Leyla Seka of Desk.com: Millennials Would Rather Have a Root Canal Than Call Customer Support


While we hear about how important it is to be a “mobile-first” business today, it’s no more important to the success of a company than being thought of as a service first organization. And, according to a recent Desk.com study, you won’t be viewed as a service first organization to Millennials if you expect them to call you when they need help.

Leyla Seka, SVP and GM of Desk.com, a division of Salesforce.com, shares with us why it’s so important to be a service first organization, why she feels the future of CRM is customer service, and why Millennials would rather get a root canal than have to call someone to get the help they need.

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service first organizationSmall Business Trends: Tell us a little bit of your personal background.

Leyla Seka: I grew up in software, right. I was on the client service side for a long time back in the day when we used to actually stamp out CDs. I came to Salesforce about eight years ago. And I spent the first six years of my career here building the AppExchange, which is our partner ecosystem. It’s kind of an enterprise apps marketplace to find anything really to go around Salesforce. So expense management from Concur, or HR from Workday or one of those types of things -– those types of solutions that really sit around Salesforce.

About two years — a year and a half ago — I took over Desk.com which is our customer support application for small businesses. And since then I’ve just been spending a lot of time with small businesses. Actually, I was doing that on the AppExchange as well. Our partners were small businesses. They were starting their business on Force.com, so that was how we were talking about them.

But the issues they were facing were no different than the ones that a dry cleaner would face, if you will. So I had a lot of experience, and it was nice to walk into Desk and actually be able to apply that and help people think through what they want to do for service.

Small Business Trends: I have an opportunity to talk to some small businesses –- and it definitely seems like there’s more emphasis on customer service now out of the gate compared to maybe four or five years ago, five or ten years ago when small businesses were being formed. And customer service really wasn’t at the forefront like it is today. Are you seeing that, and if you are, why do you think it is the case?

Leyla Seka: Absolutely. First of all, I believe that customer service is the future of CRM, firmly and 100 percent. It used to be that it was just about getting the contract signed. But really getting the contract signed is the beginning right –- of every relationship –- whether that contract is your buying an iPhone or that contract is you’re buying software or buying a house. Whatever it might be, right?

Customer service is a way for companies to differentiate themselves. And small companies can start with a service-first mentality right. So if you look at a company like Munchery, they have created a whole brand. They deliver gourmet, beautiful food to your house. So, if you’re working and you don’t have time, you want to have a family dinner, you don’t have time to cook it, they can bring it to you.

But there is an experience around that. There’s a driver. There’s an order, and there’s a whole interaction model where you’re talking to them about what you want and when it gets delivered, and oops. All of that’s powered by their support solution, which happens to be Desk in this instance. But the idea being that they’re leveraging all the information they’re getting from their customers to provide a better experience. And that’s the thing that really shifts the mark.

If I think about myself, I deal with a lot of brands. I buy a whole bunch of stuff. The brands that know me – the brands that say hey Leyla, are you running out of toilet paper from Amazon? I love that because I probably am and I haven’t noticed cause I’m busy. So they’re taking time to actually think about who I am and what I’m doing. And that creates a bonding relationship between the brand and the person.

Small Business Trends: You mentioned Amazon, and I remember Jeff Bezos’ quote — I’m going to paraphrase it. He said the best customer service is when they don’t have to call you at all. What does it take for a small business to start to get to that level of service?

Leyla Seka: I think that that’s a process, but it begins with listening, and listening everywhere. You don’t just listen until they send you an email or a phone call because something’s wrong. You watch your brand, right? And you can do that on Twitter and on Facebook, and that’s where a solution like Desk becomes very powerful right? Because we can watch for you and actually bring the information to the console of the agent so that they have a clearer idea of what’s going on right. And we actually –- most recently -– introduced this new feature called customer health which is really interesting, cause this allows you to actually set some gauges that your company sits by.

Small Business Trends: The whole idea around becoming a customer service first organization from a small business perspective –- what role does strategy and culture play in it. And also having the technology platform to pull it off?

Leyla Seka: I think it actually is hugely a part of strategy/culture. And the technology piece — strategy and culture will find the money to pay for the technology pieces, which are not that expensive honestly. It’s not like these things are breaking the bank from an expense perspective. But you have to decide as a company that this is going to be a priority, that you are going to spend a lot of time listening. And that means that you’re going to spend a lot of time apologizing, and you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to fix things. And you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to understand it.

But when I think about how I run Desk, I spend so much time thinking about my customers. Are they happy? Are they angry? Do they like it? Do they like the new feature? Are they getting what they need? I can tell from Desk. I can see trends and better understand what’s happening. That helps small companies that are looking to expand out.

Munchery expanded to Seattle last year and they did that without hiring more people right. They did that because they understood their market so well because they have been watching their customers — watching what they were doing so well — that they knew what kind of a support they were going to need to do to go out in Seattle. I mean, that’s crazy to be that intuitive. They also found out things like if you put kale on a dish, everyone buys it. At least in San Francisco, right?

So those are insights that can help them make their customers happier. Or people eat more fish in Seattle than they do in San Francisco, so having a fish meal on the menu is good in Seattle and maybe less important in San Francisco. But just those insights help you provide a better experience — whatever it is — even the product.

Small Business Trends: Desk put out a report around millennials and their expectation for customer service. And one of the things that really stood out to me is email is still a very important channel and social media is an important channel and chat. But the phone is the last thing they want to ever — they don’t ever want to call. In fact, I think they’d rather have a root canal.

Leyla Seka: Oh yeah, or go the DMV. I mean, the stats were classic. They were really funny. And this gets me really excited. I think the millennials are so interesting. I’m a Gen X-er. The way I had approached customer support my entire life was I did it, and then I called. If I really just failed, utter failure, I have to call and try to figure out how to do this. And then when I called I expected to be disappointed. I expected to have a really not good experience. Whereas I have a lot of millennials that work at Desk and they’re awesome. They have no tolerance for that. Like are you kidding me? They expect to be delighted and if they’re not they’re going to tell you about it.

And I actually love it. I think it’s holding all of us to a higher standard of customer care, which is important. But watching their patterns is helping me understand how customer service is evolving and how companies are going to have to evolve in order to really appease this new set, which they’re coming hard. The millennials are here. I love them. I think they challenge me, which I’m excited by. But I think that their mentality towards customer service is the new norm. You better make me happy or …

Small Business Trends: Real quick.

Leyla Seka: I really feel small companies with a differentiating edge are maximizing on service. Like Luxe Valet. They’re a customer of ours. It’s a great service in San Francisco. You drive your car into a busy city, they take it, they come up on these little scooters. They take your car. They park your car, and it’s awesome right.

But they’ve also optimized the customer service experience such that if you call and they don’t have a person to come pick your car up — it’s just they don’t have someone available — they actually get on the phone with you and say ‘There’s a parking spot in this garage two blocks away. You can go there and park your car and you’ll be just fine. This is how much it costs’.

They don’t get anything from doing this other than they make their customer happy. That’s how you shift the game, because you’re going to keep coming back to a company that’s treating you well like that and cares about you. Not just, ‘oh, well we don’t have anyone – click’.


This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.

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Brent Leary


Brent Leary Brent Leary is the host of the Small Business Trends One-on-One interview series. He is a Partner at CRM Essentials and organizer of the Social Business Atlanta conference. Brent serves on the advisory board of The University of Toronto CRM Center of Excellence, writes the Social CRM column for Inc.com's technology site, and blogs at Brent's Social CRM Blog.

3 Reactions

  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Maybe I should belong to the Millenials?! 😉

    I want to communicate with customer service in my preferred way, e.g., Twitter and email.

    Brent: Will this video interview be recorded as an audio podcast too?

  2. I think the increased reliance on metrics and upselling within customer service has created an aversion among the younger set. Most of their experiences on phone-based support has been associated with support reps trying to minimize time on the phone, increased call churn, and trying to sell add-ons that the customer didn’t ask for in the first place.

    As a result, you have people (myself included) who will do everything short of calling in for assistance.

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