How to always deliver
the major objectives

Joe Clancy – Senior Director of the GSK Response Center

About this episode

Today we talk with the Senior Director of the GSK Response Center, Joe Clancy. 
Joe is a huge advocate of exceptional customer service and is constantly looking for ways to do more with less as we all know is the reality today. 

Joe talks about how to deliver the major objectives — always and first.

Interview Transcript

Welcome to the Future of Customer Service Podcast.
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.

Andrea Palten
Today, we have Joe Clancy from GlaxoSmithKline. He’s the Senior Director of GSKs Customer Response Center. Thank you Joe for being here. I really appreciate it. Joe, what is it exactly that a Senior Director of the Customer Response Center does?

Joe Clancy
Well, it’s nice to be here, Andrea. Thank you. Predominantly we sit on the front line of customer service for our US affiliated for GSK meaning we take questions from the general public, patients, and physician and healthcare practitioners that they have with our prescription and vaccine products.

Andrea Palten
Awesome and it’s important to let our listeners know that this interview is for you, Joe, I’m interviewing you. I’m not even interviewing the company, and this is your opinion and personal opinion only.

Joe Clancy
Correct? I am. I’m representing myself and not my company and all the opinions that I’ll offer today are expressly my own.

Andrea Palten
Awesome and that’s really why we have you here. You have the experience. You are a Senior Director now and you have been around the block. So, I want to know from you and your opinions anyway because that’s what we’re really, really interested in because you’re a thought leader in your field. So, let’s get started. 

Joe Clancy
Alright. Let’s do it.

Andrea Palten
What have you done to promote great customer service in your current organization?

Joe Clancy
So, I’ve been in with GSK for 20 years. The last four of which have been in a customer service role. I think when I first came into a role like this, for me, it was about positioning the team and how the team was being viewed by the broader organization. So, I spent a lot of time really making sure that the team was positioned appropriately as I engaged with stakeholders across the organization. What I mean by that is you know, my elevator pitch for the center was more of a visual than a short pithy statement. But I always liked to tell people that the agents that work in the center stand on the front porch of GSK and greet all the patients and healthcare practitioners that have a need or a problem that my team can help resolve.
So, I’m ensuring that my colleagues and stakeholders know that many times it’s a one-off interaction with that function and that’s the only interaction that they’re going to have with GSK. So, how they feel about the company, in general, is make or break in that one interaction they have with our agents and really ensuring that the reputation of GSK stands between our agents and that patient. So, make sure of the value that my team is creating for the company beyond just sort of executing our day-to-day role. I think the other thing that I’ve tried to do is elevate the voice of the patient. You know, we don’t sell chocolates, we don’t sell other things. We really are in the business of living GSKs mission, which is helping people do more, feel better, live longer and we have an opportunity to really change the lives of patients.
A lot of times people are calling in with problems, but we do hear from patients where GSK medicine or our vaccine has truly transformed their life, in some cases helped them live longer. So, we instituted a program where we captured that voice of the patient in testimonials and shared that with the broader organization. I view my job, not just as providing a service to the patients, but also providing inspiration to the larger GSK organization. So, the program we have gets consent from the patient if our agents hear a story that would be sort of inspirational and meaningful to share with the broader organization. They get that consent from the patient and then we’re able to share that audio file more broadly within the company and we’ve actually just started with a brand ambassador.
So, some patients are so enthusiastic about what our medicines have done for them that they want to speak on behalf of the company. So, we can take an additional consent and capture those people that have called us and shared their story and can turn that into an opportunity to have them share it with people that are like them. So, that program has been, I think, fairly successful. We’ve gone all the way up to our CEO and played those testimonials at her meetings. We’ve done it at national sales meetings down to a local district sales meeting or an internal departmental meeting. It’s just about getting why we get out of bed every day as a company and employees in the company and getting that inspiration to the folks that may not be sitting on the frontline of patient engagement like my agents do.
I think I think to that end I also stress to my managers, all employees in the department including agents just to be visible. The single best public speaker I’ve ever come across in my tenure has been an agent within the center and he shared one of his stories about patient interaction. We have a senior leader forum every year within the US and he kicked off that session just to provide that inspiration about a patient, not having their best day, but while he has to show up having his best day every day because he’s trying to help that patient deal with whatever situation they have. It was really inspirational, and I think if you can connect sort of your people and their passion with that inspiration and get visible in the organization, I think that goes a long way to providing dividends and showing the value that the team has in that.
Then I think the final thought I have on that is how do you demonstrate your value just beyond what you do day in and day out? Where are you making the connections of where customer service intersects with your marketing teams, with your data analytics teams, with folks that are looking for forecasting and how do we get sort of the treasure trove of information that we can collect in a contact center into the hands of people that can analyze it, make use of it, and make better decisions and hopefully better medicines based on that information that we’re collecting every day.

Andrea Palten
That is such great practice. A lot of times, you know, you have really the golden nuggets. They sit in the customer contact centers and those departments with testimonials and with patients or customers that their pain points and their needs, and also their wins and a lot of times it stays there. So, I love that you share it with other teams and departments, and you learn from it too because I think that is so valuable. Again, it’s lost in other organizations so that’s great that you do that.

Joe Clancy
We try to. We definitely try to get that out. I think we do, and we spend a lot of time on market research when we’re getting in the launch phase of a product to get that voice of the patient and even post-authorization when we get approval from the FDA, we’re continuing to do surveillance in the marketplace to understand how the patients are using it. But you have a treasure trove of market research-like data within the contact center. It’s just about finding the voice of that and having the tools and systems in place that you can actually harness that power because you’re dealing with a lot of structure as well as unstructured data and you have to make use of that. That’s not been easy for us. I’m sure it’s a challenge for most organizations trying to tap into that data.

Andrea Palten
Yeah and on a personal note, you had mentioned that you’ve been on this team or in this department for four years. What did you do before then?

Joe Clancy
I like to tell people I’m a failed scientist on some levels. So, I started out in the R&D side of it. That’s my background by training, public health. I spent my first five years at GSK in an R&D organization moved over to the corporate side, did a lot of ethics and compliance as well as generalized risk management. I’ve always tried to not have myself typecast or defined in one method. So, when I start and you’re the compliance guy or you’re the risk manager, try to change my career and m.o. ops just so that I can keep growing learning and sort of add value where I think I can to the organization.

Andrea Palten
Oh, that’s fantastic. I think that makes you better in your role too because you’ve seen different sides of the organization in what you do so that’s cool. Let me ask you the next question. 

Joe Clancy

Andrea Palten
Everybody struggles with resources. You hear this from companies all the time, especially in 2020, and now going over into 2021. We’re still hearing that we have limited bandwidth, limited people don’t know what to do with all that. If, or is your organization going through the same thing and if so, how are you managing that lack of time or resources on your team?

Joe Clancy
Yeah, I would be surprised if folks said they weren’t struggling with that in some capacity. I would say that’s sort of a constant almost every year. There are hard challenges looking at budget or where we’re going to place our bets. But we did have new leadership within the US affiliate this year and those questions that come with a change in leadership are being asked. Where are we putting our money? Where are our budgets? As a contact center, we do have some high-budget line items in terms of our outsourced partnerships that we do have. So yeah, it’s true for us in 2021, as it was true in 2020 and COVID has not…We haven’t been impacted as maybe others within our company that also operate contact centers, but we did see some knock-on effects from just company performance and trying to look through what we do with that.
I think there are a number of things that we’ve tried to do that I think are outside of a COVID or pandemic year that I would recommend to others every year. One is always to understand who you’re trying to sell your value to, making sure you have a good value proposition and that you can demonstrate the value you bring to the organization. That goes back to the positioning statement that I was mentioning previously. I also think one thing that I did when I first started was also trying to economize the contacts out. So, what is the ROI for a contact center? How much does it cost to field a single phone call, a single chat? And then quantify that to the value that each one of those contacts creates for the company. So, we sat down with our forecasting team, we have a customer insights team and try to really look at that and I wouldn’t call it fuzzy math, but it also wasn’t hard economics. 
It’s not a perfect science there, but we did our best to make sort of reasonable assumptions about the puts and takes in managing a contact center and derive a sort of a single contact value that we’ve used to sort of demonstrate sort of value before we put our bets. I think that has helped us tremendously when we think about our systems and investment in the infrastructure to maintain a contact center and we’re one country out of many in a multi-national healthcare company. So, the systems we use are typically globalized and there has to be a ruthless prioritization of where the support goes to. But if you can really sort of like quantify the value, a change that you have in your systems, and you can sort of follow that through to the impact that will have on the organization and put a dollar amount to associate it with that, that goes a long way for people to realize the upfront costs, perhaps to invest in new technology, a new team, or a new way of doing business.
So, having sort of a quantifiable number that we use to propose change requests, budget changes have really helped me when I go to senior leaders who really focus on the puts and takes and have to make tough decisions on where to place their budget. I think it also helps to work for a company that shares my philosophy that customer service is not a commodity. My personal philosophy says if I ever got to a place where that was true, I would probably leave that organization because I think if you just look at customer service as a cost center or the bottom line I think you’ll lose something from your brand, your service. I think that’s all knocked on. There’s plenty of papers out there that demonstrate the power and the value of customer service to a company.
So, really making sure that the company buys into customer service as a true value generator and not just as a cost center and a line item, because we’re not in the sales side of our business, we don’t do sales, we are a service organization. But I’ve tried hard to sort of push back against the idea that, that we’re just a line-item cost center, that we do actually return value to the company. A couple of other thoughts that I have is making sure you’re finding allies. You have to keep your head up in the organization, see where trends are in terms of where the company is investing in systems and technologies and where those intersections occur with your customer service organizations, and really hitching your wagon at times to those organizations where you can have a win-win value.
The one example that comes to my mind is our digital marketing and digital analytics team. There’s a big push at GSK to really get the voice of customer data, the insights that we were talking about, and coming up with the use case that my channel can plug into maybe other channels where the voice of customer is gleaned. But if they’re pushing that agenda and I know that there are budget items, reaching out to those leaders and those organizations with my use case of how I can help benefit their objectives while also fostering my own and creating sort of that win-win scenario. Then finally, it’s just looking at all the different aspects, creative contracting last year to save ourselves the money. We moved from a time and materials type contracting process with our third-party outsource provider to a more of a performance-based managed services model and extended that for a few years to really achieve those cost savings that come with having them getting better each year.
So, looking at creative ways that you can structure contracts, looking at how you want to operate your business is offshoring/onshoring, is outsourcing/insourcing the right model, and picking which ones that you can do. I know offshoring isn’t attractive from a financial perspective, but I do know in COVID it’s created a lot of problems for companies in those markets that don’t have the infrastructure if there’s a stay-at-home event and people have to go in the office because that’s reliable internet. So, those challenges I know, do creep up. We, fortunately, did not have that we’re 100% onshore here and we have a hybrid mix between insourced and outsourced trying to sort of leverage and risk managers to try to hedge our bets and make sure that we’re not over-leveraged in one space or another to weather storms although I think the pandemic probably exceeded anybody’s expectation in terms of the impact that it has. 
Then the final thought you have to learn is ruthless prioritization is having to coach my team to say no to good ideas so that we can fully exploit the great ideas. That’s not always an easy message to tell your teams who are looking to sort of drive the business and unlock. I might be seeing it from a different way and while I think in normal times, it might be good, but if I have to make trade-off decisions, I might have to tell them, hey, we’re going to have to put that on the back burner so that we can deliver whatever the major objective is. I think at times that can be a tough conversation, but it’s absolutely needed if you don’t have unlimited funds.

Andrea Palten
Yeah. You’re dropping so many nuggets. This is great. The listeners are going to love this. So, I want to change subjects a little bit. I’m going to talk about artificial intelligence, and this is totally your personal opinion here. How do you think artificial intelligence is going to change customer service?

Joe Clancy
I can think of three ways that top of mind, I’m sure there’s going to be hundreds of ways that will eventually be realized. But I’ll say in the near term, I think the first big way is that big data and capturing the insights. So, really looking at bringing the insights to all of the channels that a company has and in a customer service organization that’s like looking at our phone calls, our survey data, our chat data, our social media data. Any channel where we collect information, overlaying that with agent-provided information like how they classify a call or contact into our CRM platform. Bringing those together and providing sentiment analysis on top of that to identify those pain points within the organization. 
So really uncovering those nuggets that might help our agents perform better but also that may help our marketing teams uncover something about our products that is suboptimal, and they could iterate to make a better messaging, a better product. Really making sure that we’re uncovering all of those insights. A lot of times it may not be readily obvious and having artificial intelligence can make those connections across structured data, unstructured data that your best data analyst that is using more analog methods just can’t uncover. I have a vision in the next five years that my agents will have real-time AI sitting next to them to help them be better agents. 
I don’t now see a scenario where the AI is doing the job of the agents, but I’ll get to that my third point. But I, I think having the agents be better at their roles, I think AI can absolutely unlock additional value for those agents. Really when we’re trying to orchestrate those moments that matter in a patient’s journey on a GSK medicine or vaccine. If you had AI that was an equalizing a phone call in real-time and a sentiment that was offering suggestions to the agent of if you took this action now that would really help the profile that the machine has built up over sort of similar conversations that we’ve had in the past.
So, that is a really promising area for me that I think we have to move into is unlocking the power of AI to make our agents better and really equipping them to pinpoint that moment that matters when they come into a patient’s life is really try to help them get on a GSK medicine, stay on a GSK medicine or any of the sort of ancillary feelings that are around when you’re dealing with a health problem. So, I think it’s from an organizational perspective, I think it’s personalization at the agent one-to-one level and then I think there is a big factor around easing the burden of your live agents. It goes back to the budgetary question. So, if for us we had a lot of repetitive sort of non-live channels in our chat for instance, where we want to be able to remove some of the burdens on our live agents and get some more to the transactional ones.
If you have a chatbot that’s enabled with AI that can handle some of those transactional ones. I think that really does add value to the organization. We turned on an AI-powered chatbot last year with the idea of, you know, deflection is a four-word in customer service, but really, for me, it’s self-service for the patients. It’s meeting the patient or the customer where they’re at the time, we’re not a 24/7 contact center on all of our teams but the patient may have a question that they want an answer when we’re not open. If you have an AI-powered chatbot that’s robust, well, that’s now a convenience, which is part of our mission and our vision. So, if we can give that easy, exceptional, and convenient experience for our customers then I think that’s a win in that. It also has the ancillary benefit of not overburdening our live agents. So, we keep it on when we’re open and that’s the first go with somebody chatting with us. If it’s not successful that we get you to live agents as quickly as possible so that we can keep the experience hopefully seamless for the end-user.

Andrea Palten
Great. I have one last question for you, and I know you’ve already been giving us really, really good advice. But I now would really want you to think about the number one. So, just one advice, one piece of advice that you have for customer service departments for success.

Joe Clancy
Don’t trust anybody giving you one piece of advice for customer service improvements.  I think I’m a devil’s in the details type of person. I think that matters based on the merit of folks that we service every day, and you have to be adaptable and diverse, and inclusive, and everything that you do. So, paying attention to those details matters, and paying attention to how your employees do matters. So, I would say focus on the employees and making sure their needs are catered. I have a saying that if you have holes, H-O-L-E in yourself, you can’t bring your whole, W-H-O-L-E self to your job. That is reflective. I think it comes across to our customers and our patients. 
So, I spend a lot of time making sure our agents are engaged and we have various internal surveys to validate that, and we have development programs for agents. We make sure that they’re empowered so that they have decision rights that they can take action, should they need based on a conversation and they’re happy at the end of the day. It’s a tough job. The job that I couldn’t do personally and recognizing that burnout is a real thing for this role and trying to make sure that you’re taking care of your employees. I believe that if you can get that right, and those lead measures, all the lag measures like CSAT, NPS, service factor, will fall into line. So, I’ve taken the long view with customer service. It doesn’t happen overnight but trying to listen to the employees and my job is truly like getting barriers out of their way so that I can make their job as easy as possible because that will flow down the line to our customers at the end of the day. So, focus on your employees and your agents would be my one piece of advice if I had to give it.

Andrea Palten
Yes. And that was great. I liked the hole/whole too. That is a really good way to think about that. Joe I really appreciate you being here. Thank you so much for your time.

Joe Clancy
You’re welcome. Thank you.

Thanks so much for tuning in. This podcast was brought to you by Inbenta. Inbenta Symbolic AI implements natural language processing that requires no training data Inbentas extensive lexicon and patented algorithms. Check out this robust customer interaction platform for your AI needs. From chat, bots to search to knowledge centers and messenger platforms. Just go to our website to request a demo at, that’s I N B E N T If you liked what you heard today, please be sure to subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review. Thank you.

Read more

Interested in Customer Service Automation?
Download our ebook!

Three smart solutions that can make an impact on your AI-powered customer service automation
Case studies related to each solution
Tips to choose the best technology to automate your customer service

Ecommerce Search Automation ebook