Tim Beeson: “Be flexible in your communication channels”

Be flexible in your communication channels — a customer inquiry or problem may be delivered via email or web form, but based on the issue, it may not be the best channel to continue communication. As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the […]

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Be flexible in your communication channels — a customer inquiry or problem may be delivered via email or web form, but based on the issue, it may not be the best channel to continue communication.

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 Tim Beeson. Tim is the President of Natterbox North America, based in Chicago. He joined Natterbox in 2010 and has played an instrumental role in forging alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce. Previously, Beeson led the Natterbox UK sales division and global alliances segment, securing large accounts like Groupon.

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?

Thank you for having me! I am the President of Natterbox — North America, a cloud telephony provider, where I help to forge alliances for Natterbox with Salesforce. I recently moved to Chicago in order to help accelerate our growth in North America and support large client accounts like Groupon.

Previously I served as the Global Alliances Manager where my team educated Salesforce and their Implementation Partners about Natterbox, and its place within the marketplace. Ultimately, our goal is to share the value Natterbox can bring Salesforce clients around improving the customer journey, and business efficiencies and productivity. Natterbox is 100% focused on Salesforce and we were the first telephony provider available through Salesforce Community Cloud. The Natterbox team spans across Europe, APAC and North America and has the goal of supporting clients with the most-advanced voice technology — all within the familiar environment of the Salesforce Platform.

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?

In the early days, just after Natterbox was launched (and in true start-up fashion), we didn’t have the biggest budgets for PR and marketing. We had to be very creative with how we produced content and this led to me “starring” in some very low-budget videos, directed by my CEO, Neil Hammerton. At the time, Neil assured me that the production was sophisticated and the acting was of the highest quality. Though, looking back on them, I think they were fairly dreadful. Fortunately, I think these have now been buried in the archives somewhere! Never again.

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 are several people who have helped me over the years. In particular, I would like to extend gratitude to Neil Hammerton, our CEO. In my experience, people, and even society, follow convention and there are set ways we believe things should be done. This mentality, combined with my previous seven years’ experience at a blue-chip prior to Natterbox, meant that I was shaped to behave and think conventionally. However, through Neil’s energy and enormous self-belief, he has helped me look at things with a “why can’t we do that?” attitude. His approach to life has opened my eyes to the opportunity and freedom we all have available around us. For example, in my first weeks at Natterbox we didn’t make our client visits by train, car or bus. No, we flew to our meetings in Neil’s microlight, often landing in a field if there was a nice pub nearby. Why not?!

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?

Great customer experience is paramount for any successful business. In fact, Salesforce’s third State of the Connected Customer report revealed that 84 percent of customers responded that the experience a company provides is just as important as its products or service. Now more than ever, we are seeing consumer demands and expectations heightened. Customers expect to receive consistent experiences every time they interact with a brand. One could argue that this demand has been driven by digitally-focused brands such as Amazon and Uber who are making customers fickle toward bad experiences and poor customer service. When experience does not meet a customer’s expectation, loyalty can quickly wane.

In order to be successful, businesses must focus on each of their customers individually. When a customer receives a memorable and truly personalized service experience, they feel as though they can trust a brand with their problems. This trust is vital in the customer-company relationship; it is what keeps customers coming back for more.

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?

Oftentimes we find that our clients are not aware of the “art of the possible.” Meaning, they are looking to serve customers by what they know, rather than listen to the feedback that their customers are providing. For example, clients come to us with challenges and problems they have experienced with their legacy technology systems along with ideas of what they would like to be able to do. We must get their minds away from the pure technology-focused discussion to what their actual problems are, how they would like to serve customers, and what would improve their quality of customer experience and ability to serve faster. Only then can our clients (or any business, really) start to positively impact their customer relationships.

Another important part of a good customer-company relationship is consistent communication. Whether sending an email or picking up the phone, companies should keep their customers proactively informed, rather than wait for the customers to come to them. As part of this, companies should set expectations in mutual agreement with their customers. Most of the time customers don’t need an answer in a few hours. However, if a business doesn’t set any expectations on response time, a customer might begin to lack confidence in the company. By keeping in constant communication with their customers, businesses have the opportunity to overdeliver. And overdelivering on the customer experience should be the goal.

Lastly, all businesses should encourage customers to provide feedback on their experiences, whether it be good or bad. There is nothing wrong with making a small mistake, but how a company responds to this mistake is key. When a company can show they are able to respond to negative reviews in a sensible and appropriate way, prospective customers will feel confident that their experience with the brand will be the same.

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?

With competition and a constant battle for market share, companies unable to meet low price expectations (because we all know that customers are in control and constantly “price shopping”) must differentiate in other ways. They need to put every effort into factors they can control, like elevating the customer experience.

Externally, customers have an abundance of technology at their fingertips and access to a wide variety of products and services instantly. Cutting through the “noise” can be difficult for a company in an era of instant gratification. One of the best ways to stand out is impeccable customer engagement. Personalizing your customers’ experiences can do just that — be reliable, authentic, and really try to “get” your customers. It may take reworking your business model or adding more technology to your toolbox, but doing so will only help in the long run.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Eight years ago we stumbled across a small, but very fast-growing, company called Groupon. We effectively became an extension of their business and built some really great technology for them. The technology we developed for Groupon forms the foundation of our business and still, today shapes our roadmap. Because we are so aligned with them and have always acted as a true partner, it enabled us to expand our services across the globe. If we look back at the success we’ve had with Groupon, the late nights and Sunday conference calls were definitely worth it.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It definitely did. Groupon has a large footprint in Berlin. And, as you may know, Berlin is a melting pot of tech startups, producing several billion-dollar businesses. Because of our relationship and reputation with Groupon in Berlin, Natterbox was often the recommended technology company to work with. This led to Berlin being a hotbed of Natterbox success stories.

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.

  1. The customer always comes first — a successful business should focus on each of their customers individually, rather than rushing to get things done. At Natterbox, we don’t care how big our customers are; we ensure that the service they receive is consistently exemplary dependent on their needs. Giles Williams, CTO and Co-Founder at Urban, noted that “Natterbox is exactly the sort of business we need to work with to maintain our relationships with our audiences while we’re still growing.”
  2. Offer easy accessibility — organizations should make sure there are a handful of ways for customers to contact them, ranging from social media to email to phone numbers. An example of this would be our work with our customer Delphi. When transitioning Delphi onto the new Natterbox system, we discovered that they had multiple users at multiple locations, all with different needs and call flow characteristics. Additionally, they had over a dozen incoming numbers that needed to be transferred. While the Natterbox system itself allows for the easy creation of the most complex call flows, reports, and end-user requests when compared to other online phone platforms, our team also works to make the planning and transition as seamless and stress-free as possible. Natterbox takes pride in providing real-time support for our clients. This means being attentive to the unique needs of our customers. Justin Shaffer, PAIM / Service Support Coordinator (US), at Delphi noted that “Natterbox made the decision to choose their software incredibly easy. Not only is the price more than fair, but the product itself is better than expected. Comparing our previous transition in companies, the Natterbox team was above and beyond the best phone company we have had the pleasure of working with.”
  3. Prioritize transparency — no one likes being lied to, plain and simple. Any business that is looking to create a “wow” customer experience should be transparent — sharing both the good and the bad. This doesn’t mean that company secrets like financials need to be given away, but customers should feel that they are receiving honest and regular updates from the companies they choose to do business with. Studies show most people will give brands a second chance after a bad experience if they have a history of being transparent.
  4. Connect on a human level — it is time for businesses to scrap the script and really get to know who they’re talking to. Companies may think that they know their customers simply because they are interacting with them in some capacity (like a purchase), however, consumers’ desires and needs change on a daily basis and often times with little to no warning. The current circumstances we are in is a perfect example of this.
  5. Be flexible in your communication channels — a customer inquiry or problem may be delivered via email or web form, but based on the issue, it may not be the best channel to continue communication. An emotional customer may be better served through a phone call in order to diffuse the situation and resolve it quickly and emphatically, without the risk of a misunderstanding via email. However, if a call center is used, companies will need to ensure visibility across the call response times. To do so, the chosen telephony technology used should be advanced enough to keep up with the expectations of both the company and its customers. An example of this was when our client, Naked Wines, first approached Natterbox. At the time, they were susceptible to dropping 20–30 percent of calls each day. However, after designing and implementing our current call policy, the number of dropped calls immediately decreased to consistently below three percent.

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?

When a customer has a good experience with a brand, more often than not they are willing to share this experience with their friends or family by word of mouth. However, a company cannot control when (or even if) a customer will inform someone else about the brand.

So, the first place to start is loyalty programming. This can be as simple as a personalized thank you note or a discount code to share with others. The idea is to strengthen your relationship with your customer, so they keep coming back, and hopefully, encourage others to do the same.

Due to the current environment, many of our customers have had to quickly adapt to transitioning their entire front line teams to a remote office, while simultaneously receiving an unplanned surge of inquiries. This was especially true for Natterbox’s customer, Elder, which provides care to the elderly. Elder had to work around the clock to try and help as many families as possible while still maintaining critical service levels.

Elder’s Director of Customer Success, Daniel Stott, noted that the company has “been able to leverage its own technology and other services, like Natterbox & Salesforce, which have been crucial in ensuring [they] can all work remotely and [their] customers have no alteration in service. [Elder’s] front line managers have found the Natterbox ‘listen live’ call coaching feature a lifesaver, making sure [they] are still developing the team even while miles apart.”

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. 🙂

It appears mental health issues, loneliness and unhappiness are on the rise. With the recent challenges the world is facing, I believe we have seen a great sense of community spirit, which perhaps has been lacking in more recent times. If we spend more time within and supporting our local communities we can turn this tide and look out for those around us. There are people that suffer behind closed doors and by supporting the community and becoming involved in community initiatives and activities we can hopefully reduce that suffering. I think it’s important to be connected to the people around us and not simply through devices and screens.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn, here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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