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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen meets with Brad Birnbaum, the founder of Kustomer, to learn how teams can adapt to accelerated growth and advancing technologies. Listen to the full episode to learn more.
It’s All About Building Relationships
Brad Birnbaum has years of experience working in the world of CX, leading companies to excellence with the proper tools. His reason for founding Kustomer is he regularly notices that many companies lack skills in the relationship department. Meaning, that the relationships brands should forge with customers simply are nonexistent. He took note of how customers are treated, many like tickets or numbers and to Brad, this is a big misfortune and missed opportunity. Thus, Kustomer was born. “The thing that we observed was so many companies were not treating their customers like people, right? They weren’t establishing the relationship with their customer that they should.” Kustomer is a customer service CRM platform created to make experiences seamless. Brad explains the three founding principles upon which Kustomer stands. One, to know everything there is to know about your customer and use that knowledge to your company’s advantage. Two, having the correct omnichannel to make it possible for streamlined conversation across multiple platforms. Three, making the agent’s job easier and simplified by removing unnecessary steps with automation.
Start Early with Omnichannel Conversations
For optimal growth, leaders should take omnichannel communication into account when creating and selling a product. The modern customer has various resources such as: email, cell phones, chat bots, and Facebook Messenger as a means of grabbing an agent’s attention. With the communication explosion, adopting omnichannel early on to the CX toolbox is a great practice for service effectiveness, especially since this is difficult to implement further down the line. Brad believes that omnichannel often gets overused and consequently loses its meaning amongst CX leaders. He prefers the term “megachannel” to describe how proficiently the Kustomer platform closes the gap between customer and agent by using multiple forms of messaging. “Which to us means being able to converse with your customers in all the different channels that you support in a seamless, single threaded conversation. Which by the way, sounds pretty obvious, but nobody actually really does and I challenge any of our competitors on that.”
Why You Need Data Automation
The current CX climate is “adapt or die,” as Brad says, which is due to technology advancing at an accelerated rate. Brands that refuse to adapt new principles and technologies simply won’t survive with the modern customer. Antiquated services don’t allow agents to work efficiently, as they often have to copy and paste data across multiple screens. With a CRM like Kustomer IQ, teams have proven to be up to 25% more efficient at their jobs, meaning that more customers are helped and more time and money is saved for the company – a win, win, win situation. “Let the computer think for you. It can do it…Let your systems do the work for you.” Another plus to data automation is fewer accidents made by human error because these platforms gather helpful data and store it for agents to use at any given time. “Having that data to enhance and enrich those support experiences is invaluable, right? It’s necessary, as a matter of fact. Customers expect it.” When CX agents have access to the proper tools and data, NPS scores are sure to skyrocket.
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Full Episode Transcript:
The Future is Ticket Free | Brad Birnbaum
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
And we are live. Welcome, welcome everybody. We’re excited to get going today. We’re going to be talking about this idea of a ticket for your future and to do that, we brought on CEO and co-founder Brad Birnbaum. Brad, thanks for joining. How are you?
Brad Birnbaum: (00:24)
I’m doing great today, Gabe. How about yourself?
Gabe Larsen: (00:27)
So we’re excited to jump into the topic. For those of them who maybe don’t know you as well, can you give us just a quick background on yourself and a little bit on Kustomer and then we’ll dive into some questions?
Brad Birnbaum: (00:44)
Sure. I’ve spent my entire career building customer service software. Started in the nineties, had a bunch of great companies along the way, a bunch of good exits along the way. Most recently co-founded Assistly, which was a SMB SaaS customer support software. We ultimately sold it to Salesforce a couple of years later and spent a few years in Salesforce and saw the value of their platform. So the aging nature of the technology and the capabilities of the platform and knew the world needed something better, needed something modern. And took all the learnings of these past 20 years, took the learnings of kind of seeing, seeing what archaic products do and realizing there’s just a better way to service and support customers. And that’s what we’re all about here.
Gabe Larsen: (01:29)
I love it. I think you answered kind of my first question. A little bit about why you ended up founding Kustomer in the first place. Let’s jump to the second thing I had on my mind.
Brad Birnbaum: (01:39)
Well, actually, hold on. I think we could go longer. The reason we founded Kustomer is not because of my prior history as much, but it’s the things we observed, right? The thing that we observed was so many companies were not treating their customers like people, right? They weren’t establishing the relationship with their customers that they should, right? As you and I have gotten to know each other over the past year we’ve learned where they’re from and how many people in your family and your likes and dislikes, and that’s just how people form relationships. In businesses and customers, no different, right? And so many of the traditional systems of yesteryear didn’t think that way, right? They treated customers as a single transaction, right?
Brad Birnbaum: (02:25)
They treat them as a ticket and we just don’t believe that’s the right way to do it anymore. So when we created the Kustomer platform, Kustomer with a K of course, we knew we needed to revolutionize that and everything about the product and the platform we created had that in mind, right? How to make the relationship at the heart of the interaction and to know everything about the customer and to be able to understand their likes and dislikes and be able to action that. So for us, Kustomer platform was founded on three principles. One, knowing everything about the customer and be able to use that to have an amazing relationship and support the customer properly. Two, having proper omnichannel. Which to us means being able to converse with your customers in all the different channels that you support in a seamless, single threaded conversation. Which by the way, sounds pretty obvious, but nobody actually really does and I challenge any of our competitors on that. And three, taking advantage of RP, like business process automation and machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate the routine and mundane tasks of a customer support agent so that the agents are able to have those relationships and focus on the important thing at hand with supporting their customers and not go into five different screens and copying and pasting data, doing all those monotonous tasks, which are just not necessary anymore. So we knew we needed to solve all of those things. And in doing so, the Kustomer platform has really revolutionized the way companies are supporting their customers. And we’ve heard this time and time again over the past few years about how C-SAT levels have increased, of how agents are more productive and effective, right? Sometimes as often as 25% more productive than on legacy systems. So it just works. And it makes sense actually, if you think about it.
Gabe Larsen: (04:03)
I like the pillars. I think that’s a nice overview of a ticketless environment. I want to dive into maybe though, just real briefly, let’s do the omnichannel. You touched on that one. What does it mean to be truly omnichannel?
Brad Birnbaum: (04:18)
Sure. So first off, all of our competitors were created before this thing ever existed, right? They’re creating a different generation, a different era. They didn’t really grow up with the need for omnichannel. So it’s not ingrained in their product. And it’s really hard to add after the fact, right? So most of our competitors will say, “If you send me an email, that’ll be a ticket.” And then to have a ticket ID, you get assigned to a particular agent. And if you don’t get a response fast enough, maybe you send them a text or have a chat session and maybe ultimately phone call then. In our competitor’s products, those will all be three separate tickets. They will have three separate ticket IDs. They will possibly, probably be assigned to three separate teams. God forbid you get three different answers when you respond, right?
Brad Birnbaum: (05:04)
Which happens. We call them agent collisions. They happen all the time. And what you got is a frustrated customer because they’re now having multiple different discussions with different people around the same problem across different channels. You’re wasting time, right? Because many of your agents are basically servicing for the same customer and it’s just not a good experience. The way we solved it is all of that will aggregate into a single, what we call conversation. And you can context switch between any of the channels we support. We support an immense amount of channels. And in real time, at the same time, you and I can be on a phone call right now and you can say, “Hey, Brad. Can you just like text me the user, the page that shows me the user on it?” I could just send you a text with that, right? I just want a phone call. How else would I? And I’m texting you in that conversation at the same time. And again, through all of the channels, we’ve got the synchronous channels, the asynchronous channels, the voice channels: WhatsApp, texting, chat message, Facebook Messenger on and on and on, and it works really, really well. And it’s been game changing and it makes you realize, how could you do this any other way, right? It’s like, how did you do it before –
Gabe Larsen: (06:14)
[Inaudible] I think, right?
Brad Birnbaum: (06:19)
Yup. And I will say this, like we probably do ourselves a disservice by using the term omnichannel because everybody’s used the term omnichannel. So it’s like omnichannel, omnichannel. We see it so differently that, as I said, I do think we’re doing ourselves a disservice by calling it omnichannel. I think we should call it megachannel, but whatever we call it, it is different, right? It is different than everybody else’s definition of omnichannel.
Gabe Larsen: (06:41)
Brad Birnbaum: (06:42)
It’s important. Most important, it’s the way your customers want to communicate with you, right? They do context switch as we all communicate with one another, we and the business world, we’ll text and we’ll Slack and we’ll email and we’ll phone call and that’s just normal on a day to day. Even you and I, Gabe, like, that’s how we’ll converse, right? Many different ways. I’m sure we’ve emailed, Slacked and phone call at each other at least once today already, right? Like, and that’s normal and often around the same topic. So it just, it just makes sense when you think about it.
Gabe Larsen: (07:14)
To bring those all together under one roof. Okay, that’s omnichannel. CRM is a loaded term. It’s been used in many different instances. It’s obviously in sales, it’s in marketing, it’s in service. Why do you think CRM is such an interesting and important component of a modern ticket lists and service solution?
Brad Birnbaum: (07:34)
Yeah, well CRM is, the term’s been around forever. People often equate it to SFA, sales force automation, right? Just on the sales front. And I think the more generic definition is not that it’s customer relationship management. It’s how the business interacts with the customers and the data around them. So for us, we absolutely are a CRM system because we have a tremendous, we can have a tremendous amount of data about the customers, whatever the business provides. So if you’re a retailer, very often we’ll have your full customer record. We will have orders. We’ll have information about those orders, perhaps billing exceptions or delivery exceptions, or when it got delivered, you name it. Across the board. Having that data to enhance and enrich those support experiences is invaluable, right? It’s necessary, as a matter of fact. Customers expect it.
Brad Birnbaum: (08:22)
They, when I call whomever it is that I call for support, whether they’re using my product or not, I expect them to know everything about me, or if I call them by cell phone, they already have my number. I expect you to know my profile. I expect you to know I’m calling because I ordered something four days ago and it hasn’t yet been delivered. I can’t find it, right? I don’t want to have to say, “Hey, I’m Brad. Here’s my date of birth and my address. And I’m calling you because you see that order I placed four days ago? I never got it.” I expect you to know that about me. You should. In today’s day and age with computers and data, there’s no reason not to. And that needs to be applied to customer support and customer service. It has to be applied to it.
Brad Birnbaum: (09:02)
It’s expected at this point in time. It’s table stakes. And you’d be surprised how many companies support their customers without that data, right? Where they’re like, “Oh, all right. Let me, I see that you’ve reached out to me and system A. Let me try and look you up in system B. Let me try and find why you might’ve called.” Let the computer think for you. It can do it. Of course it can do it right. Let it do the work, let your systems do the work for you. And for us, CRM is fully understanding the relationship the business has with the customer as I said earlier, and leveraging data to do that. And we’ve got a very, very robust CRM platform. It’s enterprise class in terms of permissioning, object level permissioning, record level permissioning, field level permissioning, who can see and do what to any objects, right?
Brad Birnbaum: (09:46)
And data validations, and really incredible whizzy wave view builders that we call k views. Everything’s with a K. So k views around these objects and being able to action these objects. You can run business process automations on an object. As an example, let’s say it was a shirt and you needed to return it for a larger size. You would see that object in your timeline, you could just hit return on or exchange for a larger size. And one of these automations that’ll talk to all the back office systems take care of that seamlessly. Instead of taking the human, many screens, and many minutes, it takes a computer milliseconds and boom, you’re done. Everybody wins. The customer gets the resolution faster. They’re happier. And by the way, automated so less accident prone. So it’s more likely to be correct. Agents service you faster, as they’re more productive and effective, and they’re not wasting their time on things. Businesses, money, C-SAT levels go up. The agent productivity goes up. It’s just a win, win, win across the board.
Gabe Larsen: (10:40)
Yeah, well it definitely feels like it’s different than CRM. Maybe you’ll get that KRM. Maybe you’ll be able to rename –
Brad Birnbaum: (10:45)
One day, one day, we’re going to coin KRM.
Gabe Larsen: (10:48)
Well, let’s go to AI. One of the things people are talking about a lot as we move into this next generation of customer expectations is the automation side of the house. It’s the data side of the house. How does that create that modern service experience and how does it eliminate the ticket?
Brad Birnbaum: (11:05)
Well, in the spirit of knowing everything about the customer and understanding all the ways you like to communicate and having that omnichannel communication, you want to take advantage of machine learning and artificial intelligence in several ways. One way might be for deflection, right? Customer reaches out through email or text, or any of the asynchronous messaging channels. We have an amazing chat bot and we want to be able to take advantage of that, right? So try to service the customer through a chat bot, right? It could be a simple search in our knowledge base and deflection could be more advanced, full chat bot experience where you’re actually conversing with the chat bot. And then that ultimately gets to leverage the CRM data that we know about you, to say, “Hey Brad. We noticed that you ordered a shirt a couple days ago and had it delivered this afternoon. Is this what you’re reaching out about?”
Brad Birnbaum: (11:55)
You say, “Yes, it is.” And then it’s like, “Cool. We noticed it’s set to be delivered tomorrow. Anything else we can help you with?” “No, thank you.” Boom. That’s a pretty incredible experience and one that we all expect nowadays. But then you can do other forms of AI right? We have customers that use machine learning for routing, right? To make sure the right customer, the customer gets to the right agent, right? Sometimes their businesses are so segmented that different agent teams can’t really service all customers, right? They’re only training with certain capabilities and we’ve got some customers using the machine learning capability of our platform to make sure that the customer conversations get to the right group of agents regardless of how they might’ve self-selected. The machine learning is way better than that. And we’re seeing it with incredibly high success rates in the mid to upper nineties of high levels of accuracy. So really great stuff.
Brad Birnbaum: (12:44)
Suggesting responses. Once a day, if an agent is engaged with the customers, suggesting response, which for us is also the next action, right? So you can suggest how to respond to the customer and are using what we call shortcuts. And our shortcuts do a lot of different things, right? Not only do they send texts, but they can even do actions in our system. And you do that and it does categorization, classification. So there’s so many things that you could use with intelligence, with machine learning and AI. And we’re just touching the tip of the iceberg with what we’re doing in the customer platform. As a matter of fact, we’ve rolled out an entire offering, which we call Kustomer IQ and it’s going to be pervasive through our entire product offering. We’ll see it in predicting reporting trends. You’ll see it potentially one day in helping analyze fraud. There’s so many potential use cases, but right now, we’re working on various forms of self service, various forms of incredible chat bots, various forms of making agents more productive.
Gabe Larsen: (13:44)
Yeah. Well, we hit a lot of topics today. I want to see if we can get kind of a summary from you. Obviously consumer expectations have changed. People are frustrated with ticket-based systems. Today was all about a ticket-free future. If you think about leaders who are really trying to up their game when it comes to customer service, what do you leave them with today?
Brad Birnbaum: (14:04)
Well look, the world is changing faster than anybody, any of us ever expected, right? The pandemic has increased the rate of digital transformation by many, many, many orders of magnitude. We’ve all seen the charts. Some say it’s digital accelerate. Digital transformation accelerated five years like that. We’re seeing e-commerce, the drive to e-commerce move at rates completely up. Just nobody thought it could ever happen at the rate of increase that’s going on. So you’ve got to adopt your business, right? Business is moving online faster than ever. We’re seeing so many traditional companies converting to almost becoming modern, direct to consumer companies. You have to adapt, right? It’s kind of adapt or die, right? You have to adapt. And that is how you do business in every facet of how you do business. Customer service is of course a critical part of it, right?
Brad Birnbaum: (14:51)
You can have a great product, but poor customer service, and you probably will not have repeat customers. You won’t have customer advocacy and in the end you probably won’t win. So you can’t have a great product without great customer service and why not take advantage of the most modern ways to do so and the best tools to do it. And you need to really rethink that, right? And the world has evolved in so many ways, why shouldn’t the way you support and service your customers evolve?
Gabe Larsen: (15:15)
I love it. Well, Brad really appreciate you taking the time. Everybody, this week is make the switch week. We are empowering leaders who have been frustrated with these ticket-based systems, upgrade to a modern customer service CRM. So Brad, thanks again for joining. For everybody else, have a fantastic day.
Brad Birnbaum: (15:32)
Thank you all. Have a great day.
Exit Voice: (15:40)
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