Ever since Brett joined Sunbasket in early 2016, his core focus has been creating support experiences that match Sunbasket’s brand and enable the company’s mission of making healthy cooking easy.
Q: Brett, how did you find yourself working in the customer experience space?
Honestly, I’m in the CX industry by happenstance. I think that's probably the case with most of us. I took a job at Microsoft as a customer service representative over 20 years ago to pay my way through school studying for a totally different industry.
And when I graduated, I found myself becoming attracted to this customer service customer experience world, especially the capability of helping people fix problems on an individual basis and, later on, being able to help more on a process and assistance basis as I continued to evolve through my career.
Q: What do you enjoy most about CX?
There are a couple of different things. One is that by nature I like helping people. I like it when people are happy and they get outcomes that are good; and I think that in most situations, there are ways to come to win-win situations from most types of those opportunities. I like the challenge of figuring out how to help people on both a personal level as well on a macro scale level.
I also really like working in a startup. You get to collaborate across the company and really see customer services, not just how we help people when they have a problem, but using our findings as true Voice of the Customer to figure out why a customer is having problems and how we can help the rest of the company resolve them.
Q: How would you describe your customer experience program?
My entire organization, in some respects, is part of the customer experience program. But when it comes to the customer service team, we exist to provide that assistance to our customer and be the voice to the company, while also providing the voice of our company into our customer.
When you look at it from a measurement perspective, you've got internal measures and external measures for CX that determine the success of your program. So for us, it starts with how we train our agents, especially as it relates to the first interaction a customer has with service. Then we’ve got coaching and one-to-one interactions where our staff is managing and answering questions from agents. Those will feed into improving the training and will also indicate our external satisfaction measurement. With that external measurement from our customers, we align certain points of what we see as failure points from an internal perspective, to what we see is failure points from a customer perspective.
We also ensure that feedback is communicated with the entire organization so that they're aware of what's driving the changes. The next step we plan on taking is to take our findings and map them into our marketing surveys for NPS and for other kinds of activities around that first box experience, et cetera. This way, we drive more of a holistic experience across the board—by taking in these different touch points of customer experience we're getting from a transaction to a relationship perspective.
Q: How is your team structured?
It consists of two areas. I've got a delivery team. The delivery team looks after our tier two escalation group and our vendor partner. They are part of the CX program because the crux of a successful experience program is how that information is instilled back into the people who are talking with customers. So you've got two really main ways to do that. The first is through training, and that happens on the operational side of the business. But its biggest impact is that one-to-one coaching moment between the manager and the employee.
The second part of the team sits under operations. Within that I see three key portions: it's training, it's quality and it's our customer experience reporting and analytics. This group also manages the structure of the survey, the questions, et cetera.
Q: What is a typical day in the life of your team?
There's no such thing as a simple day or a typical day, because different days of the week have different regularities. I can give you an example—let’s go over the two-day process that our customer experience analyst goes through.
Monday he starts to bring all that customer feedback data together, including going through and reading the verbatim and codifying them. He does this because we believe that a single verbatim could be codified into multiple different areas. For example, you can have positive and negative feedback in a single verbatim. You can have negative verbatim, and a 10 rating on an NPS scale, or a seven on a customer effort scale, or a five on a UFC set scale, and you can have positive verbatim in a one or a zero.
While Mondays are about going through all of that data, ingesting it and creating our view of what that impact is, Tuesday he brings it all together into reports that are shared across departments. These reports can be used at the organizational and team level for managers to check on performance and establish goals. It can also be used at the individual level for coaching. He also points out trends. Such as, here's a tweak that we could do that can have an impact.
Q: What are you most proud of in your customer experience career?
I’m most proud of the agent training process we’ve put in place to help build empathy for the customer. A while ago, we hired agents from a partner company, and I soon realized that, although they were very nice people, they lacked empathy with our customers, because they had never experienced what it is to be a Sunbasket customer. The reason being that you can teach people information, but you can't teach them empathy for a situation.
In other words, you're an empathetic person, but what unlocks that empathy is having a shared common experience. So where you can't teach that, you can manufacture. So we realized that we were missing the approach with our training. We taught this team about a product and how to talk to customers and solve their problems, but we never gave them the experience of being a customer.
So we designed an approach to building the training with us, where we tell them about who we are in the company. The next thing we do is teach them to be a customer. You can manufacture that first week experience down into a six-hour timeframe spread across two days, which gives them a very similar experience. Throughout these two days, we design problems for different participants in the training so that they can experience what that customer would go through if they had that problem.
By having them talking at each stage of the process—what happened, how they felt, what they would expect—it starts to create that shared understanding and empathy towards the problem the customers are having. Then we have them shadow with other agents to see how they are managing customer problems.
I just want to share my gratitude for the other CX leaders out there who are fighting the good fight every day.
Q: What has been the biggest CX challenge?
I think the biggest customer service challenge in general is conveying the value of customer service to an organization outside of being costs. Because that inability for us, as customer service team, to truly tell the story of the impact that we have to the bottom line, has stymied the business.
So I think the biggest challenge is how do we tell the story? How do we bring the data and the information into business leaders in a way that truly can show the effect between that interaction at that time of urgency, or that time of failure, and how that can relate back into the business?
So now I’m learning to become a better data storyteller. I'm learning to work with people in the organization who can get me the data that I need. I’m learning how to structure our data in a way that aligns with the rest of the data in the organization.
I've also partnered with an outsource company that’s given me guidance on how to build a customer service experience to LTV model. This model will help us track the impact that customer service has on retention order value and therefore revenue of existing customers.
Q: Is there anything about your work that keeps you up at night?
Can you reverse that? Is there anything about customer experience that doesn't keep me up at night? Our business sells food and I stand behind our quality assurance. I stand behind what we do in our industry. But food goes into people's bodies. That's the biggest thing that keeps me up. If something happens along the way that has a serious impact for a customer.
Q: Based on your experience, what are some best practices that you would recommend to other CX professionals?
So, the first advice is on an individual level. The second is on a systemic level. The Third is on the organizational level.
First, make sure that the people coaching your staff are experts in the field. Because that's that key opportunity to change the experiential factor when you are dealing with the customer. That one-to-one coaching opportunity is the biggest and most impactful opportunity. It's going to change somebody's behavior and their attitude and their awareness and their understanding.
Number two, make sure that you've got a connection between your training, your quality and your customer experience team—they should be a continuous loop of feedback. You should be in alignment, especially with quality assurance and the customer satisfaction scores.
Third, make sure that your experience program is being utilized as a funnel to identify how to eliminate the reason for a customer's contact in the first place.
Q: How would you define a great customer experience?
A great customer experience happens when the product or service that you pay for works in the way that you expect it to.
Q: Is there anything we haven’t covered that you’d like to share?
I appreciate what everyone else does in the business and the industry in order to move their organization's customer experiences forward. Because as well as being a CX leader, I'm a customer and I really love it when I get great experiences with other companies and I know how hard it is to achieve that. So I just want to share my gratitude for the other CX leaders out there who are fighting the good fight every day.
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