Featured Episode

Creating Positive Experiences Through Customer Support

Creating Positive Experiences Through Customer Support

About the episode

Customer support is more than about support, but the entire customer experience.  

Matt Dale is the VP Customer Support at Illuminate Education and brings 15 years of experience in customer support and success. Matt brings dynamic insights to the world of customer support through building high functioning support and data service teams in b2b SaaS environments.  

Join us as we discuss:

  • What we are looking at wrong in customer support
  • Why customer support is a part of the entire customer experience
  • The future of customer support

In this episode, you''ll learn:

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Our takeaways from the episode

“There is no fixed solution or path. It's your problem to solve, to own, to understand. But don't be too quick to jump to a solution. Make sure you understand the problem.”

Show notes

00:06 - 04:00
In a world where customer support is treated as a cost center, where corporations push automation over empathy, transaction over transformation. This is a show about customer support moments, where we find ourselves in the dark valleys of customer crisis and lead them from anxiety to relief. So pop your popcorn, dig out your VHS tapes. If they made a movie of your customer support career, this would be it. Welcome to the quest for epic customer support. Here's your host. What's going on, folks? Is Bolagie with test box, and I'm welcoming you to another episode of the quest for epic customer support. Today we have got as our Resident Indiana Jones, Matt Dale. Matt is the VP of customer support at illuminate education. He's a fifteen year veteran of customer success and customer support and he works on building solid, high functioning support and data service teams in BTB SAS environments. I love that Matt is known for cultivating strong collaborative relationships. We're gonna need all that collaboration today, Matt, because we are trying to figure out how to achieve epic customer support. So Matt Welcome to the show, Blosi, thanks for having me. Super excited to be here. Yeah, this is really exciting. Matt, I've had the opportunity to follow a lot of your content on Linkedin. You know, I love when I'm able to learn from customer support practitioners like yourself. And here's the thing that strikes me, Matt. It seems like in previous generations, customer support was almost simpler, purer. You know, businesses were maybe mostly local and everyone knew your name and your parents names. They knew birthdays graduations. But in recent years, Matt, it seems like customer support has come to emphasize efficiency over effectiveness, or automation over empathy, and so I want to dig into all that. But before we go there, we need to know where the story started. So I want to dig into your origin story. Match. Does that sound good? Sounds Great. Let's do it. Amazing, amazing. All right. So, Matt, let's go back to where this story all started. What what was? What's your first memory? What's your first personal customer support Dream Story that you experienced? Well, so, kind of thinking back, I came to customer support in a roundabout way and I think, like a lot of support professionals do. Um, I don't. I don't recall a specific incident in my childhood where it was like I want to be a customer support professional. Um. But what kind of shaped my journey was my mom Um, back in six I was three years old. Um. She she was a journalist. She worked at our small local newspaper, Um, and she'd been doing some work on the side. She had had me and she was pregnant with my brother and was thinking, Hey, I want to get out of the journalism cycle here, but I love doing graphic design, I love doing newsletters and layouts. Um. And at the time that was back when you had to have a type setter person that would actually set lines of type that you could then shoot to the plates, Uh and and print your Um, you know, print your your your newsletter, your or your piece out. Um. So it's a very physical process of creating content like that. Um. She and my dad looked and apple had a Macintosh computer and a laser printer for sale. Um, and they dropped I think about twelve thousand dollars in on this, on this computer and this printer and had a think a twelve k hard drive, which...
04:00 - 08:01
...was huge at the time, Um and again cost more than probably the both of the family cars at that point. And so that was kind of what brought the computer into our home and my my mom had always done graphic design when I was growing up and I helped her with with layout and stuff. Um. And as they got rid of their old computers to buy the newer ones that would come out, my brother and I got to play with the ones that were the hand me downs and as a kid, I ended up breaking and then having to fix because I'm the only one there. You know, the Internet didn't really exist or it was kind of in its infant stages at that point and Um, you know, breaking things and having to figure out how to how to make it work again. Um, I got pretty okay at fixing computers and so um helped out one of her graphic design friends installing some software and realized that I could actually make money doing, Um, the stuff that I like doing, which is messing about on people's computers teaching them how to use it. Um, that GIG turned into Um helping out at at a senior citizen program at an after school program at our O, our local elementary school, where they brought seniors in and taught them how to use the Internet. This was, I think, probably in the probably the mid, mid to late nineties. So it was the Imac could just come out the computer lab had all these IMAX and they said, Hey, we've got these computers. We'd love to teach seniors how to a free course, how to how to use the Internet. And so it was in the days of Alta Vista. And asked Jeeves and I was there. My my grandma and I were going to go out and get pizza afterwards, and the instructor said, Hey, like, I've been helping, just, you know, helping around. Here's how you click, here's how you copy paste, things like that. The instructor said, Hey, we have a wait list on this program there's only one of me, but if you want to come work for the school district, I can. I can hook you up with a couple of different classes a week. You know, we can, we can make this happen, and so Um. So then I became a teacher and I was teaching, teaching people how to use the Internet and and a lot of them would say hey, can you come into a house lesson, and so I I'd work at their homes and so I never actually had a typical, you know, high school, junior high job. It was always whenever I wanted money or whenever our my clients needed me, I'd go to their house and help them out and, Um, and that was kind of how I got into helping people with their technology, with computers, and that was, I guess, my origin story for for customer support. That's wild. That's wild, man, you're playing all the hits. Man Alto Vista asked Mackintosh. I grew up on of Macintosh as well. Um, that that my mom actually bought and brought into the house. So it is interesting, you know how sometimes we remember there's certain brands that just sort of stick out, that are part of our stories. But but there's there's like a thread through what you just shared, Matt. That really strikes me and it seems like even as a young man you were maybe you just you you were curious, but you also enjoyed helping people. Yep, I think I think both of those are our key parts of of of WHO I am in my story. Every every job I've ever had has been involving learning more and helping folks. M Hm, M hm. That's fascinating. So you know, Um, a lot of us have brands that maybe we favor either from our youth or or now. Um, I'll tell you what I was buying. My wife and I we were buying our first car. Our parents told US buy a Honda or Toyota. Right. They have no affiliation with those brands or those companies, but they had positive experiences. So it is interesting how sometimes customer support maybe might be perceived by an afterthought but actually has a really long lasting legacy. Are there any brands Matt through your you know, not only childhood but adulthood, have had that sort of reverberating effect? Yeah, I think there's there's a few. Obviously apple has been a big part of my my story and my family story. We were apple people all the way through the Dark Ages, you know, when the clone eras and nobody, nobody liked them and uh, you know all that, all that stuff. So I was I was a fan before they were popular again, before Steve came back Um. But I think that's a band that's done an amazing job of...
08:01 - 12:01
...balancing hardware and software and putting them together in a package that really works. I think with the recent UM apple silicon chips. We've seen the huge improvements apple was able to make as they switched over from Intel. My wife's were we're sitting in bed last night and she was she had her macbook air there and she's like, I've been using this all day and I still thirty battery life. And you know, if if you roll the clock back a couple of years, you know like that's not how you know chips work. And so for a company to be able to control their whole experience Um from the from the hardware design to the chips that are powering it to the the software that runs on it, that gives apple some really interesting control over over their ecosystem and they have a competitive advantage that that a lot of their competitors don't with. You know, you look at del Or, you look at some of the other even Microsoft, as they're making their own pcs and stuff now they're relying on parts from a lot of different suppliers and and or an operating system that they're not in control of and they they're unable to see some of those really massive improvements that we've seen an apple recently. So I think that analogy, if you kind of think about that, with some other companies and apply that maybe to the support experience. If you're able to tie things together and kind of put them in a in a in a way that you can control the whole story, you can control your customers experience of the entire product or brand. Um, I think that gives you a really interesting competitive advantage that that you don't see in a lot of companies. Um, some other companies that I admire, like like you, it was Honda. Toyota was we were growing up. Um, and I have a Toyota four runner. That's our our main family car right now. Um. For my less reliable car, I have a BMW because I like cars that are old and this one is thirty BMW and it's it's it's fun to work on and fun to drive, but I don't buy that one for the cheap parts or the you know, necessarily the reliability there. So, Um, I think another brand that I really like is a Nintendo. I think they've done an interesting job. You know, as a kid in the in the eighties, I got my I saved up money, but my first game. Boy, think like in Probab who, we were on a family trip to Oregon, where there's no sales tax, and so I saved seven dollars and buying a hundred dollar item because I wasn't paying the seven percent of Sales Tax California. Um. And I love that. That that that the game boy, the device, the Games that you could play on it, Um, the portability. You know, we didn't we didn't have Um. We had one family TV, but we weren't allowed to play a whole lot of video games on it. But for some reason my parents let us play handhelds and so my brother and I had game boys and just the joy of kind of playing the game in that experience. And then as I've, you know, grown up and interacted with the brand over the years, Um, you know, the we era, Um, and with the nintendo switch now, Um, it's just a company that I think approaches games in a fun way, whereas you look at, you know, some of the back in the genesis and and Nintendo days, it was like genesis is this hardcore aggressive, you know, Edgy Company, and Nintendo's like Hey, we we do fun. And I think if you look at that as they've moved forward, Um, you know, Nintendo focusing on kind of their Labo experiment with the with the card or that you could build into controllers and Um, doing the stuff with the d s or the we where, you know, it's different, different devices with older technology. Um, I think Um, it was always like, you know, withird technology, is what they called that, and stuff that was tried and true and cost effective. But then they could create an experience around that that Um, that made it enjoyable in a way that you know when you're when you're just pushing pixels and trying to get the latest and greatest. It's just kind of a different approach and I've always appreciated kind of that, that Blue Ocean strategy, so to speak, where we're going somewhere different but we can get people excited about that and not have to fight the competitors in the same way. That, man, that's that's a really exciting vision that you're painting. I love how you illustrated it with Nintendo. My family also has a lot of experience, starting from game boys two up to we just bought my fifteen year old a switch. There you go. Yeah, a couple of weeks ago for his birthday. So I mean the intended it is a brilliant example because that is a generational relationship that we're having. It's funny because my wife told me. She was like, you know, our son has been...
12:01 - 16:00
...really interested in the Nintendo switch. I'd like to get him one. Guess what? I didn't ask. I didn't ask her how much is it. I was like, okay, is that Nintendo? I know Nintendo. Are we all? He's grades are great. Okay, sure, let's go for it. So that fascinates me. But you've you sort of painted this picture, Matt, of the creation of an experience, almost whether it's with your hardware or software or the themes in which you create your products. There's this concept of customer support as being maybe reactive. You know, we're there to almost put out fires. Where the the broader practice of maybe C X Customer Experience? It seems to include customer support, but it also has customer success and maybe some other items. Someone framed it as firefighters versus architects. Right, customer support we only show up when there's a fire to put out, we put the fire out and then we're gone. It almost feels transactional. I wanted to get your reaction to this framing of firefighters versus architects. Yeah, I think I've heard that before too. Um, I don't I don't think that's necessarily wrong, although I think saying hey, we're just firefighters is probably missing some of the bigger pictures. You look at the customer experience. Um, I don't think it's just customer support and customer success that we're talking about. I think you know, experiences, your entire interaction with the brand, right and and again, for us on front client facing teams, are customer facing teams. We, we are the face of of the brand. I like to say, you know, Um, we're the voice of illuminate to our customers and were voice of the customers to illuminate. So, like we're the people that are in the middle, that are that are kind of that, um, facilitating the relationship. But I think it's I think it's bigger than just saying like, the customer experience process is bigger than just saying hey, it's support and its success, it's it's it's the user experience. What what do the UI actually look like? What, how, how do we interact with our with our help docs? How how do we, you know, contact the company? What does what does even training look like? And how does how do things get set up? Um, you know, I work at Assas and we're very business to business or business to enterprise. That is, Um, you know, we sell to school districts, since typically the person that's buying the product isn't necessarily the one using it or isn't the only one using it. So now you know, if, if I, if I sign up for apple music or for spotify or something like that and I don't like something that they're doing. Um, you know, maybe spotify doesn't have neil young anymore and that's really important to me to listen to Neil's music. Um, I can say hey, I'm I'm ending that relationship and I'm gonna go to another provider that has has neil's music on it. Um. That's not an option that many of our clients have their their teachers. They're working in a district and someone at the either their school level or, more likely, the district level, has chosen to partner with illuminate and use our tools Um, in there, you know, in their classrooms and in there to accomplish the district's goals. And so we, my team has a different experience, and interact with that that end user, that client. Then, you know, someone working for spotify or for apple music or something like that. Our clients have to use our product because someone just made that decision for them, and so we have a different way that we're kind of interacting with them than than some other companies. To bring that back to your architect versus the firefighter, analogy, if I look at myself and my team is just the firefighters. We are support, we are the reactive arm of illuminate. You have a problem, you reach out to us and we and then we solve it for you. But if I'm just looking at it as solely transactional and solely reactive, I'm not. I'm losing opportunities to say why are clients contacting us in the first place? What's what's the root cause for this interaction? Did we not have documentation that made sense? Where they improperly trained? Did the UI and the and the way that they interact with our software not make sense? Um, you know what was the cause that was behind that? And so, in addition to putting out that fire, I need to say, what can I do to prevent that fire from happening in the first place? You know, so maybe it's maybe it's smoky bear right. You know. Only you can prevent forest fires. Instead of just saying...
16:00 - 20:00
...hand fighting the fire, it's how do how do you prevent that fire from happening? And I'm a big proponent of identifying the root causes in addressing those in a proactive way. Whoa, I gotta let that moment breathe for a minute, folks, I don't let that one breathe that. Yeah, that man, that's like a whole different mindset shift for me. Um, and it's sending me in a couple of different directions. Let's see if we can sort of illustrate. I want to illustrate both ends of the spectrum here, as we talk about customer support experiences and and case in point, we're gonna run with this fire analogy for a moment Um. If somebody has the misfortune of having a fire in their home, this could be one of the worst days of their life. It's at that point, Matt, that you are entering. It's like Matt Dale has joined the chat. Okay, it's like, Hey, how's your day going? By House is on fire. How do you think? Pretty Great, okay, good. Yeah. So so I'm curious, mad in your fifty years of working in this industry, what are some maybe crazy stories or experiences that you've been through yourself. So one of the most interesting, and I don't know if it's crazy, um, but when I was working prior to illuminate a couple of jobs prior, I was at an apple authorized repair center. We were in a small town, Um, and it was kind of on the outskirts of Um Los Angeles Metro area. It was a weekend retreat for a lot of actors and movie stars and and people that wanted to have, hey, let's go out to the country for the weekend kind of a thing. And so we had those folks and we had people like me and others that enjoyed living close to southern California but kind of in a more rural area. Um. So I was at a tech company there and one of our clients Um was actually a lot of more set at the time and Um, the iphone had just come out. Um, I had got one actually was given to me by one of our customers. She she paid me to stand in line to get to and then she said, Hey, I appreciate the service you've given me. Here here's here's a free iphone, and I just I lost it because at the time. I wasn't making a lot of money and they were, you know, five or six hundred bucks and like, and it just come out like it was brand new. So I had this new iphone and I'm an Apple Guy, I'm an apple author, is a Pairs Center, like I'm tearing apart the laptops, like I love the brand. Um, and I've got this new phone, which is which is totally awesome. I had to break a contract with sprint and it cost a bunch of money on my wife and I agonized that over for like three days because like, can we afford to do this? But I really want the phone. Does a t and D have good service here? But do I really want the phone? and Um. So anyway, I had this new phone and the only guy in the office, is five of us. I'm the only guy with an apple iphone. And we get a call from Alana's and she's in Barbados on the on a runway in a private jet and she's saying, Hey, I've got this new iphone that I just just arrived. I need help getting something set up. And so I was never senior enough to handle any of the altist calls because my my boss is like it's a lot of more set. I want to I want to talk to her. I'm I'M gonna be here, you know, and which is totally cool, like, I respect the heck out of that. It was his company. Of course you'RE gonna be dealing with the fun famous people. Um, but I had the IPHONE and I knew how to use it, and so I'm talking a lot is through. It was like setting up her contacts or setting up sinking something on her phone. Well, she's in Barbados on a private jet, and so for me that was kind of like a I interacted with a lot of a lot of really heavy hitters in that job, but but that was one that was just stuck out as this is really cool and crazy, and I don't know it was. It's one that I remember, you know, these many years later, as I as I'm, you know, thinking about the big, big milestones in my customer support career. So, yeah, oh my gosh, that is crazy. Listen, if I get to the point, Matt, where I could go like yeah, so Darry a Lantis was, you know, on on a private jet heading to Barbados and she calls me that that would be my go to dinner party story. Every single it doesn't come out a whole lot, but when it doesn't and when people are asking about customer support, that one, that one comes out a lot. There were a lot of other, not as great customer support experiences, but one is the pretty high...
20:00 - 24:00
...high point and you know, we all have our brushes with greatness and stars and famous people, and that one's mind. So yeah, you know, that's pretty phenomenal and it sounds like the call went well. She sounds like you were able to help solve the problem. That's amazing. The Atlantis calls I'll take I'll take alantis online too. That's that's just blow my mind. But but I'm also curious as well, Matt how here's the thing about being a customer support person that, like like Um, high school teachers, like psychiatrists, you guys are on the front lines helping people in crisis and I feel like sometimes you might be underappreciated. I'm wondering whether you or some of your teammates have had people call in that maybe haven't been as appreciative as Atlantis was. Yeah, so I think it's uh, I think it's human nature too, when you're frustrated, to want to take that out on somebody. Um, peep aren't calling our our our line because they're having a great day right our products not working the right way. They've been told they have. In our case, they've been told they have to use it for maybe some district benchmark or something like that, and it's not working the way they wanted to and they're they're frustrated. Maybe they're pushing the envelope, doing something interesting with it, and what worked last week with the new software release doesn't work now because it wasn't necessarily a supportive feature. They're they're calling in and they're they're having a hard time, and I think it's it's our job, is support professionals, to to listen. Um, I like to kind of say there's two aspects to the interaction. Right there's the the problem that you have to solve, the fire to put out, so to speak, and then there's the human being on the other and the emotional connection that you need to make two you know, help them feel herd, make sure that they know that you're on their side and that you're there to work for them and work with them. Um, there are some cases where we can't fix the problem right Um, the software just doesn't work that way where it's going to take some time to get that that bug fixed. Um, if I'm able to connect with you as a human being, if if you feel hurt, if you feel, Um, that that I understand your problem and your frustration, you're you're gonna be able to leave that that situation maybe maybe feeling more positive than you would if you don't feel like I listened at all. And and I know we've had we've all had those negative experiences. You know, think about, you know, interacting with the cable company, right, I had one with Uh. I hit a deer in my in my BMW right and it's an old car and they wanted to total it and I'm like, but, but I paid for insurance. And it was like a seven or eight hour process over the course of several days, talking to a bunch of different people to to get them kind of to understand what the car was actually worth, not what the Blue Book said, but what it actually was worth. And and and none of those agents had authority or or the ability to kind of see what was going on and they didn't have the context they needed to address my issues. I didn't feel heard and I didn't feel communicated to appropriately because, you know, it was it was a bunch of just people. They were doing their best and I can I can empathize with them in that sense, but but the system was set up in such a way that they weren't able to take care of me and to hear my needs and solve that. And I think as support professionals our goal should be how do I connect with that human on the other end, make sure they understand what's going on, and then how do I help try to get a resolution to their issue, whether it's a workaround or actually fixing it or saying hey, that's not something we can do right now. I think that's a Um that's a really key part of what we're trying to accomplish as as support professionals. M M M M man that that's really deep. I mean the customer support professional is a human. You talked about having empathy for the customer support agents, which, you know, I think maybe isn't expressed enough. But in that moment of crisis, the individual WHO's standing in front of a burning house is, you know, they're on their last nerve and often, unfortunately, I think, not only do the agents sometimes lack the authority but, as you've emphasize,...
24:00 - 28:02
...used maybe they have not been incentivized to slow down, take a bit, provide that empathy and compassion and, as such, folks leave with a very negative impression about the interaction. Um, I'd love, I kind of want to maybe get your hot take point of view here, like what are some we all we've all interacted with customer support, but what are some commonly held beliefs, Matt, that you passionately disagree with? What are we looking at wrong in customer support? So I think you mentioned it earlier when you talked about customer support being seen as a cost center and I think, I think when we look at some of the bigger corporations and even, you know, in my situation and stuff, sometimes there's this idea that let's look at the experience and see what can we get away with as a company, like what's the minimum standard, you know, the least common denominator that we can get away with without totally frustrating our clients? And I think that's certainly a business approach and that we're we're providing the support that's required, but we're we're at a level that we don't have to pay a lot for it, and I think we can all think of companies like that. Um, kind of a typical, you know, nineteen nineties call center model. I think matches that approach quite Um. You know that that kind of epitomizes that approach. Um, I think we're moving. I think we've been moving for, you know, the last ten, five to ten years or so, kind of the seismic shift in approaches. So, instead of looking at least common denominator, what's the what's the most we can get away with without frustrating your client enough to churn, to moving to seeing customers support as a value add or a unique selling proposition too, I think. I think we're actually moving in the direction where this is gonna be table stakes. You know, you drive, you drive down the main street in Middle America and you look at old hotels right and you'll see a sign the hotel says, you know, color TV or HBO on the sign and I'm like really like color TV, that's what you're selling here, like that's the love, that that's that's the high are. You know, and you and you think about twenty years ago, thirty years ago, that would have been I guess, something to be excited about. And you see that now where people like, I've got Wifi, of course you do, Bro like everyone has a wife, like, of course you have to have wife. That's table stakes for a hotel at this point. Why are you touting that on your on your sign? Like this is a big deal and and I think companies are going to be I think we're seeing a shift from, you know, bare minimum and being happy with the bare minimum to moving to kind of this idea that, hey, customer support and the customer is part of the customer experience and the customer experience actually matters and how they perceive our brand and that actually it makes sense to invest in in their interactions, improving the way that they interact with the products so they don't have to contact support. That's that's huge. Making it easy to contact customer support, not having these, you know, these dark pathways to try to force people to stay with their subscriptions and crazy stuff like that, but really saying, hey, how can I actually take care of people and give them a positive experience so that, instead of being trapped by my brand or getting the bare minimum service, we're actually providing something where they want to stick with us because because they like what they're getting, like, like the example of Toyota and in Honda in the in the nineties, like the cars were better and they lasted longer, so it was worth investing in that kind of a vehicle as opposed to something that maybe might be a more domestic vehicle that wasn't known for its you know, reliability or anything like that. I think we're going to see that shift where we're seeing it, we're starting to see it and I think, as you know, fast forward ten years from now, the companies that provide terrible support, like I think. I think we're gonna have. We're gonna see situations we're calling the cable company, calling your your cellular provider. Those experiences are going to be better because they have to be. Um, because, again, that's table steaks. The hotels have Wifi, because everyone expects WIFI at a hotel. That's such a good example, Matt. I'M NOT gonna lie. Um, when my wife and I first got married, we didn't have HBO at home. So whenever we go to a hotel, hell, when we saw that we have HBO,...
28:02 - 32:00
Saidee, Cloud Guide, I'm talking about. You know, we're so spoiled now with dvr and streaming, you pretty much just watch what's on and we would be excited. Okay, I don't know what this movie is, but it's a movie and I'm gonna enjomp halfway through it right now, but let's keep watching it. And that's a man. That's wild. That's a beautiful illustration. I love that Um and I want to sort of touch really briefly on you almost illustrated customer support almost you mentioned it as the voice of the customer as well as the face of the business. I never really thought of that voice of the customer piece strategically, but one could certain one could assume that no one has the types of interactions with customers that a customer support agent does. Marketing doesn't, sales certainly doesn't, the team doesn't either. How how well our companies actually empowering the customer support organizations create that feedback loop where they can send information back to the rest of the organization? Yeah, so again, I think we're we're the people that are interacting with with folks who are frustrated, right and I think the opportunity to have complaints and negative feedback or things that aren't working if you're allowing those to come into your customer support team and they're not percolating back to the rest of the company, of the product team, to the the people that are even sales. So let's let's say, I mean we talked about this kind of at the very beginning, where it costs a lot of money to get a new customer, it costs a lot of effort to get that new customer in the door. If sales is selling the product the wrong way or to the wrong people and they're not going to be happy and they're gonna churn, we're wasting our effort in our resource and our sales initiatives in targeting this this population that can't use our product, doesn't want to and they're going to cheer in anyway. So why? Why put the effort in there? That's an Opportun tunity. If we're seeing trends Um on on the support team and if we're using you know, let's see, we're looking at our ticketing system. I use Zendesk and you know, I have reports that are that are set up and we're capturing fields to say what is the root cause for this issue? What area of which product is it affecting and what area of the product? Is this related to Um? Was this related to? You know, the root cause thing is that our lack of training was that they were sold their own product. Was it? You know, our documentation didn't exist. anyother I think we have probably ten or fifteen different categories in that root cause. But we're able to look at that on a monthly basis or for a specific time period. Let's stay back to school, which is our busy season, and say what were some of the drivers to customer issues this year and then let's work, let's work proactively with product on that. Let's work proactively with the documentation team, with the sales team, with the CSMS, and be able to say, you know, how do we prevent this from happening next year? By improving what we have. And again, if we choose not to listen to that, if if I'm not communicating in a way that senior leadership or my my peers on on these other teams can hear, if I'm not showing something from a data perspective or some anecdotes and things like that, I'm doing my team a disservice. I'm doing our customers a diservice. And I'm doing the company a disservice because I'm not allowing them to hear what our customers are actually saying and and and they're losing that really important information, that feedback that they need to be successful. Wow, wow, man, that's that's that's what that's what the kids call a bar right there. That's a bar, Matt. Okay. So, Matt, you actually mentioned the help desk tool that it sounds like, illuminate education uses, which is Zendesk. Could you talk to us a little bit about maybe how or why you all that particular platform and are there differences between one platform? There are a lot. I've I've had experience with Zendesk, fresh desk, salesforce service, cloud, um, shared email inbox. We acquired several companies over the course of the last ten years and...
32:00 - 35:59
...in each of those cases it'say, Hey, here's what we're using, you know, here's what they're using, here's what we're using. Let's let's see what what makes the most sense, and then let's migrate everybody to the same tool and the same platform Um, so that we can, you know, function as a single team instead of a bunch of separate teams. Supporting a bunch of separate products. So I've had experience with a lot of those. Um We you know, we went with Zendesk. I think we've been with them slightly longer than I've been illuminates, almost eleven years, and this was pretty early Zendesk time, and I think the reason we selected them was that they were built with the customer support team in mind. I think a lot of the other solutions, if you look, you know, like a salesforce Um service cloud is a tool and it works well, but it was an add on to salesforce's larger crm and so the underpinnings of the product were built around Um. How do we keep track of customers and our interaction with customers and our sales process with the customers? With Zendesk it was built from the ground up. Hey, we want to have this built for customer support teams. There are there are other solutions out there. Customer with a K Um. They're focused on on on that. My wife works at a company and they use UM gorgeous, spelled like the Greek rather than like you're looking pretty Um, and that was they're in e commerce and they're focused very much on, on interacting with clients and sending things back and tracking things, and gorgeous is really built around that model and so I think, you know, taking a step back, finding that the tool that makes sense and is built for your type of team is really important. Um. I like Zendesk because I think it doesn't they've got a large suite of products that you can tie in. They've got a chat product that was based on Zopen Chat Um that we use. Um. They've got knowledge base, it's built in Um and they've got a reporting platform, Um that I think was based on Bible reporting. Um, but it it works well and it allows us to kind of do everything kind of in one spot. Um. I look at something like fresh works, when we migrated one of our companies from them, and I think they're very similar. They were built on on a similar approach. Customer Support Team First, UH, Um. I think there. I think they were definitely looking at Zendesk when they built there. So there's some definite some derivative things there, which makes sense, um. But but that that that's that's certainly you know, each product comes from a different kind of perspective and understanding what's important for your team. To Be Successful. Um, for us, having the ability to integrate with our phone system. We use talk desk um to integrate and and pull data from from a bunch of different systems to have our our knowledge bases in one place. And for US, again, we're business to enterprise, and so we organize things around organizations. And so you know L A U S D L, Unified School district. Um, I can have their email domain and anybody that emails in from that domain gets added automatically to that organization and I can run reporting based on organizations. And so that's a feature that Zendesk has that some of the other competitors like help scout um or or some of the other ones don't have the robust, you know, business to business model. That works really well. And so so I think those are some of the things that I've really enjoyed about Zendesk. Is. You know, it works out of the box. You know my team internally manages the I T for that we don't have to go to the I t team. Um, when we looked at salesforce, we we reviewed it last year and said, Hey, what does it make sense to move for this move to this product so that we can, you know, have the entire company on salesforce. Um at the time it was like, Hey, you're probably gonna need one or two people to maintain this full time to get it dialed and and and working properly and pulling reports and stuff, and for us the head count requirements on that were significantly more than Um what we're able to do right now with myself and two directors and a couple managers that do most of our ZENDEC maintenance and keeping things up to date, and we can make changes on the fly without again having to run it through another team. And so so those are some of the reasons that we selected Zendesk in the first place, and then I think I've stuck with them, you know, over the last eleven plus years. Man, awesome. I really appreciate you sharing that, and particularly Matt, because you've had experience with so many different platforms. You've also had the experience, due to the acquisitions, of evaluating...
36:00 - 40:00
...and comparing multiple times. So that's really valuable perspective. Thank you for sharing that, Matt. As we wrap up, I'd love to ask a couple of questions on how you see the future of customer support we're almost at this junction where technology has proliferated over the past decade and there's a lot of efficiencies that have been brought in, but now there are opportunities, as you've pointed out, which the HBO and the Wifi Examples, where some of those technology, technological efficiencies will just be table stakes. So when you think about the future of the industry, where do you see customer support moving towards? So I think one of the trends that you hear a lot about his Omni channel, and by that meaning the customer can interact with you and whatever channel they feel comfortable with, and I think that will depend a lot on your particular industry. That's not something that we're like, we're not doing facebook or twitter support for our clients, because that's not typically how they interact with us. But I think if you think of a lot of mad brands out there, UM, that's gonna be something people are gonna be interacting, you know, more via social media and and more via INN APP Um, you know, being able to have one system that allows you to talk on the phone or to chat or to interact via social or tow to handle emails. I think that's that's that's something that we're we're already seeing and I think that's just going to continue. Um, I would say to two companies out there that are thinking how do I want to interact with my team or my clients, being very intentional about choosing what's channels you're going to offer support on, based on your client base and based on what makes sense, you know, moving forward. Had I to do it over again, I don't think I'd want to provide Um. We allow basically any of our users to contact us via the phone and that's a very cost effect, a cost costly, Um and and times intensive process where we have to staff for, you know, synchronous synchronous interactions and and, you know, working with everyone. I think I would doing it over again, I would focus on having a couple of key district folks that have phone numbers that can call in, but the majority of our support b being via chat or via email or in APP help, because that would allow our team to staff a little bit more efficiently and also get the answers to the clients quickly instead of having them have to wait in a phone tree or something like that. Um. So, so again, I think Omni channel is a big, big focus. Another key area that I think we're we've already seen growth. Like you said, I don't think there's anything that's like, oh my gosh, this is major and it's just coming out this week and you know it's gonna it's gonna hit and it's gonna be huge. But over the last, you know, probably seven years or so, we've seen an increase in using machine learning, artificial intelligent models and things like that to help take away some of the the drudge work of of support some of the basics. Um We had worked with a company called Um wise and then answer I Q, I think, was what they what they became probably five years ago, and really with the goal of trying to triage our tickets as they're coming in and sort them by product and sort them by product area and identify what issues were, you know, we need to take care of first, as it was a major issue um at the time it didn't work well for our particular data set. We just um in the last I guess since January, we've implemented a forethought and that's a similar tool and just to see the difference in the last five years of where the you know, the technology has gone, has come from and and kind of what they're able to accomplish now. Um, I'm really excited to see that kind of improve in the future. I don't think there's ever going to be a situation where we're getting away from having human beings helping human beings, because I think that's a really core part of you know, when I talked about we've got the problem, we've got the person. I don't think the computer does a good job of handling the person. But what I think we can do is we can take the you know, if I'm calling in for support, something's wrong right like, I would rather find that answer myself. I would rather, you know, get some some sort of help quickly on my own, without having to talk to a person, without having to stand in line and wait. And so I think if we can take more of the I just can't find...
40:00 - 41:51
...that help doc question or more common issues and we can automate those. If you can update your account information with a with a CHATBOT, instead of having to wait for a human being to get back to you on that, self service is the way to go. Once the self services done and once the machine learning handles that self service and those those are taken off the table. That frees up agents and human beings to interact with human beings on the other issues that are actually really important, and so I think we're gonna see we're going to see more use of AI and machine learning, but it's it's not going to be at the expense of the human it's just gonna it's gonna take some of those things off the table so that we can focus on the stuff that we truly need to focus on. Man, what a take, what a take you're talking you're essentially saying more machine learning, more technology, not to replace butts, are free up customer support agents and heroes to do the humans and human connection that will never be duplicated. You just illuminated customer support. Fantastic. That's why is the VP of illuminated education. Folks, we've been talking to Matt Dale. He's the Indiana Jones of customer support. Thank you for guiding us on this epic exploration of the space. We appreciate that. A pleasure being here. Thanks for having me. This has been a lot of fun. Thank you for listening in to Matt Dale and the quest for epic customer support. We'll see you on the next one. Bye. For now, you've been listening to the quest for epic customer support, a show from test books. Never missed an episode by subscribing to the show in your favorite podcast player. Please give us a rating, leave a comment and share episodes you love. That helps US keep delivering conversations about why the Bard Matters. See you next time.

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