CX Leader Insights: Industry Musings & Trends from Chili Piper’s Gemma Cipriani-Espineira

Written by Amy Wallace on Apr 27, 2022

Customer experience (CX) is now more important than ever, and even the White House is taking note: in a move to fix federal customer experience, the Office of Management and Budget will conduct research to better comprehend how people wish to deal with the government at various critical points in their lives. Further proof: findings from an April 2022 survey by TELUS International found that nearly 60% of consumers said they would rather sit in a traffic jam than have a poor customer experience. How can companies be more customer-centric, and what sorts of tools and technologies can aid them along the way? We caught up with Gemma Cipriani-Espineira, Chief Customer Officer at meeting lifecycle automation platform Chili Piper, to discuss key challenges facing CX leaders today, empowering support agents, and how support teams can show their customers some love.

The Importance of Customer Experience Today

It all boils down to choice, and the myriad of options that are available today. “People have more choice than ever before, and are more conscious about who they are doing business with,” Gemma said.

Additionally, customer preferences and expectations are evolving along with the changing times, and, in today’s 24/7 and ‘always-on’ environment, expectations are high. Gemma pointed to the popularity of Uber and Amazon, major companies which have disrupted their markets in a significant way, both by doubling down on ease of doing business as well as speed of delivery. “Consumers, particularly those living in North America, expect that same easy, fast, and convenient service in their business engagements now,” she said. “What consumers are expecting is now what B2B buyers are expecting, they are judging all of their experiences back to the convenience of booking an Uber or ordering their groceries.”

Honing in on Interactions that Count

Chili Piper is passionate about its customers – so much so that the company recently rebranded its Customer Support department – which sits within the company’s Customer Success (CS) Group – to the all-new Department of ‘Customer Love.’ “Support teams are notoriously thought of as the last place that customers would want to go, and customers are typically only engaging with these teams because they have an issue and they need help,” Gemma explained. “We faced that reality head-on, acknowledging that any time a customer is reaching out to a customer support engineer, they are having a bad experience.”

The opportunity here is for the team to show their customers that they are loved – to offer them blazing fast service with resolutions that not only answer their questions, but also turn any negative experiences around. “If we can find other ways to service customers that they might not have even thought of originally, such as making another recommendation, we will do that,” she said. Emphasis is placed on giving agents more time to spend with customers, so they are not solely focused on closing Zendesk tickets, but actually feel empowered to better the customer experience. Can a customer be brought onto a customer advocacy program? Gifting tools are available to support engineers, for instance, to remedy any potentially negative customer experience.

One of the key challenges facing CX leaders and teams right now, especially in today’s predominately remote and distributed work environment, Gemma pointed out, is having meaningful moments with customers. Such moments are critical, yet are harder to replicate in the absence of face-to-face interactions.

“The biggest challenge for CX leaders is motivating members of their team to apply that same enthusiasm to all of those remote interactions that they’re having with their customers, giving them the space to ensure that they are coming into those remote interactions in the best prepared way, and that they are also holding onto that opportunity to stand out,” she emphasized. “The customer that you are speaking to could be dealing with a pet running loose or a child at home, there are many more distractions now than there were before!”

Essential Tools for CX Leaders

We at Netomi are all about harnessing a combination of tools and resources at our disposal, tools such as customer experience software that enable us to analyze all customer interactions and gather valuable insights so support teams can then take action on issues to increase customer loyalty and enhance the overall customer experience.

Gemma is a strong advocate for having a Customer Success system of action, one that highlights to CSM’s where there is customer risk, along with recommended actions to take, no matter where the customer is in their journey. It is important to harness a customer-facing support ticketing tool, such as Zendesk or Freshworks, a space where customers can not only access knowledge bases and other self-service options, but also raise their hand to reach technical support teams when assistance is needed. In addition to these, teams can then layer on tools that help with automation of tasks, such as Zapier (using Zapier, the Chili Piper team created 40 automations that automated 50,000 tasks for their support agents and saved 173 hours per month!), tools to communicate with customers, as well as tools that capture notes from customer conversations such as Gong.

A Proactive Approach to Customer Care

Today, we are seeing a shift from reactive customer service, towards one that is more proactive – identifying customer issues and making the first move to resolve them before they intensify. Taking a more proactive approach, Gemma noted, involves measuring those activities that team members are currently doing with customers, and also looking at where there are gaps in the process that would help make customers happier and drive adoption of services. It also involves using data to plug into customer success tools to direct teams to where there are risks before customers are raising their hand with concerns.

Situations in which support teams can demonstrate proactiveness may be: ‘we’ve noticed that your usage has dropped’, or ‘you purchased our product for a particular use case, and we have recently introduced an additional feature that helps with that use case.’

“It is all about proactively reaching out to the customer and anticipating things that could go wrong before they go wrong through a deeper understanding of the customer journey,” she said.

Taking care to maintain engaging conversations with customers in the digital age, and harnessing various tools to boost the experience for both support teams and their customers, are among the ingredients of a successful CX strategy.

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