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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen meets with Elizabeth Dominicci from TriNet to learn the secrets of using data and AI to boost customer engagement. She also explores how operations are essential to creating the ultimate CX. Tune in to the episode to learn more!
Using Data to get Customer Insights
As companies are trying to tackle the customer journey, many are overwhelmed by data chaos and don’t know how to organize it in a way that boosts engagement all while saving money. Gathering data is a must for ensuring customers have the best experience possible because it gives insights that aren’t typically seen in customer interactions. Data has become a key indicator for tracking customer happiness, predicting issues, and understanding customer preferences. Elizabeth explains, “I love to use the analytics to predict what we think is going to happen, be able to find trigger points in the data so that we can isolate a population of customers that perhaps we need to do a proactive outreach to instead of waiting for them to contact us.” When data is used to gain insights, agents can better serve and delight their customers.
The Benefits of AI
Perhaps an unusual approach to modern CX, AI is making headlines across this space and should absolutely be in your sights if you want to impress your customers. AI is the perfect tool for using data correctly, meaning that it collects and interprets data in a readable way. This then translates into higher-performing CX reps because they have access to helpful customer insights. Elizabeth is a major advocate for AI-driven CX. “The goal was to get the customer who’s on the phone or sent us an email that needs something, get them to the right resource that has the answer faster, and really be able to increase the quality of the experience that that customer was having.” The benefits of AI are essentially endless. It can collect and organize data, interpret customer emotions, and help customers to solve their own basic questions before ever having to contact a rep – what a useful tool for personalization!
The Right Resources for the Right Results
When CX teams use data and AI for their benefit, they can better service their customers, which is why Elizabeth encourages leaders to have the right resources for operational success:
I would absolutely invest in somebody with that data science background. I would make sure that while you are focused on delivering the best experience for your customers, that you also have somebody on your team whose full-time job is to essentially listen behind the scenes, watch the data, comb through the data and find that needle in a haystack that you don’t see when you’re in that reactive mode.
The better informed the frontline agents are on their customers, the better they can provide the right, cost-effective solutions from the get go. The analytics of being in customer success can easily get out of hand and can get complicated quickly, which is why having access to customer data and AI tools can really give your company an edge over the competition. Knowledge is power in this space and the more knowledgeable the reps are about their customers, the more customer and brand relationships will be harvested.
To learn more about operational excellence and how data can help you win, 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 Operations Can Help You Win with Elizabeth Dominicci
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
All right. Welcome everybody to today’s episode. We’re gonna be talking about transforming CX through operations and to do that, we brought on a special guest, Elizabeth Dominicci. She’s currently the Vice President of Customer Experience Operations at TriNet, where she’s been integral in transforming the front lines. I love this title, Customer Experience Operations. The thing that I found most interesting about Elizabeth is she brings this background in industrial and systems engineering. Yeah. You heard that right. Industrial systems engineer, not very typical. She’s got analytics, management, consulting, operations. It was just such enough of a unique background in the CX space that we just have been bugging her for a while to kind of bring a different view to what sometimes is more traditional CX. So with that quick intro, Elizabeth, thanks for joining. How are you?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (01:10)
I’m doing well. Thanks for having me.
Gabe Larsen: (01:12)
Yeah, we were just talking pre-show. We had to. I think this is trying, but we were finally able to kind of nail each other down and do that. So appreciate you jumping on. Tell us maybe just a little more, I love that title, but tell us a little more about what you’ve been doing over at TriNet and some of the things in your past.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (01:29)
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Here at TriNet, it has been an interesting few years. I’ve been here about four years and over those four years, we have just been growing, scaling, and transforming how we interact with our customers. And right now, I’m in the role where I am, like you said, the leader of our CX operations world. And one of the things that I just love to do is make sure that we’re interacting with our customers. We have about 400 individuals on our front lines talking to our customers pretty much all day every day. And through that interaction, what I love about it is one, we’re helping small businesses TriNet, but we also are getting tons of data. And so that’s kind of my geeky side is I love to really look at the analytics. I love to look at the data that’s being produced and then essentially use that to figure out how do we support our customers even better than we have in the past.
Gabe Larsen: (02:38)
Yeah. And again, that background, I mean, having just done a lot of interviews, very unique. And I love the, I can’t get over that title, Customer Experience Operations. It’s a really cool, cool title as well. So before we dive in, want to get into some of the meat before we do. I always like to ask people just random questions. Outside of work, do you have any passions, hobbies, any embarrassing moments you want to share with the group?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (03:02)
It’s funny. When the pandemic hit in March of 2020, I went from being a road warrior constantly on an airplane, traveling from the east coast to the west coast, and started to be the person that really settled into my home office. And now that I’m in my home office, one of the things that I have at home is I’ve got two French bulldogs, who are my fur babies. And now, I think everybody I work with, everybody I interact with now gets to hear them snoring under my desk so you get to see kind of one of my, one of my passions at home, now gets to cuddle with me all day long. So if we hear any snoring while we’re on this interview, it’s not me. I didn’t fall asleep at the wheel here. It is definitely my two little fur babies under my desk.
Gabe Larsen: (03:57)
That’s fun. So yeah, you got the COVID pup and they’re snoring. Okay, good to know. Yeah, I became, actually just before COVID, my wife convinced me to get a sheltie and I had one of those traumatic dog experiences when I was young. I was hesitant, but you know, it’s been all right. It’s been, I’ve become another dog person. We’ll have to exchange some of our dog secrets later.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (04:23)
Gabe Larsen: (04:24)
The dogs. They’re so funny. Okay. Well, let’s dive in. I want to get to this concept. Transforming CX through operations, you’ve been doing it for a while and certainly seem to have a little bit of a recipe. So I’m curious, as this transformational process begins, where do you start? What’s kind of that big rock you try to tackle first?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (04:43)
Yeah. It’s a great question about the big rock. When we first went on this journey, which it is, it is absolutely a journey when you’re trying to scale and shift thinking for how you interact with customers, the first thing we really started to look at was where did we have data that we could collect? Where was it housed within the company and how could we bring it all into one place? And so we right now, we’ve got all the different types of data around the company. Most companies look at their financial data. You’re looking at interaction points. We actually have both qualitative and quantitative data. We do a lot with our surveys out to customers. We have a lot of connection points and we’re actually listening to our customer’s feedback and understanding just from their sentiment of how do they feel about certain things or how do they think about certain things? Not just looking at metrics that are, what I call the hard data, right? Like the things that are a little bit more traditional to be measured such as here’s how many times we called them, or here’s how many emails we got from this customer. We actually want to understand some of those softer things too.
Gabe Larsen: (06:08)
You feel like, because I hear you go through some of that, I mean, and this might be a little divergent, but I’m just curious. It seems like it’s often overwhelming, and I hear that from CX leaders sometimes. I mean, do you feel that a lot of orgs need like this customer experience operations to really get their head around some of the things you’re talking about? Or you’re like, “Look, the customer service leaders, they’ve got to figure this out themselves.” If not, it seems difficult.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (06:34)
It’s interesting. So I do think we’re a little unique in having this CX operations team and it is slightly separate from the rest of our CX group. So we sit tangentially and our goal on the operations side is to essentially enable all of the teams that are interacting with the customer day in, day out, right? Like we don’t want them to change their day-to-day management or leadership of how they’re interacting with customers, but we do need this operational arm essentially to be able to be looking at things so that we can then feed information back to the frontline service teams. So we have teams that are looking at all the data. We have teams that are actually helping with process improvement. We have teams that are helping build knowledge articles. So our goal really is, you could also think of it as more like CX enablement, right? We’re enabling all of the customer success teams and customer service teams, the teams that are answering the phones and the chats and all those interaction points with the customer, we’re essentially enabling them to be able to do their jobs better.
Gabe Larsen: (08:02)
Do you, just one more clarification on it, because I do think it’s fairly unique, but you then, you don’t roll up into that CX leader. You actually play a little more of an independent role and roll-up kind of somewhere else. Is that what you’re saying? Or how does that work?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (08:16)
Well, so here at TriNet, I do roll up into our senior VP of CX –
Gabe Larsen: (08:21)
Of CX. Okay. Got it.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (08:22)
Yep. Which is part of our, we roll up ultimately, up to our COO. And so our COO here at TriNet has technology under the organization as well as product management and so we’re all kind of connected.
Gabe Larsen: (08:40)
Interesting. Okay. Yeah, it does seem like it’s, that organizational structure is fairly interesting, but I’ve just heard so many leaders kind of complain about, and it’s just hard to find that well-balanced leader who, and this isn’t just on the CX, you could say this about marketing or sales, right? Like it’s hard to find a CX or a sales leader who is great about closing deals, but also like in the minute details of enablement and awe and process. On the marketing side, it’s the same thing. But it doesn’t seem like a lot of organizations have that. So these leaders are often stranded, trying to be who they’re not. In truth, I just think it often doesn’t get done right. So, I didn’t mean to back you up on that one, but it’s just, the role is so interesting. Okay. So you play this independent or kind of CX role and then double click, one more time back on this kind of lean into the data idea. So you have been able to really kind of break down just a variety of key indicators to see if you can’t figure out what’s going on in the business and then you play that partnership with the business to actually get it done. Did I kind of hear that, right?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (09:47)
Yeah. You did get that right. There’s one little nuance. So about a year ago, I built from the ground up the CX operations team that I’ve been talking quite a bit about. And then also, took on leadership over our delivery centers. So I actually have both. I’ve got the front of the house and the back of the house kind of under my umbrella, which I like you said, is wildly unique. But really gives me kind of the secret sauce where I not only get to see how our leaders are delivering, but I get to also fix it and analyze it all at the same time. And so it does give me a unique position in where I sit to be able to track trends, detect any patterns that are happening. And like you said, I love to lean into that data. I love to use analytics to predict what we think is going to happen, be able to find trigger points in the data so that we can isolate a population of customers that perhaps we need to do proactive outreach to instead of waiting for them to contact us.
Gabe Larsen: (11:09)
Where do you feel like, because you probably have a little more of a knack for it than some of us, other non-operational type people, but we get lost in the data. There’s a lot of data coming at us and in the struggle, I think many of us are having in CX is I don’t wanna say this is new, but for some of us we still struggle with and that’s just the idea that some of these legacy metrics don’t actually have any correlation with things we do really care about. Growth, repeat purchase. I don’t know, things like that. So we’re all, let’s just get our call resolution down or let’s get our CSAT up and then CSAT’s up, growth’s down and we’re like, what? How do you navigate just all the different metrics that come at you? Any quick thoughts there?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (11:51)
Oh my gosh. That’s such a good question because there really is a sea of metrics that we could potentially look at. I mean, we have everything from our average speed to answer or how fast are we talking to the customer? We have our average handle time that we could go after. We look at CES or customer effort score, NPS scores, we look at all kinds of stuff. One of the things that we have found to be something that’s really helpful is looking at our throughput. Looking at it, even though it’s customer success, we want to almost look at it like it’s a manufacturing floor, right? And be able to see things moving and pay attention to that workflow, whether it is, every customer interaction, most of them, about 80%, they get handled right away. They tend to be more simplistic when it goes into the more complex, it may have to move from team to team to get an answer and we want to pay attention to how things are moving and where any bottlenecks are. We want to be able to detect that. And that’s where we’re using some of our data and analytics to identify those bottlenecks.
Gabe Larsen: (13:19)
Interesting. And do you, one more piece on this, I probably need to move on, but you’ve really struck a chord that I –
Elizabeth Dominicci: (13:24)
No, it’s okay.
Gabe Larsen: (13:25)
Interesting. You mentioned the manufacturing line, but yeah, if you can think with the end in mind, if you can actually get to some of those end outcome metrics, like what do you really care most about? And I’m using words like, I don’t know, maybe more bottom line, top line things, repeat purchase, revenue per customer, something that’s more dollars and cents. And then tag that with some of those metrics that are in the assembly line, or now I’m looking at CSAT in different parts of the process, but ultimately I’m always watching that end goal. I feel like sometimes that’s where we miss. It’s like CSAT. I don’t know if CSAT is the end goal. I think revenue or growth is the end goal and then we try to figure out CSAT. But if we can’t see growth, if we’re not measuring that then looking at all the different levers between then, messing up, does that resonate at all? Or do you think that –
Elizabeth Dominicci: (14:20)
That absolutely resonates. I have to tell you one of the things that we look for in our business, because at TriNet, we are servicing kind of the small businesses and medium-sized businesses of the US. And so we do all their payroll and benefits and whatnot. But the thing that we’re constantly looking at is the retention of our customers because just like customers of any other service company, they have a choice. Do they want to stay with TriNet? Do they want to go somewhere else? And so we’re ultimately looking at, unlike retail, we’re not looking at repeat purchase, we’re looking at retention to our contract period.
Gabe Larsen: (15:04)
Good call. And we’re actually a happy customer of TriNet by the way.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (15:09)
Oh, well that’s even better.
Gabe Larsen: (15:10)
So that’s good though. It’s funny. You remind me, I should look that up. There’s a book I once read, the assembly line approach. I just love that comment because I almost think you can do that in so many parts of the business. There was a book called The Goal.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (15:27)
I read The Goal in my undergrad.
Gabe Larsen: (15:31)
You did? I read it 20 years ago. It was phenomenal, wasn’t it? I had –
Elizabeth Dominicci: (15:34)
It was. I have to tell you, it was one of The Goal, the book, is actually still sitting on my shelf because it is one of the books that I continue to take with me everywhere because it was such a foundational concept that was in there of assembly lines and making sure that things are, have the right velocity as they’re moving forward. And it’s probably my background of industrial engineering background, that is where it’s coming from.
Gabe Larsen: (16:06)
That’s funny. I haven’t thought about that for 20 years, but I’m going to check. You need to write the same type of book for CX. That’s, no. It’s easy.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (16:14)
Give me some time and maybe I will. Who knows? I’ll have to call you and we’ll do it together.
Gabe Larsen: (16:19)
Yeah. Well, truthfully, I feel like that mindset and then I’ll be quiet about this, but that mindset, it should be a, there should be that same concept for marketing, sales, CX. I mean, it just was so, everything should be, I just love processes. Okay. So went a little farther there. So what is, where do you go next once you kind of try to get this transformation journey going?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (16:44)
Yeah, it’s a great question. So like I said, the first step was getting all the data, looking at the data, finding the patterns, but really then what we started to do in the past years, we started to look at any process that we could automate because it was a repeatable process. So what we were trying to do was really like get some of the pain points that were dragging down our resources, our people, that were delivering the service, we were trying to get the pain points off of their backs. And so we ended up using some automated processes and building what we call bots. So we used RPA or robotic process automation to build some bots, to really route activities based upon the topic and make sure that, different work, as I said, I wanted work to be moving at all times. I wanted to see different work moving at an increased velocity. And really the goal was to get the customer who’s on the phone or send us an email that needs something, get them to the right resource that has the answer faster, and really be able to increase the quality of the experience that that customer was having.
Gabe Larsen: (18:08)
I love your mentality. I think a lot of us in CX hear you talk and we believe it’s true. And we think of things like customer journey maps, but it really kind of, they become one-time exercises. They’re kind of fluffy. They don’t really do anything. I don’t know. They don’t really translate. It seems like you translate stuff into action and I just put stuff on paper and don’t really get it done. I mean, any thoughts on helping people move from maybe, maybe it’s just level of where you are? You got to start somewhere, but how do you move from kind of paper to action?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (18:46)
It’s such a good question and I’m glad you hit on the journey maps because I think sometimes I forget that those journey maps are where we started probably three years ago.
Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
And that’s where most of us are stuck three years later.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (19:01)
Yeah. Yeah. So the journey map is a key element of it and that’s where we, even though that journey mapping exercise, started to build out different personas of both our colleagues and our customers. And really, we’ve tried to interview customers. We’ve had panels of customers. We’ve really tried to like gain a big understanding. And then for us, we didn’t just do that work and put it on a shelf. We continued to dig deeper and deeper into it because the journey map is, from my point of view, and I’m a geek about this stuff, admittedly, the journey map really is the very high level, end to end view of the experience. But what we started to do is dig into each of those different connection points and each of those smaller connection points truly has an end to end piece to it. And so we started to dig in a bit deeper. And we’re now at that point where it’s funny where you’re talking about maybe we feel a little bit more mature in our path than what you are typically looking at. We still feel like we’re still immature. And so it’s all in the eye of the beholder, right? We still feel like we have a lot more work to do to meet all the expectations that we’ve set for ourselves.
Gabe Larsen: (20:41)
Yeah. I guess you’re right. It’s always in the eye of the beholder, but it does seem, I’m using [inaudible] with other people, but it seems like a lot of us get stuck on that journey mapping stage. And it’s just so hard to make that actionable and alive and revisited because yeah, we get back to, I don’t know why we don’t do it, but we just don’t.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (21:05)
Well, especially, I think the heart hardest part of CX is that there’s always a customer at the other end that needs something and so I think a lot of times we all become very reactive in this industry and we’re reacting to whatever the customer needs. And that is one thing I think is very unique about the group that I have under my umbrella of the CX operations, is their job, they’re not getting pulled sideways by a customer interaction every day. They’re designed to help us optimize that.
Gabe Larsen: (21:41)
That makes a big difference because a lot of it, like just the people stuff, right? Whether you’re on the, one side of this great resignation, I mean, we got people coming and going and scaling. There are customer challenges and you forget that enablement and op side and you just start being, I like that word, reactive. Okay, well I bugged you enough, but I want to hear one more point. I always like threes. You’ve got data. You’ve got a lot of this just optimization around automation, kind of kicking out the easy stuff that was repeatable processes. Where do you go last?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (22:16)
I think, and this is where we are next and currently, is the next piece is really then helping increase the knowledge of your frontline and colleagues and the frontline resources you have that are interacting with the customer. We actually increase that knowledge capability by using data science techniques. So this is where my geeky side comes out for my engineering background, but we’re using AI, machine learning. We’re using natural language processing and I’ll give you one example really specifically of where we’re using it is, every time a customer chats with us, they go onto our platform. They open up the little box and they start chatting like they’re instant messaging with one of our colleagues. And when they ask a question, we give them an answer. They ask another question, we give them another answer.
Elizabeth Dominicci: (23:20)
All of that interaction is then written or put into a transcription. Well, we then use data science techniques to go and read those transcribed interactions and what we do is we actually use that to look for some keywords. Like maybe there’s an angry customer that really said, “Hey, I don’t want to be your customer anymore.” We’ll pull that out and we’ll have somebody proactively reach out to them and say, “Hey, let’s talk through that interaction you just had. Tell us why you’re upset.” Or we may find somebody that really enjoyed working with us and we may actually call them up and say, “Hey, would you mind being a referral for us?” Our frontline colleague was just there answering their question, but we can actually mine that data for so much more. And so we tend to do that pretty often. We also do the same with any phone interaction and we use NLP to actually listen to those phone recordings and pull out key factors. And we essentially can give every interaction a rating to say, do we think this is a good interaction, a subpar interaction? So that we can actually start to really understand what that customer had as their experience and start using it as a tipping point to say, we think this customer potentially is healthy or not healthy.
Gabe Larsen: (24:59)
Yeah. Oh yeah. That’s, I mean, we got to go there. I think we’ve got to, I think a lot of us are starting to get data, but we’re just, it’s still a little intimidating finding ways to really interpret it and use it. But some of this AI, this, I think this stuff can probably help. That’s probably yeah, the right thing. So really fun conversation. Elizabeth, fun to kind of dive into it. I know we went a little longer than I expected, but you know, it was fun. We hit a lot though. If you were kind of to summarize that, thinking about using data to kind of transform CX, what would you leave with leaders listening today?
Elizabeth Dominicci: (25:35)
What I would leave with is I would absolutely invest in somebody with that data science background. I would make sure that while you are focused on delivering the best experience for your customers, you also have somebody on your team their full-time job is to essentially listen behind the scenes, watch the data, comb through the data and find that needle in a haystack that you don’t see when you’re in that reactive mode. I think that really has been some of our success in the past year here at TriNet.
Gabe Larsen: (26:17)
That’s great. That’s a great leave behind. Alrighty. Well, again, thanks for the talk track. Appreciate you taking the time and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Exit Voice: (26:30)
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