Invest in technology — Technology should be an extension of the customer service agent. If agents must go through 17 steps to solve a problem, time and cost are added to calls to support your customer. Consolidating workflows through technology provides a natural return on investment, and agent experience is more important than the cost of implementing new technology.
As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jen Jackson, VP of Customer Success at Lifesize.
Jen Jackson is vice president of customer success at Lifesize (formerly Serenova), where she leads a global team dedicated to helping customers achieve quantifiable business outcomes and exceptional customer experiences. Her career includes deep contact center experience and leadership roles at Dell, as well as emerging companies like Kinnser Software (now WellSky) and Neverfail Group. Jen is known for a people-first philosophy of leadership aligned with today’s workforce and technology.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Even early in my career, I have always pushed my organization to do great things and put themselves out there. One story that stands out was when I told my team that if they could get all of the escalations they managed resolved before the holiday season, I would hula hoop on a pogo stick. When I lived up to my end of the bargain, I face planted coming off of the stage. Now this is pre-iPhone era, so thankfully there isn’t documentation of this incident, but I pushed my teams to get outside of their comfort zone so I had to “show up” and put myself out there, as well.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I truly believe it takes a village to get through life. Throughout your life you are meeting people that create little villages that help support and mold you into not only a budding professional, but an overall more genuine and altruistic person. I have three leaders from my past that were game changers in challenging my thinking — in the best way possible. As you grow as a leader and a person, you have assumptions that can be completely spot-on but sometimes you have leaders along the way that push you to think beyond what’s in front of you or to think about things from a different perspective. At every juncture along your career, you’re meeting people and learning, building villages that become a part of your community and that makes you successful. There have been mentors in my life who have helped ground me, taught me lessons, and prepared me to lead my own village today. You have to be open to feedback, and ask others for opinions, in essence we do not grow in silos.
In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Great customer service is what keeps customers coming back and gets new customers through the door. According to Ameritas, about 97% of customers will tell others about a very good or excellent customer service experience, and nearly 24% of satisfied customers will return to a business even two or more years after a good customer service experience. These interactions can make or break customer loyalty.
When people reach out to customer service, it’s because they have a problem, which translates to vulnerability. This is the greatest opportunity to create an impression on a person, and it’s imperative for business that the impression is positive.
We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?
This disconnect stems from the fact that every person’s perception of a problem is different, and this is a major hurdle in customer service. Consider this: If someone says their pen is broken, five different people could interpret that five different ways. One person may assume the pen is simply out of ink, whereas another may think the pen snapped in half. Those different perceptions are going to shape the ways or attempts to solve the problem and the interactions around that problem. Communication is key.
Beyond customer service being a perception problem, it’s also a company problem. Today, many companies are focused on efficiencies and digital transformations, and forget to improve one of the oldest, yet most important, aspects of the business — simple customer service. Business leaders’ minds can stray to what’s new and hot in innovation versus what keeps customers happy. Maintaining a culture that prioritizes the customer is critical, and it’s also important to build a strong culture for customer service representatives to eliminate turnover and keep your teams satisfied and engaged at work.
Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?
Competition is healthy and getting complacent can be dangerous. I am fortunate enough to work with a tremendous group of leaders who always want to get it right, but we should be mindful when we get it wrong, and learn. We can learn more from these instances if we allow it. If customers are happy and you’re easy to do business with, that not only helps market positioning, but in order to be an equity partner, they need to be able to say how well they’re doing due to your work in referrals, leads or customer renewals. An equity partner works towards client and customer success. CFOs will ask how you’re investing in customer acquisition and enablement, but the real question should be: How are you investing in customer engagement?
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided? Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects?
We recently had a customer during the beginning of the global pandemic that was in a panic. They are a financial institution and their IT infrastructure had been completely interrupted. They transitioned their workforce to remote in a week. People who had previously been in the office, where home now and were calling them like crazy and hold times ballooned. Lifesize was able to streamline call flows and deflect noncritical items so that the critical need could route to a human quickly and bypass non urgent prompts. If something goes categorically wrong with a disaster recovery system, they now have this separate tenant and disaster process that can direct their users to assistance without impacting any of their everyday metrics. This institution called us on a Thursday night, and we were able to have it running by Saturday morning. We proved ourselves as an invaluable partner that could react at a moment’s notice to salvage the time and investment that would have been lost if the existing processes were over burdened and left to fail.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.
Know your journey
How do your customers interact with you end-to-end, and how do you measure their happiness? What does your customer experience when they engage with you at each point. The path to success will be clear when you have a customer-first experience.
There are a lot of people that make assumptions about your customers. CEOs can come from lots of backgrounds. A CEO from a technology background, for instance, might not understand how the customer interacts with the product as well as a CEO from a marketing background. Knowing how your customers engage with the product should be guiding your journey on all levels. The CEO understanding how the customer utilizes the product is key.
How do your teams impact your customers? Engineering and finance directly impact the customer just as marketing and sales do. Every team inside an organization plays a role, even if they don’t directly interact with the consumer. If a customer has an issue and it comes through to support, or if they don’t understand and it gets escalated to engineering and takes a year to fix, this could potentially lose the customer. Understanding how your teams interact, impact, and engage with your customers, is equally important.
An instructive example of this happened in a previous role. The team preceding us had 9,000 unresolved customer issue requests. The customer would report a problem, support would log a ticket, the ticket went nowhere. Engineering said there was zero defect, but, in reality engineering and support were using two systems, two processes and neither interacted with the other. Leadership thought everything was perfect — but support was screaming for a better communication process and resolution for the customers. Silos between teams create massive disconnect, which is ultimately a customer success killer. The internal teams have to have the customer first mindset and ensure the processes, communication and relationships support doing what’s right by the customer.
Invest in employee engagement
The simplest way to put it is that you can hear someone’s smile over the phone. I used to give out ice cream or stickers or prizes to my agents, just to bring a smile to their face. It’s a small simple example of trying to make your team smile, make corny jokes, laughter in general are easy ways to ensure your teams feel engaged. Beyond that though, ensuring your teams know they have career paths and development opportunities are the keys to success. Investments in the work environment and the overall corporate culture are paramount. Invest in your people.
You likely spend more time with the people [virtually] sitting beside you at work than with the people in your family — and so you have to create an environment where people are comfortable. I prefer to sit on the floor near my team instead of being tucked away in my office, I want to be present and relate and interact with my team as much as possible.
Understand the market and cost of living
Understand that employees (hopefully) aren’t working four jobs to support their family. If you are not investing in your talent, then you’re not going to get a satisfactory result. The cost of living right now has skyrocketed and there are so many personal life factors that can take away from the ability of employees to do their job. Leaders must think of their employees as humans rather than “butts in seats.”
Invest in technology
Technology should be an extension of the customer service agent. If agents must go through 17 steps to solve a problem, time and cost are added to calls to support your customer. Consolidating workflows through technology provides a natural return on investment, and agent experience is more important than the cost of implementing new technology.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
I would start a humanity-driven movement that prioritizes paying attention to those around you. Everyone is impacted by what is going on in the world right now, and it has never been more important to check in on the people around you and practice empathy. There is a certain feeling that’s associated with genuine kindness — and for the first time in a long time we are seeing and hearing each other, which is causing us to help our neighbors and be present. A people-first mindset drives everything I do, and I encourage others to invest in their colleagues, friends, and family before anything else.