From Average to Best: Optimizing the Customer Support Journey
Vanessa Gates 00:11
Hey everyone, welcome back to Masters of Support. I am Vanessa Gates, your host and today with me, I have Adam Saad, he is the founder and CEO of Tech Stack Advising. So Adam, thanks so much for being here with me today.
Adam Saad 00:26
Thanks Vanessa, I’m so happy to be here on a Masters of Support, appreciate the invite.
Vanessa Gates 00:31
Absolutely, absolutely. So Adam, before we go ahead and get started, can you tell us a little bit about Tech Stack Advising, kind of what you do and how do you service the CX industry?
Adam Saad 00:42
Sure. So Tech Stack Advising works with I.T. and Contact Center professionals to build the best processes, to service the customer, and adopt technology to maximize the customer and agent experience. There’s so many vendors in the market, and often it’s tough to choose which vendor is going to be the best for you. So our promise to customers is this. Number one, we’ll help you choose the right software, we’ll help you do it in a fraction of the time, and we’re going to help you get the best price. We’ve worked with contact centers for the last 10 years, working with brands in retail health care, technology and finance and really everything in between. So it’s been a fun ride.
Vanessa Gates 01:22
I bet it has. So for our listeners joining us today, we’re going to be talking about the customer journey and how do you make your agent, your best agents. So Adam, I know you work a lot with a lot of call centers, and you’re really passionate about improving the customer journey. So let’s go ahead and start with, how would you know if agents are delivering the best customer service?
Adam Saad 01:45
Well, when it comes to customer service, and your customer journey, and how to improve it, the first thing you need to do is you need to document your customer journey and your customer experience. Seriously, when was the last time you know not you Vanessa, but you know, for the audience, when was the last time you documented and wrote down your customer journey from a support perspective? If it’s been more than a year, map it out and write it out again. Think of it right from the start, there’s a problem, where do people go?There’s a lot of different starting points that customers start with when they have issues, they can go to Google, they can go to your website, they can go to your community portal, maybe they call their sales rep, they have to dig through their email to find the last person they talked to. There are so many different starting points and you as a customer experience professional customer service professional, you have to account for every starting point in the customer journey. So I have absolutely zero stats to back this up. But I’ve been to hundreds of call centers delivering support, and can probably count on less than two hands the teams that have an up to date customer journey mapped out on paper. So the first thing you have to do is you have to map out your existing customer journey and go from there.
Vanessa Gates 03:04
So I’m just thinking about even the COVID times come bringing that in here and just how much customer service has changed. You know, pre-COVID and now where we’re in this state of era that we’re at now I just feel like even if you don’t know what the customer journey looks like, definitely call in to see what that is now and just think about how much that has changed in the last two years. So what about auditing the agents specifically, do you, what are your thoughts on that? Should we, should we not audit them? If so, how would you do so?
Adam Saad 03:42
Yeah, it’s all about starting with the acronym, everyone loves the people process, and technology. So first thing you do is you audit your people, your teams, understand how your different teams are dispersed and how they’re skilled to agent to handle different inquiries as agents. The next is you help them establish a process, now, here’s what everyone wants to do. Again, I’ve been to hundreds of different contact centers, call centers, and everyone when I go to shadow an agent, you say, “I’m going to put you with my best agent,” and the answer is no. Do not put me with your best agent, your best agent is probably your best because they have intangibles, personality traits that mean their self starting their problem solving maybe they care more than your other agents. Sometimes you can’t teach those intangibles. So when you’re trying to establish an agent audit and customer experience, we got to start with your average agent, because we want to make your average agent level up to be your best agent. So again, your best agents are your best in spite of your bad process and broken technology.
But yeah, you absolutely have to audit your agent experience and your customer experience and I think you can you can do both with the same formula. We all know the acronym of know your customer, KYC, right? Know your agent, know your customer, but then be your agent and be your customer. So from a customer experience, I know you asked about the agent experience, but from a customer experience, when was the last time you called into your contact center. Right? And the contact center leaders, I’ve observed contacts and our leaders call into their own customer service line and the problem is, is you know, the secrets and you know, the hidden passageways through the IVR and you know, the shortcuts. No, if you know, the shortcuts, that defeats the purpose. So a good exercise I like to do is we bring in someone from a different department of the company, bring in a finance person or an account accounting person, a salesperson and say hey, call into our customer service line, this is your account number, this is your this is your issue and we observe that. So we go through that experience from a customer journey and then from an agent perspective, we do the same thing. We go shadow, your average agent, not your best one and we see okay, what is it like for your agent to get an inquiry. And I think you can break inquiries up into simple, moderate and complex. But let’s go through the inquiry and see how your agent goes through the process. How your average agent goes through the process. How do they authenticate the user? Does your technology authenticate for your agent? Does your agent have any insight into the customer about their account or why they might be calling? What information does your agent have? And really what I’m seeing, most importantly, the inefficiencies in the contact center are staggering because agents have to swivel chair between four or five different applications to solve even easy tasks. So yeah, of course you have to you have to audit your agent experience and build a process around how to make it easier for your average agents to get better.
Vanessa Gates 06:57
Awesome, thank you. So there was a recent Gallup poll that was shared that says a 56% of service agents are working with outdated technology systems. What are your thoughts on how that affects the customer journey?
Adam Saad 07:11
Yeah, again, it’s the same issue where agents are having to swivel chair between five or six different business applications. You know, I see this a lot in any industry, right, especially in the larger enterprises, every large enterprise has this legacy technology that’s on premise that’s been built by I.T. and I think that’s great. We have to unlock that data in the legacy system, and bring it forward to customer or agent facing applications like your CRM or your ticketing system. The outdated technology is no longer an excuse with solutions on the market, like integration platforms as a service. It’s no longer an excuse to say that your data is locked away in a silo and your legacy application. If you can unlock that data and give your agents access in one single place, your efficiency in the contact center is going to go up. Your customer experience statistics, like customer effort, customer satisfaction, NPS, they’re going to go up as well. Again, those 56% of service agents working with outdated technology, no longer an excuse, it’s time to level up.
Vanessa Gates 08:23
So, talking about bringing in some new age technology, what are some things you kind of have been seen that some call centers are starting to incorporate to kind of do that tech stacking in that integration to avoid that chair swiveling that you mentioned?
Adam Saad 08:43
Yeah, number one, you know, especially the large organizations, they’ll have that legacy application where all their customer data is. I mentioned about the integration platforms as a service to unlock the data and bring that data forth into the customer facing application. Cloud based, you know, we see Salesforce, Zendesk ServiceNow, some of these major players in the space, that’s where your agent needs to be living. The phones need to be integrated with the cloud based system of record. So right there, you have your legacy solution, you have your CRM or ticketing system, you have your phone. What I see today are agents swivel chairing between three of those solutions, if you can bring those all into one that’s a that’s a big win right there that will again, improve efficiency, improve effectiveness of the contact center and improve the customer experience. Another really exciting tool that I’m seeing is self service tools. We’re seeing the emergence of artificial intelligence, make self service available to customers with ease. I think, you know, we heard about A.I. coming out a few years ago and the artificial intelligence wasn’t always functional or wasn’t always easy to implement. Data was always an excuse, oh, we don’t have the data or data is dirty. Now there are tools on the market that are drag and drop low code. Pretty easy to implement for self service across text based channels, like email, SMS and social media. We see IVR’s that are more human like than ever, that are deflecting calls away from the contact center. Then things like knowledge bases, where customers can go into a community and engage with your knowledge base or chatbot to achieve some self service that’s, really exciting. In today’s day and age, we all know that the cost of human capital is increasing at a rapid rate. It’s imperative for contact centers to lower their human capital costs and the way to do that is with self service, and hey, this is this is such a great benefit. Our customers want self service, and it costs us less than agents, this is a win win, it’s a no brainer.
Vanessa Gates 10:53
Yes, so funny enough, we actually have another podcast that’s scheduled in our in our backlog about that self service era and kind of how it’s gotten here and it’s here to stay. You know, I think self service had this boom, because of the pandemic but I think, you know, in many can agree that it’s here to stay. I think many people like that human interaction yes, but that quick and fast, efficient service is self service right there. So for sure. Do you, do you want to talk a little bit about kind of the agent’s feeling empowered, are they not feeling empowered and kind of how that affects the customer journey?
Adam Saad 11:39
Sure, I mean, well, I think it’s, it’s an interesting thing that’s happening right now, we all have been talking about the Great Resignation for the last year. You know, I see contact centers all the time, your agents are going across the street to a different contact center for a nickel. They’re, they’re going across the street for for just a little bit more money. But are they really leaving for the money? No, we believe and what we’ve seen in contact centers is, your agents are leaving your contact center to go to your competitors or go across the street, because they’re not empowered. They’re not they’re not really having a good time, right? I think, any job, and this is across the board, whether it’s contact center, or any job ever, I think there’s three things that you need to look for, to name it a good job, if you have all three, it’s the Mecca. But number one, you need to be having a lot of fun, you need to be learning a lot and you need to be making good money. If you can get all three of those, you’ll likely stay at your job as long as you don’t hate your boss. But what we’re seeing is agents, we know they’re not really making that much money unless they’re highly skilled engineer agents. Maybe they’re having fun, maybe they’re not. But I think we can help agents have more fun if we get rid of the monotony of the contact center. No contact center agent wants to do 100 password resets every day. No agent wants to update your shipping order 100 times a day. It’s not fun, it doesn’t stimulate the mind and if we can empower our agents to take on more complex inquiries from customers, it will mentally stimulate them and it’ll it’ll keep them having fun and keep them learning. That’s number one, I would say number two, there’s there’s always an issue with lack of recognition and lack of training and contact centers, it’s so important to make sure that you’re always giving your agents feedback. Again, we need our agents to consistently learn if we want to keep them, right. So the more feedback we can give them, the more recognition we can give them, the more they’re going to be learning. Then lastly, I’ve talked about this a couple of times already, I’ve interviewed thousands of agents. I asked every single one the same thing, what’s the hardest part of your job? And every single one says, well, first they say do I want to trust this guy, because I’m a little worried he’s gonna tell my boss. They look at me a little funny and then say “Okay, my job is not hard I just have to go to so many different applications to do it.” And this again, same thing, the swivel chair in between five, six different applications is absolutely unacceptable. It’s a killer of productivity, it makes your customers upset because of the longer handle times it costs you money. There’s so many so many negatives to disparate technology that I think, you know, once we fix that we can fix a lot of things in the contact center.
Vanessa Gates 14:34
It’s funny because as I am hearing you speak and give all these examples, I’m here like huh, well Playvox can help you out with that. But we’re not here to talk about Playvox and, and the amazing resources that we can provide for the software solutions. So, big picture Adam, what can you do to make every agent your best agent?
Adam Saad 15:01
Good question, so I would probably start with process, first thing is process. Build a process that makes it easy and effective for your agent to deliver service for the customer and build a process that your customer will want to go through. I think there’s, there’s a concept I’ve heard recently called the fear of reaching out. Have you ever needed to pay your cable bill or get, you know, your internet, whatever’s happening, you may call your airline. I think we all as consumers have a fear of reaching out to customer service for a number of reasons, we don’t know what experience we’re gonna get. We don’t know if they’re gonna be able to solve our problem. We don’t know if we have time to dedicate 30 – Is it going to take 30 minutes for me to be on this customer service call? Because I have things to do. So if we can establish and build a process of support, that your customers know what to expect, and it’s going to be easy for them. That will make every agent your best agent and will make all your customers happier.
Vanessa Gates 16:00
And I will say really quick, actually, Adam, I’m just going to interject here for a moment. For any of our listeners that did not check out our previous episode with Mr. Rick DeLisi, we talked about this exactly the the process and making it effortless and you know, what does that mean to have an effortless process? So definitely look back in our channels to reflect back on that a little bit more if needed.
Adam Saad 16:22
Yeah, I believe that customer effort is the most important metric that contact centers can be measuring right now. Number two, second tip, integrated technology, we’ve talked a lot about this on that episode. Now, technology and process, what you need to do from a process perspective is you need to build a process, ignoring your existing technology. Right, because the idea is we upgrade our technology, we level up our technology. So if you’re going to build a new process around your agent and customer experience, if you find yourself documenting your dream process, and you find yourself thinking to yourself, oh, we can’t do that, because our XYZ legacy system can’t do that… Stop. The exercise needs to be building the best process that technology can adapt to. Again, technology is way cheaper than human capital so there are a lot of return on investment opportunities there. So again, number one, process number two, integrated technology and number three, empowerment. Once you get your process down, you integrate your technology you are on the road to empowering your agents to take more complex calls. Because you’ve you’re deflecting calls, you’re deflecting your monotonous password resets and shipping notifications, you’re empowering them and you’re coaching them and I think that’s how you level up all your agents. And that’s how you also level up your customer experience.
Vanessa Gates 17:53
Great, so process, the integrated technology, and empowering them. So with all this said, I encourage all of our listeners to check out Playvox’s resources at Playvox.com/resources. Here you can find free ebooks and blogs that can assist you with making your agent the best agents. I’ll go ahead and encourage you to start with one of our newer ebooks. It’s called the three steps to creating a winning customer experience strategy. Again, you can find this in our resources tab. Adam, I want to thank you again for taking the time to speak with me today. If anyone has any questions, they want to get a hold of you or find more information about Tech Stack Advising, how can they do so?
Adam Saad 18:38
Yeah, thank you so much for having me again, I had a great time. If anyone wants to find me, of course LinkedIn, just type in my name, Tech Stack Advising or if you want to visit our website techstackadvising.com, you can request a free consultation and we look forward to working with you.
Vanessa Gates 18:53
Awesome, thank you. And then as a reminder, for those listening to us today, make sure you go ahead and subscribe to our podcast you’ll be notified when our next episode is released. So I want to go ahead and thank everybody that is here today to listen and join us. I hope everyone has a fabulous day and be a good human. I’ll see you soon. Thanks. Bye bye