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Easy Does It

Release Date: January 5, 2021 • Episode #147

It’s important to quickly identify and remedy pain points in your customer’s journey – removing friction in the experience and making the necessary changes to provide easier ways for the customer to engage with your organization. On the first episode of the new year, host Steve Walker welcomes guests Mallory Elias-Cvengros is a senior customer experience analyst, and Serena Riley is the Director of Customer Experience, both at Llamasoft, a Coupa software company specializing in decision-making platforms for supply chains, and they discuss how they redesigned how their customers interact through online services to make the experience easier.

Serena Riley and Mallory Elias-Cvengros

Serena Riley and
Mallory Elias-Cvengros
Llamasoft, a Coupa company
Connect with Serena
Connect with Mallory

Highlights

Finding the pain points

Serena: “…it was just about how can we make this more seamless and more easy? How can we provide more self-service to our customers that they don’t have right now? So in thinking about that, we first put together the customer journey about interviewing customers, interviewing all of our internal teams to make sure that we had that journey map laid out correctly. And as soon as we kind of focused in on that first phase with our users, we were able to see right out of the gate the number of websites that we were driving them to, to get some of that access. “

Going beyond simply solving the pain-points…

Mallory: “So some of the pain points that we saw, in addition to the multiple logins and and websites that our customers had to visit, they also wanted some more options for self-learning and sharing among each other. You know, they praise our customer support team, but said would be great like some of the bigger technical products if we could just jump online and and go to a forum and and ask people questions, post our questions, help each other solve questions. So we were seeing a lot of different pain points come through that voice of customer that the the portal could really be a one stop shop to solve.”

Keep the priorities aligned

Serena: “I think one of the things that we we could have done better is just keeping alignment to the priority of this project. It’s a pretty hefty project, as you can imagine, and it touches a lot of different areas of the business, different teams and departments. And if those… If the priority of launching this isn’t the priority of other teams to launch this, too, it can certainly slow things down every so often.”

Transcript

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Steve:
It's a new year and a new season of episodes, so let's discuss how CX made a company better for their customers.

Serena:
Previous to having this new website, we had about 13 unique URLs and about five unique sets of login credentials that our customers would have to go to to get various resources. It was really front of mind for them and for our team to try and figure out a way to smooth that and ease that journey for them.

Steve:
Simplifying the experience on this episode of The CX Leader Podcast.

Announcer:
The CX Leader Podcast with Steve Walker is produced by Walker, an experience management firm that helps our clients accelerate their XM success. You can find out more at Walkerinfo.com.

Steve:
Hello, everyone. I'm Steve Walker, host The CX Leader Podcast and thank you for listening to this first episode of 2021. On The CX Leader Podcast we explore the topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. Personalization, ease and speed. Three things on which companies should focus to improve their customer experience. In recent episodes, we've talked about personalization, allowing flexibility in how the customer experiences your company. On this episode, we want to talk about ease: identifying friction or pain points in the experience and making the necessary changes to provide easier ways for the customer to engage with your organization. Our guests today on the podcast represent a company that took that approach, rethinking how their customers interacted through their online services. Mallory Elias-Cvengos is a senior customer experience analyst, and Serena Riley is the director of Customer Experience, both at Llamasoft, a Coupa company. Llamasoft is a software company that specializes in the decision making platforms for supply chains. Serena's been a guest on the podcast before she was on Episode 81 back in August of 219. But so Serena, welcome back. And Mallory, a warm welcome for your first visit to the podcast.

Mallory:
Thank you.

Serena:
Thank you so much, Steve.

Steve:
Serena, why don't you just start us off and give us a little bit of background. Tell us a little bit more about yourself and also Llamasoft and then maybe tell us a little bit about the new news there at Llamasoft.

Serena:
Absolutely. So thanks so much again, Steve, for having us. It's an honor to be here and chat about some of the exciting work that we've been able to do with our Llamasoft employees. This particular project is something that's near and dear to me because I lived it for so long when I originally started at Llamasoft as a customer operations manager. So I was that first point of contact for our customers. I was the one that provision their licenses that set up on these different web services, or web platforms and accounts and helped them to navigate to installing and licensing our software. So I knew firsthand from the backend office what a pain that was to set up these multiple accounts. But I also knew how painful that was for our customers as a first interaction with us to have so many different logins and URLs that they would have to go to to get access to these tools. So fast forward, six and a half years later, I started as the customer experience director and was able to really take the CX discipline and apply all of those areas that are important to understanding the customers, to designing something that's better and and needed for them with them in mind, as well as the strategy behind that, the rollout, the launch, and then closing that feedback loop and making sure that what we created for them actually hit the mark.

Steve:
And Mallory, just for our listeners, could you just share a little bit about yourself and and how you got to this position of Llamasoft?

Mallory:
Sure. So my background is in marketing analytics. So I'm the mathy kid in the corner doing the numbers. But I started my career in survey industry. So those surveys you get on your receipts at retail stores and things like that. And that really motivated me to want to pursue more of tying the customer experience to the data. So that's the direction I've taken my career and found Llamasoft and Serena's brand new team a few years ago. And I've just really had a great time, especially working with Serena. But the passion that she has for helping make our customers experiences painless and doing everything we can to smooth their journey through using our products.

Steve:
So I always think it's interesting how people end up in this field. And, you know, Mallory, your tracks a little bit more like mine from the research and analytical perspective. But Serena really is is also a kind of a typical path of the people that came up through the actual customer support functions and who really live the front line. And I know that's kind of a passion of yours still today, Serena, but that's really what we're going to talk about today, is some of the tools that you've used to help engage all of your employees in being a part of the customer experience, right?

Serena:
Absolutely.

Steve:
So you guys have come up with a community portal. Could you just tell a little bit about what you did and why you did it?

Serena:
Yeah, absolutely. So the levels of community portal came about as really trying to find a way to create the centralized website that improve search functionality, created that one stop shop, if you will, for all of the content and resources that we had available to our user base. Previous to having this new website, we had about 13 unique URLs and about five unique sets of login credentials that our customers would have to go to to get various bits of that content and resources to get started with our products and solutions, to learn more to access and all of that. So it was really front of mind for them and for our team to try and figure out a way to smooth that and ease it, ease that journey for them as far as getting started with us and also to continue getting the resources and content they need as they move along their journey too.

Steve:
How did you come up with the idea? Is this something you'd seen other companies do, or…?

Serena:
I think a lot of it just came up with, you know, a digital transformation can look different for different companies and whatnot. But I think for us specifically, it was just about how can we make this more seamless and more easy? How can we provide more self-service to our customers that they don't have right now? So in thinking about that, we first put together the customer journey about interviewing customers, interviewing all of our internal teams to make sure that we had that journey map laid out correctly. And as soon as we kind of focused in on that first phase with our users, we were able to see right out of the gate the number of websites that we were driving them to, to get some of that access. And we also made sure that we had a design thinking workshop internally where we really talked about what we want our online experience to look like for our customers, what we like as as customers ourselves when we visit other sites and what our customers have talked about as being pain points, but also what they would like to see from us. So we made sure that we we did this all with that that human centered design thinking in mind. And then we also had put together some immersion experiences to help better define or help amplify to our internal employees how painful process this really could be. And that's really where we were able to create more of that empathy within our employee base and also helped us to find who those potential advocates are – ambassadors would be within the organization to help us move this project forward.

Mallory:
And I would piggyback on that. Part of the beginning of this process was early when I came on and we started really collecting customer feedback and launching a voice of customer program. And the portal seemed like a great solution based on all of this research and these immersion experiences to solve multiple of the themes that we saw coming through the voice of customer. So some of the pain points that we saw, in addition to the multiple logins and and websites that our customers had to visit, they also wanted some more options for self-learning and sharing among each other. You know, they praise our customer support team, but said would be great like some of the bigger technical products if we could just jump online and and go to a forum and and ask people questions, post our questions, help each other solve questions. So we were seeing a lot of different pain points come through that voice of customer that the the portal could really be a one stop shop to solve.

Steve:
Yeah. So it's not just for your customers, employees are using it to, right?

Serena:
Absolutely. Yeah. There's a there's a lot of content and resources out there that were dispersed internally in different areas that were hard to find. And this is certainly another resource for our employees to use as well.

Steve:
Yeah. And so probably your employees are monitoring it as well to see what kind of activity and what kinds of topics are going on. Right?

Mallory:
Yeah, it's it's a great consolidation of resources as well as another source of information from our customers. So we can see what they're talking about and what they're asking, what they're searching, which helps us provide more content. For example, are learning experiences team. They always want to know what type of learning materials they should be creating. And so by looking at what folks are talking about and what they're searching for, that can help us to guide their roadmap.

Steve:
I'm glad you brought up the fact that some of the feedback from your customers was helpful in this, but I also I'm struck by the fact that you're probably getting great feedback all the time on this community portal, right? So it's just it's one more listening post.

Mallory:
Absolutely. And, you know, having another member of our team that monitors and keeps an eye on the portal to make sure that we're catching any feedback, that we really need to take action immediately. And then other things that are just great suggestions can get captured into our voice customer program.

Steve:
When did you unveil the portal?

Serena:
It was June of this year. So just a few months ago, what feels like years ago. But it was a few months ago. [laughing]

Steve:
So five months. You've been live now? Five months. And how long did it take you to kind of from conception to launch? How long how much planning or how long did it take you to get ready to do it?

Serena:
Yeah. So I would say the the from the time we started development on the site to the time we launched it, it was about nine months. Prior to that development work there was a lot of research and discovery period where we hosted some of those immersion experiences to that design workshop just to really make sure that we were being inclusive of all of the ideas and thoughts and suggestions along the way without getting too bogged down. You know, we still had to pare that down into kind of our MBP products that we launched as our first version in June, knowing that after all of that, we had a roadmap for years to come because it's turned into kind of its own products where we know that there are ways that we can continue to improve that, to improve the experience that they have as well.

Steve:
Yeah, we kicked off this episode talking about ease, ease of doing business. And that's just one general category that that we always recommend that companies think about. This obviously has been a great way to make it easier for your customers to and your employees, for that matter, to all access information at the same place. Now, you've been doing it for five months and and more than a year in the making. What's the feedback been? What generally have customers, employees told you about it?

Mallory:
Well, partially to Serena's previous point, they want more. You know, it's great. It's great to be able to connect with each other to find information. But everybody is looking for more. You know, can we have all of these other features, these, you know, voting on the the products, the Llamasoft solution enhancements and all those other cool things that you see in huge companies like on a Microsoft website or any massive organization just has endless features. And so, like Serena said, it's a long term roadmap because the feedback that we're getting is this is great, what else can we can we add.

Steve:
Any lessons learned if other people are out there thinking about doing this? Any lessons learned you could share?

Serena:
There's certainly been. I mean, in any project that you run, there's there's always lessons learned. I think one of the things that we we could have done better is just keeping alignment to the priority of this project. It's a pretty hefty project, as you can imagine, and it touches a lot of different areas of the business, different teams and departments. And if those… If the priority of launching this isn't the priority of other teams to launch this, too, it can certainly slow things down every so often. And so we experienced a little bit of that throughout the process of getting this going. But I don't think that it was a detriment in the end to us. It was just a nice lesson learned, I think, to to make sure that you're that stakeholder management, that piece of change management that, you know, CX we're always looking to build more on. And I think that certainly when you're doing a cross collaboration project like this, that's definitely a key factor there. Mallory, I'm not sure if you had any other key lessons learned that you wanted to add as well.

Mallory:
No, I don't think so. I tend to be the front and back end of the project process where I'm collecting all the information and the data and helping to aggregate and plan out. And then I let Serena and the other experts on our team kind of go and execute and then I help measure on the back end. So I think the the majority of the hurdles are probably ones that you guys experienced in the execution phase. But I think it's just maybe not things we wish we would have done differently, but as a best practices, just really having the data behind you to make that business case up front in order to get that stakeholder buy in is key. So having that very well documented feedback from customers being able to monetize the improvement you think that it will be able to make for your organization, you know, saved cost and calls to support and likelihood of customers to grow and expand and be more likely to recommend based on having these features from from my analytics side of things, really being able to make those business cases is key. And then also, before you start establishing what metrics you're going to use to define success so that you can go back to those decision makers and say, here's what we did and be able to show the improvements you've made so that you can continue to build upon them.

Serena:
Yeah, and I guess I'll add another best practice that we certainly instantiated throughout this process. And that was adding a pilot program to the pre launch phase. We didn't want to develop this new tool or resource in a vacuum. We had a lot of great feedback that we were using from customers to design what it looked like. But we also wanted to make sure that before we launched, we had that customer feedback to understand is what we're launching going to improve your experience? So we ran a six week pilot program with with our customers to actually have them kind of go through and test the site, but also give us more feedback on what's working well, what's not working well. And then we really worked hard to incorporate as many pieces of that feedback as we could into the product before we launched it.

Steve:
Was that pilot with just a smaller group of customers and…

Serena:
Yeah it was with about 20 of our customers. So, yeah.

Mallory:
And we tried to make sure we split among across demographics, but also we reached out to customers who we knew were very engaged and, you know, would provide us a lot of feedback that had had good relationships with us, but also customers who had provided feedback and maybe were less engaged, but had told us they wanted something like this. So we mined some of our data to specifically reach out to them and say, hey, you know, you you asked for this work. We're doing a prototype and we'd love to hear what you think.

Steve:
My guests on the podcast this week, Serena Riley, who's the director of Customer Experience, and Mallory Elias-Cvengros, who's a senior customer experience analyst, both with Llamasoft, which is a Coupa company. And we're having a fascinating discussion on what they did to put together a community portal, which really revolutionized the way that they were serving their customers and providing a one stop shop for their customers to get all the information they need to manage their experience. I didn't really get it till now, but after I've listened to you talk about this activity, this really has sort of changed the way you do business, hadn't it?

Serena:
Yeah, absolutely. I think this was a key milestone for our team to really show the value that we can bring to the organization when we can mine that customer feedback and that and that data and to create an intentional experience and redesign something that already exists to be better. So I think it was a key milestone for our team not only to show that value, but it's also been a really great way to bring more collaboration across teams that maybe wouldn't have collaborated previously. Now we've kind of got some of that feedback that we're we're pushing back into those orgs to share with them another – to your point earlier, Steve – another channel of that feedback that's providing us more value and how we develop our products and how we develop our learning experiences as well. So it's created more value for us than than not. And it's really exciting to see just how much more we can do with this and how much more value we can continue to bring to our customers.

Mallory:
Yeah, it's really giving us a good platform to do that. You know, we're hearing other areas of the business. Other teams internally say, well, we've seen customers ask for this or we're thinking of creating this new feature, but what should we do with it? Oh, can we add it to the customer portal? So really getting everybody behind this one stop shop idea of consolidating resources and, you know, giving them kind of the platform to be able to reach out to customers. So things they may have wanted to do in the past but didn't really know where it would fit. This is a great jumping off point for other projects.

Steve:
Well, Mallory and Serena, you guys are always right in the forefront of what you're doing with your customers and your organization in terms of driving great customer experience. What's next for Llamasoft and your program?

Serena:
While it's an interesting sidebar, because we were recently acquired by Coupa, who's a California business fund management company, and we're really looking forward to understanding more about how we can integrate some of the best practices and programs that we've launched into what they have. Their focus is a lot on that customer value, a lot on that customer success. So we know we have a lot of good insights and things that we can bring to that team and they have a lot that they can share and teach us to. So I'm not I'm not sure what's next other than we're looking forward to getting started with this team and really diving into improving the customer experience for even more customers, now.

Steve:
We were talking about all the effort that went into it, Serena. But I think one of the things is just getting the word out that this is going to be available and making sure that people are ready to do that. Can you talk about that a little bit and what that process look like for you?

Serena:
Yes, certainly so. I think a big component of that launch was definitely working with our marketing team and finding the best way to incorporate the community portal into, well, first, a launch campaign to let our customers know that that it was out there and that it was something that we designed with them in mind. And I hope that it was it's going to bring them even more value than they had previously. I think it also brought to light something that we hadn't necessarily thought of at the start of that project was how do we continue the engagement after launch? So we've really been working on putting together an engagement strategy that goes forward and and thinks about the different ways, whether it be by content, by marketing campaigns, by different learning experiences, different events that we have. What are those ways that we can always remind folks that they can go back to the site, find those resources, find that content that's going to make them more successful in their roles and in their use of our products and solutions. So that's something that we've been working with and we continue to work with across multiple teams as well as how can we continue pushing that reminder of, hey, don't forget, you can keep these conversations going after our virtual event by talking to your peers on the community forum or hey, did you know that latest release is now available on the community portal? So just trying to find ways to keep reminding folks that they can go out there and this is another resource for them to find value. And we're additionally always looking at ways that we can improve it. So that was another way that we brought in Mallory's help to ask about this in our latest relationship survey as well as did you know that this launched? Are you in it? Are you using it? What else can we be doing? What else can we put out there for you that would drive value for you?

Mallory:
So and we've also included the link to it in the invite to our ongoing engagement survey. So hopefully if folks kind of inspires them saying, oh, you know, this isn't something I've used or I'm aware of, but just another channel to feed them into it, to go check it out.

Steve:
Mallory and Serena, we've reached the point of the podcast where we ask all of our guests or take home value. This is kind of your best tip for our CX pros out there that are wanting to improve their program. So, Mallory, you want to take it first and give your best tip for CX pros.

Mallory:
Sure. So, you know, I'm always going to approach it from the data side of things. And so that's really my best tip is know your customers, know what they want and what they need by asking them and collecting that data and finding a way to organize it and keep track of it and making sure that you're on top of the changing pulse of what your customers are thinking and needing. And that really is all you need to guide your strategy, that they'll tell you what they want.

Steve:
Great tip. You know, and I think the other important part that you emphasize that is be a good listener, but then also make sure that you take action on that. So thanks for that. And Serena?

Serena:
So this is why Mallory and I work so well together because she the data side and I'm empathetic side. So I am going to flip that coin and say the other half to what made this really successful was taking that data and then adding to it the sentiment and the, you know, really creating those immersive experiences to help bring our employees along on the journey as to why this was an important project to work on. So, you know, my tip is that however you have the the data, the feedback, the customer comments, the saliency of these experiences bring that to life, whether it be through storytelling, through immersive experiences, through, you know, a report, through numbers, financials, whatever it is, bring that to life so that you can get as many folks within your organization on board and behind you when you start these projects.

Steve:
A great tip, and then obviously you guys are a good team, so thanks so much for coming on the podcast and sharing your story and it's really inspiring with what you've been able to put together there. So congratulations.

Serena:
Thank you.

Mallory:
Thanks for having us.

Steve:
My guests on the podcast this week have been Serena Riley and Mallory Elias Cvengros. Serena is the director of Customer Experience and Mallory is a senior customer experience analyst and they both work at Llamasoft, a Coupa company. Serena, Mallory, thanks again for being on The CX Leader Podcast. We hope you'll come back again soon.

Serena:
Thank you so much, Steve.

Mallory:
Thanks.

Steve:
And I think both of you were on LinkedIn, so if anybody wants to continue the conversation, they can find you there, or if you want to give us any other type of contact information or your website, if people want to go try to check out your community.

Serena:
Yet you can find Serena on LinkedIn, just "/SerenaRiley".

Mallory:
Yep. And I'm also Mallory Elias on LinkedIn.

Steve:
Thanks. Thanks again. I want to just remind our listeners about our newest report from Walker, the Next-Level CX for B2B Companies. It's a report that focuses on helping business-to-business companies rise to the next level of CX excellence, regardless of your current program maturity. You can download the report for free at Walkerinfo.com/nextlevelcx. And if you want to talk about anything you heard on this podcast or about how Walker can help your business's customer experience, feel free to email me at podcast@walkerinfo.com. Be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com to subscribe to the show and find all our previous episodes, podcast series, and contact information so you can drop us a note, let us know how we're doing or suggest a topic for a future podcast. The CX Leader Podcast is a production Walker, we're an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and we'll see you again next time.

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