familiar with the Effortless Experience, you know a customer effort score is one of these things that we talk about a book. That relies on a survey, but what we built a Tethr was a machine generated algorithm that could take a recorded phone call and the machine could tell you basically, here’s the score you would have gotten on the survey if the customer had filled it out, but without the high effort experience and the expense of asking the customer to fill out a survey.

Matt Dixon: (09:57)
So the first thing we did was we started collecting calls on March 11. We picked that date because it was the date the WHO declared COVID-19 as a global pandemic. We ran the study for two weeks to get a million calls sample from across 20 different companies. So that was a subset of the total call volume those companies do with us. And we scored those calls and we looked at what the scores were before and what they were after. And we saw a real increase overall in just the difficulty of calls, so the effort level of calls. And for those of you again, who know the research, know that effort corresponds with churn. It corresponds with negative word of mouth. It corresponds with customers unwilling to buy more from you, unwilling to accept the save offer, right? When they get transferred to the retention queue.

Matt Dixon: (10:42)
Specifically, we saw before the pandemic for the average company in our study, it was about 10% of their calls that would have been scored as difficult on our scale. It’s a zero to 10 scale. So we’re looking at the scores in the zero to four range. Those are the bad ones. In the study, so after March 11th, for those companies, that percentage doubled to 20%.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:02)
Wow.

Matt Dixon: (11:03)
So now, one fifth of their total call volume was in that zone of customers who are likely to get on social media and badmouth you, likely to churn out, not likely to buy anything more. They’re going to go in and tell their neighbors and their friends and their colleagues, “Don’t do business with these guys. It’s a terrible company, they’re treating me,-” and again, a lot of the, it was compounded by the way the reps were handling that. The fact that they’re all working from home and we get into a little bit of that, but it was kind of a staggering overnight change in the dynamic.

Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
Well, and I think that’s obviously, I think we’re all experiencing that. So it’s not too surprising from an interpersonal perspective. I can relate. Obviously taking this call from home at the moment. So if I understand the basis of it though, it did start in March 11th, it went for two weeks. Million plus phone calls, cross segment of the industries, just touch on that real quick. It was, you did try, it was pretty variety. So it wasn’t just hospitality and travel. You felt like you got a pretty good cross section on that.

Matt Dixon: (11:57)
Good cross section. So we, we’ve got in there some consumer products companies, some travel and leisure companies, utilities, financial services, card issuers, telco, and cable. It was a broad cross section. We had a couple of more B2B tilted companies as well. So we felt like we had a pretty good sample that we could say, “It wasn’t all skewed towards travel and leisure.”

Gabe Larsen: (12:18)
I love these different industries. Go ahead, Vikas.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:20)
Let me touch on one thing, which I think is really interesting. I think this is about the data, right? And I think if people aren’t using their contact center or CX data in the best of times, shame on them. But especially now, and I think there’s a real opportunity for companies to do what we call proactive service. And I think a great example of this is if you’re an insurer and you’re seeing that 20% of your volume coming in is around, “Hey, I want a reduction in my premium because I’m not driving my car,” why not use that data? Go out to market like my insurer’s done and say, “Hey, we’re giving you a credit to your account because you haven’t even asked for it, but chances are, you’re not driving. So we’re giving all our,” and look at the positive press and you’re seeing some big insurers now are catching on to this. And people are like, “Wow. My insurer’s thinking about me in this time of need.” And I think using that data, because chances are, they were going to give people individually, those credits anyway. One, you’ve reduced your conversation volume into your contact center because now you’re proactive about it and you’re getting positive press. Any thoughts on that and how people might be using that data creatively?

Matt Dixon: (13:29)
Yeah, no, I mean, I think you’re right. So the, a couple comments, one is, being proactive, I think was one of the things we wrote about in The Effortless Experience. Not just solving this issue, but thinking about the next issue proactively for the customer. The thing they’re probably going to call you about in a couple of days or weeks or months, but you as a company know this, so you can use your data to predict that, and you can fully resolve it for the customer. It’s a very low effort way of thinking about the customer experience. But the other thing in general, I totally agree, Vikas, with what you’re saying. That I see, I’m constantly surprised by how little companies, big companies actually leverage all the found data in their enterprise and how much they obsess about getting more data from like, for instance, post-call surveys.

Matt Dixon: (14:17)
So that to me, I find to be like, it’s just this weird head snapping thing that I don’t understand at all, which is they all obsess about post-call surveys. What do we need to do to get more customers to respond to our survey so that they can tell us how much effort the experience was? And I always think, “Well, you’re recording all your phone calls and your email exchanges, and your chat interactions, your SMS exchange and all this stuff on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger and social. Like you have enough data already to know what the experience was. Why are you obsessing about your survey response rate?” And it just, it’s so interesting the way, and even when you get down to it, I hate to be pessimistic here, but our data in this view, but I think part of the reason is they get paid on survey response rates and NPS scores and things like that. And so that’s why they obsess about it. It’s not, ultimately, if they really wanted to fix customer experience, there are way better sources of data in the systems they already use so that they can be more proactive, so they can find those effort causes and drivers and do something about it. It’s, that data is voluminous. It is unbiased. It’s unvarnished. It’s really actionable in the technology exists today, you know? Sure. 10 years ago you needed a QA team, kind of with headsets, listening to calls, making notes and surfacing opportunities to get for improvement. But you don’t have to do that today. Machines can do that at tremendous speed and scale and so, but it surprises me why more companies don’t do it.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:38)
Yeah. I mean, the thing is if you send somebody a 15 page survey after an interaction, right, if you’re in the travel industry, for example, right, after I’ve spoken to a customer service professional, it’s like you had good interaction. And I don’t think maybe it’s a, maybe it’s a lack of understanding at the executive level that what kind of data occurs in these conversations, right? If you’re a marketeer and you don’t realize that the best feedback you’re going to get about a promotion or an offer or a competitor, what a competitor’s doing, is in those conversations. If you’re a product person and you don’t realize, “Wow, like my contact center gets real-time feedback on a new feature or a new service that I’m providing,” there’s a lack of understanding there about the richness of the data that resides in the contact center environment.

Matt Dixon: (16:27)
Yeah. I agree. It’s, I think there’s this assumption that it’s the data in so far as leverage, it’s really just valuable for making contexts in our interactions better. So, but we find when we go into those conversations, it’s a gold mine, Vikas, as you’re saying, of the insight around your digital experience. What were all the things the customer was trying to do on your website or your app before they picked up the phone and called that they’re actually telling the rep or complaining about in the conversation and you’ve just recorded it? What are all the things they talk about with respect to your product or your feature or your pricing, or your competitive differentiation, or about the sales rep who oversold them on the product or service to begin with, and now they’re calling in disappointed? So there’s just tons of insight there for all parts of the enterprise, not just for the QA team at the call center.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:11)
Right.

Gabe Larsen: (17:12)
No, I love that. So this is one way I think companies are trying to kind of do things differently in this, it’s been called the new normal or the new world we live in, using data in a way maybe they haven’t done. There were some other things that you were alluding to, Matt based on findings you have, and we’ve put a link in the chat for the actual HBR article that you wrote. So if you want to see some of the additional findings but I want to get into some of these takeaways. Where did you kind of go based on then the data that was revealed? Can you maybe start at the top? So we got data, one, and then what’s next?

Matt Dixon: (17:43)
Yeah. So we, so the highest level again, we found a doubling of the predicted effort level of interactions from pre-pandemic to in the pandemic or pre-March 11 to post-March 11th. The other thing we found as we started digging into what was really driving this was, and I think you found that generally speaking at the highest level, this is this higher level of effort in these interactions was sort of born of two different things. And they’re kind of, there’s a little bit of overlap. And on the one hand I mentioned before, customers who are feeling a lot more emotion and anxiety, driven by things like financial hardship, coming in really frustrated because maybe it took them two hours to get through to a rep because now the call center doesn’t have access to the outsource that they used to provide overflow support. The call volume has spiked, and now there’s a longer hold time. So they’re frustrated to begin with. They’re doubly frustrated maybe because they went to a website and what in normal times wasn’t such a big deal, now it was a really big deal because the alternate option going in self-serving failed them. They’re talking to a rep who they feel like is dealing with policies that really haven’t been updated in light of the pandemic. So you might be asking for a bill payment, that utility example I used before, a bill payment extension or a payment plan. And they’re still pushing customers to the policies that existed before the pandemic. And they haven’t really updated us because the company moves really slowly and they just feel like they’re dealing with people who are just throwing out policy and hiding behind policies.

Matt Dixon: (19:11)
That’s kind of on the customer side. Then the agent side, think about it. And you’ve got to be empathetic to the agent situation here, too. Many of these agents who are now working from home, the fact of the matter is that before the pandemic, most of them were working in kind of a factory floor model of a contact center where they were, they sat in a group surrounded by colleagues who they could tap on the shoulder and ask for help. Supervisors they could wave their hand and flag down for assistance or a policy exception in the moment. They were given a script, they were given a checklist. They had access to all the resources they needed. There were kind of like cogs in the machine. What happens when you send all those folks out to their home offices and now they’re left to their own devices?

Matt Dixon: (19:52)
What you find is that in some cases, maybe we didn’t hire people, we didn’t hire the right people. And maybe in some cases we never coached them on the behaviors that could lead to them being successful. We just kind of told them to stick to the script and just follow the rules, follow the checklist. That doesn’t really work in a situation where customers are calling in about high-anxiety, high-emotion issues. And they’re asking reps to make exceptions and make up their minds and decide things on the fly. Then what do you do if there’s no tenured colleague or supervisor you can flag down? You’re sitting in your basement or your living room doing your job. It’s really, really tough. So what that means is agents are shirking responsibility. They’re citing policies. They’re saying, “Hey, I can’t really help you. Maybe you should write a letter to the company. Sometimes that gets their attention. And you know what you might want to do is just bad mouth them on Twitter, because if you do that, they usually jump to it and they can help you out.” You know? And I’m not kidding. There’s a lot of that going on and it, that then compounds the frustration from customers. So beyond that, we started to look at, I think the good news is there are things we found in the research that are, we think tools and ways forward and we’ve talked a little bit about those, but let me pause here and just see if you have any thoughts, Gabe or Vikas, on that piece of it.

Gabe Larsen: (21:03)
Yeah. Any response to that? I mean, definitely a customer side and an employee side. It sounds like.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:08)
No, I look, I think I, Matt, I’ve been saying for weeks as we’ve been doing these is, this is the biggest stress test that the contact center industry has ever gotten. And I think a lot of the fundamentals that were broken at a macro level across the industry, but individually are in for specific brands are being exposed. And I think that lack of training and empowerment is one that is absolutely coming to the forefront because for somebody who’s been walking the floors of contact centers for 20 years, this even today, there’s the culture of the supervisor walking the floor, looking over the shoulder, providing guidance, jumping in and saying, “Hey, let me listen to that call. Let me coach you through it,” and forget the technical limitations. How do you do that? Now when you’ve got, maybe you’re a supervisor of 20 people and now they’re disparate and they’re working from home, forget the, like I said, the technology limitations, how do you actually do that? So I think, like I said, we’re exposing a lot of the flaws and I think, what are some of the changes we’ll see going forward is that ability to empower and really create this into a knowledge worker role, right? Because as self-service takes care of the low level simple questions, you’re going to see, I think you’re going to see this in the contact center regardless of the work from home environment, but you’re really going to need people who can handle those difficult questions.

Matt Dixon: (22:36)
Yeah. We actually, there’s another one, I don’t know if, Gabe you throw this up on the, with the other article, but there’s an article we wrote in 2018 about T-Mobile’s journey toward a different in kind of knowledge work environment for their contact center, where they basically told their reps, “You guys are now small business owners and we are, our job as leaders is to figure out what’s getting in your way of delivering the right customer experience. Is it a policy? Is it that you don’t have the right tools? You don’t have the right, you’re not on the right platforms that the connection speeds too slow? What is the thing that’s getting in your way? But you tell us what you need. We’ll clear the road for you. Your job is to own the customer experience and come up with creative solutions, but use your own judgment.”

Matt Dixon: (23:15)
A lot of that really increases the importance of hiring great people, coaching them in a really effective way, giving them great manager support and putting them in a climate that really rewards people for using their own judgment; doesn’t just tell them to stick to the script. So that article was called Reinventing Customer Service and I encourage everyone to read that because it picks up on this story that Vikas is talking about. When the easy stuff goes away, by definition, what’s left is the more complicated stuff that the live rep is handling. And you need to have really good people who can exercise their own judgment, and that’s even more important. And what becomes apparent is when, if you haven’t hired the right people and you haven’t helped coach them on the behaviors that’ll lead to success, when you put them in an at-home environment, that becomes really apparent really quickly.

Matt Dixon: (24:01)
And so it really, this is, I think there are two trends that’ll be kind of shot through a tunnel of time with COVID. I think one is digital and specifically omni-channel capabilities. The ability for companies to seamlessly switch, obviously work that you guys do at Kustomer, to switch from one channel to the next. I think the ability, the effectiveness of asynchronous messaging in particular, chat effectiveness, SMS effectiveness, customers used to use that stuff for simple binary interactions. Now, when they’re looking at a two hour, wait time in the phone to queue, they’re going to go try that chat channel first, right? And see how far they can get. What that’s doing is it’s forcing chat to grow up really fast and forcing our chat bots to get really smart really quickly. I think the other trend that will be shot through a tunnel of time is agent empowerment and hiring great people, putting them in a climate of judgment where they can leverage the expertise of their peers, but more importantly, where they’re trusted to do what they know is right, because we trust that we hired great people and we showed them, here are the boundaries in the sandbox we can’t go across for regulatory reasons or legal reasons, but within that, use your judgment. Do what you think is right for the customer. We’re not going to script you. We’re not going to checklist you. And it turns out putting customer reps in those environments means they deliver actually better outcomes, more customer-centric outcomes, and they deliver better results for their companies, higher NPS scores, lower churn, higher cross-sell and up-sell. And that’s exactly what T-Mobile saw in their experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (25:27)
Yeah, and if I can just touch on what Matt said about that omni-channel experience. It’s really delivering that same experience, regardless of channel. I talked to a lot of customer service leaders that complain you gave the example of people going to Twitter to complain. And I didn’t know agents were actually coaching them to do that. I can see why. And it was really interesting. I remember a few years ago, I did some work with an airline where I met their social team, the Twitter team, and they were like, they walked into the room, like really like a group of alphas. They were talking about how they had a separate set of policies that they were able to do than the core contact center, because they were like, “When people complain on social, we have the ability to offer them refunds and things that the core team isn’t.” I was sitting there laughing. I’m like, “This is not a good thing. You’re basically training people to go to social media, to amplify their voice so that they get better customer service.” And I’m like, “That is a fail because what you’re doing then is you’re training them to go to these places.” And so for me, omni-channel experience, it’s not just about delivering the channels, but you should have a uniform experience regardless of which channel that customers coming to you with. So I thought that just, when you mentioned Twitter and agents guiding customers to that just triggered that airline story.

Gabe Larsen: (26:44)
Crazy.

Matt Dixon: (26:45)
Because they say, “Well, look. Actually the alpha team is on that group. I know several companies, big name companies that put their best reps, you graduate into the social team. When you reach the highest level of agent status, that’s where you go, like, that’s the destination job. There are no rules or no policies do whatever you want. And what they’re doing is teaching their customers that the way you get the best service from this company is by publicly complaining about it.

Gabe Larsen: (27:08)
Sure.

Matt Dixon: (27:08)
And it’s just like –

Gabe Larsen: (27:11)
Yeah. It’s funny that that’s what, that’s the world we’re in though, you guys. Our time is unfortunately come to an end, such a fun talk track, always more to discuss. We did leave the link to the HBR so you can dive in a couple more of the findings and the research. Matt, it’s always great to have you. Vikas, thanks for joining. For the audience, have a fantastic day.

Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Thanks.

Vikas Bhambri: (27:29)
Thanks.

Matt Dixon: (27:29)
Take care guys, bye.

Exit Voice: (27:38)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

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

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

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

Establishing a Customer Obsessed C-Suite

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

Mental Safety and Cultivating Friendships in the Workplace

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

Consistency Gives Companies an Edge

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about why you must drive the customer experience with the employee experience. I think this is one of those often missed conversations. To do that we have two special people joining me today. Both Stacy and Vikas, why don’t you guys take just a minute and introduce yourselves? Stacy, let’s start with you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (15:33)
Love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (23:54)
Undercover Boss.

Gabe Larsen: (23:55)
Undercover Boss.

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

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

Exit Voice: (24:20)
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How Operations Play a Role in Transforming CX with John Timmerman

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

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

How To Hire the Right Talent

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

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

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

Defining Values that Resonate

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

Journey Mapping with Employees in Mind

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

John hopes CX leaders will streamline their processes from subjective to objective experiences with his helpful advice. To learn more about operationalization, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Tuesday and Thursday.

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right, welcome everybody. We’re really excited to get going. We’re going to be talking about operations and how that really plays into the role of helping you transform your customer experience and to do that, we brought on a good friend of mine, John Timmerman. He’s currently the Vice President at Mercy. John, thanks for joining. How are you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Timmerman: (11:22)
I’m sorry?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (15:49)
The frontline.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (32:58)
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

Exit Voice: (33:22)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

 

Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting

Driving Loyalty and Retention Through Personal Gifting TW

Listen and subscribe to our podcast:

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

Take Advantage of Investing in Relationships

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

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

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

Providing a Tailored Approach to CX

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

Improve Your Brand by Learning From Support Cases

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

The Personal Experience Movement | Greg Segall and Sean MacPherson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greg Segall: (05:15)
I don’t know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gabe Larsen: (24:06)
What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean MacPherson: (27:10)
Thanks everyone.

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

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

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times TW

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

Navigating CX

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

Focusing on What Can Be Controlled

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

Three Methods to Drive CX Success

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

How CX Leaders are Winning in Challenging Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (21:24)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:31)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more Customer Service Secrets.

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

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

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

Simple Tricks to Earn Customer Loyalty

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

Proactive Communication

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

The Role of AI in CX

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

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

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

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

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Full Episode Transcript:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Miller: (09:00)
For sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vikas Bhambri: (22:37)
Thanks Gabe.

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

Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

Podcast: Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe Larsen is joined by Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer, 20 year CRM Contact Center Lifer, and Gabe’s partner in crime to make a big announcement. Kustomer has been selected as the only enterprise customer service CRM platform in the Shopify Plus Certified App Program. With this seamless integration, businesses can create contextualized, actionable customer profiles to drive more personalized and data driven customer journeys, while resolving conversations quickly and building long-term customer loyalty. Now more than ever, the world’s leading brands need a customer service CRM that can scale and evolve as they do. Listen to the full podcast episode below to hear their discussion on the role self-service plays in this new MEconomy.

How Has the Economy Changed

It is no secret that day-to-day life has changed drastically since March of 2020. As businesses closed their doors, curbside pickup, delivery services, and online shopping have become the new normal. What used to be a luxury for a few extra dollars is now a necessity. This is just one evidence that the economy has changed and customers’ expectations are evolving with it. Technology has facilitated agents and other employees to work from home and we wonder if companies will return to their storefronts or if they’ll stay remote. Vikas points out that this probably won’t be the case. While smaller companies are staying remote and the customer is demanding more remote services, it is a lot harder for large companies to pivot that quickly. There has been a surge in customer requests and these large contact centers even increased their headcount during the pandemic. But, is this an opportunity for businesses to start leveraging AI and automate?

The Value of Self-Service

As mentioned above, the consumer mindset has changed, drastically. They are getting used to having things delivered to their homes and they want their issues resolved, instantly. Customers want frictionless interactions and expect companies to deliver on those expectations. Twenty years ago, customer service centers believed that in order to make the customer happy, you had to interact with them constantly. But, with an ever-evolving customer mindset, consumers want to talk less with companies. Vikas states, “Part of being consumer centric doesn’t always mean that you have to talk to them or chat, whatever it is. There are times where the consumer actually wants to self serve. … customer delight doesn’t mean spending time with [them], it means getting the heck out of [their] way.”

To give customers this type of self-service experience, Vikas points out that this is an opportunity to start leveraging automation. Automation is not a bad thing and it isn’t going to drive customers away. Done correctly, it will actually help customers have a positive experience. While there is not an unique way to do it, the most important thing is staying true to your brand and treating people like people.

The New Relationship With the Customer

Customers want a different relationship with companies. “It’s not, ‘I don’t want a relationship with you.’ [It’s] ‘I want a different type of relationship with you,’” Vikas states. This MEconomy involves more focus on efficiency and giving the customer helpful tools. Vikas continues, “I don’t want to have this elongated, kind of massaged relationship, just when I come to you, whether I want to buy something, … whether I want to service something or even when you market to me, be to the point, be specific, be personalized to me and then let’s move on.” When the agent is focused on being concise and letting the customer solve their own problems, the customer will be happier with their experience.

To learn more about the evolving economy, evolving customer and how to adjust your business to those changes, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Full Episode Transcript:

Adapting to the New MEconomy With Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alright, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going here. You’ve got myself, Gabe Larsen. I run growth over here at Kustomer and you got my partner in crime Vikas Bhambri. He runs SVP of both Sales and Customer Support, customer success. Wanted to kick this off with a big announcement. We have no guests today. We didn’t want a guest today actually.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:29)
You announced me as the guest.

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yes. Actually I was telling Vikas we did actually have a guest, but they ditched on us.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:40)
It’s a tropical storm here in the Northeast, they couldn’t make it to the studio.

Gabe Larsen: (00:44)
Oh man. Can you believe the weather out here? My heavens. It truly is — it rains here in the East all the time. I’ve forgotten how much it rains out here. But that wasn’t the announcement. The actual announcement is Shopify. Vikas, do you want to give maybe just the high level and I’ll fill in a couple of details?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:59)
Absolutely. So Kustomer is now in the Shopify Plus Program and we’re the only enterprise customer service platform in the program. And I think this is super exciting, not only for us here at Kustomer, but more importantly, all those Shopify customers that have been looking for a partner that not only has a robust integration from a platform perspective with Shopify, but more importantly, that strategic relationship as we think about further co-development and further iterations of what we’ve already come to market with.

Gabe Larsen: (01:36)
Yeah. I mean, this is exciting you guys. We’re super proud of it. There are kind of the Shopify plus and then Shopify and then Shopify Plus and Plus really is more for the larger companies who are doing more transactions with Shopify, looking for something a little more, a little deeper, etcetera. So jumping in on both the Shopify and Shopify Plus; and then bringing some of these feature sets that have been unique to Kustomer into that integration where you have this real full timeline view where you can do so many more interactions: refund, cancel, view shipping information by skews, see order item activity, easily refund people. Kind of all in that single interface as you get in Kustomer, but now you’ve got that with the Shopify integration, I think will be an awesome addition to some of our customers who are using it and looking forward to talking to more people. So big fronts — big announcements on the Kustomer front. Definitely check it out. We’ll put a link in the comments to some of those types of things. Now, I wanted to shift gears. What’s been on your mind, before we do — anything on your mind Vikas that you were kind of front and center as we think customer service as things go about on your day to day?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:47)
You and I have talked about this quite a bit over the last few weeks with a number of different guests is just a change of pace in the customer experience arena over these last few months, driven by the pandemic. And as I called it, I think pretty early on is the biggest stress test that this industry has ever faced. I mean, everything from how agents work, where agents work, how they’re managed by their supervisors and then this tremendous surge in ticket volume that folks have been seeing. I talked to somebody pretty recently and even today, people are like, look — really interesting. I think this person that I had a conversation with they’re major retailer. Their first impulse that a lot of these retailers had when the pandemic hit was our business is going to get hit. And so they actually let people go. And then what happened is they actually saw that their business, the sales side went up, right? Because obviously people were not going to the stores.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:57)
And so their volume went up and then they had this whole issue that they have to figure out their fulfillment, because imagine you’re doing a hundred orders a week and now you’re doing a thousand orders a week. They just weren’t set up for that scale. Well, as those orders went out is what they saw were the heightened anxiety levels of the consumer. Now getting four to five X, the number of inquiries, tickets, conversations, around those orders. And they let people go so now the existing team had — so just this amazing kind of thing over the last four months and what’s been extremely exciting to witness and experience and be a part of is how brands have reacted to what’s happened. Because I think the brands that are reacting now, not everybody’s doing it the right way, they’re the ones that when the pandemic obviously comes to an end, are going to continue to thrive in this new normal that we’re all talking about.

Gabe Larsen: (04:53)
And it is such a transition. I think my favorite thing has been watching that force digital transformation as well. We were chatting the other day about that. It’s a small retailer, a physical retailer out West and got hit with the pandemic and had to close their 20 retail locations and then the conversation and the change in mindset. And I thought this was just such a powerful example of, well, how do we double down on everything digital? And started to partner with us on this idea of in-store or curbside pickup. I guess not in-store because the store was closed — Curbside pick up and do it all online and they weren’t really set up for that. And his words directly were, “This pandemic has probably pushed us to at least two years ahead of where we would have been on our e-tail, on our website, on our digital aspect.” And you’re seeing that, I think not just in the large, but a lot of these smaller vendors, these smaller players who hadn’t maybe thought about how they can progress so quickly, forced to the forefront and seeing cool things. And it actually, it’s been very powerful, curbside pickup. He’s like, “Who would’ve thought? This is going to change our business for the better as we go forward. I wish we’d had done this earlier.” But the pandemic kind of changed that.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:11)
Here’s the thing it’s, making us wonder why we were doing things the way we were. My friends and I joke, here in Long Island, obviously we’ve been, we were extremely hard hit, so I can pull up to my local ice cream place and they can run it out to my car. Like we’re laughing. We’re like, well, look, “Hey, we get called lazy Americans all the time. This is now the true Nirvana, right? I don’t even need to go in the store anymore.” To your point about curbside pickup with your friend is — and then of course our entire supply chain in the Bhambri household is now online delivery. And to the point where my wife, who is the biggest anti online grocery shopper, Christina, “I want to feel the produce.” She’s the person who literally — people watch her in the grocery aisle where she’s sniffing the cantaloupe. It must be an English thing.

Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Well, I always felt like I had the watermelon touch, so [inaudible] I’m like this, “Yes, No.” Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:20)
But now she’s a believer. And she’s like, “Wow, these Amazon shoppers, they’ve got the touch.” And I was like, “Well, worst case, you can go teach them or train them.” So it’s going to be really interesting as I say is, even for certain segments of the consumer population, what is their appetite going to be to go back? We’re talking about opening up malls and different types of retailers. If even somebody like my parents have now adapted to Amazon shopping or retailers that are delivering to them, whatever it is, why are they going to go back? If Home Depot can now deliver my dad his hose or whatever new project he has at home, why does he need to go back into the store?

Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Yeah. One thing that’s front and center. I think even for us here at Kustomer is the work from home, work remote, work partially in the office. Anything lately you’ve heard about, in general, you feel like most companies and their service centers will find their way back? Are they finding their way back? Do you think, again, when you’ve tasted a little bit of the forbidden fruit and for some people and experience, maybe, “You know what, I’m all set now as a service agent working from home, I’m going to continue this.” Do you see that trend? How does that shape –?

Vikas Bhambri: (08:39)
No, unfortunately I think the smaller scale, the brands that have their direct workforce that have gone remote. I think if you have 20 agents, I think the BPOs, the larger contact centers are — look so much of their operation and their value to the people they do this optimization, et cetera, is cost savings. I don’t think they want to, or can pivot that quickly. And what I am hearing is that more and more the large contact centers, the ones that are BPO driven, are going back to a centralized environment. I’m assuming they’re doing the right protocols, the right testing, et cetera. But I do think that group is definitely moving back in, but here’s the other thing I heard this morning is they’re also hiring in a big way because of the surge, because brands are feeling that surge I heard one this morning where one pretty large BPO is probably going to be hiring 30,000 new agents.

Gabe Larsen: (09:49)
Well, they’ve got — I was surprised truthfully. You started with this, that you saw so many people react and I get why, but yeah, we were furloughing and people were letting people go. And for, obviously, I think for justified reasons, but, and for a lot of these people, that was a little more, head-scratching like gal aren’t they going to see a surge because of the industry they’re in and people are going to have more requests. They’re wondering where their orders are, more calls, more chats, more email. So I’m not surprised that you’re starting to see some goodness. And I think the economy in some ways needs some of that.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:22)
But what a missed opportunity, right? You’re going to go out and hire 30,000 people, but this is, not was, continues to be an opportunity to automate, right? And use tools like chat bots, article deflection, I mean —

Gabe Larsen: (10:41)
This is the time to do it right? You have the opportunity.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:44)
Absolutely.

Gabe Larsen: (10:45)
I had, and that spurred a little bit of the topic for today’s conversation, I had somebody who in passing basically said to me, “I joined the trend, but didn’t realize that it was going to take a little more time.” And they said, “Wanted to get a chat bot on my site, thought I could start deflecting, automate some of those requests, heard some big numbers.” I think he threw out in joking, “Cut your agents by 99%, it will increase productivity by 497%.” I’m making up the stats. I think he was as well. But then he kind of said, “Hey, it was a little bit of a reality. I contacted some company, threw the thing on my website and I didn’t see the results.” So I do, I mean I think this is still a good opportunity to jump on the bandwagon around automation, but it’s not that easy. Right? I mean, it takes a little more work, whether it’s a bot or automation, it’s going to take some time. Correct?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:40)
You and I have talked about this. You’ve gotta be thoughtful. It’s an entire program management, just like you would do a marketing campaign. Right? If you think of it in that mindset, you have to think about the cohort of customers you’re trying to address. What’s the problem? Is it Wismo, right? What’s the actual problem– and then tackle that one area. Solve it, go do the next one and the next one. But I think, yeah, to your point, just slapping a bot on the website and then going, “Oh, I still need — I can’t let go of 99 out of a hundred people.” I think that’s where you’re misinformed.

Gabe Larsen: (12:14)
Do you feel like companies, I mean, being forced into this, have started to find the balance better between bot and human. I know that’s been kind of the fun debate, more pre-COVID. You feel like we’re starting to get that or where is that? Is there still kind of a fine line of what goes bot, what goes human, and when they interact?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:34)
No, I don’t think it’s that well-defined, here’s what I am finding is there’s no best practice guide. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (12:45)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:45)
And so even brands are struggling with, what’s the tone we want to set. Right? We’ve always been a people first brand, consumer first brand, and now we’re going to say automation and, and it almost has a negative connotation. You use the term deflection. Even that’s a term that people are like, “Oh my goodness, we don’t want to deflect.” Okay, call it what you want. I mean, whether you call containment, whether you call it self-service, if something the customer actually wants, you almost have to educate the executive team. “Look, our customers don’t always want to talk to us.” And I think that’s a mindset where people say part of being consumer centric, doesn’t always mean that you have to talk to them or talk, chat, whatever it is. There are times where the consumer actually wants to self serve. And I think the simplest way to do this, I think by the way your podcast with the rockstar, James Dodkins was one of my favorites. Just talk to people like people. I loved his, kind of the walking through the bar with the beer. [inaudible] You got these executives that get into like this, “Well we’re a consumer first brand.” Well, what does that really mean?

Gabe Larsen: (14:03)
Well don’t you feel like it changed? I almost, I want to create one of those timelines — I love timelines, but my love as things kind of have progressed over the years, people were very product centric in their differentiation. And then there was this, you and I have hit on it a little bit, but the Zappos type thing, the light where it was like you had to actually spend a lot of time with your customers or create that presidential experience for them. And so we all went to the Marriott gold membership or the Bonvoy or whatever, they’re calling it now in Delta Gold. And we wanted to actually spend more time with them because we wanted to delight them. It does feel like there has been a shift maybe with COVID pushing it further. And don’t get me wrong, it was kind of coming anyways. But yeah, customer delight doesn’t mean spending time with me, it means getting the heck out of my way.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:54)
That’s it.

Gabe Larsen: (14:54)
But that’s still hard work because we’re coming out of, I think, what was a 20 year Zappos thing. And I’m not saying that isn’t important, but boy, even when I hear you say that it’s just like, how do I deliver a great experience if I literally never talked to somebody when Nordstrom was giving away free tires when they brought a dress back?

Vikas Bhambri: (15:17)
Well, the consumers moved on at a rate that most companies haven’t. Right? I mean, they’re reading about Brooks Brothers the other day and how casual Fridays killed Brooks Brothers. I’m like, well casual Fridays — and it happened like last week. I mean, casual Fridays has been happening, and I’m going to start aging myself, for over 20 years. So, sorry Brooks Brothers that you didn’t keep up with the times. Right? I mean, I’m sorry. I don’t know. I used to love Brooks Brothers, but the workplace attire changed and you didn’t keep up with it so that’s on you. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (15:57)
Do you feel like there’s a word for this? I’ve wondered myself. I mean, again, we’re always saying that’s kind of cliche to say consumer expectations are changing, but people talked about building relationships or friendships or customer — building that, but now you still want a relationship, but that dynamic has changed. Is there a word that you feel like kind of stamps what the new consumer mindset is? Is it just a different type of relationship? It’s a make it easy, kind of world that we’re in? Anything that encapsulates, you feel like this changing consumer expectations from a naming standpoint?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:39)
Yeah. One word that just came to my mind, maybe because we’re all kind of in this crazy world is therapist. And I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to be friends with brands. I don’t. And I think most consumers to your point like that whole, we’ve all heard the mythical Zappos story. Some woman spending 10 hours on a phone call with a customer. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a call with Zappos. No offense to the folks at Zappos. Sorry. I’m sure they’re super nice. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a phone with anybody. Think about that. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a phone with my real friend. Gabe, you and I are friends. I don’t want to spend 10 hours on a call with you. And most of the time, this is probably the most we talk, right? Otherwise I’m slacking you, I’m texting you, right? That’s the communication that we all the majority of our conversations are these days, right? People even joke how the best way to get a hold of their spouse is a quick Facebook message or a WhatsApp message or whatever it is. So to me I want to go to a brand when I have a problem. So that’s why I kind of think about like a therapist, “Solve my problem and then send me on my way.” Right? And I don’t know if therapist is the right word, but when you get where I’m going, where I don’t want to have this elongated, kind of massaged relationship, just when I come to you, whether I want to buy something, whether I want — whether I want to service something or even when you market to me, be to the point, be specific, be personalized to me and then let’s move on.

Gabe Larsen: (18:09)
Yeah, yeah. Somebody mentioned it, the word MEconomy I’m remembering, and that’s an interesting way to kind of frame it. It sounds a little selfish, but it is it’s, it’s kind of like, “Look, I don’t want to spend time with you. I want it now. I want it quick. I want it real time. I want it. I want, I want to be able to answer it myself.” A lot of “I’s” in that statement versus, “I want you to solve it. I want you to take the time to talk to me, be my therapist,” et cetera. Maybe there’s something there because it does feel like we are seeing that age old debate of, I want a relationship with my customer. Customers don’t want a relationship with you anymore.

Vikas Bhambri: (18:55)
Yeah, no, they want a different type of relationship. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (18:58)
It is different. Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:00)
I loved that term the MEconomy because, market to me. If Gabe and I are both customers of a particular brand, Gabe’s an outdoorsman, right? I’m a city guy. I like — so market to us, even as that brand. Right? But even when you’re — and I think another thing that James hit on in the podcast that you had with him was this concept of proactive service. That I’m a huge believer in, well, right. If you’re going to proactively service something that went wrong do it to the products I’ve bought from you. Right? The relationship we have. I think those are different types of concepts. So it’s not, “I don’t want a relationship with you. I want a different type of relationship with you.”

Gabe Larsen: (19:43)
Yeah, yeah, that’s right. That’s right. But it’s on my terms and it looks a lot different than it did before. So, interesting. It’s always fun catching up. Summarizing, give us kind of your take on how we — where we’ve been and where we’re going forward. Give us a quick kind of summary. We hit on a few different topics.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:02)
Yeah, so where we’ve been is just we have pressed the fast forward button on the future by two years.

Gabe Larsen: (20:10)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:11)
I mean, that’s just the reality and we can’t go back. We’re not going to go back. The consumer’s not going to go back. The brands can’t go back. So now it’s a period of how do you — unfortunately, most companies don’t think that far in advance; there’s very few. There’s Elon Musk, the Space X’s right? There’s Bezos at Amazon. But the majority of companies, they’re thinking about it in monthly, quarterly cycles, right? Depending on the next time they have to go to the street or go to the board or whatever, you really have to think about, what would your business have looked like two years from now? And operate it at that cadence today, which, good luck with that.

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
Yeah. I know, easier said than done. So always a fun conversation Vikas. For the audience, thanks for joining and have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (21:06)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri

Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri TW 2

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri to discuss how to use AI in contact centers. Aarde is the Senior Director of Technology and Product for Global Member Services at TechStyle. He’s spent the last decade working in e-commerce and is the author of the book Enable Better Service. Vikas, a familiar guest on the show, is the SVP of Sales and CX at Kustomer and a 20-year CRM / contact center veteran. Both Aarde and Vikas have extensive knowledge on the use of AI in customer service and they have come together to discuss how other businesses can optimize with the help of AI.

“Omnibot”, The Omnichannel Bot

Customer expectations have changed significantly over the last few months, and companies are starting to feel the strain— especially in regards to their AI. While autobots have a reputation for dehumanizing companies, we are starting to rely on them heavily as customer needs increase. To ensure chatbots have a positive impact, Vikas and Aarde focus on making sure they are used as an omnichannel tool. Aarde states, “You can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members.” As customers switch channels, the bot needs to be available to support your customer on their preferred channel. Gabe, Vikas, and Aarde called this adaptable bot an “omnibot.”

Knowing the need for effective AI, and bots that function on multiple channels, Vikas and Aarde discuss who should build the bots and how they should be built. Because coding and creating AI can be taxing, they recommend finding a good partner to help, as it will be a better use of resources. As for how an omnibot should be built, Vikas notes the need for authenticity to the brand. He states, “If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your … general reputation and what your customers expect of you.” In other words, make sure that the bot matches your brand. And, as an additional note, let customers know they’re talking to a bot. Customers don’t like to question whether they’re talking to a person or not.

How to Humanize a Customer’s AI Experience

One of the main concerns with using chatbots, even ones that are authentically built to the brand, is that consumers lose the human touch of customer service. This is a valid point, but Vikas and Aarde explain ways to overcome that while still increasing efficiency. To humanize a bot experience, have a good team behind it. In regards to AI Vikas states, “You still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it.” It is a team effort to optimize a chatbot, and constant evaluative measures will ensure that it grows and changes with the needs of the customer. Good AI is not meant to replace people in customer service, but to aid those committed to helping customers. In fact, Aarde mentions optimization tactics that fix AI and help the customer at the same time. He says, “When we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs.”

Best Practices and Final Advice on How to Optimize AI

Transcribing bot conversations and having the bots follow the customer across multiple channels helps with the overall customer experience. Additionally, not being hesitant to transfer someone to a live agent is a good tactic. If people are saying “Operator”, pressing zero, or yelling, don’t use the bot to fix the problem, have a person step in and do their job. Aarde’s final piece of advice, or best practice, is to not tackle the hardest type of AI first. Don’t try for voice AI from the beginning. “I recommend trying,” he states, “but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population.” Add AI to your company’s customer service department one step at a time. Agreeing with Aarde, Vikas adds, “Look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue?” He also suggests, “[Talk] to your agents or even [look] at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at, ‘What are the macros they most often use?’” While investing in AI can be an intimidating venture, bots can provide increased efficiency to your company, and successful self-service to your customers.

To learn more about how to leverage AI in your customer service department, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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Leveraging AI to Power Your Contact Center With Aarde Cosseboom and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s broadcast. We’re excited to get going here. We’re going to be talking about one of these really relevant and interesting conversations, leveraging AI and self-service to really power your contact center. To do that we brought on two special guests. We’ll let them introduce themselves. Aarde, why don’t we start with you?

Aarde Cosseboom: (00:31)
Sure. Thanks again Gabe and Vikas for having me and Kustomer, of course, for hosting. I’m Aarde Cosseboom. I’m the Senior Director of Technology and Product for GMS, which is Global Member Services for a company called TechStyle. And we’re an e-commerce retail company.

Gabe Larsen: (00:47)
Awesome. Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:49)
Vikas Bhambri, SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM Contact Center Lifer, looking forward to the conversation with Aarde and Gabe.

Gabe Larsen: (00:57)
Yeah, this is exciting. And you know, myself, I run growth over here at Kustomer. So let’s get in and let’s talk about this. Aarde, let’s start with the big picture. What do AI and self-service bots even solve?

Aarde Cosseboom: (01:11)
Yeah, this is a great question and really hard to answer specifics because every business is slightly different, but I’ll try to stay as high level as possible. Really it helps with self service, it’s in the title, but deflection, reducing contact. There’s a lot of automation that happens as well, too. So not only automating for your customer, but also automating a lot of the agent processes like creation of tickets and then auto dispositions as well too. And then one of the things that’s kind of hidden that most people don’t think about, and it’s actually one of the things that we don’t really measure that well in the industry in this area, is customer experience as well, too. So as millennials and gen X are expecting these types of tools, it creates a better experience for those people who are expecting it.

Gabe Larsen: (02:01)
Vikas, maybe you can add onto that. I mean, why do you think this is such an important conversation more so now than it was even just a couple months ago? Give us kind of that thought process.

Vikas Bhambri: (02:11)
Sure. I think what we’re running into right now is folks like Aarde are really seeing a tremendous surge of inquiries into their contact center. And the reason they’re seeing that is there’s the heightened level of anxiety and expectation for consumers. Most of what they’re shopping for, they want now and it doesn’t matter what it is. In fact, I was talking to a friend of mine who’s in the middle of buying a bike. Now, normally you buy a bike and you’re good. Whenever it shows up, it shows up. But because of the quarantine, he is literally like, “I need a bike so that I can have something to do with my kids.” So when he placed an order for the bike and wasn’t immediately notified when his bike was going to be available, he got extremely concerned and started pinging the bike shop. So I think it’s really interesting to see that behavior, particularly in these times, the ticket surge and putting pressure on people like Aarde and his peers to be able to respond.

Gabe Larsen: (03:20)
It feels like, again, there’s just more need for it than ever before. How do you think about chatbots versus social versus some of these other channels? Do you feel like they’re just different times to use them, is it different companies, is it different industries? Aarde, what’s your thought on kind of the mix of channels that are out there, why people would use one versus the other, et cetera?

Aarde Cosseboom: (03:42)
Yeah. And it goes back to expectations. So your customers expect a lot from you. And as we grow in channels in the customer service realm, growing the social and then direct social, which is things like WhatsApp and Apple business chat, direct SMS, and MMS. Those are all areas that we need to grow into and when we do grow into, we need to create an omnichannel experience. So you can’t just have a chatbot on your website anymore, and it only be in your chat profile. It’s gotta be across all of the different channels that you use to support your members. And as a member switches, as they do the channel switch, maybe they start in chat online and then they say, “You know what, I’m going to pause the conversation. And now I’m going to go to Facebook messenger.” You need to follow that with your AI so they don’t have to start all over from scratch with that automation tool.

Gabe Larsen: (04:36)
I like that. Vikas, how would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:38)
I think Aarde nailed it. The term chatbot is so yesterday, right? Your bot needs to be omnichannel, your bot needs to be available, not just via chat as a channel, but you know Aarde mentioned Facebook messenger, WhatsApp, SMS email, right? So when we think about automation and bots here at Kustomer, we think about it regardless of channel, I mean, even email, right? Why is it that somebody sends an email and somebody actually has to enter a response? Why wouldn’t you send some responses that will allow that customer to self service, even by email, which is obviously one of the older, more mature channels. So that’s how we think about bots here at Kustomer.

Gabe Larsen: (05:23)
Well, look, I’m as guilty as anybody; the chatbot I’m so used to thinking chatbot and it’s something on the website. Is there a different term? Is there, I mean, obviously as you guys kind of pointed out, it’s better to think about it, maybe in an omnichannel approach, but Aarde, I’m looking for you on this one, man. How come you haven’t invented a term that is an omnichannel chatbot? What is that term, what is it?

Aarde Cosseboom: (05:49)
I haven’t invented it, but it is out there. It’s IVA which stands for Intelligent Virtual Assistant and really it’s the omnichannel bot experience, doesn’t matter how you use it, but that’s how you deliver it. So Virtual Assistant or Intelligent Virtual Assistant,

Vikas Bhambri: (06:07)
Gabe, I’m not the marketer on this call, but I’m going to give you a lay up here and you can give me credit. And if our friends at Zendesk are listening, they’ll probably copy it as they always do, but Omnibot.

Gabe Larsen: (06:19)
Omnibot! Oh my goodness! Oh, stolen.

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:22)
I like it.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:22)
I’m a transformers kid. I grew up, I’m a transformers generation. So that just sounds super cool to me.

Gabe Larsen: (06:29)
Honestly that sounds like —

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:31)
[laughing]

Gabe Larsen: (06:31)
Omnibot does sound like one of those transformers. What’s the main transformer? What’s the old guy?

Vikas Bhambri: (06:36)
Optimus Prime.

Gabe Larsen: (06:38)
Optimus Prime. Optimus Prime, meet Omnibot.

Aarde Cosseboom: (06:43)
That’s a great name for a bot too. We could brand it.

Gabe Larsen: (06:47)
It totally works. That probably is good for this question you guys. I consider myself a programmer. I wanted to build my own bot. My kids are doing little things with programming. It seems like a lot of people are building bots these days. Should someone just build a bot? Should you buy a bot? And excuse me, an Interactive Virtual Assistant. Aarde, let’s start with you man. You’re out there in the market, talking to people, can companies just build these things? Is that easy or should you buy it? I’m confused.

Aarde Cosseboom: (07:19)
Yep. Great question. There’s a lot of controversy here and lots of different companies are doing their own little flavor. As technology grows and changes, it’s enabling companies to be able to build their own. Things like Amazon Lex or Google dialogue flow, it’s getting a lot easier than it was a year ago or even five years ago. But in the current market and we assess this here at TechStyle every six months, we recommend to buy or partner, is what we like to call it, partner with an actual partner that has the technology in place. You get a couple benefits from it, ease of use, and you’ll get to market faster. You won’t have to do that long implementation, have to have those developers and experts build something from scratch. You’ll be able to lean on the expertise of your partner to help you with that. And then the other thing that’s really beneficial that most people don’t think about is, when you’re partnering with a technology partner, they’re going to be leveraging all of the AI and machine learning that they have across all of their other customers and bring all of that to you and your bot. So if there’s a best practice in your space, we’re in retail, for example, and we use a partner and they have a best practice for another retail customer, they’re going to knock on our door and give us that easy flow without us having to do all the legwork. So I recommend buy for now and partner with a dedicated partner that has it in that ecosystem.

Gabe Larsen: (08:45)
Yeah. Look, it’s becoming, I mean, there’s just, there’s enough out there. You guys, I think you can get it for a good enough price that I don’t know if you need to dedicate a whole engineering team to kind of build your own automation, roles and bots, and things like that. So I don’t think I’d disagree with Aarde. Vikas, this one just came through on LinkedIn, this is from Keith, this question, and I meant to throw this in here and so I want to throw it in now. He said, “Hey, look, we’re trying to humanize our bots. So we designed them to help people not be viewed as an application. But it still comes — begs the question of how do you think about these bots? I’m thinking more on the website at the moment. Do you name it the bot, do you put a human there? Do you — how do you balance that? Have you seen best practices on that?

Vikas Bhambri: (09:26)
Yeah, the first thing that I recommend to customers is you got to keep it authentic to your brand.

Gabe Larsen: (09:32)
Okay.

Vikas Bhambri: (09:33)
That’s number one. If you’re a fun hip brand, you want to keep it relative to that. If you’re maybe a more mature brand, you want to keep it in tune with your just general reputation and what your customers expect of you. The other thing is, I think in the early days, and most companies have gone away from this, I remember there was a brand in the UK that had announced a bot, but they branded it Lucy. Ask Lucy. And customers cannot really tell whether they were speaking to a human being or a bot. And they actually got very negative feedback because people were just asking questions and the bot at that time, you can imagine almost seven, eight years ago, wasn’t trained. It couldn’t answer half their questions. So I think the more that you let your customer know, “Look, you’re dealing with a bot” and that allows them to give some flexibility and some leeway to you to understand that look at some point, this bot may not be able to answer my question; to know that you can always escalate to a live human agent, right? So you can still give it a name, right? But making sure it’s authentic to what it is. And if the point comes where it can not resolve the customer’s inquiry, that they know there’s a handoff, a seamless transition. That’s another thing a lot of people get wrong. Right? So now I connect to the human agent, don’t make me ask the five, six, seven questions that I just went through with the bot. The agent should pick up the conversation fluidly from where I left off. Aarde what do you think?

Gabe Larsen: (11:09)
Yeah Aarde, I want to talk — do you agree because I think you might disagree?

Aarde Cosseboom: (11:15)
No, I do agree. There’s a little bit of uncanny Valley; gotta be careful about not tricking your customer into thinking they’re talking to a human. So I totally agree that you have to upfront tell them that it’s a bot. I like to brand it as giving it kind of a bot accent. So if it’s a voice bot giving it a little bit of a mechanical accent, so they know that it’s a bot or, not having a hundred percent of a fluid conversation fragmented a little bit more so they know that they’re talking. Also, you could declare it at the beginning of a chat or social conversation saying that “You’re engaging with an AI tool at this time.” And then, another key point here is you’re right, try to do it on brand. So we have 95% of our customers are females. So we have a female voice. If you’re selling golf clubs online, you may want a male voice because there may be a higher percentage of males that are listening to or engaging with your bot. So think about voice, tone, accent, especially accents, U.S. accents. So if you’re on the East Coast, don’t put words in there like “cool” or “hip” or things like that. Make sure that it’s localized to your customers and brands.

Gabe Larsen: (12:29)
Yeah, don’t use one of those weird Utah accents like you hear coming in all, all “Here y’all.”

Vikas Bhambri: (12:36)
One other thing to Keith’s question, right? And this whole concept of an application; look, it goes back to back in the day and chat, we started out with what we called a pre chat survey, which was literally, “Here are the five questions you need to answer so that we know who to route you to, who you are,” et cetera. Then it became a bit more where people were doing authentication. And so they had some data. Then we moved to this concept of conversational form, which was still a bot, but it asked the question in a humanized way. So it wasn’t just “Fill out these five questions.” It would ask you the question one at a time and maybe there was a variability where if you said you were a buyer versus a seller, the next question would change. Now Keith, where we want to take it is the bot can gather so much data about the customer before they even type in one word. So a lot of that is now picking up with the information that is now unknown to you so that you can then either answer the inquiry or then route it to the agent. So it should necessarily have that kind of predetermined, almost process flow. You can be much more mature about how you even go about using natural language processing for people to just key in things and it doesn’t have to be hard coded, right? So I think there’s a lot that you can do there now.

Gabe Larsen: (14:00)
I like that. This is, I think, one of the questions that comes up often, this is such a cool feature look at this. I can just throw this in here, right here. Look at that. Are you guys seeing that?

Aarde Cosseboom: (14:11)
Yeah.

Vikas Bhambri: (14:11)
Yep.

Gabe Larsen: (14:12)
Geez louise, man, look at this technology. Scott Mark, little shout out to Scott Mark. What are best practices around the handoff from a bot so we stop dropping the ball? I think that’s — we wanted to get actually into some best practices. Maybe we start it now. That’s just a big debate. It’s when you handoff, how do you hand off, how many questions do you ask? It’s just, it never feels right. Thoughts? Aarde let’s start with you on that one.

Aarde Cosseboom: (14:38)
Yeah, absolutely. And you have to think of one thing first, which we call the IVR prison or the chatbot prison. You’ve got to allow people to get out of that prison. So if you get the same question twice and it’s not — you can’t recognize the right answer like, “What is your email address?” and can’t recognize, ask again, can’t recognize, fail it out to a live agent. That’s a good best practice. Also if they say the word operator or press the zero key on their phone, or if they start cursing, definitely fail them out of the IVR. Don’t keep them in prison. Always allow them a way out of that IVR. But then when you go over into the agent experience and that handoff, even for the experiences where someone engaged with the bot for a very long time, and there’s a long transcript, maybe there is actions that were done like they updated their credit card information with the bot, they updated their billing information, their name, profile; all of that you want to transfer to an agent, screen pop not only the member profile, start to fill out the case or tickets so the agent doesn’t have to do it. And then also, feed them the transcripts so that if the customer or member says, “Hey, I talked to the bot, it updated my billing address, but I think it didn’t do it right. It didn’t do the right street address, the right number. Can you go back and check and see if it did that?” The agent should be able to scroll up through that transcript and see exactly where it failed and then fix that, that failure.

Gabe Larsen: (16:11)
Yeah. Vikas, what would you add to that?

Vikas Bhambri: (16:13)
I think the biggest, so Aarde nailed it, right? So, your initial implementation, those are all the best practices. I think the challenge for most brands is you’ve got to treat this like a program management, just like a marketer would if they were doing a promotion on their website or doing a campaign. Constantly revisiting and optimizing, right? So one, your bot is going to get smarter if you’re investing in the right technology. But two, if you’re finding that customers are constantly getting challenged, that process in your step, go and see what do you need to do to modify it, to smooth that out, right? So where are people cursing, where are people hitting zero? Where are people saying, “Get me to a live human agent?” How do we further optimize that piece before we do it? So I think that’s the biggest thing I see is where people will roll these things out and then forget about them and then six months later, they’ll say, “You know what, this isn’t working and we just have to pull it off the site.” And that to me —

Gabe Larsen: (17:16)
Why do you have to call me out like that? Why do you have to call me out like that? I mean, geez louise. In all truthfulness, that was my first experience with a bot. I mean, it’s been a few years back, but I don’t know. I thought you could throw it on the website and it would maybe like, I don’t know, do its things, some sort of magic or something. And three months later, I’m like, “This thing’s a piece of garbage.” I totally, I mean, I came to the heart of the conclusion that like anything else, it has to be iterative and optimized. I love that one.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:45)
No, I think Gabe, this is an interesting thing, right? Because people keep talking about AI just on a broad macro level. And you know, people will say, look, “AI is going to put everybody out of a job. We won’t need salespeople. We won’t need marketers. We won’t need customer service people.” No, because the role will change because the technology is great, but you still need people that will go and optimize the program behind it. Right? So I think, I think that’s an interesting nuance just as we think about AI generally.

Aarde Cosseboom: (18:11)
Yeah. And talking a little bit about supervised learning; so when we feed the transcripts to our agents, our agents are actually reading through and seeing where things fail and then they escalate that to the bot architects, the engineers in the background. So they could change those bugs. So your team members, your agents are now a part of a QA or quality assurance process on your technology, which is huge. And it kinda levels up the agent as well, too. They’re no longer just answering chats and emails and phone calls. They’re now, they now feel a part of the organization because they have a higher role in reporting this information back.

Gabe Larsen: (18:49)
I’ve been hearing more about this kind of bot, almost like a role, like a bot architect. I love the idea of getting the frontline people in front of it. Guys, give me a couple other nuggets. I think that’s where people want to go with this because I think people are getting onto the idea that they need to have these assistants or bots on their sites, et cetera. I don’t know if people know some of the best practices, lessons learned from deployment, where they get started. Our time’s a little bit short, but give us a quick rundown. Aarde let’s start with you then Vikas, we will go back.

Aarde Cosseboom: (19:18)
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll make it super short, but, it’s a huge chasm to cross from having nothing to having something. That’s why I recommend trying, but trying it slowly. So testing with maybe a low volume channel first, just doing a small portion, maybe 10% of volume, see its success rate and then roll it out to the greater population. So try to do the easier channels first. So online web chat is probably the easiest or a social chat or an SMS bot. Don’t tackle voice first. That’s going to be your hardest heaviest lift and you’re going to be sidetracked.

Gabe Larsen: (19:54)
Vikas what do you think man?

Vikas Bhambri: (19:54)
Yeah, I agree with Aarde. Look, you have to look at this as a crawl, walk, run, right? If you try to bite off more than you can chew, you’re going to end up pretty miserable. So for me, number one is, look at your FAQ. What are the articles that people most often go to that resolve their issue? Maybe that’s something you want to be more proactive serving up. The second is talking to your agents or even looking at the analytics in your CRM ticketing tool to look at what are the macros they most often use, right? Because if somebody is just cutting and pasting, we’re hitting hashtag time after time, again, that means those are probably some, that’s some low hanging fruit that you could front end via a bot, the omnibot, for them to resolve themselves. So those are some things that you could look at. Query the data you have, and then just think about, “How do you want to be proactive and thoughtful about putting some of these things in front of your customers?”

Gabe Larsen: (20:54)
I think that’s spot on you guys. I mean, my biggest takeaway from today, I’m going to trademark Omnibot. That’s what I’m doing. That’s — I could barely listen to you guys. I was thinking so much about money I’m going to be making on Omnibot here. No, I’m teasing. Aarde, really appreciate you joining. Vikas, as always, great to have you on. For the audience, hope you guys have a fantastic day.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:19)
Have a great weekend.

Aarde Cosseboom: (21:20)
Thanks everyone.

Exit Voice: (21:27)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you’re subscribed to hear more customer service secrets.

How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri

How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Gabe is joined by two members of the Kustomer team, Andrea Paul, Director of Research, and Vikas Bhambri, SVP of Sales and Customer Experience, to discuss how the pandemic is fast-tracking the digital transformations and how it has changed the way customers interact with businesses, forever. Andrea and her team went out and surveyed CX professionals across a variety of industries to understand how COVID-19 is affecting customer service organizations and how they are adapting to these challenging times. Join the full conversation for hard data and an in-depth discussion on how businesses can succeed and the role technology plays to achieve efficient customer service.

Increases in Inquiries and Changes in Media Channels

One of the first data points discussed is the 17% increase of customer service inquiries for all channels. Meaning, more and more people are reaching out to customer service departments for details about their orders. It has brought out a need for a more proactive approach to customer service. The passive approach of the past has been exposed and companies are learning that they have to change or customers will not continue to use their services.

Another interesting statistic they found is that inquiries increased 34% on the phone. To comment on this trend, Vikas states, “When you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? … So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand.” Companies that will take the time to look at their processes, be more proactive, and respond quickly to their customers will come out on top after all of the COVID-19 effects calm down.

The Challenges of a Remote Workforce

Another big change that all companies are experiencing right now is the transition from an office based workforce to a remote workforce. Vikas and Andrea note several problems that have arisen because of this change. The first issue being the fact that reps, agents, and all employees are lacking the tools and technologies they need to succeed at home. Whether it’s the quality of the computers, the software, wifi, distractions, or phone call quality, employees are struggling to give customers the highest quality experience because they don’t have access to their normal tools and technologies. In addition, management and general team accessibility has been a challenge. Vikas comments on how management has changed by stating, “I think that’s the biggest challenge is what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.” Other professionals from the research project agreed with this statement. Andrea shared that 34% of respondents mentioned it is difficult to work remotely and an additional 23% said they lacked the tools to do their jobs remotely. If a remote workforce is the new normal, data shows that changes must be made to combat these challenges.

Why CX is More Important than Ever Before

90% of the research respondents agreed that customer service is more important than ever before. Andrea shares her thoughts on this data point and suggests an important mindset change: “I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company… So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.” It is clear that companies that focus on customer service will retain their current customers and outlast other companies. In a time where businesses and customers are constantly shifting, companies that are consistent in customer service are going to come out on top.

To learn more about the COVID-19 research conducted by Kustomer, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.

 

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How the Global Pandemic is Affecting Customer Service Organizations With Andrea Paul and Vikas Bhambri

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

Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Alrighty. Alrighty then. We’re going to kick this off. We got another session to go live today. We’re going to be talking about how the global pandemic is affecting customer service organizations, more research for you today. That’s one of the things we really want to bring into these conversations. Love practical advice, love best practices, but boy, do I love research. And so to do that, we brought on two special guests. One you’re getting more familiar with, but let us just take a second and have each person introduce themselves. Andrea, let’s start with you.

Andrea Paul: (00:49)
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you guys for having me today. My name is Andrea Paul. I am the Director of Research here at Kustomer. I was a journalist in my past life and I’ve sort of been working on content production and research for SaaS companies for about the last 10 years.

Gabe Larsen: (01:06)
I love it. And she’s got some nuggets, some golden nuggets you’re going to bring out here in just a minute for — Vikas, over to you.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:12)
Vikas Bhambri SVP Sales and CX here at Kustomer, 20 years CRM contact center lifer. I’m looking forward to the chat today, learning something new from Andrea after all these years.

Gabe Larsen: (01:24)
That’s just the way it works out. And then you know myself, I usually make up a new title for myself every week, but we’ll just leave it at VP of Growth here at Kustomer today. And let’s dive in. So Andrea, let’s start high level. You, the team kind of decided, “Hey, we want to get some data about what’s going on.” Why did that kind of happen? What was the project about? Give us kind of the big picture here before we dive into some of the findings.

Andrea Paul: (01:54)
Yeah. For sure. So I feel like so many companies have been creating tons of content over the last few months ever since the global pandemic happened. Whether that’s general tips for brands or sort of their gut instinct of where businesses are struggling. Right? So, you hear those buzz words of “In these challenging times” or “We’re all in this together.”

Gabe Larsen: (02:17)
That’s my favorite, the “In challenging times.” I love that.

Andrea Paul: (02:20)
Exactly. And I think Kustomer, we were a bit more well positioned with our finger on the pulse because we’re having these ongoing conversations and dialogues with our customers and customer service professionals in this space. But in the end, every company is an isolated incident, right? They’re sort of broad generalizations that we’re making. So we really decided that we needed to come to the table with some like cold, hard facts and data to inform how the global pandemic was really impacting customer service organizations and what they really needed to succeed right now. So, we went out and we ran a survey between April 1st and April 10th. I believe we had around 168 respondents. They were all customer service professionals based in the U.S., employed full-time across a variety of industries. So that was sort of how we approached this.

Gabe Larsen: (03:12)
Love it. Love it. Okay. So, well, let’s dive in and then we’ll get some commentary from myself and Vikas. So big surprises as you got the data back, analyzed it with the team; anything jumped out to start that was a little more, “Hmm, that’s odd?”

Andrea Paul: (03:27)
Yeah. I mean, I think the one thing that was interesting, obviously we had responses across a variety of industries, but we’ve seen differing responses in terms of volume of inquiries and it does shift from industry to industry. So I know that we last week talked about a different research study that actually saw a decrease in inquiries. We saw a 17% increase overall across industries. There was, I think about a 34% increase on phones specifically. So there are these, like a lot of companies are seeing these bursts in activity right now, and there’s just a need for being more efficient and being able to handle this increase.

Gabe Larsen: (04:12)
Okay. So let’s unpack that a little bit. So generally speaking though, companies in this piece were saying, it is a 34% overall increase in–

Andrea Paul: (04:25)
34% on phones. Yeah. So 17, overall 34, on phone, I think it was like 28 via email. We saw that financial services and healthcare, I believe, when we looked at it by industry, were seeing the highest increases. Which makes sense obviously. We all know that, but —

Gabe Larsen: (04:41)
I think because this is where you were going, right? It’s like, you’ve got to be careful with that stat because it’s so industry specific, right?

Vikas Bhambri: (04:49)
It is. But I think what Andrea’s research is showing, I think a couple of things that I took away from that was, one; when you see the escalation on the phone channel, that means that customers, the consumer, their patience is waning, right? Because I mean phone is the most real time, no offense to chat and some of the other channels, SMS, et cetera, but they’re asynchronous. When customers reach for the phone what that tells me is “I don’t want to wait anymore. I don’t want the back and forth. I want to speak to somebody and I want to speak to somebody now.” So that 34% uptick in the phone channel is very telling about where the consumer expectation is right now and that high demand for a response from the brand. And then if you look at just the overall 17%, that applies to what we’re seeing in our one-on-one conversations, which is a big discussion point around this surge. That’s actually what people are calling it, the surge. And it’s the number of conversations that people are having per order. I’ve heard as many as four to five times x the normal volume, because people are like, “You know what, I just don’t want to hit something on your website and say order, I now want to know constantly, where is it? When’s it getting here? Why is it late, right? Why is one item missing?” And so I think that anxiety is also kind of compounding the expectation.

Gabe Larsen: (06:22)
Yeah. I went on the phone because I do think that adds, you’re right. There’s just something more about, we’re all feeling the urgency and so it’s one thing to say, requests are going up, but that the phone requests are kind of seeing one of the bigger spikes, just shows you that we’re nervous. We’re feeling the need to kind of do something more and so it’s coming out of the phone cause it’s like, “I need an answer and I want it now.” What were you going to say Andrea? Sorry I didn’t mean to —

Andrea Paul: (06:46)
Yeah. I was just going to say, excuse me, 80% of the customer service professionals that we surveyed also said that they had a greater need for proactive outreach. And I think it goes to just that. Right? So all of these customers for each order, they’re reaching out because they want to know are there delays in shipping? What are you doing to keep me safe? Are there fulfillment issues happening right now? There’s so many more questions that consumers are asking so customer service organizations are having to sort of scramble and figure out, “How do I get ahead of this so I’m not seeing this huge surge in inquiries, and try to get all the questions answered before they come in.”

Gabe Larsen: (07:29)
Surprising? Vikas, when you see something like that? I mean, we’ve talked about proactive activity being important for some time but it sounds like, again, COVID, it’s doing this in a lot of ways, but kind of putting the pedal to the metal on that one as well.

Vikas Bhambri: (07:42)
Well, I think what people are discovering, kind of during the stress test, is their current investments are severely lacking and they didn’t realize it because look, when your volumes are low, when expectations are low, you can muddy through it, right? I can go to your website, look for my order, hit that FedEx tracking link that takes me to a page that doesn’t give me any further update. And I send you an email and you respond and we go — but now you’ve got 10 X, I heard one CEO mentioned that they actually are seeing a 10000% increase. So 10 X took — then 10,000, obviously. But the volumes increased, but also the heightened anxiety. So now I go to your website and I get that tracking. It takes me to a FedEx page and FedEx doesn’t give me data. Guess what, email is not going to cut it. I’m picking up the phone and I’m calling you to say, “Where’s my order because I’m waiting for diapers for my baby,” right? And you know, “Food for my kids, medicine,” whatever it might be. And I think that’s what — people are figuring out like, “Wow, are our investments simply–” And unfortunately this is getting — Andrea, I don’t know if there’s anything came up on your research here, but what I’m hearing is this is now hitting the executive level where CEOs are now becoming aware that their investment, that their team told them they were perfectly fine are no longer, ready, willing, and able for the current state.

Andrea Paul: (09:15)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think there was a data point in the research survey that did talk about the need to invest in new technology. So there was one data point around adopting more efficient, more automation to become efficient. I think that it was 59% of respondents that said they needed to adopt more automation for efficiency. And then an additional 59% of respondents said that they just realized now that they needed to invest in new technology, because whether that was challenges with efficiency or working remote or whatever it was, they realized there are so many problems that we didn’t have to address previously that now are staring us straight in the face and we can’t ignore anymore.

Gabe Larsen: (10:04)
Yeah. Is that because — Andrea, do you think that’s — I mean, I assume that’s obviously you got a lot of reason coming from COVID on that, but people not knowing that they need more automation just sounds like an odd statement to make. But, do you feel that that’s a trend that’s going away anytime soon? Or do we just expect that to go more and more and more?

Andrea Paul: (10:29)
Yeah. I mean, I think efficiency is always sort of the name of the game in any business that’s trying to make money. It’s just that right now, the circumstances are so different. I think that there were 63% of our respondents that they needed to cut costs due to COVID and an additional, I think it was 46% or so said that they had to reduce staff. So that efficiency is just so much more transparent. But I think —

Gabe Larsen: (11:01)
I like that pairing, hold on because that’s interesting. Right? It’s like, that’s where the pedal meets the metal. We’re in a situation now where a lot of us have had to cut some unfortunate individuals due to circumstances. And so we are required to do more with less. Say those numbers one more time. What percent had said they —

Andrea Paul: (11:22)
It was 63% reporting they needed to cut costs and then 46% reported that they needed to reduce staff. So yeah, that’s huge numbers and obviously we’re seeing that across the board, no matter the industry. There are certain industries like financial services that are more busy than ever. But the fact is, we’re seeing this increase of inquiries across industries while also a lack of resources, while also costs and staff being away for them. So right now it’s like, “Wow, we didn’t realize we were being inefficient, but we have to do everything in our power in order to figure out how to solve this for now and into the future.” We don’t know —

Gabe Larsen: (12:04)
In that case I think the inquiries are going up as we heard. Right? So now I do have this interesting situation where the staff is down, the technology costs or investment is going down and obviously I’m getting more inquiries. I have to potentially do more, again, do more with less because how do you think companies then manage around this? That is the environment. “I have less employees, I’m asked to do more.” Is automation the answer?

Vikas Bhambri: (12:28)
You know, automation is definitely one answer, right? I mean I think it’s the key one, but I think before you even get to the automation, I think you have to figure out the process, like where are the gaps? Where are you getting hit the hardest? It goes back to my example before around if people are coming to you for Wismo, “Where’s my order?” Now go tackle that, head on right? And then go after the next thing. And then the next one, I think, where people just kind of — where they struggle is where it becomes too daunting. Right? Oh my goodness. I’m just getting bombarded. I don’t know where to start. So you almost need to take it piece by piece and prioritize your volumes and say, “Look right now, we’re seeing an uptick in Wismo” as it’s referred to, right? “And let’s go tackle that. And then the next one.” But here’s the interesting thing is this is a unique opportunity for a lot of companies in two ways that I’m seeing is one; look, Amazon and some of the other big retailers really struggled early on. Right? And so created a window of opportunity for some of the other entrance in the market to take market share. Now you knew Amazon was going to figure it out sooner or later and get back online and they have.

Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It feels like it’s figuring it out. Right? [inaudible]

Vikas Bhambri: (13:45)
So the question is in that six week period, were you able to win the hearts and minds of those customers? Right. And a lot of brands struggled with everything from supply chain to delivery to customer service. So they may have missed out on that opportunity. The other thing in other industries where people are finding is look, we just saw the unemployment rate here in the U.S., people will have more time and they will start looking at their balance sheet and they will start looking at, “Wait a minute, why am I paying this fee to my financial services firm? Why am I paying this to my mobile bill?” Things that they just take for granted because when you’re employed and you’re working and you’re super busy, you don’t look at these line items. Now you’ll see a big chunk of the populace will start looking at this and start reaching out to their financial services company or their telco or whoever and saying, “Hey, you got to do something for me.” So you’re going to see a surge in those industries as people start looking at their bottom line.

Gabe Larsen: (14:46)
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m doing it. I don’t know about everybody else, but my bill the other day, I was like, where can I cut? Right? I mean, we’ve got to get smart here. Andrea, this channel thing keeps coming back into my mind. I’m just very interested. The phone thing. I love that point. Any other tidbits on things you’re seeing with different channels that are happening? Channels going up, channels going down, anything else you could share there?

Andrea Paul: (15:10)
Yeah, I mean, across the board, I think the only industry that we saw any decreases in on specific channels was retail. And it was also different for individual retailers, which makes a lot of sense. I mean, across the board, people are, as you said, cutting down on expenses. So if it isn’t an essential item that they need they might not be buying and thus might not be sending inquiries to customer service teams. Um, but overall across all industries, there was an increase for all channels. Phone happened to be the most followed by email and then reaching out on the web, which makes it seem, people are in front of their computer all day. So that will —

Gabe Larsen: (15:54)
[inaudible] On that last piece that just that other, some of those other channels, because phone and email have been the dominant channels for so long in this part of the world. Do you think with some of the changes, and maybe you saw that in the data with some spikes, but do you think social now, if it saw a little bit of a spike, is it going to remain higher because you know, people are there and they want to use some of these different channels and all of a sudden phones becomes a little less dominant as we move into the future?

Andrea Paul: (16:21)
I mean, I think it really speaks to the urgency factor that Vikas was talking about. Social, in terms of all of the channels, was the lowest in terms of a spike. I think it was single digits. And when people are on the go, when they’re running from place to place and from office to home, they’re on their cell phones, they’re going on Twitter and inquiring with companies. I think that’s not necessarily how people are functioning right now. They have more time and they also need an urgent answer to their inquiries. So they’re choosing other channels to get that done. I think the social thing is more about convenience when people are moving from place to place.

Gabe Larsen: (17:01)
I wonder and Vikas, you might have a thought on this. It’s just with us all kind of moving remote and obviously the urgency we’re seeing in some of the channels, but we’ve wondered if some of these other things like SMS, social, Facebook would start to gain more market share in communication channels and customer support. Is this the moment that we’ll continue to see that? They’ve now taken more market share from phone or email? Do you think they’ll kind of continue to drop back down and phone and email will continue to dominate as we move into the next three, six, twelve months?

Vikas Bhambri: (17:33)
Yeah I think the industry has been on like a slow transition to these other channels. And right now the consumer doesn’t have the appetite to be trained. You actually do have to train the consumer to move to these other channels. It doesn’t happen overnight right? When about five, six years ago, working on projects, moving people from voice to chat as an example, that’s a big change in management, right? How you even present options on your website, right? Hiding the 1-800 number, doing things like that. So, you know, I think that the adoption in those areas has been relatively slow and I don’t think now’s the time, right? When the consumer doesn’t have any patience to say, Oh, by the way, SMS us if you need help, if that wasn’t part of your core engagement before, now’s not the time to try and try those things.

Gabe Larsen: (18:26)
Interesting. Andrea, and I’m sorry, my mind is full of questions that I’m hoping she has the answer for all these, but [inaudible] remote work. I mean, that’s obviously been a challenge for a lot of us. We’ve talked about it in previous sessions, Vikas and I. We’ve lacked some data. I mean, we believe a lot of people are doing it, but, and we believe it’s frustrating. Any light you could kind of shed on just that, what’s going on with the remote workforce type stuff?

Andrea Paul: (18:49)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I touched on it before that companies now are having to sort of face these challenges that they didn’t realize were challenges before. Almost every company that we surveyed did say that the vast majority of their employees were fully remote now, which makes sense where a lot of states are still in this lockdown, but 34% of the respondents did say that they were reporting difficulty working remotely. And 23% of them said that they didn’t have the tools in place to actually do it, which is huge. It’s like I’m being forced to work remotely, but I physically cannot do it given my current tech stack. So that was kind of shocking to me.

Gabe Larsen: (19:32)
Was there in the stat, or maybe Vikas you’ve heard about this, it seems like, the percentage of people who are now working remotely, I mean, it’s got to be extremely high from look, we’re almost all a hundred percent and then to combat that, it sounds like people are struggling to try to work within that environment. Tools and technology you highlighted. What else do you guys think is holding people back from being effective in this work from a home environment that we’re all facing? Vikas maybe let’s start with you and then Andrea will pop back.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:04)
I think one of the biggest challenges is management. The contact center in particular, hasn’t really evolved in how people manage, right? Because we’re just — it’s still an industry or segment that’s still very much co-located. Right? A lot of times when you talk to even companies that are distributed, they’ll tell you, “Oh, but our support team is based in X.” Right? So that I think creates a challenge because so much of it was just walking the floor, right? Going and sitting with an agent, observing them, that kind of even the one-on-one’s and how you engage the team, how you look at what they’re doing, how you mentor them is very different than I think other industries or other departments within companies. So I think that’s the biggest challenge … what are my people doing? Where do they need help? How do I jump in and help them with a particular customer situation? I think that’s one of the big challenges that we’ve observed.

Gabe Larsen: (21:02)
Yeah. I personally have felt that problem. So I’m glad others have too. Andrea, what would you add?

Andrea Paul: (21:08)
Yeah, I mean, I think in addition to that, a lot of support teams have to bring in additional individuals on other teams, right? So whether that’s processing a return or they have a question for a different department, they can’t, walk over and tap someone on the shoulder. So being able to, in an efficient way, incorporate a lot of different individuals across an organization and make sure that customer’s problems can be resolved very quickly; that’s been a huge, huge issue.

Vikas Bhambri: (21:38)
I mean, we’ve all been on the call and in fact, I was on one yesterday with a brand and it was like, can I put you on hold while I speak to my manager? Guess what? That manager’s not physically there and I’m sure they would have a week ago or actually a month ago they would have turned around and said, “Hey, I’ve got a quick question for you.” Now they’re trying to track that person down. This agent put me on and off hold four times before I finally said “I’m done.” And then it was like, yeah, let me take your details and I’ll see if I can get a hold of my manager and call you back. And of course I never heard back. So guess what, lost opportunity for them because I won’t be doing business once this thing ends, but I think that’s a great example of yeah; how do you even get a hold of your manager?

Gabe Larsen: (22:23)
That’s so frustrating. I mean, the tools and technology, I think it comes down to that. Andrea, I’ve kind of dictated some of the questions I was interested in some of the things I’ve been wondering about; any other interesting bits or things that kind of popped out before we wrap?

Andrea Paul: (22:38)
Yeah. I mean, I think that one headline stat, which I think we’re all aware of as you know, in the customer service world, but, 90% of professionals reported that they think that customer service is more important than ever right now. Which I wholeheartedly agree with. I think that with storefronts closing and your customers not being able to interact with any quote-un-quote face of the company anymore, CS is turning into that face of the company. A lot of people are very isolated right now their talking to a CS professional, could literally be the only social interaction they have for an entire day. So thinking through the way that you’re approaching customers in light of this new importance and this new sort of social aspect, not treating people like a transaction or a ticket number and making sure that they’re actually feeling valued, is really, really hugely important right now.

Gabe Larsen: (23:37)
Yeah. Yeah. So you kind of, because I was going to follow up with that. I mean, everyone believes it, but what is it about customer experience that is the most important? Is it that point of feeling valued? I literally just got off a call with a gentleman, he’s my new favorite customer care leader, Douglas from ESPN. If you’re watching Douglas, a little bit of a shout out. Amazing some of the things they’ve done over at ESPN. Obviously all live sports, right? Turn that off. He’s really allowed his agents, you’ve got agents doing 15, 20 minute calls of people just wanting to talk about sports and he’s like, “You wouldn’t believe the CSAT man. They’re going through the roof because people are calling in and they’re like, do you remember that time when Michael Jordan shoved Bryon Russell in game six of the 97 finals?” I was just watching the last dance and [inaudible], but they’re missing. So anyways, he’s like, “Man, we’ve been really pushing that. That’s usually not something we love to do.” So that’s one aspect. Are there other things as part of the customer experience, Vikas, that you say “That’s why it’s so important right now. It’s X or it’s Y?”

Vikas Bhambri: (24:46)
Yeah. I mean, I think you saw, I think Zappos actually did something like that where if you just need somebody to talk to you can call the Zappos contact center and you know Zappos is known to deliver happiness to the world, but you know, literally saying our agents are just here to talk to you, even if you’re not buying anything from us. I think that just, that’s what my thing is. Those of us that are in this space have always known that CX is at the forefront. They are the voice of your brand. I mean, no offense to marketers, right? But they’re the front line. They have the physical engagement with the customer, right? Whether it be a conversation over the phone or chat or any other medium. The thing for most brands now is look, we’re seeing it unfortunately every day. There are brands, there are historic brands, the J Crews of the world and Neiman Marcus’ that are filing for bankruptcy, etcetera. How do you not only survive, but flourish? And the customer is extremely loyal, believe it or not. As much as we talk about the — when we look at it generationally, we look at it by income, we look at — what’s been proven out in the last 20 years is customers are loyal. But, they’re loyal to the brands that deliver that amazing experience. So how do you separate from the pack, leverage this opportunity to go further and then win customers for life. I think that’s the big thing if you’re a CEO of a brand that you should be sitting around and talking to your team about, which is; yes, this is a traumatic time for a lot of folks, but this is a — we can position ourselves in a way to be unique, deliver amazing service experience, and then of course, when this thing comes to an end, and it will, how do we continue to work with these people?

Gabe Larsen: (26:41)
How do we come out on top, right? Andrea, what’s kind of your — you’ve read the data, you did the research. What do you do next? If I’m a customer service leader I’ve gone through this piece, I understand some of the problems and challenges, what’s the takeaway, or how would you coach customer service leaders to act or behave differently, knowing some of the data points you’ve shared with us?

Andrea Paul: (27:02)
Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is, as I have said many times, this is just exposing a lot of gaps in what customer service teams, what tools they have, what strategies they have. And I think it’s different from industry to industry, from business to business. So the big takeaway for me is like, understanding where are you falling short? Where are those gaps? What are the challenges you’re facing and then how to solve those, whether that’s your approach to interacting with customers, whether that’s having new tools in your tech stack in order to work remotely more efficiently or successfully. But really taking a look at your organization, understanding where those challenges are and how you can better prepare yourself for the future and for right now.

Gabe Larsen: (27:49)
Yeah. It certainly is an opportunity to get your operations in order. There’s no doubt about that. Vikas let’s end with you. Hearing some of those data points, what would be your recommendation as companies and customer success service leaders move forward?

Vikas Bhambri: (28:03)
Sure. And Andrea, just really enlightening research even for us that are in the thick of it. Definitely learning some new things. Look, for support leaders, I would say, key thing, this is still — you’re in the thick of it and it is a human-to-human game, as much as we talk about automation and technology. And as you’re working with not only the customer side, but then the agent side to make sure that everybody is happy, healthy, and engaged to do what they need to do, whether it’s buy more goods or actually service the customer. So, my thing for all support leaders out there is use the community effectively. Tools like support driven, right? We had a huge summit that’s fully recorded and available with just a lot of trick tools from amazing thought leaders around the globe that we’re making available to folks on our website. And then lastly, look, Gabe, Andrea and I are here, right? And we have our experiences and our network of both customers and industry veterans. So feel free to reach out to us on LinkedIn, if there’s anything we can do to help you as you’re brainstorming and thinking about how do you not only navigate the here and now, but what’s the plan going forward? We’re more than happy to help with that conversation.

Gabe Larsen: (29:26)
Love it, love it. Alrighty. Well, Andrea, thanks for joining. Vikas, as always, thanks for joining. Fun talk track. The research is available. We’ll make links to it here in the comments. Make sure you download that and certainly best of luck and stay safe.

Andrea Paul: (29:42)
Thanks guys.

Exit Voice: (29:47)
Thank you for listening. Make sure you subscribe to hear more customer service secrets.

 

How to Combine the Best of Both Human and Artificial Intelligence to Kindle a Successful Customer Experience

How to Combine the Best of Both Human and Artificial Intelligence to Kindle a Successful Customer Experience TW

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In this episode of Customer Service Secrets, Vikas Bhambri, Senior Vice President of Sales and CX at Kustomer, joins Gabe Larsen in discussing how both human customer service agents and artificial intelligence (AI) are mutually beneficial in the development of real and positive customer experiences.

AI Bots Alone Cannot Solve Customers’ Problems

The artificial intelligence bots of today’s world are not only growing in popularity, but they are also growing in capability. They are the focus of various customer service conferences around the globe; but are they being utilized in the correct way? Vikas Bhambri, with his 20 years of experience in customer service, claims that even though they are receiving growing amounts of attention, people do not seem to understand where AI bots show their strengths.

Bhambri discusses how everyone is “hyper fixated… it’s getting kind of buzzwordy… [but] the key to me is, let’s think about the customer. Let’s start with the customer and the experience that they want, whatever you want to offer them, and then let’s figure out where you appropriately position the bot versus the human being.” Only in the future, when innovations permit even further data for both bot and human, can they coexist in beneficial harmony.

Knowing Your Customer

Human reps and bots will more successfully coexist when the bots are able to recall previous data from individual customers. Doing so will enable customer service branches to personally help clients, rather than run everyone that calls for assistance through the same AI loop. Vikas goes on about the necessity of “AI machine learning… [bots should be] looking at the results of anybody who’s ever asked a similar question and what has been offered to them and what actually resolved their issue… that’s where it gets… more in depth.”

He also gives an example of treating customers differently by comparing clients that have different demographics. Your company will have “all [of] these different issues that have been resolved across [your] entire customer base and now a multimillion dollar customer comes to [your] website and asks a question.” Your bots of today are “probably going to offer them the same solution as [it] did to the last 20 people that asked that question… they’re only looking at the question, and they’re not looking at who [they] are.”

Where the Bot and Agent Best Work Together

Once the customer has been personally identified, it is vital that both the bots and reps focus on the customer’s needs. Not only is the client’s problem important, but the means, or channel, that your company uses to resolve it should be an additional focus. It is essential to understand the customer’s situation, and realize whether a personal interaction with a rep or an automated conversation would be more efficient.

Vikas and Gabe talk about the idea of whether the customer wants “to speak to somebody [or] if [they] don’t, and want to do it [themselves].” Vikas gives the potential example of using new tech-advances like geolocation to aid in the customer experience as well. He says, for example, “I’m an airline, and when you’re reaching out to me from an airport the moment I kind of initiate that, [I] should be like, ‘Oh Mr. Barry, I see you’re booked on the flight from Orlando to New York because — and I know you’re in the airport right now. You know what, we’ve already rebooked you. Just head over to gate 43.’” The future holds great potential for the merger of AI and human reps, but the customer experience can only really be elevated when the customer’s needs and situations are understood by both.

Do you want to enjoy more in depth ideas about how to better the customer experience? Listen to Customer Service Secrets episode “Bots Vs Human: How to be Successful in AI Customer Experience” to hear it directly from the experts.

 

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Listen to “Bots Vs Human: How to be Successful in AI Customer Experience | Vikas Bhambri w/Kustomer” on Spreaker.

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Full Episode Transcript:

How to Combine the Best of Both Human and Artificial Intelligence to Kindle a Successful Customer Experience

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 show. Today we’re going to be talking about bots versus humans, all things customer experiences. We’ve brought on Vikas Bhambri where he currently is the SVP of sales and customer experience over here at Kustomer. Vikas thanks for joining man, how are you?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:26)
Glad to be here man. My partner in crime. Guest number what, 56 on the podcast?

Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
No, when this comes out man, this is, you’re going to be earlier than that.

Vikas Bhambri: (00:37)
I asked to be number one. I would like to quickly dismiss it… Now it’s like 56, 57, somewhere along those lines.

Gabe Larsen: (00:45)
If you could see me right now, my face is red. I did tell him that but I’m not going to fulfill that promise. Well you’ve been on vacation for like a whole four days. So what do you expect me to do, wait?

Vikas Bhambri: (00:55)
I’m glad the place is still intact, you know?

Gabe Larsen: (00:59)
So I probably didn’t do justice introducing you. Tell us just a little more about your background, some things you do over here at Kustomer, etc.

Vikas Bhambri: (01:04)
Sure, I’ll give you the short version. You can tell me if it’s not short enough or if you want me to go into more detail. Twenty years, CRM, contact center veteran. A lot of people don’t actually know this about me, but I started my journey, or my career in the contact center. I was a guy who carried a pager around, got the call — the page at two in the morning that something was wrong with my application. So back in the day, you have to actually be the coder and the QA, and the help desk for your product. So I did that, but then found myself actually implementing contact center technology. My first client was CSX transportation. If you don’t know them, they’re a big commercial railway on the East coast. And I actually implemented the contact center solution where if you were at a railroad crossing and the crossing was down or broken or the gate was smashed, you call the 1-800 number, it would route into the platform that I implemented with the agent.

Gabe Larsen: (02:10)
What was this 1970, 1960?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:15)
I’m not that old. It was probably just around the .com, so 2000, 2001. I went from there to implementing contact centers, like Bank of America, UPS. So I’ve been on this like CRM contact center journey since its inception.

Gabe Larsen: (02:31)
Was that on purpose or was that just by accident? I mean, are you that passionate about the space?

Vikas Bhambri: (02:36)
You know what, I’ve become passionate about it. I mean, you know, initially it was a job. Oh this is interesting. And you know, for me it was more around I love technology. So it was the perfect role to be a business analyst or project manager working with technology. But then as I got into it more and more and spent more time in the contact center, in the trenches, and then in the CRM world, which now encompasses sales, marketing, etc. And just seeing that evolution. So it’s been fun. I’ve worked across the globe, I spent five years in Europe. I’ve done CRM sales service marketing, you name the industry: retail, TELCO, financial services, insurance, healthcare… so it’s really been a great run over 20 years.

Gabe Larsen: (03:23)
I love it, man, that’s right. It’s funny, you and I have known each other for a few months now, but I forget that history, that’s a pretty rich history.

Vikas Bhambri: (03:31)
Yeah, a lot of people, they get caught up in the title, the most recent title, right. Like, oh you’re sales and CX leader and reality is, I actually started my career as a developer. It’s been a wild ride.

Gabe Larsen: (03:42)
Yeah, that’s a little bit of a change, right? Board room to dev room. So let’s dive in: Talk bots and humans for a minute. So obviously it’s a little controversial, isn’t it?

Vikas Bhambri: (03:55)
It is, because I think, of late, everybody is hyper fixated. You go to any conference, you go to any meeting and everybody wants to talk about bots. It’s getting kind of buzzwordy right? And everybody now says they do it. Everybody says they’ve got one. The key to me is, let’s think about the customer. Let’s start with the customer and the experience that they want, whatever you want to offer them, and then let’s figure out where you appropriately position the bot versus the human being. And I think ideally, and I think that the future will actually be where, they coexist. And so we can stop having this…

Gabe Larsen: (04:37)
One eliminates the other, one pushes the other out.

Vikas Bhambri: (04:42)
Right? And even the way some people talk about bots is they’re like, “look, we’re going to — we’re going to implement the bot and they’re going to solve the problem.” And then what happens when they don’t? Now the customer’s frustrated, right? Now, they pick up the phone or they called the agent and the agent has no idea that they just went through an eight step process with a bot and it failed. So even understanding like how do I take a journey that may start out with a bot, and actually escalate it to a human experience.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:11)
And what nobody talks about is, when did it start out in a human experience and then maybe kind of escalate to a bot, right? So you actually empower the human agent with more information, more data, more automation for them to give intelligent solutions back.

Gabe Larsen: (05:27)
Let’s go back to it. So maybe take one step back real quick because I want to dive into those two use cases. But when you say bot, how is that different than chat versus AI versus… give us a little click on that.

Vikas Bhambri: (05:43)
Sure. I think for me, when you think about bot, I kind of liken it to just robots, right? It’s technology that does a task. Now when you get in a chat box that’s just serving technology through a medium, which happens to be chat. But I would argue chatbots are already outdated because chat is only one digital interaction. Why wouldn’t you do the same on Facebook messenger? Why wouldn’t you be the same on WhatsApp or SMS? So even the whole nomenclature now it’s already outdated.

Gabe Larsen: (06:13)
Well and it did feel like chat — chat’s been around for so long. It’s like wow, is this really something that new, adding a little more of a bot or a push notification in a bot? But it seems like maybe as we take it to different channels, that would be one thing that would certainly be different. It’s this automated interaction in a channel, chat particularly, that allows you to potentially deflect or get rid of some of the human interactions.

Vikas Bhambri: (06:39)
Chat was rightfully kind of the first kind of place to offer it. Because at the end of the day, people are already used to doing pre-chat surveys and asking certain questions. So it kind of made sense to offer it there, right? And you know, you’ve got companies like Drift and others that are doing it in different styles. So it makes sense. But why wouldn’t you offer some sort of automation when somebody goes to your knowledge base? So now we call that — now we’ve kind of pocketed that into self-service deflection. At the end of the day, it’s still a bot. It’s still technology that is looking to the customer to answer certain questions or make some self identifiers and then offer them a solution.

Gabe Larsen: (07:21)
Got it. Got it. Okay, perfect. That’s great to just get the fundamentals. And then one step above that, where do you feel like it’s, maybe it’s where we are currently or where we should be going, but there’s stuff that’s like pre-programmed, like branching stuff you could put in. So they like press a button or they answer yes and then it delivers them a message versus true intelligence, like they write something, the bot reads it and actually responds back in an intelligent way. Are both of those happening? Is just one of those happening? Where are we in this evolution of the bot, so to say?

Vikas Bhambri: (07:57)
Sure. So, to me it’s kind of the if, then, else, right? Like the choose your own adventure. For those of us that are old enough to remember those.

Gabe Larsen: (08:04)
Those books were good. I should get one of those for my eight year old, actually.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:13)
But here’s the thing: So the if, then, else, the branchable logic that’s there. It’s been done. I think you see that quite often now.

Gabe Larsen: (08:22)
That’s pretty table stakes now.

Vikas Bhambri: (08:24)
Right? That’s table stakes. I think true AI, where you’re looking at the question the person’s asking, analyzing it, then comparing it to other questions… When we talk about true AI, machine learning, it’s now looking at the result set of anybody who’s ever asked a similar question and what has been offered to them and what actually resolved their issue. So that’s where it gets a whole much more in-depth. Now, I still think the problem with even that concept and why I’m excited about some of the things we’re working on, is that it’s still very limited to all the problems that people have asked and answered. It still doesn’t really take into account who that customer is. I think that’s still one of the things when we talk about bots and you’re only as good as your data. So what I describe to people is… look, imagine you bought a robot to clean your house and you only put it in one room of your house and said learn and then you unleashed it on the whole house. You’d probably end up with a wreck because the dimensions of your one room are not all of the rooms. And I think that’s when people create these algorithms, they’re only thinking about one problem area and then all of a sudden they unleash it. For example, I’ve got all these different issues that have been resolved across my entire customer base and now a multi-million dollar customer comes to my website and asks a question. I’m probably going to offer them the same solution as I did to the last 20 people that asked that question. Now taking into account that they’re a $5 million customers, now I’m going to wreck my house.

Gabe Larsen: (10:00)
Oh, interesting. Almost like a tiered… you know, we talk about like tiered support where if I’m a gold member, I call in and I’m treated different. But you’re not really treated different with a bot because they don’t know a lot about you, and they’re only looking at the questions.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:14)
They’re only looking at the question, and they’re not looking at who are you.

Gabe Larsen: (10:16)
So that might be one of the future trends, as you think about bots and how they… I can’t think of anybody doing that, that’s pretty… wow, that’s different.

Vikas Bhambri: (10:27)
That’s it. The more data you can feed this, the more intelligent it’s going to be. I think the problem is when people are thinking about it, they’re not thinking about what data am I going to keep using with the robot? Because that’s easy for people to say, “what information you’ve giving the robot?” And if you’re not giving them all the details, they’re going to make foolish decisions.

Gabe Larsen: (10:47)
What else do you have? If you had to kind of say a couple of years from now, I mean I just thought that was interesting. Kind of the personalization of the bot around the individual, the company, whoever it may be, and then treat them slightly different. Any other things you see in a couple of years from now, where the bot is going to that might be a little outside of the norm?

Vikas Bhambri: (11:06)
I think the big thing — well, before we even get there is I think there’s going to have to be this harmony between the bot and the human experience, which I don’t think exists today.

Gabe Larsen: (11:17)
So lets click into that, and then we’ll come back to the trends. So right now people are kind of thinking about it: as I interact with the bot and then there is a chance I would maybe escalate to human.

Vikas Bhambri: (11:31)
It’s still clunky. The hand off is clunky because a lot of times, well we’ve all experienced that as consumers. I get asked a bunch of questions by the bot, I get served up to human agent because the bot can’t actually answer my issue. And the agent actually asks me all the questions again. That’s like the most fundamental failure of the hand off because they have no visibility. They may know that you did communicate. A lot of brands won’t give their bots names. So like you, you asked Jeeves or you asked Elsa, right?

Gabe Larsen: (12:06)
Elsa is a Frozen reference in case anybody’s wondering.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:11)
Right, anybody whose kids are listening, they got it. All of a sudden, they talked to Elsa before me, but you don’t know what they asked and answered. So that’s a very fundamental flaw, but people are getting better at that. They’ll at least give you the tree, showing everything that the person went through with the bot, right?

Gabe Larsen: (12:27)
Do they? I sometimes question if they’re even getting that, but fair. Yeah, they could get that far.

Vikas Bhambri: (12:34)
There are some people who are a bit further along, if you look on a maturity index, so now I know what questions you asked the bot or answers you gave, and why they can’t resolve it. But to a degree, I almost have to still go and do my own due diligence and figure things out. So I think that’s step one. Now the other thing is, how do I take that data that I did get, plus what the agent captures and now offer up intelligent suggestions to the agent to resolve? That’s where I think you start getting true harmony is automation on the front end, smooth pass off, but then also helping the agent be smart by giving them smarter answers.

Gabe Larsen: (13:16)
But help me visualize that a little bit. So what would that look like? The first part I get, so you get the automation. I like the second part, the smooth transition, because that just feels clunky in my own experience with bots. But that third part. It’s like, ooh, how can we enable the effectiveness of the agents so they are responding back smarter? Any examples, like tactical examples that may come to mind?

Vikas Bhambri: (13:38)
Think about this and let’s just use your cable box provider. You just went through an eight step troubleshooting process with the bot. It failed. You’re on the phone with the human agent and the technician is saying, “Ah, okay I see that you went through this process.” Maybe the agent gathers one or two more details from you. You know what I mean? You check the remote, you know the batteries in your remote or whatever. Now, the intelligence to the agent says I’m going to take all the steps that the customer did with the bot, plus what you gathered and now I’m going to offer up a solution. Take both sides of that discussion and then offer up a solution.

Gabe Larsen: (14:20)
Cool! Interesting. So now flip it, because that’s kind of the standard idea, that can we deflect –? Well, do one more quick double clickback on that. So I liked your three step process. You have automation. If you need to escalate, you pass it off smoothly and then you kind of provide real intelligence or a recommendation. A lot of people are wondering how far you can go with a bot before you have to escalate. That’s, I guess, the elimination conversation. Where do you kind of recommend companies who aren’t thinking about that? Try to get rid of the small stuff, focus on the return? How far can you automate that bottom part of customer service?

Vikas Bhambri: (14:58)
I think the two factors you have to look at are one, what can the customer do themselves or can you kind of use the bot to guide them through to conclusion? So that to me is number one, because at the end of the day, as much as brands don’t want to talk to customers, customers don’t want to talk to brands either. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (15:20)
Do you think that’s true? I mean is that kind of where we are? I mean people don’t want to really do it.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:25)
They don’t want to. It’s not a bad thing. And I think we need to get away from that. If I’m booking a round trip flight from New York to LA, I don’t want to talk to anybody, I want to go to a website, I want to go to a mobile app, I want to book the ticket, get a reasonable fare, select my seat and I’m done. It’s paid for it and everything, right? I don’t want to ever speak to a human being and the airline doesn’t want to speak to you either.

Gabe Larsen: (15:53)
It just sounds bad.

Vikas Bhambri: (15:54)
But quote unquote, we’re talking, right? Because we’re obviously transacting business, but we don’t have to have an elongated discussion. Right? So that’s number one. Number two is when do you want to get that human being involved? Because now I’m booking New York to San Francisco, to LA, to Portland.

Vikas Bhambri: (16:19)
It gets more complicated. I want to be able to speak to somebody if I don’t want to do it myself. Number two is there’s an adverse event, right? My flight to San Francisco gets canceled. Now everything is going to be botched. I want somebody to jump in. And third, you have customers whether it’s ato demographic, whether it’s a high end customer, that you want to offer, that additional level of service, if they choose to use it. And that’s why I said bots can be a one size fits all because if you’ve got a premiere business traveler, you want to be able to say, look, if you want to go and book that round trip ticket yourself, go for it. But by the way, we’re here for you.

Gabe Larsen: (17:00)
And maybe it’s just where I am. Don’t get me wrong, I like to book stuff on my app and things like that, but I’m in like a Delta premiere or whatever that is, gold or medallion, and maybe I’m driving, you know, I’m just gonna call them up and have them walked me through it and book my roundtrip ticket or something. I like that sometimes, so I do like that option. I like the complication. The emergency totally resonates, right? It’s like when your flights booked and you’re trying to go home for Christmas, the last thing you want to deal with is a bot. Is my flight canceled? Just help me, I need to talk to someone.

Vikas Bhambri: (17:35)
So that’s why I think brands need to look at where is that inflection? Where does that point where the customer is going to yell? Now there might be some customers, they don’t care if they’re yelling all day long, right? But certain segments of customers, we care, the brand absolutely does care because they want your repeat business. Right?

Gabe Larsen: (17:54)
So do you feel like if you implement some sort of automated bot program, are you affecting negatively or impacting negatively the customer experience?

Vikas Bhambri: (18:02)
No. If it’s done thoughtfully where you’re thinking about that journey and go back to the customer journey, or customer map. It may actually benefit the customer. If I want to change my address, do I want to speak to somebody by changing my address? No I want to go in, I want to punch it in and I want to hit submit and let it go.

Gabe Larsen: (18:25)
I think the problem people are running into is because it’s such a trendy word now, I think I’ve run into this in the past a little bit is you’re like, well, let’s throw a bot on our website or let’s throw a bot somewhere and you don’t watch the rest of that customer journey and that’s where you drop off on kind of points two and three. We have a bot, but the experience actually got worse because we didn’t help them.

Vikas Bhambri: (18:42)
I think like anything, A, you need to AB test, and B, you need to do the what if scenario. What if a customer wants to do this? What if they do that, and you need to really think it through. But the easy thing to do is just… you almost need like a program management around iit.

Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
You really do. What I learned in my last gig is, we got a bot and it was cool. We threw it up there and pretty soon I was like, I need someone to own this and own the journey. It’s not just a side gig that someone else can do by themselves..

Vikas Bhambri: (19:16)
Like in marketing, right? You have somebody who does your search engine optimization. You need a bot optimizer.

Gabe Larsen: (19:28)
So flip the other way then. Is there a reason or a method to go to a human, then to a bot? Is that in our future, that certainly would be kind of a side scenario or side use case. But is anybody doing that? No.

Vikas Bhambri: (19:47)
No. I don’t think anybody’s doing that. I think right now it’s about bot to human. But where I think is a missed opportunity in the near term is to empower that agent with more choice for automation, where they can do things. And you’re seeing in some industries I think TELCO is actually ahead of this where your agent will take action on your behalf, like so you don’t have to get up and reboot your cable box. There’ll be like, we can do it from our side.

Vikas Bhambri: (20:19)
It’s things that financial service institutions are able to do, where the agent can initiate fraud detection and things like that. So I do think there is things happening on that side, but I’d like to see more of that across the board.

Gabe Larsen: (20:31)
See if we can’t bring that together. Okay, last two questions and I’ll let you get back to your day job. So one is for people who are starting to go down this journey, human versus bot, I think you’ve given them a lot of material. Where would you kind of say, if you’re starting this journey, here’s a couple things I think about or if you start, here’s the baby step you could do now, what’s kind of that easy step that you could take starting the journey of maybe getting a bot into your program and your customer service journey?

Vikas Bhambri: (20:59)
I would start with my knowledge base, your FAQ’s. The reason I think people should be putting FAQ’s or their knowledge base together is they’re like, oh this stuff is so darn easy that I expect my customers can do it themselves. So start there and start putting that into your initial bot journey. Where you’re basically pointing them to existing artifacts, things that exist. And then as you start triaging through those, then it’s like what are the next level of… let’s actually sit down with the agents or the reporting, and look at what are people reaching out to us about. And ideally you want to look at the end of the day, you want to fix the end solution. But if you can’t do that in the near term, what can we do that can automate the solution.

Gabe Larsen: (21:54)
I love that, I love that. That’s a great place to start. Okay. Last question is, we touched on it a little bit before, but there’s a lot of movement in the space. A lot of new technology is coming out, all different languages. Obviously some buzzwords. Any kind of predictions as you move into the future, thinking about humans, bots, anything kind of on your mind that says, I think it’d be fascinating if we saw X or Y in the future as bots evolve and iterate?

Vikas Bhambri: (22:20)
I think the biggest thing is, how much data can we feed? What I mean by that is, look, if I’m on my mobile device and you’ve got so much information, whether we believe it or not, the brand potentially has access to my geolocation. They have access to certain data about me on my phone. They have a profile on me. They understand the question I may be asking. Where to me almost get to the point where you’re doing predictive analysis. Before I even ask you my question, you know the question I’m going to ask because we have so much data about you. So we’re like, wait a minute, most of the time when somebody is reaching out to us, I’m an airline, and when you’re reaching out to me from an airport. The moment I kind of initiate that, you should be like, “Oh Mr. Barry, I see you’re booked on the flight from Orlando to New York because, and I know you’re in the airport right now. You know what we’ve already rebooked you, just head over to gate 43.” That’s the Nirvana.

Gabe Larsen: (23:28)
You know the funny thing is I used to be nervous a little bit about the data thing and giving too much data, but now I’m like, I want to give, and I think there’s people like me in this world who are willing to give up less privacy. They’ll have less privacy to get better service, to get more personalization. I’m like, dude take my social security number and take whatever you want, but give me that type of service.

Vikas Bhambri: (23:51)
I think that’s ultimately it. Like look, GDPR, you’ve seen the California Consumer Privacy Act, all of this stuff, people are still hitting every website. You know, I was in Europe, and every website comes up with a pop up and everybody hits accept. Why? Because I’m giving you data because at the end of the day I’m hoping you’re going to market to me better, sell to me more intelligently or are you going to give me better service. There will always be people that will opt out. Most people think, “if you’re going to offer me more value, I’m willing to give that.” And there is so much you can do with it to benefit the consumer.

Gabe Larsen: (24:31)
Could you be proactive? You’ve heard some of those stories where you know people are the target. Did you hear the target story where they were buying this family was buying different things and then they sent them like a gift card or a coupon for… I won’t get into the details, but basically send them a coupon and they were like, “Hey, we’re not, we’re not actually experiencing that. We’re not doing it.” Well they went and asked their daughter, and it sounded like that person is sick or is not working. But based on the behavior, their AI triggered, and sent a coupon for something, this father got it so it can get a little bit out of hand. But my goodness, the stuff you can do with data, wow. You can take this pretty far.

Gabe Larsen: (25:17)
Cool man. Well, I appreciate it. So if someone wants to get in touch with you, learn a little bit more about what you do, you know, continue the dialogue, what’s the best way to do that?

Vikas Bhambri: (25:26)
LinkedIn is always a great place to hit me up. You can hit me up at kustomer.com as well, either or.

Gabe Larsen: (25:34)
Love it, man. Well, I appreciate you joining. Great times. Audience, have a fantastic day.

Exit Voice: (25:47)
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