In Search of the Secret Sauce for Customer Happiness

Written by on March 18, 2015

Last week, we hosted The Customer Happiness Tour: SF. It was the second event in the series we launched in NY last fall. This event gathered customer experience leaders from all over San Francisco and Silicon Valley to discuss the Secret Sauce for Customer Happiness.

The event had Dana Killian, VP Customer Experience at Eventbrite, and Chad Horenfeldt, VP Customer Success at Influitive, sharing their learnings from leading customer-focused organizations with input from the audience.

“Great customer service is knowing what your customer wants from you and delivering that. And that is different for different types of customers and in different types of situations.” – Dana Killian

There were a few themes that emerged through the discussion:

In an era of technology, great customer service comes down to great people

Good technology is important for a support team because it automates processes and enables people to focus on the tasks that truly require their attention. But hiring the right people and creating the right culture is even more essential.

There was a lot of discussion over the traits to look for in a support rep; empathy was generally regarded as the most important trait. Another point of consensus was attitude over skill any day.

But how do you find those people?

Luckily, everyone had some good interview tips and questions to share. Chad likes to ask candidates to share “an example of where you went over and above for a customer” and see what they offer. Girish Mathrubootham, Freshdesk CEO also provided his favorite interview strategy, asking candidates to “teach me something.” He likes to see if they can shift their approach based on his level of knowledge about the subject.

“We believe investing in our employees results in happy customers” – Dana Killian

The culture of customer-focus OUTSIDE of customer service department is just as important

It is critical for customer-focus to start at the top and be a priority for executives across the company. According to Dana, Eventbrite hires “marketers and engineers who are about customers… We look for people who actually want to help customers.” Both Dana and Chad noted that the whole team needs to represent the culture of the brand. To infuse this customer focus, Chad noted that he tries to “create a story culture and share customer stories” across the organization.

The CEO and company leaders need to foster a culture of customer focus and empower their teams to do everything they can for the customer. Chad talked about how, earlier in his career, he realized that “great things started to happen, whenever [he] disobeyed [his] boss” and did what he believed was important. Leaders should set the priorities but they should also trust and encourage their employees to do what is necessary.

“If the customer has a problem, we have one rule: Do what’s right for the customer” – Girish Mathrubootham, CEO, Freshdesk

In B2B, you not only have customers to service, but you often have your customers’ customers as well.

It is common for many businesses to be supporting multiple customers. For B2B companies, in particular, they often find they need to support not just their customers but their customers’ customers as well. This adds extra challenges because they lack control over the experience for the end customer. For example, Eventbrite services both event organizers and attendees. Their customers are happy only when the event goes off with a hitch so Eventbrite does everything it can to make sure that its customers’ customers are also happy. Which is why they’ve begun to track metrics like requested refunds for events and proactively reach out to organizers to help ensure that the events are a success.

Similarly, Influitive needs to ensure a good experience for their B2B customers and their customers’ advocates. Chad commented that “[they] had a customer success team before [they] had a sales team because knew that if they made their customers happy they would be successful and grow.”

Customer service should be viewed as more than a just a cost-center  

Traditionally, customer support was regarded as a cost center. However, while more and more people have come to see it as a marketing opportunity, not everyone’s in the same boat. One attendee took the opportunity to ask how they’d deal with “a management team that still sees customer service just as a cost center”.

Sharing the right data and the right customer stories is key. Dana asked them to just “show [them] the data and talk about churn. People will see it and pay attention.” Chad added that “where customer success was involved, [they] were able to easily grow revenue in the account” which served as a sign all by itself.

There is no one-size fits all answer for multi-channel support

The question of how to handle multi-channel support is still evolving. Dana and Chad both had preferred channels — and they were not the same.

Complexity of product drives Eventbrite’s decision to focus on phone and chat. However, Influitive does only email.

So, if you haven’t figured it out yet, don’t despair. There is no single answer other than to set clear expectations, be accessible to your customers, and support your customers well via whatever channel(s) you choose.

We kicked off the Customer Happiness Tour in NYC late last year with the intention of creating a forum for customer focused — customer service, customer success — leaders to get together to discuss challenges and share best practices and success tips. As we saw in NYC and now in San Francisco there is a vibrant community of practitioners with a lot to share. We are excited to continue these conversations and look forward to many more stops on the Customer Happiness Tour. So, stay tuned!

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