Earlier this year I had the opportunity to co-host ExCom 2016, a conference focused on how customer experience, customer engagement and ecommerce were converging, and the future direction this convergence is pointing to. And mobile devices and apps have been at the forefront of this convergence with the emergence of mobile first strategies.
Although there is no disputing the role of mobility in bringing commerce and customer experience closer together in a digital world, businesses have to have a strong digital foundation in place to create the kind of experiences modern consumers expect when they engage on various channels from those devices. During the keynote conversation I moderated, Dilawar Syed, president of customer support platform Freshdesk, shared why businesses of all sizes need to have a service-first culture in place in order to be successful engaging customers through a growing number of channels via their mobile devices.
Interview: Does Mobile First Success Require a Service First Culture?
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation, as well as the video from the session during ExCom 2016
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Small Business Trends: Are the majority of companies service-first companies or are they still trying to figure it out?
Dilawar Syed: Well I think if you are operating in this economy you have to respond to customers from the very get go. How many [people] have tweeted about a poor service experience; filled a Yelp review or restaurant review. You have to respond to a customer base that is on the go. And by the way you expect that from the other side, that customers will respond to you.
A lot of companies don’t get back to customers on Twitter until hours later or days later, or they still are not responding at the pace at which the consumers are expecting it. And by the way that phenomenon is even more so in emerging markets outside of North America and Western Europe, because for a lot of consumers their first digital experience is on the mobile device.
Folks are expecting to be supported on WeChat, on WhatsApp, on Facebook Messenger, so it’s changed the world in a very big way. What you have are tools that were built in the 90s for a very different era. And now we are in a place where you want short form communication, interactivity, response back on the mobile. At the very heartbeat in which you’re reaching over the customers.
Small Business Trends: Do you feel companies are rushing to be mobile-first without having the structure and culture to be service-focused first?
Dilawar Syed: That’s a great point. You can’t say I’m going to go and make sure we are ready to respond to folks on the mobile device if you don’t have a culture that fully internalizes the ethos of service. Maybe you have hired people or have built processes and structures that are not designed to respond in an interactive manner; or have people who haven’t been trained on responding to tweets in 140 characters.
There are people who haven’t been trained on having a conversation via live chat. It requires a brand new paradigm; how do you build that culture? How do you bring folks who can actually respond in a multi-channel manner to a very different consumer in the year 2016? So you do have to take a look at this and ask how do you redo it, and we’ve seen companies bring in the new customer experiences. And that has happened by the way at even big brands. But also it’s happening at smaller and smaller companies; we’ve seen companies that have retrained their employees.
And another point about the customer service reps; they are millennials that have grown up as digital natives. So when they come to the workforce and they’re supposed to spend 10 hours or 12 hours responding to customer service questions, they want to experience software that is “near consumer” apps they grew up with like Snapchat and Facebook. Do you think today’s customer support software in the workplace is is even close to that consumer experience? I can answer on all of our (the industry) behalf – no. It’s clunky. It’s designed for 20 years ago.
You’re hired. You have a thousand queries coming in at you, and you need to be able to go in without training and quickly connect with your consumers who are knocking at your door from any channel or any device from anywhere in the world. So the software of today that we have inherited for the last 20 years is just not designed for that. It’s not designed for the consumer experience and that’s where the next gen cloud based companies like ours are trying to change the mold and make sure we have it ready for the millennial workforce, not just in this country, not just in Western Europe but around the world.
So to answer question, yes you have to make sure your culture is service-first, and the organization is ready to make sure people have the right tools to use.
Small Business Trends: How is the relationship between service folks and marketing folks changing because of what’s taking place with customers and technology?
Dilawar Syed: I think customer support is the new marketing, especially in the world of mobile. You expect to be able to have any conversation with brands, about service, about the product; maybe they can offer me a promotion on the spot. Because in mobile the brands know where you are. They can target you in certain ways. So the lines have blurred quickly.
On the enterprise they still have silos for service and marketing and sales. But in a mobile world when I’m reaching out from my device, those walls must come down.
For example, what happens with Uber when you book a trip and your driver doesn’t show up, but you get charged. You reach out and say I should not have been charged because the driver didn’t show up. You go to the Uber app and you click on support and it immediately takes you to your last transaction.
Once you click on that it takes you to a static page of text within the app which tells you to send a message and they will resolve the issue via an email response. Then you get an email within a few minutes saying we got your inquiry and we’ll take care of you. But don’t you expect from Uber, which the whole business is the mobile app, that you should have your issue resolved in the app?
The consumer expectations are that if I have an issue with Uber support I should be able to have a chat within the Uber app and have issues resolved, and by the way here is a coupon for you for your next trip, and we know that you may be going somewhere because you take this trip all the time at this time every week. But we are still very far from that experience as an industry, even in the heart of the Silicon Valley; and Uber is a well-capitalized multi-billion dollar market cap company.
Companies are responding with an effective means to enable what you expect as a consumer. So as an example we launch a program Hotline recently which is a mobile engagement platform. It allows you to have messaging within the mobile app. So if I’m in Uber and if I have an issue with a driver over the charge I go into the support page and I can actually go back and forth without having to wait for email. That’s old school. That’s not what the shared economy is. And by the way the same experience can be can be applied in e-commerce and in other places.
Small Business Trends: As for startups how important is it for them to have their service model at the heart of their business model in order for them to be successful.
Dilawar Syed: In the valley customer support reps are often the very first set of people they hire. In a business like ours and many others, if you’re launching a business traction can take place pretty quickly. Using Google as an acquisition channel you’re in front of the world. For example e-commerce in terms of B2C is where you would think about hiring your Customer Support Organization initially, depending where you are. But you want to think about scaling that pretty quickly. We saw in our business overall ticket volume doubled if not tripled year over year; as the number of customers went up the number of tickets and conversations actually was order of magnitude faster in growth because you’re increasingly serving more complex customers; the queries become more complex if they are to come through any channel. And they have to be ready. So I would give that thought from the very early on.
Small Business Trends: Are you seeing a different kind of metric or a different way that businesses judge metrics today?
Dilawar Syed: First call resolution. We all grew up around that metric. It’s a very efficiency driven metric. It’s not necessarily a sentiment driven metric. I would think about metrics that are more driven from sentiment and customer happiness, and delight because the customer sentiment is infectious in this in this world. My favorite example is a couple of years ago somebody had a bad experience with British Airways and this individual actually tweeted it. He was so mad that he spent some money to promote it on Twitter and it just took off like crazy. It happens a lot.
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.