Interview with CX Ambassador Mike Cancel about Pandora's customer experience program

We talk with Mike Cancel, user support operations manager at Pandora—the largest streaming music provider in the US—about his career in the customer experience space.


Rachel Bodony

March 8, 2021

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Pandora is a leading music and podcast discovery platform, providing a highly-personalized listening experience to approximately 70 million users each month. As the largest streaming music provider in the US, with an industry-leading digital audio advertising platform, Pandora connects listeners with the audio entertainment they love. 

We met up with Mike Cancel, operations manager at Pandora, to chat about customer experience from the support lens.

Q: Why are you in the CX industry? 

It probably sounds really basic, but I just enjoy helping people. I started my career at Pandora 14 years ago as a support agent answering emails. As a support agent, you help people with their problems on a small scale, one at a time. I’ve managed the user support team and now I’m an operations manager, so I enjoy solving bigger problems like figuring out self-service and automation, and the design and function of our help site over the years, and making changes to the team and the tools to make customers happy. But it still all comes down to helping people the best we can. 

Q: Any stories of helping Pandora customers that stand out?

We’ve received a lot of really nice fan mail over the years about the ways that Pandora has touched peoples' lives. We've had listeners write to us and ask, "Hey, at this time on this day, what song was I listening to when this life event happened?" whether it's the music that was playing in the hospital when a baby was born, or maybe it's someone passing away. It can be pretty heartwarming or sometimes sad. That's not something we're really set up to find, but we've got a group of people on the team that have built specific little tools and work with engineering to be able to track that down for people.

Q: How would you describe your customer experience program? 

We don't have a formal customer experience program per se on the support team. We're all under the umbrella of user support, and so we think really hard about how we're doing, how quickly we're getting back to people, what the quality of the responses is, and the feedback we get from customers. 

We use GetFeedback to measure the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) around the email and chat interactions that listeners have with our agents. CSAT is a top-level metric for us that we share out with leadership every week. We use it along with Quality Assurance (QA) scores from actual email interactions we're grading as our overall quality score. 

Q: What is a typical day in the life of your team?

Our team does a lot of work around billing–identifying any bugs, issues or improvements–and then a whole bunch of troubleshooting. We track bugs and report that up to the product and engineering teams, and try to advocate for feature requests that listeners are wanting or expressing in the emails we get.

A typical day for the managers and myself would be looking at our dashboards, seeing how we're doing overall, and taking escalations from the team. As operations manager, I’ve spent a lot of time building dashboards for people, recently for CSAT. 

In Salesforce, we’ve built out a personal CSAT dashboard for each agent. We have close to 40 people now, and they each have their own dashboard that helps them track their average score. Then, they can dig down into the different questions we have and the surveys so they can see how they're doing on that level.

Q: What has been your biggest customer experience challenge? 

The early philosophy was just to try to “wow” people and provide really personalized responses to our listeners. We’d pride ourselves on a human response to every inquiry we'd get. We’ve evolved to include a lot more channel support and ways of interacting with customers, but we still try to have really personalized support and make sure there's a human behind most of the answers people are getting from us.

The biggest challenge is managing these new channels and trying to make sure they're all running smoothly and working well for listeners all the time. It's nice having signals or warnings when issues come up, for example in the email or chat responses or in the surveys we get back. 

With GetFeedback, we uncovered a need to enhance our chatbot experience, and by acting on this feedback we’ve seen an incredible 14% lift in chat customer satisfaction.

One thing that keeps me up at night is the quality of our service and our interactions with listeners. We see some examples through escalations at times where we're not really helping as well as we could. But I think having people dedicated to our QA and our CSAT programs helps a lot, and allows us to uncover those things pretty quickly.

Q: What are you most proud of as a customer experience leader?

At Pandora, we still care a lot about what we're doing and the quality of our interactions with our listeners, trying to be as helpful as we can and going above and beyond what's expected. I'm really proud of that. I think that was established even before I joined in 2007, and we've built it up. We have a high quality of support and try to keep everything on a human level. I'm also proud of the team we've built both in Oakland and Mexico. We've got a lot of people that care about what they're doing and believe in the service we provide to our listeners. 

Q: Based on your experience, what are some best practices that you would recommend to other customer experience professionals? 

If you have a newer or brand new support team, take your time finding the best people you can, and watch the quality of service interactions from the beginning. In interviews, I ask people to explain to me in their own words a process or something they're passionate about. I think that can be really revealing, and it's a kind of question that can get to the heart of general communication, whether it's verbal or written. Being able to communicate clearly goes a long way when empathizing with customers.

Take time to build a unique kind of culture on your team that's customer-focused and focused on helping people rather than, for example, being argumentative. 

When choosing tools, try to choose tools that you can manage yourself, whether that's through the team as a whole or just yourself. It’s easier to keep that as self-contained as possible than spend a lot of time and energy working with other teams to manage your tools. 

Q: How would you define great customer experience?

In support, I think a great customer experience is when you're able to interact with another human and trust you're getting help from someone that's on your side, working their best to try to understand you and to help you get back to whatever it is you're doing. A lot of times with Pandora, it gets people back to listening to their music. 

Learn how GetFeedback can help you exceed customers’ expectations—start your free trial today.

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