A lack of executive desire and recognition is holding back customer service – Interview with Michael Redbord of Hubspot

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Today’s interview is with Michael Redbord, General Manager of the Service Hub at HubSpot, a technology company that builds sales and marketing software. Michael joins me today to talk about their new research into the state of customer service, what we can learn from it, what the future holds and what we should be focusing on if we are to deliver a great customer experience.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – How using a network of experts can dramatically improve customer service automation – Interview with Antony Brydon of Directly – and is number 309 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here’s the highlights of my chat with Michael:

  • I spoke to Michael last year about the challenges of scaling customer service and support departments.
  • Hubspot recently published a new report called The State Of Customer Service in 2019.
  • Some of the hypotheses that drove this research were things like: Do people trust less? Are people really more impatient? How is that affecting service and relationships between brands and customers?
  • Only 12% of customers believe a company when they say solve for the customer or put the customer first.
  • If this is true then in some ways we are in the bottom of a trust deficit ditch.
  • About half of the small and medium sized businesses surveyed are not using some of the tools you would expect them to be using such as a proper database or a proper helpdesk shared inbox system. Many of them don’t have or value a knowledge base and they are not really collecting and acting on customer feedback.
  • Customers are stuck in this morass of …..everybody promises the world then delivers the bare minimum they can to get away with.
  • However, doing the bare minimum is not going to get you to good or even great. Not even close.
  • 89 percent of folks say they’re more likely to share feedback publicly about their experience today than they were in the past.
  • The biggest challenges facing customer service professionals:
    • 49 percent say it is dealing with upset customers;
    • 46 percent say they don’t have enough time in the day; and
    • 23 percent say that their third biggest challenge is organisation and follow up.
  • If we don’t invest in customer service/support, then it has a direct and significant impact on our employees and is a cost to the business in terms of churn, training, hiring and productivity.
  • Given that 49 percent of customer service professionals say the biggest challenge is dealing with upset customers then surely the implication from that is that the number one priority for firms should be to stop pissing off customers.
  • Customer problems are invariably not the fault of the customer service/support department.
  • Companies need to look at the the structure of the experience and just what’s happening on an individual basis to be able to start to solve these problems.
  • You have to step back and look at things systemically.
  • The ability of technology to handle some of the simple and repetitive tasks that service teams do is really in its early days. Over the next five to 10 years, it’s going to grow, become much stronger and the role of the service rep is going to get elevated to much more complex tasks.
  • The employee experience is so coupled to the customer experience.
  • However, unless you have spent a lot of time with a service team you don’t always see that.
  • Forrester reports that 70 percent of customers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than use phone or email to contact the customer service department. But, just over 56 percent of companies don’t use a knowledge base to help their customers.
  • Michael believes that the reason behind this is not to do with the tools as they are available. It’s to do with a lack of desire, a lack of recognition that you must match the way your customers want to be served with your service. And, the more you try to lead your customer through your own process, as opposed to matching the way they want to get served, the worse you make it.
  • If businesses don’t address the trust deficit and don’t service customers in the way that they want to be served then they are likely to become extinct.
  • We have to create a seamless and consistent omnichannel experience for our customers. However, at the same time it has to be as simple and frictionless as possible.
  • In pursuing simplicity in your experience, you need to be taking stuff away at a faster rate than you’re adding stuff.
  • Check out Siegel & Gale’s SimplicityIndex.com to see how simplicity driven brands outperform the stock market and do very, very well on growth, customer and employee metrics.
  • Amazon is a really good example of what works well as they’ve really studied their customers.
  • They are also very good at trying things, like new channels, and if they don’t work then they kill them off.
  • Companies should be focusing on apply technology to make things as easy and as friction free as possible so that customers are able to self serve with agents at the ready to drop in to help when things get complicated or difficult.
  • Michael’s stand out companies:
  • Michael’s best advice:
    • Focus on the edge of the org chart where the customer interactions actually happen.
    • Pay attention to the individual customer experience as a unit of one. Track that, understand precisely what felt good about it and what didn’t and then remove all the friction that you can.
  • Michael’s punk CX words: Authentic, unabashedly direct and unabashedly authentic.
  • The brands that I respect, the ones that we call out are the ones that are incredibly authentic and sometimes they are authentic in the sense that they are only for a very particular group of people.
  • Greatness has a magnetic effect.
  • People will travel (physically or digitally) for great service.
  • Find Hubspot’s The State Of Customer Service 2019 report by searching for just that or just click here.

About Michael



Michael RedbordMichael Redbord has been working in online marketing since 2005. A graduate of Tufts University and then on the Client Services team at Compete.com, Michael has worked with a variety of different sizes and shapes of companies and helped shape their marketing plans, traffic acquisition methods, and competitive online strategies.

At Compete, Michael’s primary focus was in the online travel industry, working with airlines, hoteliers, cruise lines, and online travel agencies. He spent half of his time building data-mining libraries, and the the other half consulting on the results of that research to the travel industry.

At HubSpot, Michael worked to onboard new customers, then built out the HubSpot Academy to provide scalable education for the whole HubSpot customer base. Following that, for over 5 years, Michael held leadership positions in the Services/Support organization, eventually leading the post-sale group as Vice President of Services & Support with responsbility from customer support and success to operations and renewals. During that time, he scaled the HubSpot Customer Support team from 20 people in a single office with single-language phone support to more than 200 people powering a global, multi-lingual, multi-channel support experience. In doing so, Michael took the support team from a cost center to one of HubSpot’s greatest engines of growth, with a revenue retention rate of over 100%. He’s now taking his learnings from those years of scaling customer teams and sharing them, as Vice President and General Manager of HubSpot’s Customer Hub product.

Michael likes talking about customer success, traveling to places that feel far away, cooking for large groups, and reading philosophy and hard sci-fi. He’s happy to talk about any of these at any time.

Michael is a noted writer, speaker, and former competitive classical pianist — in case you’re looking for a conversation starter.

Check out HubSpot’s new product line: Service Hub. Also, stay up to date on all the changes at HubSpot and get great service related insights at blog.hubspot.com/service. Say Hi to Michael and the folks at HubSpot on Twitter at @redbord and @HubSpot and connect with Michael on LinkedIn here.

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Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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