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One Big Channel

Release Date: January 19, 2021 • Episode #149

Customers today have so many touchpoints available to them when interacting with companies: websites, social media, text messaging, call centers… it can be dizzying just thinking about it. However, all that complexity can still come together to create a seamless customer experience and understanding how an omnichannel CX strategy can work for your organization. Host Steve Walker welcomes guest Gabe Larsen, VP for Growth at Kustomer and host of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast.

Gabe Larsen

Gabe Larsen
Kustomer
Host, Customer Service Secrets Podcast
Connect with Gabe

Highlights

What do you mean by “omnichannel”?

“I think one of the problems that a lot of companies have run into are a lot of people is “multiple channel” versus “omni channel.” And I think those two terms are used synonymously, but they probably shouldn’t be, in our experience. And what I typically mean by that is when we think of omni channel, we are thinking of a single conversation that occurs on any channel at any time.”

The “MEconomoy”

“…I’ve been using this word, the “meconomy” where … the customers expect to be treated differently than they have in the past. And it’s more about “me” than it is about anything else. And some of the numbers that I think really support that idea is just they want self-service. A lot of data we have saying we want to kind of we want to do it our way. They want it real time data, say, you know, 70, 80 percent of when I have a question, I want an answer. They want it to be about them – personalization of service.”

B2B is behind…

“I do still feel like B2C is just further than B2B. And so in one big way we’re seeing it is that holistic journey. You go with the B2C world, like I said, with this anomaly company, the customer experience is that whole entire thing. You still go to a B2B company, marketing never talks to customer success. Customer experience is often just a post sales journey. And so it’s hard to really talk about sometimes the revenue aspect. I think B2B has a lot to learn from B2C. So I do think they’re forging a more personalized omni channel self-service. I think they’re pushing the boundaries of B2B will come along, but it’s usually a little slower.”

Transcript

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Steve:
If you want to meet customers where they're at today, then you'll need to understand all the ways they can potentially interact with your company.

Gabe:
Customers expect to be treated differently than they have in the past. And it's more about "me" than it is about anything else. And they want self-service. A lot of data we have saying we want to do it our way. When I have a question, I want an answer.

Steve:
We're talking about the Omni Channel customer 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. On The CX Leader Podcast, we explore topics and themes to help leaders like you leverage all the benefits of your customer experience and help your customers and prospects want to do more business with you. Customers today have so many touch points available to them when interacting with companies: websites, social media, text messaging, call centers. It can make you dizzy just thinking about it. However, all that complexity can still come together to create a seamless customer experience and understanding the role of technology and how an omnichannel CX strategy can work for your organization might just be worth the time to dig into the subject. Well, luckily for us, today, we have an authority on the subject on this show. Gabe Larson is the VP of marketing for Kustomer, that's customer with a "K," and he's also the host of his own podcast, the Customer Service Secrets Podcast. Gabe, thanks for being a guest on The CX Leader Podcast.

Gabe:
Hey, I appreciate it. Fun to be on, fun to be the guest rather than the guy on the other side, so I'm looking forward to it.

Steve:
Yeah, well, full disclosure, I've been a guest on Gabe's podcast, and so just getting to know him a little bit, learn a little bit more about what they do at Kustomer, I thought would be a great idea to have him on our podcast. And I think this is a topic I am very intrigued with. I want to say, like a couple of years ago, I was somewhere where I saw some young person use Twitter to put in a service request with their cable company.

Gabe:
Yeah.

And I you know, to me that wouldn't even register. But I was struck by that is, you know, kind of as a new channel for customer interaction. But anyway, why don't you give us a little overview on you, your background, how you got into CX and a little bit about Kustomer, and then we'll get into that.

Gabe:
Absolutely. So as mentioned, I currently run growth, so I got a little bit of sales and marketing over here at a Kustomer – that is Kustomer with a "K," but an interesting journey here. You know, I started my career often in investment banking, but ended up running the customer service program with the customer experience program for Toyota out of the middle out of Dubai. I spent four years in the Middle East…

Steve:
Wow.

…trying to figure out how we could bring their dealerships into one hundred of dealerships in about a 60 percent market share over their phenomenal business for Toyota. Was trying to get their dealerships and get the surveys out, bring trade to the people and get the magic moments together, you know, with customers. And I kind of fell in love with this idea of managing and optimizing the customer experience. And so did a short stint after that at a tech start up a little in the sales contact center space and then ultimately found my way over to Kustomer. And what fascinates me about Kustomer is, you know, you think of the best of – and we'll talk about a little bit today – but some of the things that customer experience is missing, this omni channel, customer service, CRM aspect with artificial intelligence that supports it. And it just brings together so many aspects that I think I've been missing in the customer experience world and been here a year and excited to continue on with the journey.

Steve:
Yeah, we talk a lot about all these different listening points that are available today and, you know, coming from it more from the service side. Traditionally, I'm too quick to the surveys, but there's just so many different ways you can interact with customers today, but one with you guys perspective and what you've been able to do with the technology kind of give us a broad brush of what's happening out there in the in the broader market. You know, how if consumer expectations changed because of this technology?

Gabe:
Yeah, you know, we were I think with the pandemic's obviously push this even more forward in that direction. But I've been using this word, the "meconomy" where customers…

Steve:
"Meconomy"?

Gabe:
The "meconomy," where the customers expect to be treated differently than they have in the past. And it's more about "me" than it is about anything else. And some of the numbers that I think really support that idea is just they want self-service. A lot of data we have saying we want to kind of we want to do it our way. They want it real time data, say, you know, 70, 80 percent of when I have a question, I want an answer. They want it to be about them – personalization of service. This channel of choice which will dive into today is just it's not about you being on the phone or email where you as a business want to be. You just mentioned it with Twitter. Like, if I want to hit you on a different channel, I expect you to be there. And I'm frustrated when you're not. And so we're just seeing this again, I'm calling it the "meconomy," but a lot of expectations changing. And I want it my way. And if you don't come that direction – a threat to change brands, I'll find another vendor who will meet me there, and I think that's really shaping customer service in a lot of ways that brands have not experienced before. And then we're now being forced to change.

Steve:
Yeah, and it's 24/7, 365, too. I mean, if I want to do my banking in the middle of the night and the site's down, you know, that doesn't fly.

Gabe:
It's absolutely right.

Steve:
I've had such really good experiences and I won't name names, but where, you know, like when you call into the call center and you put your account number in, and then when you get the live agent, they say, hello, Mr. Walker, I've got your details already up, as opposed to a lot of sites where you put them into the automated system and then you finally get the live agent and then you've got to go through the whole process again. So we know the technology is out there because that there's some of the the leaders are already starting to adopt it. But I guess what is the role of technology today? And then as CX leaders, what should we be doing? How should we be challenging our companies to make sure that they're staying with it?

Gabe:
Yeah, yeah. You hit on a couple of examples, but I have to just go big picture because it's fascinating to see how technology is trying to evolve to meet some of these changing demands. And I don't want to give a lecture on the evolution of technology. But let me just go down a path for a second, because I think it's so fascinating. If you look at the early 90s, you have great call center technology that was really introduced and it gave you this synchronous communication with a clear start and end. And then but it was very limited in its diversity of channels. I mean, it was call centers with both. CRM really comes about in the two thousands and it does give you data in a single system, but it's not really connected to your call center technology, right? Then in the late 2000s you have this ticketing system that comes in where now, all of a sudden you've got phone, email, multiple channels are being introduced, but it still doesn't now connect to that CRM. So kind of like you said, I'm getting channel switching, people calling in. And I didn't know they called in 10 minutes ago because I didn't have that CRM data connected to the channel. Now, you know, 2020, 2019, you've got these cool channels coming on like live chat and Twitter and WhatsApp and Facebook and they're great channels. And, you know, we're actively trying to manage more than 14 here at Kustomer, but they do they feel like they're both on technologies. And so I had one leader the other day, Steve said, Gabe, I still have a "Frankinstack," you know, where it was meant to deliver this personalized self-service omni channel, instant communication about what it feels like some time. It is like Frankenstein and what that is causing: I'm a consumer now and I'm coming to try to buy something, but I can't get an answer that I want because maybe somebody doesn't have self-service or I try to reach out to a company but realize I can't contact them on the channel I want. And I do reach out to them and get an answer. I don't want to. What do I do? I switch channels. Or then on the flip side, you got agents who are prioritizing tickets however they want are agents providing generic information because they they don't have all the pieces. I shadow a lot of these people, Steve, and sometimes I'm thinking, oh, you know, between the customer and the agent, And I just I feel for because I think we've gotten a "frankentechnology" stack that's make them kind of confusing.

Steve:
I love "frankenstack" for, you know, the the cluster of things that just, just don't work for either the agent or the employee, the agent or the customer. And you know, that kind of brings up a good point that we're dealing with people and in the vast majority, I mean high 90 percent of the people really want to try to help the customer or they want to be empathetic to the employee who's dealing with the bad process of the bad technology. But again, you just see some of these organizations that have just gotten it so right. I was thinking about another app that I use where the loyalty rewards and discounts and coupons. It's all right there on my phone. And I just go in and I get my stuff and, you know, I, I put the bar code up and it picks up all my coupons or all my bonuses and it's just all right there.

Gabe:
Yes.

Steve:
And then there's other stuff where you feel like you're fighting with them to get what you thought was coming, So…

Gabe:
That is it's this you know, we're just finding the people, both both businesses. And I think consumers want this new way of thinking. And it aligns with the example you gave. It's like, I don't want… I want a holistic experience for the entire journey. I want to be able to talk to the same agent when I… When I land on their website and I haven't bought anything. And if I have a problem, I want to talk to the same agent three weeks later. And I want them to know about me and I want them to know I don't want to repeat the information. So these expectations, again, it's the "Frankenstack" with these consumer expectations are, I think, it's good because it's pushing us into a world, and we're finding that if companies can really nail about four things, it aligns with what you said we are seeing see CSAT scores go up, we're seeing costs go down, revenue go up. And a lot of people are like revenue in the contact center? You betcha. We're turning cost centers into profit centers because this can be game changing. So it might be fun to go through a couple of these key items, Steve, if you're open to it.

Steve:
Yeah, yeah. Why don't you start with how do you guys define omni channel?

Gabe:
Yeah, I think one of the problems that a lot of companies have run into are a lot of people is multiple channel versus omni channel. And I think those two terms are used synonymously, but they probably shouldn't be in our experience. And what I typically mean by that is when we think of omni channel, we are thinking of a single conversation that occurs on any channel at any time. Multiple channel would be multiple conversations that happen on any channel at any time. So you'll see in businesses right now, customer service agents, they have five different tabs open: WhatsApp, Gmail, contact center phone software, CRM software. They're a multichannel, but it's very confusing because that agent is going across different channels. And and as I said, if there's ever channel switching, it kind of blows up.

Steve:
And the channels aren't talking to each other so they might have conflicting information, right?

Gabe:
That's right. So if you take omni channel, now I'm an agent – I'm trying to be kind of tactical so you can get the vision…

Steve:
Right.

I have one tab open and I could have somebody hit me on WhatsApp, phone, email, voicemail. The agent doesn't even know. The agent doesn't know what channel. He just sees a conversation or has a conversation because. Does it matter any more, Steve? I mean, it probably doesn't like does it matter if they're on tech? I'm being a little bullish. The agent does know, but it's all just one conversation. So imagine you're almost like in a Facebook type instance where just scroll down your feed and say, oh, looks like this person bought, and then they texted me and then they emailed me and then they had a phone call. It's an all-in-one interaction or conversation in the beauty of it is, it is, it feels like it's almost one giant channel for lack of a better term. But the customer can then. Do they call you? I can't talk to you right now. Can I jump on the phone and text you real quick while I jump in the car? The customer can do whatever they want so that it's that omni versus multiple is making a huge difference for a lot of people these days.

Steve:
And that's the technology. That's what's doing it. It's merging those disparate systems and then presenting that to the agent as one unified or omni channel, right?

Gabe:
That's right.

Steve:
Very helpful to me. So so let's break down let's take a couple of examples and just show how this works.

Gabe:
Yeah. So a couple of things to maybe bring in. We're finding that a lot of people want to start on self-service…

Steve:
Yup.

Gabe:
…chat. Chat is is indeed a channel. Definitely a best practice. If your business can find a way to bring in a self-service opportunities, we're finding companies can deflect as much as 40 percent. Just of those initial inquiries might be worth your order or some of the smaller stuff that come into B2C world. Still some smaller stuff in the B2B world. But if you've got that example with chat and then it can roll over to a different channel like an agent and then switch channels, it can be very powerful. So here's just a quick example. Got a company in Europe, food delivery company. And what happens is people will go ahead, they'll chat. If it's a simple question, it'll just be automatically recognized and solved. If it is not, it'll go into a live chat. Now, that conversation begins. Agent will try to answer the question. If the agent cannot answer that question and says, can I call you back? It's fascinating to see on those chats how many people say, yeah, do you do you mind? I got to step out. Can you call me? What? What do you mean, I'm a chat agent, and how can I call you? Well, the person needs to step out when that agent says, yes, I can call you. I have your phone number already in our system from the order you did two weeks ago. Can I call you on 904-222-222? And that person's like, yes. And then with one click of a button in ten minutes, when that agent has an answer, he just calls or she calls that person in the phone. And again, this is all kind of in one interface. It just meant I wish you could actually wish I could demo for you. It's just mind blowing to see that "frankenstack" where the agent and the customer, what we talk now to the customers is blown up. They're just what you want me to text you. I'll just text you right now. But they already have their phone number as well, because that's stored in the CRM, not in some data warehouse that the agent doesn't have access to, because that's in our order entry system. I mean, how many people have their order entry system connected to their channel, their service channel? Nobody. Yeah, it's in a different warehouse. So I don't know if that kind of illustrated it all Steve, but that's one example that I've witnessed just the other day. And it's just that seamless and it can be that seamless. And I promise you, it translates – translates into big benefits.

Steve:
Hey, my guest on the podcast this week is Gabe Larsen. He's VP of Growth for Kustomer. That's customer with a K. And we're having a fascinating discussion about what technology can do for your omnichannel customer experience. You know, just talking to you, it strikes me as a kind of an analogy I'd like to use is that what this technology is enabling us to do is to to almost treat our customers like we're in a small village again, you know, where where all the shopkeepers and all the people knew each other and they all took care of each other, you know? So like but we're doing it at scale and leveraging technology. But you're right. I mean, like, if you've already done business and they should already have your contact information, you know, it is so streamlined and it is so personalized and it's so convenient that it really does create these outstanding experiences.

Gabe:
And that that is the point to double-click on, because I do think, you know, if I had to summarize three big trends we're seeing, and this is not necessarily the customer technology, these are the three big trends to upgrade your CX team. We hit on Omni Channel. We hit that a little bit. I was touching a little bit on self-service and I think there's something there. But this concept of personalization, it's not going away. Now, I'm telling you, it's a technology problem to gain on this. It's… I highlighted it a little bit in that example, but so many companies have a CRM here and they have a customer service channel system here in a phones. It's the "frankenstack" and it keeps coming back. What would you and in past lives, it's been very difficult to hook up my NetSuite billing system with my Zendesk platform system, with my Cisco call center, like who has the money to connect those three and then keep them forward. But I'm telling you, if you could bring your CRM data, which again, let's just use the example of order entry because it's so simple. What that means is when that person calls in, it's that screen pop what you were saying, see the small shopkeeper that says, hey, Bob, you call it in because you bought our our trampoline two weeks ago. Looks like you never got it. Bob's just blown away. But we have a phone system or a chat system connected to an order system. So it's bringing the data together. And so I'm not going to say it's easy, but it's the key to personalization to bring channel communication with CRM data because you just know you can still get a little excited. I like the like the topic. But when you see the change in these consumer's eyes and the change in the agent's eyes, you feel like we've almost gotten there. And we've been talking about this for you've been in the business for longer than I have, but we've been talking about personalization at scale. We've talked about omni channel. I'm starting to see some of it. And it's it's neat to see. I don't think we're there there. But it's neat to see we made some strides.

Steve:
No, I… This has been fascinating discussion for me because I think and I think that most of our listeners are a lot of our listeners. I've always said, like, once you get in this business, you get pretty judgmental about the customer experiences you have.

Gabe:
So true.

Steve:
No, because you're kind of constantly on the lookout for good ones and bad ones. Right. And the bad ones, when you're a pro and you feel like you've worked pretty hard to help a lot of people improve the experience, you're very sensitive to the bad ones. But, you know, again, some of the things you're describing, I know that I have started to experience just from a technology standpoint, and I'm sure a lot of our listeners are, too. So you touched a little bit on the benefit, too. I want to hit on that. But you said it real quick. But the contact center is now a profit center. That's certainly thing. You know, like for the great majority of my career, we've used sort of customer feedback as a break fix. And it's much more than that, right? It's it's it's opportunities, it's cross-selling. And again, I think the technology's really enabling that so that it is it's no longer just a cost center, but it actually is a profit center. And in fact, I think there's even some stuff out there in the business literature today about your contact center as a as a revenue producer.

Gabe:
Yeah, yeah. I think in some of that is the way we're looking at it is you bring together you know, I'm talking to more clients where customer service isn't just that post sales experience. Right. Like I said, you're I've got a wedding dress company called Anomaly's. Such a cool story where you land on a web. They're trying to disrupt the wedding dress industry, if you can believe that. So they do everything digitally. You land on their website. And again, they, an agent, a wedding dress consultant talks to you and then interacts with you through the entire process. And it's not just that post sales experience. And so we're finding that these types of agents can ultimately they're more personalized. They run the process tighter. That's often how we're seeing revenue be increased because they're looking at this is, again, not just as a contact center, but in addition, I think you can see we have with the self-service I mentioned 40 percent of initial inquiries. That's a big deal. Omni channel can be a huge difference to actually decreasing conversations. You can increase productivity with with kind of that CRM and that data. I've seen 25 to 30 percent increases in productivity because I'm not dancing around doing that swivel chair interface type concept. So there's small, small gains, but I think cost savings and revenue increases can can find it as well.

Steve:
And the state of the art probably is still mostly in the consumer applications?

Gabe:
And I I'm glad you brought that up because I do still feel like B2C is just further than B2B. And so in one big way we're seeing it is that holistic journey. You go with the B2C world, like I said, with this anomaly company, the customer experience is that whole entire thing. You still go to a B2B company. Marketing never talks to customer success. Customer experience is often just a post sales journey. And so it's hard to really talk about sometimes the revenue aspect. I think B2B has a lot to learn from B2C. So I do think they're forging a more personalized omni channel self-service. I think they're pushing the boundaries of B2B will come along, but it's usually a little slower.

Steve:
Gabe, there was some big news that came out, I think, just a week ago, Monday, November 30th, about Kustomer with a K, and maybe you'd want to comment on that. Just I think our listeners would be very interested in this.

Gabe:
Yes. Yes. So big news Kustomer to join Facebook. Some a little bit surprising for some people, but really the focus will be now it is pending regulatory review. We do have to go through a couple of hoops before it's all closed, signed and delivered, but ultimately helping brands thrive in this digital economy with modern customer service. So really looking forward, it actually fits with much that we've talked about, really benefiting customer service that's faster, richer and available whenever and however people need it via phone, email, text, web chat or any of the messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram. So really looking forward to partnering with them as we go through this regulatory process and get this thing closed.

Steve:
We've reached that point in our podcast. I ask every single guest, this is the last question I always ask them. You've provided a lot of content for our listeners today, and I'm really going to encourage them to learn more about this technology. But Gabe Larsen, what is your take home value for our listeners today? And that means like what can they take back to the office tomorrow or next week or whatever? What do you want the one thing you want them to really think about in terms of what they're trying to do with their company's customer experience?

Gabe:
Yeah, you know, it's funny, I'm going to go a little bit against what I said before. We've been talking so much about technology. I'm going to say the opposite when I say the opposite, that systems can't save you. I just I'm a big believer you've got to start with that customer journey map you got. You you map it out, you figure out what's going on, then you add on systems on top of that. But don't don't go for the shiny object. I've done it. You've probably done it. Systems can save you. Start with your process. Map out, find the gaps and then supply the technology and you'll get the right technology to solve.

Steve:
Yeah, I think there's a famous quote is to to err is human and to really screw things up you need technology, right?

Gabe:
It's always like technology just makes a bad process worse.

Steve:
Yeah. You don't want to automate a bad process. So very good advice. Thanks again for coming on the podcast. This was a great dialog. Really appreciate it.

Gabe:
Absolutley.

Steve:
If any of our listeners want to learn more about customer or about omni channel marketing or if they like. Connect with you and continue the dialog, could you just give us a couple of spots or places where they could go to do that?

Gabe:
Absolutely. So website a great place. That's Kustomer.com, and you'll be able to kind of understand the announcement with Facebook. Great blog post. See some of the videos of consumers, B2B, B2C how they're trying to transform that that customer experience. And then I love to talk about this stuff so you can catch me on the Customer Service Secrets Podcast or grab me on LinkedIn, just Gabe Larsen. Love to continue the dialog.

Steve:
Be sure to check out Walker's new report, Next-Level CX for B2B Companies, which focuses on helping B2B companies rise to the next level of CX excellence. You can download the report for free at cxleaderpodcast.com/next-level-cx. If you want to talk about anything you've heard on this podcast or other previous podcasts, you know, feel free to email me a podcast at walkerinfo.com and be sure to check out our website, cxleaderpodcast.com to subscribe to the show, find all the previous episodes, search our episodes by series and themes, and also contact information if you want to drop me a line, suggest a topic or just let us know how we're doing. The CX Leader Podcast is a production of Walker, where an experience management firm that helps companies accelerate their XM success. You can read more about us at Walkerinfo.com. Thanks for listening and see you again next time.

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