Here’s what the typical customer experience is like at most companies:
➡Customer has a problem or a question.
They call support only to be placed on hold.
If and when they do get to talk to someone, they get mediocre or incomplete answers to their questions.
The customer grows frustrated, loses patience, and walks away having had a bad experience.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Customers can and should be able to have real-time conversations with people at your company in order to solve problems and avoid negative experiences.
And while ten or twenty years ago it may not have been possible to scale this kind of support experience, AI and bots are here and represent an enormous opportunity to meet customers where they’re at.
Rolling Out the Red Carpet for Your Customers
It’s time for B2B SaaS companies to start treating their customers like guests, not tickets.
But that’s hard to do when you’re trying to address a high volume of support requests and deliver a positive experience to your customers at the same time.
??So how do you make it work?
By thinking outside the box. Which is exactly what Julie Hogan, VP of the Customer Team & Partner Program at Drift, did when she hired a hospitality industry veteran from the Four Seasons, Tori Abatti, to spearhead customer experience.
“For us, that’s where we see the opportunity in bringing in someone like Tori,” Julie explains.
“Her experience can help us figure out how can we not only deliver great results to our customers but also, extraordinary service — five-star service — that you wouldn’t expect in SaaS,” Julie states.
Recently, I sat down with Tori and Julie to hear first-hand about this unusual approach to SaaS customer success, and learn more about how they’re leveraging Tori’s background to build world-class customer experiences at Drift.
Hiring Outside of the Industry To Build A Better Customer Experience
When it was time to build out a truly VIP customer experience program at Drift, Julie says that she knew she needed to hire someone outside of the SaaS space — someone with a proven track record of delivering the red carpet experience. She immediately trained her lens on the hospitality industry.
“I grew up in hospitality, I’ve never not had a job that wasn’t serving some sort of guest or customer. I’ve waitressed, I’ve bartended, I’ve done it all, and that experience has stuck with me. I learned a lot in hospitality. So, when we were looking to build the support team I was doing searches for people with that hospitality background,” says Julie.
“She poached me off LinkedIn,” Tori jokes. “It was really this perfect timing in my career,” says Tori.
Although making the transition to a tech company was a new experience for Tori, the transition from the Four Seasons to Drift was easier than she expected.
“At the hotel it was hard to get people to use iPads and stop printing things — we weren’t tech savvy. So it was really nerve wracking to come into an industry that’s completely different. The only thing that I had to bring into this is what I know about people and humans,” says Tori.
Tori went on to explain, “A lot of the experience at the Four Seasons was learning to put yourself in the customer’s shoes and being able to understand what they’re going through, and that’s been really easy to transfer to Drift — it’s just adjusting it to what we do here.”
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After two months in the role, here are the three actions Tori is taking to build a VIP customer experience at Drift:
1. Turn key performance indicators into key experience indicators.
In the world of customer support, it’s common to look at a few key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the relative success of support efforts. These KPI usually include things like how many tickets someone closes within a certain period of time, what their ticket backlog looks like, and then some kind of metric related to customer satisfaction.
The problem with this framework? It fails to put the customer first. After all, the customer doesn’t care how many tickets you were able to get through in a certain period of time — they care that they got accurate answers to their problems quickly and easily.
“What are those things that help us recognize that the team is upholding the standard of what we want the support experience to be, in addition to delivering that accuracy, immediacy, and urgency? Tori has been instrumental in taking what she learned from Four Seasons standards and translating those into what servicing customers can be,” says Julie.
Tori explains how this process works by referencing secret shopper experiences she had at the Four Seasons, which were carried out by publications like Forbes.
“Forbes is the one that secret shops hotels and comes in and gives you ratings. In hotel standards, it’s never really about timing but almost everything that they score hotels on is based on a feeling: were they warm and welcoming, did they make eye contact, did they use your name? It’s not something you can quantify exactly, it’s a feeling. And we’re trying to take those things that Forbes and Four Seasons does and bring them into key experience indicators here at Drift, so using someone’s name, not having excessive delays, and so on,” says Tori.
2. Empower people on the front lines to be themselves.
Think about the way you talk to your friends versus the way you talk to your colleagues at work. It’s different, right? That’s because there’s currently an epidemic of being overly formal in our approach to work that’s hindering our ability to give people the real conversations that they’re looking for.
Tori’s main tip? “Allow anyone that’s on chat duty to be themselves.”
Think about it this way, she offers, “If you don’t capitalize all of your letters or your words, or you don’t use proper punctuation, and you like to throw in a lot of smilies — do it. My big things are: never say ‘never’ and never say ‘I apologize’. If you talk naturally and talk like you would to a friend, it’ll come off as genuine and people are going to read into that because that’s what we all relate to.”
But it can be harder than you think, so how do you teach someone to just talk like they would naturally?
“Ask yourself if the formality and structure is in place because you want to put in controls. It’s all about context versus controls. Here’s the context by which the expectations are set and what you’re responsible for doing, and we trust you, and have the power to go make that happen versus the control of it must happen exactly this way, and in this box. People get paralyzed by that and have trouble having conversations,” says Julie.
3. Use the power of recognition to make the brand come to life through chat.
Imagine the experience you have when you go to your favorite restaurant or local coffee shop. They likely know you by name, remember your favorite menu items, and recall how you like your food prepared. Put simply, people want to be recognized. If they’ve engaged with you before they want to be greeted like a friend, not a stranger.
Not surprisingly, people want a similar experience in support chat.
That’s why we need to think about support conversations like the front desk of a hotel and adopt a “show me you know me” approach.
Tori says this approach plays a key role in making a brand come to life.
“Customer recognition is something that’s big on my radar and that I’m trying to implement here at Drift. How do we combine the product with the human aspect and create a really good recognition process for everyone in the company to use for our customers? I think that recognition is the most important thing — if you recognize me then I’m going to be really happy with that,” says Tori.
Putting Customers At the Center of Your B2B Experience
If Tori’s time in hospitality has taught her anything, it’s that in order to give customers the best possible experience we need to put them at the center of the customer service experience. In order to do that, businesses need to meet customers where they are. By adopting a new way of measuring customer support team success, bringing the human element back into the conversation, and recognizing returning customers, we can begin to create a more customer-centric experience and treat customers like guests.
For more secrets behind building out the customer service experience here at Drift (including what impressed Julie the most about Tori’s interview, Tori’s view from the frontlines of chat, and what our customer success organization looks like) check out the video interview.?