Podcast Ep #3 | Empathy Is the Key to Success

About this podcast

We interviewed Irene Griffin from FranConnect and discussed how empathy is the key to success for their customer service department. Irene talked about how a lack of resources made them be more creative and shift staff around to give them more opportunities and learn new skills.



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Interview Transcript

Andrea Palten
Welcome to the future of customer service podcast. I’m Andrea Palten, from Inbenta. And I will be interviewing customer support and service professionals to see what is currently working well, what issues they’re trying to overcome, and the future success of customer service. Hello, today we have Irene Griffin, Director of Customer Support from FranConnect. Thank you so much for being here. Irene, can you tell us a little bit about what you do for FranConnect?

Irene Griffin
Yeah, thanks for having me. So, I’ve been with FranConnect for close to four years now. And I have served as the director of the customer support team during that time. So I oversee our customer support team that takes every single customer question that comes through the door. So whether it’s product questions, enhancement requests, recording questions, or God forbid, a bug in the system, my team basically does first line support for everything that our customers have questions about. And so during that time, obviously, a lot has changed, especially this year, we’ve grown to a bigger team, in past years, and then this year, we had to shrink a little bit. So we’ve had a variety of challenges in supporting our customers.

Andrea Palten
Yeah. And I’m assuming I’m assuming that’s because of COVID.

Irene Griffin
You betcha. It has been definitely, I think, an interesting year for everybody. I think most support teams have had to pivot in some way or another, to do a little bit more with a little bit less. And so, you know, it’s been definitely an interesting journey this year, for sure. It’s definitely been a major factor in a lot of our changes.

Andrea Palten
That is something that we’ve heard over and over and over again. And it’s been interesting to see how people are dealing with it. Some people hire more support, some people have to let go of support, some people utilize tools, some people get away from their tools, it’s been very interesting to see how there’s so many different ways to really get through this time. I have a couple of questions for you. I’m going to start with question number one, what have you done to promote great customer service in your organization?

Irene Griffin
I would say that the number one thing that’s provided us with great customer service and high scores from our customers, has been training our team with a sense of empathy, and listening skills, and then also flexibility and autonomy in troubleshooting. So, you know, we make sure that we onboard folks with great product training, that they understand what they’re working with, that they understand the questions that are coming in from our customers. But beyond that, we make sure that, like I said, empathy is sort of the overlying structure for the way that they interact with customers, if somebody is pulling support, they’re already rather be doing something else, they’d rather just be working, getting their job done. And so we make sure that there’s always a friendly voice on the other end, for customers to be greeted by. And that folks beyond, you know, the product training and understanding of the product that we’re working on, feel that the customers has a pain point or they’re struggling something that wasn’t obvious that they didn’t pick up in training, and that our team is really, really here to help and that we care. That’s that’s really been actually one of the key things that has been part of our success,

Andrea Palten
That is so awesome. The whole empathy thing, even when you’d get started with a phone call and you empathetic immediately, the person on the other line just takes it down a notch because they might be up here in their spirits and in their anxiety about the problem that they have. So I love that you guys do that. So let’s talk a little bit more about limited resources. So we already touched upon that. And of course, right now almost every company has limited resources in one way or the other. How is your organization managing either the lack of time or the lack of resources and customer support?

Irene Griffin
So I think we had to be creative just like everybody else. We reassessed our goals based on reality. And we knew that our metrics were going to change based, you know, to reflect the reality that we have, we had somewhat of a drop in tickets in March and April, when you know, the whole world had to switch to working from home and everything just seemed very unknown. And we did have a furlough for some staff. So we were had, we had a smaller team, and a slight drop in tickets. And then as things normalized a little bit, some of the ticket count went back up. But we weren’t really able to build back that team quickly. So we looked within and we found team members from other departments to sort of pinch in, pitch in and help out and then we kind of re-shuffled some of the elements. So we refer to our teams as l one and l two. So our level one support is frontline customer facing and then the level two support tends to be more technical. They’re the ones digging into issues. So we grabbed a few folks from LSU and put them into lm positions. And it worked out really beautifully. In fact, it was a great way to sort of shift folks around And give them an opportunity to learn new skills and push themselves into new positions that they didn’t necessarily think they’d be ready for. So that’s what we did was basically, you know, we knew that our first response wasn’t going to be what it was before. And I think that, you know, I think everybody, from our customer base to our own, our executive team, I think everyone understood that it was just going to be a different landscape. And so it’s worked out really nicely that way. 

Andrea Palten
How do you measure the success of your customer service organization?

Irene Griffin
So I believe NPS is king, if you’re not familiar with it, its net promoter score, we survey every customer after every interaction with our support team, we use a shout out to ask nicely, that’s the the the product that we use to to do our surveys, and to collect NPS scores. And I think that giving the customers a chance to weigh in with just a quick numerical value, your 10. Or additionally add comments to us. That’s the key way that we know whether or not our six are happy. And that’s a very quick way of measuring. So we do measure NPS scores, and we are very high, we’re in the Upper 60s, which is pretty good. We also measure mean time to response. So you know, the life of a ticket, we will have to compare the different types of issues that we’ve tackled, and how long it takes on average to resolve those things. We’re always striving for a quicker turnaround time and a quicker resolution time. Sometimes it can’t be helped if you have a bug in the code. And it’s going to just take a, you know, a couple of weeks because it has to go to development, it has to get tested and rolled out to production. And that’s about what we do to make sure that customers are happy. We have a high touch, we reach out to customers to say, we haven’t forgotten about your item. And the eta is such and such. And you know, we just try to have sort of a high transaction with them, just so they know they’re not forgotten, people will be very patient. If you give them some ballpark and you keep them up to date as to what’s going on, the worst thing you can do is keep your purse in the dark. Everyone understands things take time. So we try to be very high touch like that. And then the first time response. That’s another good measure. Can’t hear back from somebody it seemed business day, you’re going to get the sense that you know, the company doesn’t care. And so we work really hard to make sure that people know that we’re here to help.

Andrea Palten
Yeah, that’s really good. How do you measure things daily, weekly, and monthly? How often do you measure?

Irene Griffin
So I do like a monthly mean time to resolution report, because that gives me an ability to kind of stand back and read tea leaves out of that. Same thing with the first time response, but an NPS we look at basically every day. And of course, I do a monthly report on that as well. But NPS is something I kind of can see taking up or taking down. I also look at customers as well as team members. So there’s different ways to know how people are performing and which customers might be in trouble or which ones can be evangelists for us. And then we make sure that our sales team and our customer success team, you know, can reach out to those folks that are particularly excited for referral. So that’s, that’s a common thing to do. Good, good, good. So next, either you personally or you as a company, um, how is AI? So how is artificial intelligence changing customer service, in your opinion? You know, we are looking to leverage bots. And we do use Zendesk, which is, you know, industry standards, amazing product. I love those guys. And we do have an answer bot that we’ve looked at and we’ve leveraged bear just a little bit for FAQs. I think right now for the business that we’re in, it’s not there yet, I would love for AI to grow to the point where it can solve more complex problems. I think that it is pretty good. If you have fairly straightforward and simple, you know, questions that customers come in with, but for us, we tend to be a more complex product. So I don’t know if it’s ready for us. But I hope that it gets pretty good.

Andrea Palten
And then my last question to you, I mean, as what is the number one advice that you have for customer service departments?

Irene Griffin
My number one advice is give your people the task of creative problem solving, and let them have a personality, it is a rough job some days to be in customer support and to be in customer service and to have to have that smile on for customers that aren’t always super nice and are in themselves in stress situations. So I would say you know, let Give, give your team autonomy and flexibility in troubleshooting, let them be themselves so that they can bring their own individual talents to the game. That doesn’t mean don’t, you know, script them to give them that Cornerstone that foundation of knowing how to perform on the job, but I think I think giving them a little bit of freedom, to be humorous and to do especially to bring their own style of empathy. I think that’s it. I think that’s the way to go.

Andrea Palten
I love that. Yeah. Cuz when you’re talking to Yeah, you’re talking to a real person. When you have that personality come through. That’s great. Yeah. No. All right. Well, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate your time.

Irene Griffin
You’re welcome. I had a great time. Thanks. Bye.