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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Ed Porter, Chief Revenue Officer at Blue Chip CRO, to discuss the changing customer environment. Learn how Ed has adapted to new consumer needs by listening to the podcast below.
Tips for Relating With The Customer
Having years of experience and quite a diverse background in customer engagement, Ed Porter has developed a deep understanding of his customers. Considering each touch point throughout the customer engagement process, Ed claims that companies will better relate to their customers as they analyze and adapt these touchpoints to the different customers they have. He says, “So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels.” Understanding every aspect of each customer interaction can help companies better serve their audience by better adapting to their wants and needs. Knowing aspects such as who the customers are, what they’re looking for, how they interact with the brand, etc, are all helpful when adjusting products or policies to better fit the customer demographics.
Reactive Vs. Proactive Customer Service
Ed explains the difference between proactive and reactive CX and the benefits of both. One of the first steps in creating a successful CX team is making sure that your agents have the necessary tools, information, and skills needed to produce rewarding results. Next is evaluating how the brand should go about in creating and enforcing their customer service ideals. Ed mentions, “You keep your employees happy, you provide good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers.” Proactive customer support happens when employees are well trained and knowledgeable about a brand’s products and services. The reactive side of customer support comes into play when preventing future problems from happening through customer education. Educating the customer, using focus groups, user testing, etc, can all help to lessen the amount of upset customer interactions, further benefiting the brand name.
Start with the Business Model
Ed understands that it can be difficult for CX leaders in companies that aren’t large corporations to improve their teams as a whole and to implement change. Striving to completely understand the business, setting goals, and creating an action plan for how to accomplish those goals are the keys to creating CX success at a base level. To further evaluate this, Ed explains:
You can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience.
You don’t have to be a large corporation to really nail customer support. Simply aligning the company with its beliefs and making sure that each department is on the same page when it comes to the customer service standard, is sure to bring about customer satisfaction. Ed urges each brand to reflect on what they really want out of each customer interaction and to continue to “evolve and innovate” and adapt with the ever changing customer environment.
To learn more about the secrets to understanding the customer environment, 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 Better Understand Your Customer | Ed Porter
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 all things customer experience and to do that we brought on a good, my best friend.
Ed Porter: (00:21)
There you go.
Gabe Larsen: (00:21)
My best work friend, one of my better work friends. His name’s Ed Porter. Ed and I go way back. First met at a conference, maybe six years ago. Was it Ed, is that we decided? Five, six years?
Ed Porter: (00:33)
Yeah. Five, six years ago.
Gabe Larsen: (00:35)
And Ed’s got an interesting background. He’ll probably double click on that in just a second, but played in the call center space, knows customer service, dove into the sales space, really helped engineer and transform an inside sales team. Now starting to do a lot on his own from a consulting standpoint as he plays kind of CRO for different companies and really helps them think about the whole lifetime customer value, kind of start to finish from customers, engaging with you all the way from kind of talking to you post-sales. So with that, Ed, thanks for joining. How are you, man?
Ed Porter: (01:09)
Yeah, thanks. Appreciate it. And glad to see you on the other side of the fence. On the customer support side.
Gabe Larsen: (01:16)
That’s right. That’s right, man. Tell us a little more. Tell us a little bit more about your background, some of the fun things you’ve done.
Ed Porter: (01:19)
Yeah, so I grew up in the outsource contact center space. So for me, it was my first job. I was working part time as a call center rep while I was in college, trying to do that and found myself eight years later at the company risen through the ranks and had multiple sites that I was overseeing and a little over a thousand total employees through a lot of different levels of that management. So that’s really where I grew up in my professional career and learned just an immense amount of information and really what drew my passion to understanding the customer side of things both as a consumer myself, and being able to relate in the roles that I was in, that these are the things to strive for and aligning your customer satisfaction process to your internal QA process and how those two really need to be on par. And then even to a point where there were points in time where I would be irritated at the sales team for how they sold or didn’t sell something and then we had to support it. So that’s really what built the foundation for me and drove my passion in the customer experience side of the fence, and then went from there to software sales. So, that’s where I really got my start in sales working for a startup that was a call recording software for enterprise contact centers. So, got to learn the sales side of the fence while in a field that I was still familiar with. And then of course jumped into inside sales, built an inside sales team from scratch then went to a CRO of an organization where I ran the full customer life cycle from marketing sales to customer success. And then we successfully led that organization to an acquisition, and then I’ve been on my own for the past year, doing really different things for different clients, but all centered around this CRO type of role and more so encompassing that full customer life cycle and ensuring that everything is aligned from marketing to sales, to ongoing customers experience.
Gabe Larsen: (03:29)
I love it. Yeah, that’s a real checkered background, but I appreciate you jumping on and sharing some of the goods with us today. So we’ll be focusing more on the customer side of the house, not on the prospect side of the house. We did record a podcast on the prospect side of the house maybe four years ago, but we’re going to pass on that one for the moment. We’ll focus on the customer. So as you’ve kind of integrated yourself into this post-sales world, or re-integrated, I know you started there and you’re coaching companies on this whole life cycle of the customer, what have been some of the findings and things you’ve found that have been those deal makers that change the way companies see their customer and ultimately interact and see that satisfaction score up and down? Where do you, where do you start?
Ed Porter: (04:12)
Yeah, so I think the big thing, and you kind of teed this up maybe about a month ago on LinkedIn, which I was extremely happy that that’s being talked about was this terminology around customer experience and what does it really mean? What do you call the team of people that handles customer inquiries, support, whatever the case is, what do you call that team? And I think that’s been probably something that’s gotten a lot more in the spotlight over recent years. If you rewind 15 years ago, that really wasn’t a thing. Customer experience at times kind of got related into marketing way back when, and I think that was kind of the big thing for me, which now companies are starting to adopt is what does that really mean? And it means more than just a touch. It’s more than just that single inquiry. It’s what happened before, what happened during, what happens after and knowing that that can tie very closely to what omni-channel is. So when you think about your support as a business and how you’re enabling your customer, educating your customer and supporting your customer, you have to do that through many different lenses, through many different channels. So this, there’s a complicated mechanism out there within customer experience. When you think about how your customer interacts with your company and your brand, this could be anything from a radio advertisement to a print ad, to a digital marketing ad, to an ongoing product usage or consuming of clothing or product lines, how they’re receiving packages and what’s inside the packages. So there’s a lot of those touch points now that are starting to be examined and the companies that are doing it right, you can have the Amazons and the Apples and the Microsofts out there, but I’ll tell you the ones that are really doing it, right. You don’t have to be these big enterprises. You just have to look at a lot of these tools and processes to say, “Does marketing know what we’re doing on the support side? Are we sharing the same message? Is that message being delivered to that customer?” And you drive consistency for those channels. That’s how you’re delivering a good customer experience. The first step is alignment. The second step then is putting yourself in those, in the customer’s shoes, because if I’m a founder of a company, I’m the farthest one away from the customer. So how do I really know what the customer wants? I don’t. I got to go to perform these focus groups and perform these surveys, figure out through satisfaction surveys. What do customers really want in a buying experience and how do you align your different service offerings to them? And it’s just a constant re-engineering of things. It’s being able to look at the data within your transactions that are happening between your frontline and your customers. It’s being able to look at speech analytics types of solutions and understanding chat engagements and understanding what does that mean between a phone call interaction with Gabe Larsen or chat interaction with Gabe Larsen and an email interaction? What does all that mean? And are they completely different issues? Are they similar issues? So there’s a lot of examining on a single touch point to figure out what is that customer experience really like for that singular unit of Gabe Larson, as opposed to a mass unit of thousands and thousands of customers?
Gabe Larsen: (07:40)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean I love the idea of looking at that more broadly, bringing in kind of the full touchpoint analysis. And I think people with minds are trying to bring all of this together under one umbrella. I want to go one another place with you. As you think about touch points, that’s just a big conversation in the customer service world around omni-channel, multi-channel. Do customers want to come on the phone, not come on the phone? Where do you stand on this unique or differentiated channel approach and why or why is it not important?
Ed Porter: (08:12)
Yeah, I think the biggest thing, again, from what my previous message was is you gotta be where your customer is. You got things like generational differences. There are some generations that the millennials kind of get thrown under the bus here, but they’re the ones who want to text and do everything online and they want instant gratification. And whether or not you subscribe to that theory, there are plenty of people who want to, who prefer that method. So no longer is customer experience a one size fits all. It’s, unless you’re serving one singular demographic, then maybe you can cater to that more. But other than that, there are people who want to use the phone and talk to a human and don’t want to get lost at a voice automated IVR. There are people that want to chat with you and they want to chat with you at 10 o’clock or 11 o’clock at night or five or 6:00 AM when they’re coming home from work on the night shift. So, if those are the types of customers that you’re catering to, that’s the first one being available in the channel that they want to talk to you, not necessarily just the one you want to deliver. So I think that’s a big one. When you look at how do you deliver service and support to a customer and understand who the customer is? Who are they? Is it somewhere where you’re serving the public or you’re in a B2C world where you kind of gotta be 24/7, or are you in more of a B2B world where your customer is a traditional first shift or maybe second shift? So I think that’s availability. And then the second is the channel and we’re just seeing increases left and right on these non-voice channels. Email was the big hype probably ten, 15 years ago, where you had companies that were coming up with these email management systems. And now you got to go integrate that into chat. You got to look at bots that can really help out that. I kind of look at a bot being a digital alternative to like an IVR, very similar technologies operating in similar fashions to ultimately try and deliver some self-service. So these are channels that really got to be done. And I’m going to take a little bit from some of your past life. And we know that there is a lot of research done by buyers. 54, 56%, whatever the case is before they interact with somebody. That’s an important data point to know, understand on the customer experience side of things too, because not everybody wants self-service, but there are plenty of people who do. And if you don’t have a great FAQ or great online support or research, all that’s going to do is clog up labor from your team having to fill these calls. And again, you may not be delivering the support or the experience that the customer wants. So I think when you look at customer experience and omni-channel, they’re really hand-in-hand because you gotta be available wherever they want to consume you and really not the other way around.
Gabe Larsen: (11:07)
Yeah, it does. I love your first line, which is you got to meet the customer where they are. I usually think that’s, we’re all focusing on the customer. If you haven’t asked, what do they prefer, where they’re at? And you’re assuming that they just want to be on this channel or that channel, you might be up a creek, find yourself –
Ed Porter: (11:24)
Yeah. Oh yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (11:24)
– place. One of the other debates or debate isn’t the right word, but certainly the conversation is, is this movement. I think maybe COVID helped push us that direction, but it’s reactive versus proactive customer service. And you’re finding that a lot more often companies are finding ways to reach out and interact in ways that maybe they haven’t done because this world has been so inbound focused. It’s been so, “Why don’t we just kind of sit on our heels and wait for something and then optimize the experience around that?” But COVID, in some instances or the digital transformation that COVID [inaudilbe] change that, what’s your take on this and how are companies maximizing it?
Ed Porter: (12:05)
Yeah, I think COVID certainly accelerated the transformation and really forced some things. And the biggest thing it forced, I would say globally, is just how do you do work from home? So that’s a very high level. And then you take it down to the customer experience. There’s, you have traditional contact center reps that have been doing work from home forever. I remember back in 2002 at the outsource contact center, I was on a steering committee where we were actually looking at turnover in the contact center and why is it so high? And we had, I started researching work from home. And back then there were contact center companies that were only around virtually. So there was technology back then where businesses were being built virtually. So it existed, but the challenge was getting that, getting that push to how do you do it? And it’s one of those things that’s probably on every executive’s whiteboard, it just never gets prioritized really highly because quite frankly, there’s some other fires to put out, but that’s one of the things is how do you manage people and how do you manage people remotely? And you’ve kind of got to figure that out to make sure your employees are successful before you can expect them to deliver a great customer experience. So I think this shift has forced them to focus on that. Prior to that, digital transformation has been happening. And I think that curve, if we started in the early two thousands, was really slow and long and it’s starting to kind of peek up a little bit. And like I said, COVID really just accelerated that. So I think this again goes into, there was a saying back in my day, which was, “ESAT equals CSAT.” So employee satisfaction, you keep your employees happy, you provide a good culture and environment and training and coaching, they’re going to deliver good service to your customers. Now, whether or not you buy into that, I don’t know. But there’s an interesting correlation there to say, “I want to make sure that my employees are trained properly, are coached properly, to make sure that they have all the latest and greatest information and making sure that that information is not only digested, but also implemented.” So this whole digital transformation, those start with an overall, an overarching communication strategy and how that works. How do you, you’ve got a rep that’s been on the phones or on the chat or on email for two years, but like any product, things change. So how, what’s your ongoing coaching and education process? Like how do you manage that and then take care of your employees? And then quite frankly, they can do that from anywhere. So when you start looking at proactive versus reactive support, the proactive support comes into not only training you on how to do something better, or if it’s a new product or a different process, but it’s also, how do you take that to the customer so that you can prevent a phone call or a chat because ultimately, this has never happened. The customer never calls and says, “Hey, I just wanna tell you guys you’re doing a good job.” So everyone’s always calling or chatting or emailing because there’s a problem. So the reactive side is how do we prevent the problems? And that has to do a lot with customer education. Has to do a lot with product and quality control and things like that. But that’s where those types of departments gotta be intertwined into this whole customer experience. So the reactive side is how do you keep a pulse on the customer? Looking at voice of the customer initiatives, developing projects, developing focus groups, developing interviews, and surveys. There’s a lot of channels to connect with your customers. How you build that and take that feedback is an ongoing process. So even to the form of, at a previous company, we had a customer advisory council that we formed with customers, and it was simply, “Here’s some new features we’re thinking about rolling out. Good or bad? Rip it apart or tell us what we need to do differently.” That wasn’t the only source, but it was a source of us getting customer information. We did surveys, we did focus groups. These are some big things. When you look at customers where you have thousands and hundreds of thousands of customers, how do you do it? Surveys tend to be some of the most effective, but it’s a constant process, not a one-time thing. Figure out your plan for the next year or two. It’s got to happen regularly in order to see what’s happening. What do customers really want? That’s the reactive side or the proactive side. The reactive side is what traditional customer experience centers are; just wait for the call or complaint or the problem and do what you can to solve that problem for the first time. So those are very reactive.
Gabe Larsen: (16:47)
I think the digital, the digital stuff is pushing us one way or another and pushing us into boundaries, obviously that we maybe weren’t prepared for, but we’re getting prepared pretty quickly. So a couple of different topics, but you’re on, you’re in the face of different companies and customer service organizations trying to optimize in these changing times. As we part today, any kind of leave behind or takeaways you’d leave for customer experience leaders trying to navigate and be successful in these challenging times?
Ed Porter: (17:15)
Yeah. I think even outside of where we’re at right now, I think the big thing to, to look at in the customer experience world is, technology is a piece of it and there is so much amazing technology out there, but technology doesn’t solve the problem and technology has to kind of be that enabler. So what I would leave behind to any customer experience executive is to focus on the business first, go figure out what you want to do, how you want to do it and then look at technology to enable that process. Don’t look at technology to create the process. So I think that’s the big one, technology is not going away. And if anything, it’s just, there’s going to be a lot more noise. There’s going to be more startups coming around. There’s going to be better solutions out there that continue to innovate and evolve. And there’s always going to be some really cool things that they do. And I think that’s great, but use that to build a better process first, before you try and look to technology to solve a problem.
Gabe Larsen: (18:20)
I love it. I love it. Well Ed, appreciate you jumping on today. It’s always fun catching up sales, customer service, whatever. Someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little more about what you do, what’s the best way to do it?
Ed Porter: (18:32)
Yes, definitely on LinkedIn. I love LinkedIn for a lot of different reasons. So I’m there. Look me up, Ed Porter. There’s not a whole lot of Ed Porters. I think there’s actually maybe a Senator or a Councilman out in California and then there’s a photographer that I know of. So there’s only a few. I’m in Columbus, Ohio, so I’d love to connect with people. And I’d love to just chat more about this. It’s a great topic and something that I’m really passionate about.
Gabe Larsen: (18:59)
Awesome, awesome. Again, appreciate the talk track. Appreciate you jumping on and for the audience, have a fantastic day.
Ed Porter: (19:04)
Yeah, definitely. Thanks Gabe.
Exit Voice: (19:11)
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