A ‘Wow!’ customer experience is not about how you deal with things when everything is going right, but how your team deals with your customers when things aren’t going well (It is much harder to support your customers when things go bad, trust me, but you have to).
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 Enterprise Bot CEO and Co-Founder Pranay Jain.
Pranay Jain is CEO and Co-Founder of Enterprise Bot, which provides chatbot solutions for customer service across a range of sectors and industries.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
I have always been a person who wanted to create and run my own firm since I can remember. As I come from a family that has always pursued entrepreneurship it really helped embed the concept of being the master of your own destiny. Of course the first expectation was that I would join the well established family real estate business, but after just a year it was clear to me that I really loved technology. I started and failed three startups before finally starting Enterprise Bot, which has been a great success so far.
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?
Our slightly funny and slightly painful story comes from our first “client” from the UK. We were in our accelerator three months in. We had a major financial institution commit to working with us. This was amazing; we were ecstatic. Within three months of the idea and starting the company we had our first major contract closed. We were confident but this was really a huge win and would allow us to quickly expand. The contracts were being discussed. We hit the holiday season and agreed to complete the deal in January. Preparing for a kickoff in the next year we hired three resources as we had hit the big time :). Finally the months of analysis, discussions and small pivots had got us to our first major deal directly.
We came back from the holidays and wrote to the client to take next steps on the deal. Silence. No response. We followed up in a week. No response. Being in charge of the cash flows as well, it was my job to ensure that we could make all payments. We had three months of cash flow in the bank and that would have become 12, based on the deal that was supposed to have closed in January. Sweating, I asked my co-founder and head of sales to call the client and see what was going on. The news was direct on the call. The British politeness was replaced with Dutch directness that day and we heard it straight: “Sorry, management has signed another IT deal and this deal is a conflict to the larger deal.”
Lesson №1 of being a startup: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Lesson №2 of being a startup: Make sure you get your deals signed before Christmas!
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?
There is a very funny story and a person who believed in us, though all the signs should have pointed him the other way. Without his belief in us, we would not have been able to go much further. We were four months into our company, with only the seed capital of the accelerator to fund us. Although many companies said they were super interested, no one had signed a deal. One of these was a Dutch company. Robert, who was responsible for the decision, had reservations about our ability to help, as we did not speak Dutch and the platform was supposed to help automate Dutch conversations. Despite this, for some reason, he believed in us. I am not sure if it was our conviction or something else, but he believed it would work and it did. It gave us the cash injection we needed to keep going after the recent failure just a few months before and was a defining moment for us.
Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?
Well as you said, it’s quite intuitive. Think about the last time you had a horrible customer experience and you said ‘oh yes I would like to stay with this firm’. I switched my mobile plan to a plan that was 30% more expensive, simply because the customer service of the current provider was practically non-existent. This is also backed by most research that shows that 68% of customers would pay more for a good experience (Gladly Customer Service Expectations Survey 2018).
This does not just apply to our customers though, it is also true for us. We pride ourselves on being able to not just provide the software to help our customers improve their customer experience, but also ensure that each customer values us as a partner. This is one of the pillars of our business. There is an old saying: ‘people buy from people’. If you cannot take care of your customers in their moment of need, you will not have a successful long term business.
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?
That is a great question, and to be honest it does baffle me sometimes as well. Cost, of course, is a major factor in why there can be long wait times but it isn’t the only factor. Some companies just do not make it a priority. To a certain extent it’s harder to track customer service quality directly with your bottom line before something goes wrong. This is the reason why most companies do not focus on the issue until it’s already too late and they have lost significant market share. That would be my best guess but you are absolutely right that when we all know the importance of customer support why do we not do more to make it a priority and put a smile on every customer’s face.
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?
Higher competition is definitely a major lever, as highly competitive markets also push for key differentiators, with one of the major ones being customer experience. This is not always true, though. Take some of the budget airlines as an example. Some of them have chosen a different path and believe the lowest cost at the expense of customer service is a good strategy. We strongly believe this isn’t the right direction and to a certain extent is a short term strategy as cost-cutting in a competitive industry is just a race to the bottom.
Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?
(combining the two questions)
Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?
One of my best memories was one of those ‘Wow!’ moments exclaimed by a customer. The customer was a major financial institution and had decided to go with a new CRM (Customer Relationship Management) provider. The CRM provider had an inbuilt technology that competed with us. So, the Head of Operations called us and his team stated he would like to understand how he can migrate from our service and would like to discontinue. Before me or my other co-founder could say anything his team lead, who headed customer support, made it clear that he did not agree and thought it was a big mistake. He went as far as saying he wanted at least two FTEs (Full Time Equivalent) more if they replaced us because it wasn’t just about the software but also the support and willingness from our team that he would just not be able to replace.
To be honest, amazing customer support was not one of my key pillars before that moment. I must thank my amazing co-founders Ravina and Sandeep who did have those values and had ensured their teams working with the client also shared those values. This really made me realize the importance of customer support in today’s highly competitive market. There is always another player around the corner who is trying to take your place but if you have been there for your clients, they will be there for you.
Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. 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.
The 5 most important things from my experience would be:
- A ‘Wow!’ customer experience is not a one-time thing, it’s a quality that must be a part of the culture
- A ‘Wow!’ customer experience is not about how you deal with things when everything is going right, but how your team deals with your customers when things aren’t going well (It is much harder to support your customers when things go bad, trust me, but you have to).
- The customer isn’t always right, but the customer is mostly right. Give the benefit of the doubt to the customer.
- Try and understand the motivation of the customer’s request/anger. The solutions are sometimes easier to provide than you think. Having an attitude or saying no is detrimental here.
- Small favors go a long way. In case there is something small, like spending 30 minutes talking about a topic that they are interested in understanding better, or if they need a small change which is very important to them but does not cost you a significant amount you can give it at no cost. Small investments like these go a long way in creating a sense for your customer that it isn’t just a commercial relationship. It’s really a partnership where you are willing to help without expecting something in return if you can. (P.S. This does not mean you sell your service for free. I’m thinking of the time Starbucks gave me a free coffee for no reason other than the barista was happy. It wasn’t a major cost to them, but I ended up making that my go-to coffee shop because of the experience.)
Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?
‘Wow!’ customer service moments are what have helped us get a lot of our new clients. To leverage this we mainly used three approaches:
- Get a quote that we can publish. It’s great when you say something about your own company, but when your customer offers a testimonial for you it adds a lot more credibility.
- Get the customer to talk about their experience with your company at a conference by co-pitching the solution and its benefits. This again adds to your credibility while helping the client also get the spotlight, making it a win-win as well as a great sales tool.
- Ask them to refer us to someone else from their industry.
- The fact is that many times you won’t need to do any of this and good service will ensure your client automatically shares their experiences, but the three above are definitely good accelerators.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
That is a thought-provoking question. Today, we’re living in a world where everything and everyone needs to be productive and efficient, but at the same time we crave social interaction. We have all seen what a massive influence the coronavirus crisis and lockdown has had on us as people, employees and social human beings. I wouldn’t want to start a new movement, but I want to take things several steps further on the path we are following now. If we could integrate automation and AI further into our lives, we would have even more time left to focus on the important things, such as building strong relationships and focusing on creating a better customer experience — while the work is being handled more efficiently. And that is a win-win situation for both the client and the customer.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!