It’s the Upsell podcast, episode number three. I’m Russel Lolacher and I’m excited. I’m thrilled. We have our very first guest. It’s going to be Tricia Morris from Parature of Microsoft. We’re going to talk customer service. We’re going to talk omni channel. We’re going to talk self-service and what we really need to do is not keep her waiting. Let’s get to it.
Host Russel Lolacher: Hello and welcome again to the Upsell podcast. I’m Russel Lolacher and thank you once again for joining me. A little excited, a little happy, I have a chance to talk to somebody today that I’ve been meaning to talk to for a really long time. In the customer service circles of blogging and social media as a whole, Tricia Morris and I had been kind of circling each other being on particular lists of customer service this and that and her work with Parature I’ve been a huge fan of, for a long time. I try to share all her content the minute I get a chance to and I have her on the show today. Hello Tricia.
Tricia Morris: Hi Russel. Great to be here. Thanks for the warm welcome.
Russel: Oh, thank you very much. Now, your title, I just want to make I get sure this right, Senior Product Marketing Manager, is that correct?
Tricia: That’s me.
Russel: Okay, that’s you. I didn’t want to add any words or subtract any words. I wanted to make sure I covered everything.
Tricia: It’s perfect.
Russel: Now I do want to talk a little bit about Parature and I want to dig in actually in a lot into your look at customer service, sort of how you look at it because believe me, you’re pumping out so much content that I’m sure you’re seeing it from a lot of different angles that I think people will get a lot of benefit from. One thing I did notice, and just to be fair, Tricia hasn’t seen any of these questions. She has no idea what I’m going to ask her. I will start with something you many have mentioned on your Twitter bio, that you’re a bit of a science fiction nerd. Now I like to start any conversations off with something that’s a little more unrelated to the conversation at hand. So I’m going to go right in here Tricia and I’m going to test one question here. Which science fiction movie do you think people should see more of?
Tricia: That’s a great question. I really like the Prometheus recently. I don’t think a lot of people went to see that.
Russel: There you go. Okay, fair enough. I did see it. Creepy, creepy movie. So I know where you’re coming from Tricia, thank you for that.
Tricia: Excellent. Glad you saw it. We were the only two.
Russel: I think we might have been the only two and the director. I think that was end of list. So let’s get right into the customer service. Looking a bit, I want to talk about Parature a bit, because what they’re doing I find really interesting, just from a knowledge base but first looking at your background, it’s very marketing-based, very editorial-based. Why customer service? Why such a love for this?
Tricia: To tell you the truth, I don’t know what hit me. When I signed up for Parature, I signed up for a marketing writer role and the more I started learning about customer service and especially all the technology that empowers people today and then also the human side that we always have to keep in mind. I just really drank the Kool-Aid and I have the passion for the delivery of great customer service.
Russel: Okay, now what about Parature sort of has really resonated with you. I know a bit about Parature just from digging into the website and the blog itself, but Parature, just correct me if I’m wrong, it’s a service, it’s from Microsoft as well. You guys were bought out last year? You were bought last year?
Tricia: That’s right, in January of 2014.
Russel: Obviously, this is big stuff. When that announcement and I saw you report on that, I was like, “Okay, this is kind of a big deal.” Knowledge based live chat, basically. It’s about finding information readily available for a customer service team, is that right?
Tricia: Absolutely. Multi-channel service desks, but we specialize in knowledge based and knowledge for customer service is really what powers the self-service and multi-channel experiences so that was definitely something that brought us to focus for my Microsoft. The other thing was that our tagline was “Customer service software that revolves around you.” So being a smaller company competing with big companies like Oracle and Salesforce and Microsoft at the time, our differentiator was actually providing great customer service, as a customer service company so that’s another reason why I had such a passion for customer service and blogging about it.
Russel: Knowledge base is huge. I can’t tell you how important it is. If you’re calling into an organization and they have that information at their fingertips, that’s freaking huge. That just serves the customer better. Now in a blog you recently wrote, you were highlighting something, Econsultancy had a survey where they said 89% of brands think they’re doing a great job. However, those customers that took the same survey said 28% of those brands are doing a good job. Why do you think there’s such a disconnect between what the brands believe and what customers believe?
Tricia: I don’t why that is, why it’s such a huge difference, but I think one thing is customers have, and you know we talk about this so much, but they really have great expectations for customer service that it will be seamless, that it will be everything that a lot of the companies, brands and organizations promised in their grand promise that they offer exceptional customer experience. So we’re giving them these great expectations and they’re powered by so much technology themselves and with that, service really have to be satisfying. Sometimes it’s not, most times it’s not.
Russel: And the expectations from customers are just going to keep going up and up.
Tricia: They are. We just finished up our second multi-channel survey and customer expectations I think are up 3% from last year, so you’re right, it just keeps going up and up.
Russel: Now, another phrase actually that I saw in a lot of your writings has been the phrase “authentic customer service.” Authentic is thrown around quite a bit, so I want to ask you how do you define authentic customer service?
Tricia: Well, there’s a lot of ways to define that or I guess a lot of attributes, especially for assisted service. It’s customer service representatives that are empowered to be themselves and to provide you with the best customer experience, even if it takes a little bit longer or even if they need to do a little bit extra. The brand and the person really shows through. Then maybe for online customer service and web self-service, it’s those brands that will flip the information out there that they might have kept behind closed doors before but that they want to empower and inform their customers with.
Russel: Now, and something Parature does really well is the self-service model where customers actually can find their own information and I know that’s only becoming a bigger deal, with a lot of the surveys I’ve seen, even from my own experiences where customers are feeling, well they feel dumb if they can’t find the information or they get frustrated with the brand. So why do you think self-service is so important?
Tricia: I really think it’s about the amount of technology and the time expectations that customers have now. I think 77% in the Forrester research survey said that valuing their time was the greatest aspect of a good customer service experience and I think it’s the right answer, right time, right channel mentality that if customers can find what they’re looking for without having to speak to someone, it gives them a great feeling of empowerment, satisfaction, and they want to use it again every single time. It has great benefits for the brand as well.
Russel: Do you think that’s how organizations can address that growing expectation we were talking about earlier?
Tricia : I do, I think putting more information online and keeping it current and the key to a knowledge base is really organizing the information and making it searchable, and with that, you can really empower your customers with the information they want that keeps them from being frustrated. A lot of people call in or they email in frustration because they can’t find their answer online. So you’re really setting up your assisted agents for success if you can provide more information online.
Russel: No argument from me whatsoever. Now, as I’ve mentioned, I have been enjoying your blog already for quite a while, and you’re definitely a bit of a survey nerd. I hope you’re not offended by this-
Tricia: I am, no, I love my statistics.
Russel: So from reading all those surveys and really digging in to the numbers, have you seen any bigger trends, positive or negative or I don’t want to say negative, but maybe opportunities, that you see over maybe in the last week, year?
Tricia: That’s a great question. I think there’s a lot of opportunities and most companies aren’t there yet because it’s just so difficult to do, but there’s a lot of opportunities around omni-channel customer service, you know, creating that seamless service across channels. I think a lot of companies are starting to do multi-channel customer service well, where they offer customer service on three to five customer service channels. But omni-channel, that seamless experience, I think that will probably be the next big differentiator for brands.
Russel: I can’t even tell you personally how frustrated I’ve been where tried to phone in to somebody, had a terrible or even frustrating experience but gone on, say Twitter or Facebook and gotten back almost immediately what I was looking for.
Tricia: That’s true.
Russel: Do you think that’s a resourcing issue or just a priority issue?
Tricia: I’m not sure, that’s another good question. I think a lot of times, that the agents are still working inside siloed channels where they’re managing one channel and one solution and another channel and another, so they don’t really see that real time view of the customer.
Russel: Good point. Now, from that research you were mentioning, and even your experience, because you may write about this but you’re also a customer yourself. What’s one thing you think organizations could do right now? Right now, actionable right now that would improve their service?
Tricia: I really think it does revolve around knowledge. I mean, that’s just the foundation for everything and that seems to be one of the things that a lot of brands and organizations give the least credit and the least investment to. But it can mean a huge difference for your agents and for your customers, giving them the right information or more information.
Russel: Yeah, it seems to be some organizations take their frontline staff and put them so much separation between them and the subject matter experts, or maybe it’s just an integration issue.
Tricia: It could be. I think you’re right, probably both.
Russel: I did fall in love with one of your recent blogs, it was called 10 Things Mom Can Teach Us About Customer Service. I did enjoy that one, and one of the things I want to pull out, because it was your favorite was if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.
Tricia: That’s right, that’s what makes it such a great differentiator when it comes to customer service.
Russel: Why was that your favorite?
Tricia: I just think that says it all. So many brands promise a fantastic or exceptional customer experience but it’s really hard to do. Agents don’t get enough credit, the brands that do it right don’t get enough credit and there are few, according to that survey that you cited before, the difference between brands thinking they offer a great customer experience and the customers’ perception, it’s really hard to do.
Russel: It’s so funny, with the Upsell, I’m all about adding humanity and adding that human element to those metrics that we love and need so much, but I really love how you put that you really need a lot of commitment and passion to walk the walk. For me as somebody that’s a buyer and talker about this stuff, I don’t always understand how you can’t understand how commitment and passion are so important when it comes to your business. Why do you think that is?
Tricia: I don’t know why that is. I think it takes the right person, honestly. I’ve seen several of our customers that really excel, they really take the technology, and our solution is just a small part of it, but if they put their commitment and passion into it … we have one customer, Erick McKirdy, he’s the global customer care manager for ask.com, he even puts a picture of himself on their self-service portal and says call me, email me, contact me if you can’t find your answer here. That’s really putting a lot of passion and yourself behind your customer service .
Russel: People relate to people, not logos.
Tricia: Absolutely, that makes all the difference.
Russel: As you’ve been writing this blog for quite a while, you’ve got quite a bit of notoriety actually for the Parature blog. What have you learned the most from writing this? What’s been one of your biggest takeaways, personally or professionally?
Tricia: I think professionally that customer service is a really tough job and that agents don’t enough credit for what they do and sometimes they’re not empowered to do their job. As customers, sometimes we have to put ourselves in their shoes and vice versa. Coming back to that human element, if you can do that and put an authentic voice into your customer service and just put your passion behind it, that will make a world of difference.
Russel: On the Upsell podcast, I always like to ask a question, either to people I’m talking to one on one or out into the socialsphere, and I’d love to ask you as well your word and what the question is, is in one word, what is good customer service?
Tricia: That’s a great question. In what word, what is good customer service? Hhmm …
Russel: Ooh, I got you thinking.
Tricia: You really do. Okay, can I put a hyphen in it?
Russel Lolacher: You’re the guest, absolutely you can put a hyphen in it.
Tricia: I’d say time-savings.
Russel: Nice. For the customer or the employee or employer, I guess for everybody.
Tricia: Absolutely, and definitely for the customer. I think if you can get the right answer on the first contact, that makes a huge difference in your day, just getting that time back that you thought you might have to spend 30 minutes to an hour on customer service and it goes perfectly on the first try, that really makes your day.
Russel: That’s a great hyphenated word. Thank you again for speaking to us here at Upsell. I want to wrap it up with a quick question about, and I wonder if you have one, hopefully you have one, is maybe a recent story of customer service that happened to you that you sort of want to showcase. I really like sharing stories on the podcast that aren’t necessarily negative, because I’m not here to shame organizations, I want to more share opportunities that you can learn from or to give the kudos. Like you said earlier, those that don’t get recognized as much as they should. So is there any recent upsell stories you’d like to share?
Tricia: Well, one that’s pretty memorable for me is I was talking with my financial institution and they were able to take me from the phone over to the web, and then on to social media after that for the follow-up. Honestly, in all my experiences recently, that’s the first time I’ve experienced a seamless customer experience over multiple channels.
Russel: You have to say financial institutions do not have the best reputation when it comes to that.
Tricia: That’s right. Very impressive.
Russel: Fantastic. I just want to say thank you again for joining us, Tricia.
Tricia: My pleasure, thank you for asking me.
Russel: My pleasure. Again, that was Tricia Morris who you can find on Twitter @dessertcontent, now that’s dessert as in two “ss”, as in the tasty treat you have afterwards, not like the sandy area. Yeah, dessertcontent or of course @parature, which you can certainly find here there and engage as well, and I also love that you’re consistently pumping out those blogs on the blog itself at Parature, also in LinkedIn as well.
Tricia: I appreciate your content as well, Russel.
Russel: Thank you so much for your time, Tricia.
Tricia: Thank you.
Russel Lolacher: That was episode 3 in the can for Upsell podcast, thanks again for listening. Thank you to Tricia Morris for being our guest, for being our inaugural guest, that’s all bright and shiny and special. Well, it is to me, anyway. Got into some great topics there, got into the importance of trying to keep up with customers’ demands and expectations when it comes to level of customer service, how important the omni-channel is, and a little more insight into Parature, which is very much about knowledge and having access to knowledge. Also the self-service thing, where your customers can have access to that same knowledge as well. So again, it was great, my brain got a little bit bigger, and I hope yours did too. Thanks for listening, check us out on the upsellpodcast.com and the upsell.com, maybe sign up for the mailing list, we got an ebook coming out very very soon. Again, thanks. Take care, talk to you later.