Carrie Huckeby, who leads WordSouth’s training program, discusses how CSRs and MSRs can focus on peak moments in the customer’s journey to dramatically improve customer satisfaction.
Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.
Andy Johns: What can you do to improve your customer experience? That’s what we’ll be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns with WordSouth. I’m your host. And I am joined today by Carrie Huckeby, who is our director of strategy and training. And a lot of you probably know Carrie from her time in the telecom industry. But, Carrie, it’s always good to talk to you.
Carrie Huckeby: Good to talk to you, Andy. Good to be here.
Andy Johns: We are going to be doing this podcast — hopefully, this is working well and everybody’s seeing it properly — on NTCA’s Marketing and Sales Conference virtual booth that we have for WordSouth. It looks like it has just logged me out, so I’m going to have to get back in there and check that again. But I think it’s working. I just can’t see that it’s working. But we’re just going to trust that it is.
Carrie Huckeby: Got to love technology.
Andy Johns: That’s right. That’s right. If you are Kerry or anybody else, if you’re watching, just go ahead and let us know. But if you’re listening to the audio portion of this podcast, if there’s any reference to a chat or anything onscreen, that’s what’s going on. I wanted you to be aware there. If you are watching at our booth as we’re streaming live on YouTube, embedded into the booth, then hopefully you enjoy getting to see this. You get to notice the quarantine beard that I’ve got going on and all of that.
Andy Johns: Well Carrie, let’s jump in. What you’ve been doing a lot of recently with WordSouth has been customer experience training. And I’d like to get into that with where that comes from. So you and I did a presentation a couple of times back, maybe a year or two ago, based all on a couple of books. And that’s kind of — in my mind at least — that’s kind of where it started. If you don’t mind, tell us a little bit about those books and where the idea for this approach to customer experience training came from.
Carrie Huckeby: Sure. The books that I think started it all or that really maybe turned the light bulb on for us as far as customer experience was the book by the Heath brothers, Chip and Dan, and they wrote The Power of Moments. And it’s really about paying attention to the moments that you can create or the moments that we remember in our life and what creates those experiences. I just recommend that to everyone. It’s just a really good read and has a lot of good points in it. The other one that goes along with that, I think hand in hand, is The Effortless Experience that was written by Matthew Dixon. And he talks about retention and loyalty and creating customers that will stick with you. And he talks about the customer effort, about making sure that you pay attention to the customer’s journey and where you may be throwing roadblocks in their way to do business with you. So these books really go hand in hand because we talk about customer experience and everything goes into this customer experience. There’s more to it. But, you know, really studying your customer journey and your customer processes and things like that lead you also to the power of moments. So I just felt like those books really went together well, as far as studying your whole business structure and how you do things.
Andy Johns: Now with the books — and particularly the one most familiar to me, the Heath Brothers book — that’s written obviously not for telcos, electrics, or for broadband providers, but it’s written for everybody. But I think it adapts itself well to any industry but particularly the industries that we work with. What are some ways, as you’ve done these trainings or when we did our presentation, what you heard from folks that you think those books really do apply well to folks that are providing broadband for people?
Carrie Huckeby: Well, I think that the book talks about, for example, that when you go to Disney World or you go to Disneyland on a trip back when we could, that you don’t really think about the kids in the car that are saying “when are we going to get there?” Or the traffic jams or the hot weather or the trunk that is full of luggage. You think about those moments when your kids come out and they had their Mickey Mouse ears on or they see the parade or the fireworks. It’s those moments within that trip or that interaction or that event that you remember. It’s not all the other stuff. So the Heath brothers really talk about being in tune with your customers and being able to identify those moments when you’re talking to a customer that you can create an experience that they remember and walk away feeling good. You know, 70% of the buying experience is based on how you make customers feel when they leave. You know, if you get a negative experience, you’ll try to not go back and have another one. So, you know, customers are looking for that. But in the book, they talk about how to elevate a moment, how to use insight to connect with the customer. They talk about connection, and they talk about pride. And those are the things that you and I talked about mainly in our presentations when we were speaking about customer experience. Being able to identify those moments and take advantage of it so that your customer feels great about doing business with your company. And whether that’s broadband or whether that’s TV service or something else, you know, consumers are the same when you’re talking to them and trying to get their business.
Andy Johns: Right, that’s true. Now, as you’ve done those training sessions — because you’ve done a few of these, a couple of them, both for telco and electric folks — what has been, do you think, the big takeaways for folks?
Carrie Huckeby: I think just paying attention. We all get busy. We get in that day to day of answering the phone and customers walking in and, hey, they’ve got a problem or my bill’s not right. You kind of get into that rut of just taking care of day to day business. And I think some of the things that they took away from that is that there are moments with customers during the day that you recognize that you can elevate that moment or you can make it a little more personal. You can recognize that they have been a customer of yours for 10 years, that they’ve been a member for a long time, or they’ve just been a good customer. So there are things that all of us can stop and take a moment and recognize what value that consumer brings to your company. And, you know, just taking a moment to make a connection. That opportunity and those possibilities are there. We just have to recognize when to take advantage of them. So I think that our training kind of makes them think, oh, you know, this happens several times during the day. I probably need to take a moment and appreciate my customer.
Andy Johns: Yeah, take a moment to make a moment. I know that it goes back to what a lot of us have heard over and over again, that it’s so much easier and cheaper to retain and to upsell existing customers than it is to go out and acquire new ones. Obviously, it all ties back together, if they’re having a better experience. So this is not just fluffy feel-good stuff. I mean, this is stuff that certainly affects the bottom line.
Carrie Huckeby: Sure. Sure. Yeah. In all my years in marketing, I knew that it costs a lot to acquire a customer, but it costs much less to just retain one and try to keep them. And sometimes we forget about those customers that have done business with us for a long time. We forget to recognize what value they bring to us. You know, regular customer service is reactive; it’s not really proactive. And so you’re answering calls and taking calls and waiting on customers every day. And that type of customer service probably doesn’t build a whole lot of loyalty. But it can definitely tear down loyalty if it’s a negative experience. But as far as making a customer feel good, it really goes to taking that time to recognize them. And like you said, create that moment with them that as they walk out, they feel better about it and they feel good about doing business with their company. We definitely need to be paying attention to the customer experience; for the customers that have been here with us for a long time, not just the ones that are signing up today with whatever our promo is.
Andy Johns: Sure. And sometimes it’s so easy. I know the example that we used in our presentation was not a costly one. It talked about the hotel. I think it was the Magic Castle or I forget the exact name of it; it was in the L.A. area. And one of the things that the customers always talked about was the popsicle hotline, which was a little phone out by the swimming pool that when you pick up the phone, somebody answered and said, “Popsicle Hotline, how can I help you?” Somebody would deliver out on a silver platter, the popsicles right there on the pool. And how much did that cost the hotel to do? You know, you already have staff there. So you had to buy a tray and a supply of popsicles, which are dirt cheap. But they said every single customer mentioned that in their survey at the end because it made such an impact, such an impression on them. So it doesn’t take a whole lot of money all the time, just a little creativity, you know, stepping outside the box to make some of that happen.
Carrie Huckeby: Right, and that story is in The Power of Moments. And it goes into great detail about that and how good their ratings are. But you and I also talked about in the presentation about how easy would it be for us to say, “oh, let’s just push the ice cream cooler out to the swimming pool, and let them get their own popsicle.” So it wasn’t really necessarily just the popsicle. It was the effort that they went into to have the red phone that they called and then having it delivered. So it was just that extra piece.
Andy Johns: Right, that definitely made the difference. So with the training that you’ve done, one of the things that we can also do for folks that you have done is secret shopping. And I wondered if there was anything that you wanted to share. Let’s leave names out to protect the guilty and the innocent. But is there anything that you’ve learned from that secret shopping experience or anything that you wanted to share in terms of how you felt like that was valuable?
Carrie Huckeby: Sure. I think mystery shopping or secret shopping is always valuable, and it should be something that you do yourself or have your friends do or, you know, we can do that. But what I think, most the time, I have seen that you think your processes are easy to understand, or you may assume your consumer knows more than what they do when they sign up for service or they come in asking for questions. You know, sometimes we have to step back and see what that customer journey is really like. We can assume all day long what we think it’s like. But until you put on the customer’s shoes and actually walk through it and walk through your processes — you know, look at your website, pick up the phone and call your office, see how long you’re on hold, see if the CSR is knowledgeable, MSR knows about broadband. You know, they can answer your questions, and they’re confident. You know, just that perception face to face and over the phone is really important. So sometimes those mystery shopping trips or those results can be eye-opening. And, you know, we shouldn’t be afraid of them because just doing them shows that you care and you’re proactive about your service and things. I think mainly we walked away from the mystery shopping that I’ve done in the past with, oh, you know, we thought we did that a little better than what we thought. Or oh, we probably need a brochure or something on our website that explains that better. That’s mainly what has come out of the mystery shopping.
Andy Johns: Having that outside opinion, an outside perspective, I think makes a big difference. Well, as we’re wrapping it up — and it looks like we do have a good number of folks at the booth. Looks like Kristi’s on there. Kerry’s on there. Laura may have popped in. Haley, so a couple of folks; hopefully, y’all are enjoying it. But as you think back to the training that you’ve done or your experience working with a lot of different broadband providers, are there a few of the same hurdles that folks always struggle with, whether it’s customer journey or customer experience? What are some things that you’ve noticed that are just always constant problems that organizations, the telcos and electric providers, always seem to struggle with?
Carrie Huckeby: Oh, I think communication is. We’ve heard that for years; it is making sure that everyone knows what’s going on and what the plan is, and also just providing resources and providing information. You know, if you’re an electric going into broadband service, your MSRs have not dealt with that before. So, you know, really be mindful of how much they can absorb in a time period. You know, starting that training to where they understand broadband terms, and they understand what the member expectations are going to be. You know, just quieting that fear and instilling confidence that they can do it; that you’re going to be right there to support them.
Carrie Huckeby: So I think I see that in all companies. I mean, I don’t think we’re ever going to go into a company and they go, “oh, you know, our communication is all perfect here, 100%. Everyone in the company knows everything that’s going along,” and all that. So I think that’s the part I really love about the training is because I’ve been in the industry for many years. I won’t say how many, but I’ve been in it many years, and, you know, I’ve been in their shoes and I know how they feel when they’re about to launch a new product or a new service. So it doesn’t change, but I think we can continue to get better just by providing more information earlier in the process, or as early as possible in the process. That would be my two cents, Andy, on that.
Andy Johns: Excellent. The last question I had for you is if there is a company out there that says, “well, we do customer service, but I don’t know that we’ve really ever looked at customer experience or taken that approach to it.” Aside from contacting WordSouth about seeing if we can help with training, what is some advice that you would throw out to those folks who are just kind of dipping their toe in the water to really step up and start focusing on that customer experience?
Carrie Huckeby: Well, I would start examining processes and what the customer goes through. I would keep in mind that — I found this stat the other day, and I use it from the Gartner Study. It said, a study says that 80% of executives believed they had exceptional customer experience, but when they asked their customers, only 8% agreed. So that’s a pretty big distance between what the executives think and what their customers think.
Andy Johns: 80% to 8%. Wow.
Carrie Huckeby: Yes, 80% to 8%. So there was definitely a disconnect there. So I would start with your customers — surveying them would be one of the things. And I would be sure that I would talk about the differences in customer service and customer experience. Customer service definitely goes into that customer experience bucket, but every single interaction with your company — your website, your social media, face-to-face phone calls, interactions with your lineman, interactions with your technician — every one of those goes into that customer experience bucket. So my recommendation would be to start with your customer survey and then start looking at your processes and procedures within your company to see what obstacles are being thrown at the customer, making it difficult for them to do business with you.
Andy Johns: Excellent. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that asking. You want to know something, ask somebody. How about that?
Carrie Huckeby: Yeah, easy as that.
Andy Johns: She is Carrie Huckeby. She is the director of strategy and training at WordSouth, and a telco marketing legend, even though she doesn’t like it when I say that.
Carrie Huckeby: It means old. I think it means old, Andy.
Andy Johns: Carrie, thanks for joining me.
Carrie Huckeby: Thanks, Andy. I appreciate it. Bye, everyone.
Andy Johns: I’m your host, Andy Johns with WordSouth. We’ve got a couple of other webinars we’ll be doing. I know I have a couple lined up for Thursday. I don’t have any planned for the rest of today, Wednesday, but I’ve got a couple lined up for Thursday. So hopefully, if you’re at the NTCA Marketing & Sales Conference, the virtual Marketing & Sales Conference, that you’ll stop by our booth and tune in for a couple of these tomorrow. I’ll put some times up there, where they’re going to be. They’ll be on the booth. Hope you’ve enjoyed it. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.