Carlo Beckman recently became Redbooth’s first-ever VP of Customer Experience. We asked him to reflect on the guiding values that characterize his work as a support and success expert, a manager and a leader, and a champion of the customer.
Over the years, I’ve developed a set of principles that I bring to my work. I’ve honed these principles from things that I’ve read, mentors that I’ve had, experiences that I have personally had as well as the experiences of customers. Really, it boils down to four things.
1. Being Where Our Customers Are
The first driving principle is providing contextual in-product help whenever possible. So as a customer, when you first access a service or a product, it’s really important that there is some sort of call to action that lets you know what it is that you’re expected to do, or you get a clear idea of “Here’s how I can do what I’ve set out to accomplish.”
In my case, I’m coming from the video game world, so I’ve seen these actualized as in-game tutorials — kind of like the wizards in Windows that they used to have that would walk you through a process. And tutorials have come a long way since then. Now, they’re much more interactive and much more pertinent to the audience at hand.
To me, having that kind of contextual help has always been an important component. As a customer, when I log into a product or use a product that has this, it makes me feel good because it allows me to get into it that much more quickly.
So a lot of people will say to me, ‘Carlo, that’s not support. That’s product.’ But I beg to differ because that, to me, is the first way for us to be able to affect a customer pain point. And as the new head of Redbooth Customer Experience, I want to be proactive as I can be.
2. Making It Easy to Find Answers Fast
Sometimes even when you’re providing a great deal of contextual or in-product help, customers will review it all and find that they still have some questions. At that point it’s good to be able to direct them to some sort of online repository of information. That could be a knowledge base, community forums, or both.
It’s that mentality of being able to provide customers the information that they need — when they need it, which is usually right away. It’s interesting to note, for instance, that 2014 was actually the first year where online self-service exceeded phone support.
That goes with the generational trends that we’re seeing — that people want to be able to help themselves. People are more technical than they have ever been. So getting the information out in front of them is very, very important and will keep good customers happy. And it might even make unhappy customers a little happier.
3. Consistency and Compassion
Sometimes even with lots of resources, a customer will need to talk to someone — at that point it now becomes what I refer to as agent-assisted support. This can be a phone call, this can be chat, this can be an email.
Whatever the format, there’s two things that customers will want to see with this type of support: consistency and compassion. Tone becomes extremely important when you’re communicating with a customer, especially over email or over the phone. You want to make sure that you’re giving them the right answer — and that you’re understanding.
So I think it’s absolutely okay for somebody to say, “You know what? I’m sorry you’re running into that issue.” It doesn’t make you culpable; it’s not an admission of guilt that they’re going to prosecute you for. It’s just you empathizing with the user.
All of us, as consumers, have been there. We’ve had something that didn’t work, and we’ve become frustrated and we just want somebody to help us fix it.
So that’s the compassion. The other piece is the consistency.
There are several ways I like to drive organizational consistency: making sure that there’s tight integration between myself and the product engineering teams, so everyone knows what’s coming up, what’s on our staging servers, what are we planning for the release notes. That way, I can make my team aware.
I also like to host brown bag lunches with the team where they can have a developer come in and sit down and explain a new process or feature to them. You really do have to have that tight relationship between product and engineering and support.
Ultimately, you need to have that kind of alignment all over the company, but those are the teams that are generally helping to drive the direction of the product, so it’s especially crucial there.
By the way, I like to spread the love the other way too. On a quarterly basis, I like to invite people from various teams to actually come and sit down and see how support is done.
They can see the real-time customer interactions and witness customer pain points firsthand. It’s more provoking than just seeing the number of incidents on a report. You’re connecting with that individual on a personal level, and I’ve found it to be very impactful.
When the engineers experience it for the first time, they stop and say wow. They’re not saying, “I don’t want to do that again.” Instead, they’re saying, “Wow, how can we get more information?” or “Can we come back and do this again next month?”
And that’s great for the customer, because now with cross-functional learning you have a more informed, more empathic team who has a better understanding of what customers need.
4. Closing the Loop
The last of my four key principles is what I like to call “closed-loop feedback.” That’s simply taking everything that we’ve learned from our other three steps and using that to drive product innovation.
For example, I have many reports that I run around first contact resolution, around the categories of why customers are contacting us. That’s where we look at exactly what issue they ran into with our product or service.
I’m not saying everyone’s got time to read my 20-page slide deck, but I do like to share the pertinent information with the product and engineering teams, and even with the sales team so that they know, “Okay. I can focus on this part of the demo, because that seems to be something that customers are really happy about.”
In sharing that information from customers, we’re actually doing one of Customer Experience’s biggest jobs, and that’s helping to make the product better. We’re providing the insights that will make it more usable for our customers, because there’s nobody that’s closer to the customer than they are. It’s important for us to be a voice, not only internally within the company about our own experiences, but also to be that voice for the customer.
And at the end of the day, if you do all these things, you’ve “earned the right to their business,” as I like to say. We’re not owed anything from our customers. If you do all of these things right, you’ve earned the business that will come your way.
Putting Customers First
I learned from an early age that you need to connect with people, and that you’ve got to understand that there’s always a human component. I think the biggest mistake new agents do when they’re in a SaaS environment is they forget that on the other end of their Tweet, email, or phone call is an actual human being having an issue.
The one question I get asked a lot is this: “Why have you been in support for going on 16 years?” And even though I’m a VP, the answer has been the exact same since I started years ago. I really like to make things easier for other people, mainly because I’ve been that customer who’s not having the best experience, and I am still that customer many, many times today.
Ever since I was little I thought, “Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to fix that for somebody?” That’s what has kept me going all these years, all this time.
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