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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe and Vikas are joined by SVP of Marketing at Ada, Ruth Zive. Ruth teaches us about how automation and AI are greatly effective tools for business and how they drive customer satisfaction. Listen to the full podcast to learn more about building connections between customer and brand.
Robots, Friends, or Foes to CX?
The world of automation and AI is constantly improving and CX leaders should be looking to integrate bots into their processes. Automating mundane tasks has proven to make the jobs of CX agents much more invigorating and it even helps with employee retention rates. Ruth gives the example of how when ATMs were first introduced, people thought the machines would run banks out of business and eliminate all bank teller jobs. Surprisingly, the amount of bank teller jobs has actually increased 18% since the introduction of ATMs, further proving that when mundane tasks are automated, humans can conquer more diverse and difficult tasks with the help of AI. Ruth believes the idea that machines will completely replace human workers is completely absurd because AI will only enrich the human element of customer and brand interaction.
“We see that with our clients all the time. The introduction of automation has opened up new career paths, new opportunities, more meaningful work for the folks who were spending much of their day resetting passwords in the past.”
Leaders should be more concerned with employees functioning as robots, doing repetitive, boring tasks every day than they should be that machines will replace their people. By focusing on the employee experience and arming agents with the right AI tools, customers will certainly have an excellent experience with your brand, time and time again.
Personalizing the Brand Experience
Think of a time when you felt truly valued by a company you frequent. Was it a local barista that knows your name and order by heart? Was it a hairdresser that remembered your dog’s name and your new job? Whatever it was, surely it left you feeling like they truly cared about you as a customer and possibly a friend. At Ada, Ruth hopes that the experience between the brand and customer can be similar to that of you and your favorite barista. Personalizing each customer interaction is key to building a good rapport with your consumer base. Ruth explains:
This is a conflict that a lot of brands have is how do they maintain that intimate, personalized experience at scale? And it’s very hard to maintain at scale. It’s very hard to maintain with a human first approach in a way that’s efficient.
Instinctually, some leaders may make CX less personalized as a way to save time and agent energy but that simply doesn’t work for garnering long-term loyalty. A great way to truly know your customer is to have them interact with chatbots and other AI when initially contacting the company with a need. This works because AI gathers the data agents need to enhance the experience and are then well equipped to serve the customer before they even reach the agent. “You can know your customer because it’s through data that you’re able to really understand your customer and know them.”
The Time to Start is Now
Ruth finds that even with this advanced technology in the customer sphere, so many companies are still behind the times and their contact centers are mere “cost centers” rather than “revenue centers.” Turning your contact center into a revenue center is done easily when agents are providing proactive customer support. To be proactive in this lens means to have accurate and up-to-date data about your customer, to provide a personalized experience, and to upsell in ways that are beneficial to the customer’s needs. Ruth adds, “It’s actually way more efficient to upsell an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. So I think that brands are starting to think about how they can proactively engage in a different way. They’re just not always aware of how to do that.”
For CX leaders struggling to automate tasks, the experts suggest starting with simple, lower-effort things and then working up to more complex issues. “Automation shouldn’t be just an add-on. It really should front end the experience. It’s part of the strategy, and it’s an important part of the strategy because if you lead with automation, you’re going to have a much better human experience.”
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Full Episode Transcript:
Break Through the CX Noise With Ruth Zive
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 for another session, the LinkedIn Live session. And today we’re going to be talking about a fun topic, breakthrough the CX noise with better brand interactions. And to do that, we brought on the SVP of Marketing over at our friends and colleagues Ada, Ruth Zive. Ruth, how are you doing?
Ruth Zive: (00:32)
I’m great. Thank you so much for having me. Super excited to be part of this discussion.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Yeah. Yeah. We’re excited to jump in and talk shop today and we’ll let you introduce yourself maybe in a little more in just a second. But we also have me, I’m the Vice President of Growth over here at Kustomer and I have my colleague, Vikas Bhambri, who leads Sales and Success over here at Kustomer as well. Ada, tell us just a little bit about it. What do you guys do over there? Why is it special? Get into that real quick if you can Ruth.
Ruth Zive: (01:01)
Yeah. Ada, I head Marketing at Ada and the way that I like to describe what we do at Ada is I see our platform really serves as the automation layer between brands and all of the people who love them. So we power those interactions to make sure that customers have a great experience and that they can seamlessly access human support when it’s needed when it matters most. We partner with great organizations like Kustomer to make that happen. And we work with really some of the world’s leading digital brands, companies like Zoom and Facebook, and Square, to make sure that companies are able to deliver better interactions for the people who love them.
Gabe Larsen: (01:44)
Awesome. Awesome. Yeah, we’re excited about our partnership with Ada, some of the recent happenings, really, to combine some of the things that Ruth just talked about with the customer service CRM that Kustomer offers. So today we’ll be talking a little bit about that and then at the end, we have a really cool offer we want to make sure everyone’s aware of that’s happening in the next couple of weeks. So Ruth, let’s dive in, want to see high level here. One of the debates that people are having, and then continue, I think this will always be a debate, I think Vikas probably agrees to this, but it’s humans versus robots. Are they friends? Are they foes? Are they enemies? Are they neighbors? Are they significant others? Frame this conversation. How would you frame this for us? Then I’ll get Vikas’s thoughts on this as well.
Ruth Zive: (02:32)
Yeah, it’s crazy to me, there’s always this concern that automation or AI, the machine if you will, is going to take away jobs from humans and I just think that’s nonsense. There’s so much great evidence that confirms that machines can clear the way for better, more meaningful jobs, even for more people. So, and I can share some of that data, but if you just take like a recent example from the not too distant past, ATMs. A funny thing happened when ATMs were introduced. They were expected to take away jobs from bank tellers and folks expected that bank branches would close down. But in fact, the opposite happened. There were more tellers and more bank branches and today there are in fact 18% more bank branches than there were in 2000. So I think it’s an unwarranted fear in many ways. But when I think about how humans and automation can work together, if you consider that 80% of customer needs are reflected and only about 10 to 20% of all customer interactions are stated differently, if you can automate that 20% of interactions, you can meet the lion’s share of customer needs. Then it makes sense to have robust automation at the front end of your customer experience to do that.
Ruth Zive: (03:54)
But there are still 20% of customer needs that need to be addressed and those tend to be really complex, very high value, and that’s where it’s really essential to have instant access to skilled human resources. And when those human resources, by the way, are armed with broader context that automation can provide, they can do a better job, they can deliver a more personalized experience. So I think that when you when automation and human resources are working in step, those human resources have a better job experience. They are able to deliver a better experience to the customer. It’s much more efficient for the brand. So really it’s a win-win for everybody.
Gabe Larsen: (04:32)
That’s interesting. Yeah. I love the bank teller ATM. 18%. Wow. That’s actually, again, intuition and maybe this is the problem we all have is just your gut tells you that isn’t right. But obviously, the data speaks otherwise. Vikas, how do you frame this? I mean, this comes up all the time. Doesn’t seem like it’s going away. How do you explain it?
Vikas Bhambri: (04:57)
So I think there’s a couple of things and Ruth touched on one of them, which is this kind of misconception that the machine is going to replace human beings. And often when I hear that you almost wonder, it’s often coming from people who have never done the role that they suggest is going to be replaced. And if I look at the Ruth mentioned the bank teller, but if you look at the contact center paradigm, for instance, I always use password reset as kind of the joke example, but how many times in a day do I want to walk somebody through resetting their password? Like, step in my shoes. And then people wonder, like, why do we have such high turnover in the contact center? Or why do people use the contact center as a launching point to other careers in our company or other industries, et cetera?
Vikas Bhambri: (05:44)
It’s because you’re literally asking them to reset somebody’s password 50 times a day. Now, if the machine takes care of the password reset, now I get to tackle real, more challenging problems. And I think you’re going to actually see, and we’re already seeing it, the role in certain industries like the bank teller and the contact center is fundamentally changing to that of a knowledge worker. So not only are you seeing that, you’re seeing the types of people that take these roles, the roles themselves, where you’re also seeing career opportunities, where people are staying in those roles for much longer because it’s intellectually stimulating. The environments are fundamentally changing. They’re not the dark taverns anymore. They’re actually nice office spaces, et cetera. So I think that whole fundamental shift in the contact center industry is, that’s a prime example, but it’s only enabled because you’ve got automation taking care of some of the mundane tasks.
Gabe Larsen: (06:41)
Ruth, you were shaking your head kind of on that skilled worker. Thoughts on that?
Ruth Zive: (06:44)
Yeah, I completely agree. It seems absurd to me that people aren’t just as concerned about humans behaving like robots, which is exactly what Vikas has described. And that is the reality and the frustration, I think of a lot of customer support workers. That should be more alarming than concerns about machines taking over those jobs. So totally agree. And we see that with our clients all the time. The introduction of automation has opened up new career paths, new opportunities, more meaningful work for the folks who were spending much of their day resetting passwords in the past.
Gabe Larsen: (07:22)
Yeah. That does, it almost seems like kind of a win-win-win. The customer, the company, and the agent. Ultimately, I think there is a place to have three winners.
Vikas Bhambri: (07:31)
Let me give you an example, Gabe. I did some work in a previous life with an airline and their Head of Digital, his vision was, I never want to have a passenger, a consumer ever engages with a human being if all they’re booking is a round trip flight. The consumer doesn’t want to do it. I’m flying New York to San Francisco round trip. Pretty straight-forward. I should be able to do it on my app or on the website, et cetera. I should never have to speak to a human being. On flipside, when we were in the contact center and shadowing their agents, the agent said, “I don’t want to deal with it either. It’s so boring. It’s literally like, I’m just doing what they should be able to do on a website. I’m clicking to and from and price.”
Vikas Bhambri: (08:13)
But then it’s like, well, what do you want to use these people for? I want to use them when somebody really wants to do a complex journey. You’re going New York to Atlanta, San Francisco, maybe coming back via Chicago, or there’s an adverse weather event and I need somebody on the fly to really help me kind of get back home to my, and by the way, the agents were like, “That’s what I want to be working on too.” So it was a win-win for both the brand, the airline and the agent where we automate these round trip tickets and now you get to work on things that are more exciting and interesting.
Ruth Zive: (08:49)
And even for the customer because automating all of those mundane tasks frees up access to humans when it matters most so the customer doesn’t have to wait on hold for an hour to get their need addressed.
Gabe Larsen: (09:03)
That makes a big difference. Airlines, Vikas, by the way, is definitely on my mind as I’m recently landed in Hawaii here. This is live from Hawaii. So thanks for bringing that in. I guess I brought it in, but you helped me. One of the problems that people bring up with this AI revolution is the concept of personalization. There’s so much talk about hyper-personalization, how important it is to personalize. Are you losing that touch with the consumer? I think we’ve almost explained it, but I want to make sure we click on it because Ruth, where do you go with this? How do you apply personalization in this model where you are finding maybe a better balance of humans and bots and robots?
Ruth Zive: (09:44)
Yeah. Our CEO, Mike Murchison at Ada likes to tell a story about the coffee shop. Your local coffee shop. We all have a coffee shop that’s near to our home that we like to frequent possibly on a daily basis. We walk in there. This is probably pre-COVID, but we walk in there, they know our name, they remember our drink. They might ask about our family. You have a really intimate, personal experience with them and you feel a sense of connection, but if you go to your bank on the other end of the street, you’re usually anonymous even if you’ve been banking there sometimes for decades. And this is a conflict that a lot of brands have is how do they maintain that intimate, personalized experience at scale? And it’s very hard to maintain at scale. It’s very hard to maintain a human-first approach in a way that’s efficient.
Ruth Zive: (10:35)
And so the instinct is that brands then try to interact less with their customers, which is absurd. So again at Ada, obviously we believe that when you underpin your customer experience with automation that’s front-ending the experience, you’re able to sustain that personalized, intimate connection. You can know your customer because it’s through data that you’re able to really understand your customer and know them. You can make sure that you’re offering up experiences that are tailored exactly to their needs and so we believe that it’s automation that preserves that for brands at scale.
Gabe Larsen: (11:14)
Yeah, I mean, I, our local barista is Claire and my local bank teller., I have no clue.
Ruth Zive: (11:25)
There you go. And I bet Claire knows your name, but your bank teller probably doesn’t.
Gabe Larsen: (11:31)
I love the coffee example by the way because it’s something, it’s the localization. What we, even as a Delta airline, like everybody wants to get to that local barista type feel, but boy, does it feel like as we’ve added more digitization, like the, I don’t know. We kind of lost it somehow and it is hard. I don’t want to say it’s easy because I love what Starbucks does but you walk in there, you kind of see Claire. She does her thing. It’s harder when you’re 300,000 miles away and you’re on an email or chat and now a bot’s doing it for heaven’s sake? And it’s like, it gets hard. Vikas, where do you go on? How do you bring more personalization into this?
Vikas Bhambri: (12:13)
So the challenge with any new concept, and automation and AI, particularly around the customer experience, is fairly new. It’s funny because you marketeers have been doing it for ages in marketing and we’re just catching up on the CX side of the house. So, but a lot of learnings there because you remember marketing 101, which was just spamming everybody and obviously personalization took time, but it was all about the data. And you go back to Claire, Claire is dealing with a small pool of customers, right? I know you have a very busy Starbucks there in your hometown in Salt Lake, but a small pool of customers. And by the way, Claire’s probably there consistently as well. So the data is sitting in Claire’s head and it’s a pretty limited set of data. How do you scale that over time? And I think the problem with automation is at the source, it’s at the data.
Vikas Bhambri: (13:05)
And I think the first few forays into automation were frankly pointing it at faulty data. And so what people were doing was pointing the data at their ticketing systems and all they had was like all the adverse events and when people went wrong with no true concept of who that customer was. So now you tie in the adverse event with the concept of the customer, now you can really do personalized problem-solving. Because why am I giving a VIP customer the same kind of recommendation or solution that I would give a first-time customer? They bought from me 20 times before. They know my return policy. That’s not why they’re coming to me. So I think just adding that layer of who the customer is and into that equation, you start with a cohort, then maybe you get it down to the minutia of that individual customer. That’s the challenge for so many brands, especially with what I call automation 1.0 and the failed attempts were they actually pointed it at faulty data. And then they were wondering why everybody was saying it’s not personalized.
Gabe Larsen: (14:12)
Yeah. It’s like Claire, Claire does have a little bit of it, it’s all in her head.
Vikas Bhambri: (14:19)
I hope she’s listening.
Gabe Larsen: (14:23)
We’re not using your name in vain, Claire, if you are, this is actually a good thing. But then you try to scale that too, what if you had a hundred thousand customers instead of a hundred a day or 200 a day? It gets a little bit harder at capturing that data in a way to actually execute it. Ruth, you looked like you had a quick comment on that. Any-
Ruth Zive: (14:41)
Yeah, I was just going to say, getting down to the product level, you want to make sure that you’re working with an automation platform that has robust integrations systems like Kustomer. If you can easily plug into a CRM, you can extract all of that data and deliver interactions and experiences that are tailored to those customer interests and exactly what you said, Vikas. You want to be able to segment based on those past interactions, those past purchases, those past experiences, anticipate the customer’s needs. You can only do that if you have access to that data.
Gabe Larsen: (15:18)
Yup. Yup. I want to jump on the last company you just said that the kind of anticipating customer needs, it seems like with the data, with the right foundation, more of that is becoming possible where you can actually go proactive, maybe before they even reach, it’s like the proactive support, the proactive service side of things. How are you see this starting to kind of shape in your world, Ruth, where people are using some of the data, being proactive, anticipating needs, and what does that mean for the business?
Ruth Zive: (15:48)
Again, proactive interaction should all be data-informed. It’s going back to the Claire example. She may sometimes even have your drink ready before you arrive. Like she knows. She knows what to deliver before you even ask for it. And there’s a lot of, again, data out there, which I can share on LinkedIn after this, that confirms that customers are craving that even on digital channels. So being able to anticipate those needs, knowing what past purchases have been, knowing if for instance, your data has expired and you need a top-up, and then proactively suggesting that, bringing it to the customer’s attention, those are the types of flows and interactions that Ada is automating and it drives customer loyalty. It drives customer satisfaction, and more importantly, it can drive upsell. And we’re seeing that customer service is no longer a cost center. It’s really transforming into a revenue center and again, that’s changing jobs and changing how people think about customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (16:56)
Vikas, thoughts on proactive? How’s that playing out for you?
Vikas Bhambri: (16:59)
You know what’s amazing to me is, even in this day and age, how many websites we authenticate ourselves as consumers and still, there’s no kind of proactive. There’s proactive selling. There’s proactive messaging, but there’s no proactive servicing. And just let’s do a quick example. We’re all living in this kind of post-COVID, I don’t know, COVID world. I don’t know what to call it anymore.
Gabe Larsen: (17:27)
It depends on when we’re going to be posting.
Vikas Bhambri: (17:30)
But look, online shopping’s here to stay. And a lot of that for many of us is without actually trying on the items. So I purchased something, I’ve already seen authenticated on your website when I purchased and given you my everything, all my details, and now I’m back because I’ve got an issue. I just want to return it. Imagine the difference from what it is now, where I have to go in and look at your FAQ and try to figure out what your return policy is and what do I if I came in and you know I’ve purchased this item a week ago. I’m probably here for because if I’m on your Contact Us page, there’s probably a reason. Why not proactively tell me what your support policy is for that particular item? And why not go back to that personalization? “Hey, Vikas. We know you couldn’t try these on,” because obviously, I shopped online. “We know that sometimes the fit isn’t always what you wanted it to be. Hey, here’s our return policy, and by the way, here’s a preprinted label with a link. You go click the link.” You now go to that, as opposed to I’m scrolling through your FAQ to find the article to figure out, does it apply to me? Go back and look at my receipt. I mean, but it’s amazing to me. The technology’s there, the data’s there, but still today, so many brands are not moving on this and it just confuses the heck out of me. What are you waiting for?
Gabe Larsen: (19:01)
Yeah. What is it? I mean, certainly, support has been, was kind of, I mean, it’s been a cost center. It’s been something that we take calls rather than we place a call. Is it just a mentality switch that you think needs to happen? Is it that we need to actually have like maybe dedicated proactive reps that are reaching out because it’s a time management problem? Any quick thoughts on that, Vikas?
Vikas Bhambri: (19:24)
I think it’s super interesting. I think there’s so much time spent in the boardroom on revenue and acquisition from consumer brands, those costs are continuing to inflate. And I think what’s missing is somebody stepping up and saying, “Wait, we’ve got a lot of customers.” Amazon’s a great example of this. Amazon knows that they’ve got a lot of customers and that’s why they do an amazing job of marketing and selling to their existing customers – add-on services, their products, but they are amazing at customer experience. So these other brands, what’s amazing is that where’s the thought process at the board exact level to say, “We have a lot of customers, let’s just figure out how to do more to them.” And let’s go back to my trousers example, is if I buy these pair of trousers and you proactively, I’m probably going to go just and buy more from you because you made that first experience so synchronously.
Gabe Larsen: (20:28)
Yeah. Ruth, anything you’d like to add to that on why we’re not proactively reaching out?
Ruth Zive: (20:33)
I think it’s changing. I think that as the customer experience becomes more consolidated and your prospect can become a customer, especially on digital channels in the blink of an eye, I think that even in the boardroom, brands are starting to think about things a little bit more holistically. AirAsia for example is a customer. And the example you gave, Vikas, is a great one. An AirAsia customer has booked a flight online. They come back to the website a day later and they can be greeted proactively with a message that says, “We see you’re flying with us tomorrow. Would you like to purchase a meal?” Or, “Would you like to upgrade your seat?” And that’s a proactive customer service message that often leads to an upsell. So I think that things are changing. It’s actually way more efficient to upsell an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. So I think that brands are starting to think about how they can proactively engage in a different way. They’re just not always aware of how to do that.
Gabe Larsen: (21:37)
Yeah, it’s tricky. It’s definitely different. There’s no doubt about it, but it is it’s coming in. And I think, to Vikas’s point, like we do have what we need. We just have to find a way to apply it a little more effectively. All right. Well, let’s see if we can wrap. I’d love to, Vikas, maybe we start with you and then Ruth, you could add, we talked about multiple topics on the humans versus bots. A little bit on the personalization is a proactive concept. Customer leaders struggling today in this COVID world to really optimize that journey, get that C-SAT, that NPS score where they want it to be, how would you coach them? Or what would you leave with them today? Vikas, let’s start with you.
Vikas Bhambri: (22:09)
Yeah. And those who’ve listened to us before know, I’m a big believer in crawl, walk, run. And it can be overwhelming whether you’re at that board level or the operator level and trying to figure this all out on a daily basis, but where I would recommend anybody start is kind of where we started the discussion is how do you take some of, before you do the whizzbang stuff, how do you take some of the mundane things that your team or your customer’s challenged with and how do you address those using automation? So really starting simply, I keep telling people, I think the knowledge base in FAQ as it exists today is dead. So that’s the first thing. How do I bring all that great work and knowledge that I have to the forefront for my consumers to be able to self-serve on those items because they want it, and of course my agents want it? And that allows you to increase your capacity pool immediately, and then you can start layering on more and more complex things like going back to the AirAsia example and really doing some fun and exciting things.
Gabe Larsen: (23:10)
Yeah, I love that point on the knowledge basis. That it is. It’s just like so much work put out there and you’re not bringing it to the forefront? Love that one. Ruth, what would you say? Summary?
Ruth Zive: (23:19)
Totally agree with all of that. I would just add that as you think about automation as part of the strategy, stop thinking about the off-the-shelf chatbot widget. It’s like automation shouldn’t be just an add-on. It really should front end the experience. It’s part of the strategy, and it’s an important part of the strategy because if you lead with automation, you’re going to have a much better human experience. So that would be what I would add to it.
Gabe Larsen: (23:47)
I love it. Well, appreciate you both taking the time today. Ruth, if people want to learn, continue down this topic, learn a little bit more about you guys, what’s the best way to do that?
Ruth Zive: (23:57)
Visit us at ada.cx. Follow me on LinkedIn. Yeah, and we have a great event coming up next week. Next week, next month, I think you were going to share the link.
Gabe Larsen: (24:09)
Yes. Can you give us the thirty seconds on that? It’s a Bootcamp, right?
Ruth Zive: (24:12)
Yeah. We’re doing an e-commerce Bootcamp. Learn about how you can prepare for the holiday season upcoming. And I know you’re going to be one of our speakers, Gabe, so excited to have you. And it’ll a great day with lots of practical tips and tricks on how to prepare your brand.
Gabe Larsen: (24:32)
Awesome. Well I put that in the notes so that you can access that. I think that’ll be really interesting. E-commerce Bootcamp coming up here soon. Ruth, Vikas, thanks for taking the time for everybody else, have a great weekend. Be safe.
Ruth Zive: (24:42)
Thank you both.
Exit Voice: (24:49)
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