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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Balaji Gadicharla to discuss the secrets of understanding the global customer. Learn how Balaji connects with customers on a global scale by listening to the podcast below.
Serving Customer Needs Efficiently
Global Head of Service Support and Success at CipherCloud, Balaji Gadicharla has over 20 years of experience working with customers and providing service. When asked about his time working on the worldwide spectrum and how he has been able to provide excellent CX throughout the globe, Balaji notes, “We should be able to provide a unified experience to our customer, to all our customers across all incidents.” To elaborate on this idea, Balaji explains that when a company doesn’t have unified teams, the customer is easily confused. In these instances, a customer is handed from team to team until they finally reach a resolution. Shortening this process leads to garnered customer loyalty and to do so, he suggests creating a triage approach where people from different teams work together to reach a solution for the customer. “We formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted.” Rather than having multiple people speak to the customer at different times and further prolonging the process, Balaji and his triage approach continues to delight customers by serving their needs more efficiently.
Working With, Not Against Cultural Differences
Effective service differs by definition across varying cultures and time zones. It’s extremely important for CX leaders to understand how their service should be delivered across different customer landscapes by evaluating how embedded cultures affect work time, language, and customs. On this topic, Balaji believes, “We need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask.” Holidays, acceptable work times, cultural norms, and preferred schedules should all be taken into consideration when coaching CX teams. Beyond the customer scope, operational teams need to be able to transition work seamlessly between shifts and time zones, providing a consistent customer experience across the board. Balaji enforces the idea, “When people rotate the shifts, their transition work should happen seamlessly.” Understanding the customer from a cultural perspective allows for compassionate and empathetic responses from CX teams, further assisting the company in its journey to become trusted partners.
Becoming a Trusted Partner within Customer Ecosystems
Becoming a trusted partner is a crucial element to lasting customer loyalty, starting with going beyond responding to customer desire. This step really sets CX teams apart from others when customers feel that not only their needs are met but that they are catered to in many different areas regarding their experience with a brand. Part of this step is to understand the customer as a whole and to take into account their entire ecosystem of operations. How a customer operates, when they operate versus when they don’t are all part of their ecosystem. Getting to the trusted partner stage in a relationship with a customer can be a daunting task for leaders. To help alleviate their worries, Balarji offers some practical advice, “You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them.” Being honest with the customer (even if it’s not good news), going beyond basic expectations, and understanding their ecosystem is sure to boost and engage loyalty.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Customer Success on a Global Scale | Balaji Gadicharla
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. We’re going to be talking customer success, how to do that on a global scale. And to do that, we brought on Balaji Gadicharla who is currently the global Head of Service, Support and Success at Cipher Support. So Balaji, thanks for joining. How are you?
Balaji Gadicharla: (00:29)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks for having me here. I’m doing great.
Gabe Larsen: (00:32)
Yeah, it’s quite a different world we’ve been living in and I know that’s impacted your world as well as everybody else. So appreciate you jumping on. We’ve been kind of tossing notes back and forth. But maybe you could start just by telling us, you have a fun background. Tell us a little about yourself and some of the things you’ve done around service, success, support and in your career.
Balaji Gadicharla: (00:54)
Sure. Yeah. So first of all, thanks for this opportunity, Gabe. I know we have been going a little back and forth, but finally we made it. So a little bit of background about myself. So at around 20 years of experience in the technology sector. I’ve been working for various companies in the Bay Area for around 15 years. Then currently, I’m now in India. So when I was there in the Bay Area, I worked for E-Trade, Adobe, TiVo Corporation at various roles, primarily in IT, but I also was looking after professional services support. And my last role in India was for CipherCloud. So CipherCloud is a cloud access security broker, CASB company, headquartered in San Jose. And we have offices in India, which is a big center here and we have customers spread across the world. So a majority of my things that they want to discuss today with respect to customer experience is going to be based on my, the way we handled it at CipherCloud, because it was an evolving company. There was a lot of stuff that were happening, a lot of moving parts. So in short, that is my background, so –
Gabe Larsen: (02:08)
Yeah, no, I love it. That’s a helpful overview. Tell us just outside of work. Sometimes I like to ask, any hobbies or fun things just to get to know you? You a hiker, climber, soccer player, or anything like that?
Balaji Gadicharla: (02:20)
Yeah. I’m not a climber, but I’m definitely interested in hiking. So I’ve done a couple of decent hikes in the past. I’ve done Grand Canyon. I went to Phantom Ranch and came up, did Half Dome in Yosemite. And then in India I did a –
Gabe Larsen: (02:35)
Balaji Gadicharla: (02:35)
Yeah, that was long time ago though.
Gabe Larsen: (02:40)
Wow, that’s exciting.
Balaji Gadicharla: (02:40)
Yeah. And then in India, I make it like, kind of a ritual once a year to go somewhere with the family. But occasionally I do venture out on my own and a couple of years back, I went to Himalayas for around a week of trek and that was fun. It was a place called [inaudible]. So I do, yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (02:57)
Balaji Gadicharla: (02:57)
I try to do a couple of hikes and [inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (03:01)
Grand Canyon is not too, I’m actually at the moment, for the holidays I’m over in Utah.
Balaji Gadicharla: (03:08)
Oh, really? Wow.
Gabe Larsen: (03:08)
Not too far from Grand Canyon. We’ve got some great national monuments out here. If you’re ever out here, let me know. Well, let’s jump in. I want to start big picture. You’ve had an amazing career in dealing with customers, visiting them, strategizing with them. As you think about customer service and customer experience and driving customer success, what are some of the big things on your mind or trends or problems that you’ve seen as you’ve kind of traveled the globe?
Balaji Gadicharla: (03:40)
Yeah. See, one thing that strikes me is when we are talking to our customers, they say like, “Sometimes we get service. Sometimes we don’t get that same level of service.” Same thing happens with support while we are dealing with the different cases or different points in time. So what it means is, we should be able to provide a unified experience to our customers, to all our customers across all incidents. So it should not be transactional. I guess somebody picks up a phone and then calls your boss and then everything starts falling in place. That’s not how it should be run, right? So I thought after visiting with a lot of customers, this is one thing that was kind of a challenge for me as a person in the role that I was in, not just in this company that I worked for until recently, but even in the past, right? So even when I looked online or when I talked to other people in this profession, I see that giving this a unified experience, and then the customer realizes you as one monolithic entity and not different departments within this vendor company. That is a big challenge.
Gabe Larsen: (04:47)
Wow. Yeah. And that’s something, what do you say? I mean, if you’ve experienced it, do you feel like, what, if I had to, you had to put your thumb on it, what percentage of companies do you think are doing it right? Really have that kind of unified approach? Is it just almost nobody? Or do you feel like you’re seeing more and more people get there?
Balaji Gadicharla: (05:06)
There are companies. I mean, I would say like 20 to 30% can do that. With the passage of time, their processes will mature and then they will get there. But the smaller firms are the firms who are at a very rapid pace of growth. They try to, miss a couple of things and then they learn the lessons the hard way, right? That’s not how it should be. So you can follow a couple of things and then come to that point much faster and in a much more predictable way.
Gabe Larsen: (05:35)
Yeah. How do you then move to, if you see this problem, how are companies, do you feel like tackling it? Any advice or best practices you’ve seen that they’ve kind of been doing?
Balaji Gadicharla: (05:47)
Yeah, sure. Yeah. So, let me give some examples of what we did at CipherCloud to achieve this, right? So we had customers globally. We had in New Zealand, Russia, Israel, North America of course, and then all over Europe. So what we did was I would support, our mission primarily was focused in India. I mean, we were serving our customers from India, but at the same time, we also had escalation teams. Escalation managers have some advantage points. Some people were there in North America close to a set of customers. Some people were there in Europe. So they were following this, follow the same model, whenever there was a necessity, the escalation team was there to pick up the phone and call the customer or make a visit physically, right? So that’s one thing that we want, we did. And the other thing was, we established certain dedicated teams. So most of the cases, what happens is in technology companies, you have to wait for the engineer to come on board and they’re on the call and then explain why this problem is happening. And then product management gets onto the call and then tries to tell when the next feature is going to, and all these things will confuse the customer, right? So we formed a team and now it’s a tandem of a product manager, engineering and support. So these three people will jump on the call at the same time and that actually served the purpose many times because the customer was delighted. “Oh, wow. You brought all the team members in one shot.” [Inaudible].
Gabe Larsen: (07:13)
Wow. Yeah, so that was kind of a, more of a triage approach where you jumped in to actually say, “Hey, rather than talking to multiple people, let’s just see if we can get on together and provide more of a structured, cohesive answer where everyone’s more aligned.”
Balaji Gadicharla: (07:28)
That’s right. That’s right.
Gabe Larsen: (07:30)
So it sounds like one of the big things you’ve found is this unified, kind of customer experience, everything in one place and you’ve given some tips on how you’ve seen best practice companies deal with that. Where do you go next? What’s that other big challenge or things you failed where people are either stumbling or trends are moving towards that direction?
Balaji Gadicharla: (07:51)
Right. Yeah. So the other thing is that the cultural aspect of it also, right? I mean, nowadays all these companies are global and we are always engaged with some customer color or another and unfortunately during these COVID days, you don’t even see them face to face many times. So we need to understand from the cultural perspective, we need to train our people what type of questions to ask and what not to ask. And then at the operation level, you need to make sure that the transition work happens from one team to other team or from one, a team that is taking care of the time zone, right? Shifts. So when people rotate the shifts, their transitional work should happen seamlessly. That’s one thing, right? And the other thing is, from the cultural perspective, you cannot expect that some of the countries, some of the team members to work at a particular time or make a change to their systems during particular time frames. For example, Thanksgiving and Christmas, US will get busy. August is typically– UK will get busy. You don’t find too many people to do certain tasks. So if you are already aware of it, and in some cases, if you are even aware of the maintenance windows of your customers, that would help a lot.
Gabe Larsen: (09:01)
And do you feel like that there is, that this is one of the problems that a lot of people are running into? They just don’t understand that the kind of the nature of their customers?
Balaji Gadicharla: (09:12)
That’s right, right? I mean they don’t understand because sometimes they’re so busy just working on the issues and all, they don’t understand that certain things cannot be done in a finance company during month-end closure, quadrant closure, year end closure, right? Some things can be done, cannot be done. So what we did was we actually asked for the maintenance schedule windows of our customers, our four key customers, not all customers, it’s not going to happen. But some of our key strategic customers, we had their maintenance window calendar with us. So instead of just going and asking them, “When can you make this change in your production system?” We already knew, when is the next possible date. So that also helped us to basically be part of the environment and then give them some extra service.
Gabe Larsen: (09:59)
Got it. And do you feel like companies, what are they doing to overcome some of this stuff? Do you feel like there’s a best practice you’ve seen to approach and tackle that?
Balaji Gadicharla: (10:10)
Right. So the best practice I would say is like, understanding the business of your customer. So just don’t like that, we should not just like assume that it is some person or some customer sitting there, but try to understand the ecosystem of the customer. How, where they’re operating, how they’re operating, and that helps you to go one level further to see how you as a vendor is going to fit into that ecosystem, right? So that helps.
Gabe Larsen: (10:39)
Yeah, I think that’s probably the best place to go. If you can just bring it all into that one ecosystem, that one vendor.
Balaji Gadicharla: (10:46)
Gabe Larsen: (10:46)
That makes a big, big difference. But it’s hard. I talked to one gentleman, he said he had a “Frankenstack,” right? You’re working with so many systems and so many vendors, sometimes it’s hard to find a way to bring that together in a system that can actually provide, maybe not everything, but more of a, something that actually works for you.
Balaji Gadicharla: (11:09)
I mean, there are ways, right? For example, if you see this connected strategy approach. So there are like, it talks about four levels, right? On the first level, you’re talking of response to design. So customer wants something and the vendor provides something and that’s really basic. That’s elementary. Where you need to get is being a trusted partner of the customer. And then once you have that, you can automatically look into their system and then do changes into the system, of course, with their permission. But that is where you need to be. The fourth stage, the trusted partner, right? For that to happen, if you understand the business, if you understand the ecosystem, how they are running their business and how you fit in into the customer ecosystem, you can jump from level one of responding to desire to make a curated offering, be a coach, behavior, and finally become a trusted partner. It’s possible. You have to basically identify what are the things that you will do with respect to your customers at each of these levels and be a trusted partner.
Gabe Larsen: (12:09)
Yeah. That trusted partner, I think, is where we’re all trying to get. In closing, I think a lot of service and success people are looking for edges on how to win and how to compete. What would be that advice you’d leave to them as they try to, in these tumultuous times really differentiate with the customer experience?
Balaji Gadicharla: (12:27)
Right. Yeah. So I think in a, even if it is not good news for the customer, be honest, right? Instead of just over promising and under delivering go the other way around. You better under promise and then over deliver because nothing makes a customer mad than you setting up some incorrect expectations and not meeting them. Particularly during these times when everyone is virtual and they’re struggling between work and life and a lot of things have happened, it’s not the usual way of doing business. So if you have some connectivity issues and if you cannot make it to a particular meeting for whatever reason, just be honest about it and don’t try to basically be hero of the situation, right? People do understand. A lot of them have seen this and it works.
Gabe Larsen: (13:12)
I love that. I love that. So, hey, really appreciate the talk track. I think we’ve covered a lot of bases. If someone wants to get in touch with you or learn a little bit more about some of the things you’ve talked about today, what’s the best way to do that?
Balaji Gadicharla: (13:24)
Oh, they can connect me on the, on the LinkedIn. They can search for my name. Balaji Gadicharla. They should be able to find it. Yeah.
Gabe Larsen: (13:31)
Awesome. Awesome. Okay. Well, hey, really appreciate it. Hope you have a fantastic day and same for the audience. Guys, thanks so much for joining and have a great day.
Balaji Gadicharla: (13:39)
Thanks Gabe. Thanks. I appreciate it very much.
Exit Voice: (13:47)
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