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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Brad Birnbaum, CEO of Kustomer, to learn about how companies can win with their customers in this new space. To learn more about Brad’s vision for future customer success, listen to the full podcast below.
A New Wave of Customer
The modern customer demands that companies are accessible on their preferred platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. Don’t be mistaken, even with the rise of social media being a preferred channel for customer to company communication, phone and email won’t be going away any time soon. Being the ol’ reliable of CX, phone and email are the foundation for social media takeover. Even though many modern customers choose to text or instant message companies through DM, many still resort to using the classic methods to reach an agent quickly.
When a customer feels they’ve exhausted all efforts with DM or chatbots, oftentimes they’ll pick up the phone to contact the service line to speak with a real rep. This is why we still need human agents in CX – because humans are simply better at providing service and solving problems than chatbots. Though highly effective for lower effort problems, chatbots aren’t advanced enough to help with complex customer problems. A combination of advanced tech and human interaction gives the customer the best possible experience.
Data – It’s Never Too Late to Start
Data is constantly talked about in the CX world as more and more leaders are starting to recognize the benefits of utilizing consumer data. For example, if an agent’s helping with a lost order, that agent should be able to look up that customer’s transaction history and tracking info to create a seamless and well-informed interaction. “Data is critical to understanding your customers for those rich experiences.”
To better understand modern customers, agents need an in-depth look at customer data. When agents have access to individual customer data, it optimizes the conversation because they’re able to use specific and necessary details to steer the conversation to the appropriate solution. CX isn’t a one size fits all type of experience; rather, it needs to be personal for customers to build brand relationships and lasting loyalty.
Thinking of Going Digital? Here’s How:
The companies that are doing it right for their modern customers all have something in common – automated processes. There are so many benefits to digital automation in the customer sphere, one being that it makes the agent’s job easier, resulting in happier agents and happier customers. For leaders thinking of going digital, the best place to start is by tracking customer interactions with the CX team where similar solutions are given for similar problems. This is the perfect place to implement a chatbot that recognizes these types of problems and offers solutions without the customer ever having to connect with an agent. From there, “Automate those routine and mundane tasks to get customers their answers and their resolutions faster with a higher quality of accuracy, which translates to higher C-SAT to make your agents more efficient because they’re not dealing with those routine and mundane tasks.” When agents are more efficient and their jobs go smoother, they’re more likely to be happier in their positions, resulting in happier customers.
In summary, going digital is easy with the right platform and the right processes, and is full of countless benefits. Following these suggestions from Brad will surely help your company find success with the modern customer.
To learn more about the future of CX, 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:
Tomorrow’s Customer Experience Starts Here with Brad Birnbaum
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Welcome everybody, I want to introduce a special guest that we have today. Brad Birnbaum, he’s currently the CEO and founder of Kustomer. Brad, thanks for joining. How are you?
Brad Birnbaum: (00:33)
Great today. It’s good to be back. Glad to be doing this. It’s going to be fun.
Gabe Larsen: (00:36)
Great. So Brad, let’s jump into this. Just big picture 2020. I mean, how do you summarize it? How do you put words around it? What are some of those thoughts of the last eight months and what the heck happened?
Brad Birnbaum: (01:33)
I mean, who could have predicted, right? I mean, 2020 is something that our children’s children will remember and hear about. It impacted us in so many ways, right? It impacted us in personal and it impacted people with health and impacted us in business. Well let’s focus on the business side because I think that’s probably the most relevant. So there’s some really interesting things that we all observed business-wise. We saw a retail boom, frankly, right? We were concerned that it was going to maybe be impacted and potentially slow down. But if anything, we saw digital transformation accelerate at rates that nobody saw coming. And we saw it across both traditional retailers and then modern direct to consumer retailers because the shift to purchase online, people still kept buying. So we saw that shift.
Brad Birnbaum: (02:24)
So, we saw that just so many other businesses were shifting the way that they thought about how they were going to engage with their customers, how people were going to want to be receiving support, how they were going to buy products. And it was impacted in a variety of ways. We saw that some companies, from a support perspective, we saw that some companies had staffing challenges to be able to handle the influx of inquiries that came around. They were COVID related. Maybe that business was just really booming. We saw a whole bunch of those. We saw businesses where they have call centers or contact centers abroad where they couldn’t operate at the moment during COVID because of a variety of reasons. So we saw companies quickly bringing those roles back to the states or frankly looking to operationalize them in different ways.
Brad Birnbaum: (03:11)
We saw people taking advantage of deflection. We saw people taking advantage of chat bots for automated responses. We saw people looking to software to help make their agents more efficient. And the combination thereof is what’s allowed so many businesses to scale despite the fact they couldn’t grow their resources as much. So we saw a really, such a rapid transformation, even just from a customer support perspective of how people were leaning more and more on technology and in ways that they could leverage that technology to enable them to grow and sustain during this challenging time.
Gabe Larsen: (03:53)
Yeah. Maybe touch just briefly on the remote work and how you feel like that has impacted a lot of companies and where you see that kind of going forward.
Brad Birnbaum: (04:04)
Sure. Look, I think remote work has impacted the vast majority of us. I think you and I are both doing this from our homes right now, right? So remote working has impacted almost everyone. And I think it was because the world was trending towards remote work, but wow. Did we just put that in hyperdrive?
Brad Birnbaum: (04:25)
So many of the world’s largest companies have announced that they’re embracing remote working in a very permanent way and I think that’s here to stay. I think we’re going to see that change. So as a result, everybody is rapidly adjusting to what that means. So from a call center, contact center perspective, if you’ve got a tool and methodologies to be able to enable remote work, you’re going to be in a great position. And we’ve seen that plenty of companies were set up for success with that. They were using a bunch of tools, including the Kustomer platform that works in a great way remotely. And others that are stuck on some traditional systems are really having a hard time. And we’re doing our best to help them from a customer perspective again, but it’s going to change and it’s going to that level of agility, it’s going to be critical for any business moving forward. And the tooling required is going to impact it. So it’s the processes, it’s the people you hire, and it’s the flexibility in allowing not only people to work where they need to, but allowing you to spin up resources more dynamically.
Gabe Larsen: (05:29)
Yeah, I mean, boy, that’s going to be interesting to see how that continues in 2021. What other questions about 2020? It did seem like consumer expectations, they were different. How would you kind of describe the change and just what happened from the customer’s point of view?
Brad Birnbaum: (05:46)
Well, look. I think people always expect more. They still needed to interface with the businesses in the same way as they used to and they still expect a high level of responsiveness, a high level of quality customer service. And that doesn’t change despite the pandemic, unfortunately. So they still need to see that from the businesses they work with and conduct business with. So those that were able to adapt, whether it be through tooling, whether it be through processes, whether it be through personnel, I think came out of this, will come out of this strong. And those that are having a hard time to adapt are going to probably lose a lot of brand loyalty and customer loyalty because customers will find another alternative. They will seek the opportunities to do business with those that give them great experiences and great service.
Gabe Larsen: (06:37)
Yeah. It just seems like now more than ever before the switching, we’re seeing so many consumers switch back and forth. So let’s talk briefly about how companies can win in 2021. I think you’ve set a nice stage for some of the problems and even touched on some of the solutions, but let’s hit some of those ways you feel like people, brands, companies can really start to win in 2021. Now you touched on this idea of automation and artificial intelligence, click on that. How do you see that shaping company success as we go into 2021?
Brad Birnbaum: (07:11)
Sure. It’s critical, right? The tools and products that exist today can very much rapidly enable you to take advantage of that. So there’s several things to think about. One, as you’re interfacing with your customers, the more you understand them, the more you have a deeper relationship between the business and the customer and you’re able to understand that perhaps I’m reaching out because this hoodie that I just ordered didn’t arrive, or because it’s the wrong size, customers will appreciate that. They expect you to start to know that about them. They expect that you’re reaching out because of potentially a delivery exception or that when you say, “Hey, the hoodie I just ordered doesn’t fit.” They know, well, here’s a previous order. Here’s the size, blah, blah, blah, let’s get it adjusted. So data is critical to understanding your customers for those rich experiences. Then when you couple automation with that, you could automate those routine and mundane tasks to get customers their answers and their resolutions faster with a higher quality of accuracy, which translates to higher C-SAT to make your agents more efficient because they’re not dealing with those routine and mundane tasks.
Brad Birnbaum: (08:14)
So as an example, with that example, if we needed to exchange this for a different size, if you had a product set up with proper automation in a support tool such as Kustomer, you could actually just click on that hoodie, say order larger size. It will take care of all of the back office administration. That if there’s an RMA that needs to be issued, if there’s an inventory search to see if that exists, it can take care of that. Suggestion engines could be queried, and then ultimately the reorder placed, instead of that taking the human being quite a while with slight potential for accidents or mistakes, a computer will do that in milliseconds and you’re saving a lot of efficiency or gaining efficiency or allowing efficiency in your agents. So that also is helpful, not only to service customers better, but agents become happier and we want happy agents in the contact center. They’re going to deliver a better experience. They’re going to be more productive. And frankly, they have a high propensity to probably even stay with the business longer.
Gabe Larsen: (09:07)
I do think that efficiency it’s, we’re all going to be wanting more and more of that as, I think times are improving, but we’re certainly not out of the deep spot. Yeah.
Brad Birnbaum: (09:17)
Let’s talk a little bit though, about some other things we could do around AI and ML because that’s where the fun begins. We didn’t even get to that. So when you have an understanding of your customer and some information around them that might be relevant from a support perspective, if you could apply artificial intelligence, machine learning, there’s many, many things you could do. The simplest thing you could do is deflection. An inbound inquiry might be able to simply deflect. Whether it be an email or a chat and provide the customer that immediate answer right away. So the customer again becomes satisfied that the contact center never has to touch it. That’s a win-win. Second to that though, is you can do a more of an advanced solution or a chatbot and a chatbot will couple machine learning and AI with understanding the customer and being able to provide that very rich experience, that human-like experience in a 24/7 real-time automated fashion, again, without touching a person, but certainly can be escalated to one.
Brad Birnbaum: (10:16)
And the advantage of that is A, it allows you to scale much more infinitely, allows customers to get answers incredibly rapidly, and allows your agents to do what’s most important, solve the hard things, the really hard things. The things that the machines can’t yet do. Solve the really hard things. And that’s where you’ll start to see that happen. And then you apply AI and ML to agent capabilities too, suggesting the response, suggesting the next best action, predicting, scheduling for your contact center. There’s so many great things you can now do with intelligence that are going to make for experiences that are better for the company, the customers and the agents. And that of course, translates to a win-win across the board.
Gabe Larsen: (10:55)
I think that’s going to be, I think that’s going to be absolutely huge. One more follow up on this is just about the channel chain. I think in 2020, we certainly saw the phone and email weren’t going anywhere. People were using that and companies saw an uptick and some saw a downtick, but we did start to see even more focus on digital channels. Thoughts on kind of the omni-channel experience, thoughts on multiple channels as we go into 2021? What role does that play in the company’s success?
Brad Birnbaum: (11:24)
In today’s day and age, we all communicate through a vast variety of channels. Social, text and chat and email and phone, et cetera, and customers want to interface with companies in the same way, that preferred mechanism. And people have a variety that they enjoy and they do have a preference for. So for us, we think it’s critically important that businesses communicate with customers in the fashion they want. So for us, we think about omni-channel as a way to talk to your customers in the way that they want across all of the different channels. So, as an example, you could very easily begin a lightweight discussion about a problem through texting or chatting or an email, but then it may ultimately escalate and they may ultimately call you later. And you want to be able to continue that same thread of discussion across all of those channels and be able to context switch between them, even if you’re on a phone call, but to him, “I’m going to email you the answer to your problem or I’m going to text it to you right now.” And you could do all that in the same thread of conversation to keep it aggregated together. It’s critically important and highly valuable in the way we all work today and communicate today. And I think that businesses for a while have really been behind the times in that and haven’t adjusted. And we’re starting to see that come along as people are really, really embracing omni-channel, the way that we see it here at Kustomer. And I’m excited to see that metamorphosis happening because it will be transformative to enabling better relationships between companies and customers.
Gabe Larsen: (12:58)
I love it. I think from an AI perspective, data, omni-channel are three big things that I think will affect 2021. As we kind of look to close this section, is any advice you’d have for customer service leaders who are, some people are having more success than they’ve ever had, some are fighting to stay alive, what would be that kind of takeaway you’d give to customer service leaders who are going into 2021 and really looking to still compete, still differentiate still, still win?
Brad Birnbaum: (13:29)
So always put your customers first. That’s our mantra here at our company and it should be everybody’s mantra. Always be willing to go above and beyond for our customers. The loyalty will pay back massive dividends. Two, take advantage of technology and tooling to help you. If you’re not, you’re only hurting yourselves. Like you don’t, I won’t say go to work because most of us work from home nowadays, but you don’t take a horse and buggy anymore, you take a car because technology has evolved. Well, contact center technologies have evolved as well, and you should be taking advantage of that and making sure you’re using the latest and greatest tooling capabilities that are out there right now to take advantage of deflection and chatbots and AI and ML and suggesting responses. And it’s critically important to the ability to provide the higher quality experience that your customers expect in the 24/7 nature. They expect it. And then third, I do think you need to go above and beyond to enable your contact center agents to deliver those great experiences and really do your best to arm them with tools such as knowledge. Arm them with tools such as the ability to context switch between their channels and simply just make sure they’re properly well-trained and I think that combination should line you up for success in 2021.
Gabe Larsen: (14:48)
Awesome. Awesome. Well, Brad, thanks for joining.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:51)
Gabe Larsen: (14:52)
Thanks everybody. Bye-bye.
Brad Birnbaum: (14:52)
Exit Voice: (14:58)
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