Luba: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Cordless Interview series where we talk with leaders in the customer support space about best practices and new trends in the industry. I'm very pleased to introduce today Albert Chun from Renegade Insurance, who is currently Chief of Staff, but also for a while has been leading their Customer Success team and not only there, but in his previous companies as well. So he has a lot of experience in that space. Um, thank you for joining me today!
Albert: [00:00:31] Yeah, definitely great to be here.
Luba: [00:00:34] Um, so to start us off, maybe you could say a couple of words about your background and your career so far.
Albert: [00:00:40] Sure. I would say it's non-linear. So I was a career teacher and principal for a long time, which you could argue has a lot of customer success or customer support and training and whatnot. But after grad school, I pivoted over to working in the tech sector, and since then it's been going at breakneck speeds, I feel like. Yeah.
Luba: [00:01:06] Thank you. Um, first question. What do you think is the most important thing in making customer service and customer success a success?
Albert: [00:01:16] Yeah. Um, what I would say is consistency, because I think you only get consistency when you have a system. And I think having a systematic approach allows you to scale an org and make it repeatable. It's very easy to have, you know, a good call or one great employee or one good leader, but to make that repeatable and being a part of the business, I think is, um, is really the secret.
Luba: [00:01:49] Yeah. So actually on that topic, so I know that in terms of the system and making sure that responses are consistent, it's especially hard when a team grows quite large to ensure the quality of support. How do you do that? What kind of processes do you have or maybe tools that you use for that?
Albert: [00:02:06] Yeah, that's a great question. So we were using Zoho as a CRM and so we were limited to the CRM or the customer success tools that were that could integrate with that. But we brought on Tatango, which is a customer success platform and we, yeah, we created campaigns and cadences that were personalized, felt bespoke by using, you know, liquid language and things like that. But we wanted to provide a really consistent experience. And then we also incorporated feedback mechanisms to ensure that quality was there because there's only so much that you can you hold on to it and you look at it all the time, but at some point, you know what's going to give you the truth about that process and, and those mechanisms are there. Um, and we brought on um, 8x8, which is our, our VoIP system. Previously we had a scattershot of tools like RingCentral and all these different tools. I am not necessarily a proponent of 8x8, but I think that a VoIP tool with conversational analytics, with integrating different, with different tools, a good note capture system and something where you can coach through your people I think is, is really important. Um, and then the last thing we did was we used Zendesk, um, and we used their ticketing system to get their, you know, to get our, to reduce internal escalations in the funnel all of our inbound questions through there. Um, we also use their, our chat, their chatbot tool which I'm less a fan of. I'm probably more a fan of the tool like Intercom or something like that. But for the sake of less SaaS and just maximizing what you have. That worked quite well. Yeah.
Luba: [00:04:11] Makes sense. But do, for instance, do you do regular quality assurance checks for your team? How do you do that?
Albert: [00:04:18] That's a great question. So it has kind of refined over time. Initially, it was because we started this from absolute scratch and I am learning along with my team and my team is teaching me. And, you know, and so what we started off with was I was just on every call. Um, and then you start to I start to pan out and train my, my leader to kind of replace me. And we started to get, hey, what are the key data points to ensure high quality experience, right? And then and so it's like let's say for example, an email campaign. How do we know that that is working well? Are the open rates, the click through rates good? And then some of those CSAT forms at the end of each journey I think are really important and that for us, one of the journeys I'm thinking about in particular is onboarding. I think that's most important because it's your first impression. It's all of the things it's reducing time to value and the feedback there, it's very honest when they know it's anonymous and you know certain different things. And we've gotten very telling feedback from that and that's captured. Um, and we also included that into our health and risk factors as well, just to trigger some certain alarms for Tatango, it was triggering a success play to say. Hey, look at this part of the journey, is not doing well for example.
Luba: [00:05:53] Yeah. Makes sense. Sounds like it's very data-driven.
Albert: [00:05:55] Yeah, very much so.
Luba: [00:05:58] Um, so you mentioned you support various channels like chat, email, phone. How did you decide which channels to support and how does it, how do you make sure they all work well together?
Albert: [00:06:09] Good question. So, um. I've worked with three companies on CS so far and it's different for each one. So for example, when we had my first company, we had around 1.4 million users. Not all of them were paid. They were freemium. And then I had a. A couple of hundred accounts to manage and their primary means was through our support desk system. So it was whatever support at Zendesk dot our company's name and everything would flow through there. That was really efficient and scalable for me because I could either use their automated function to say, hey, this keyword I know 9.9 out of ten, it is asking for this response so I can automate that quickly or otherwise, it would be providing canned messages. My CEO at the time, he said this great thing, his name is Will. He said, Albert if I never want you to answer the same question twice. So every time there was a question, he wanted me to write a great response, make an article out of it, put it in Zendesk, and then make that into a canned response.
Albert: [00:07:26] So any time thereafter I could just deploy that response and that saved me a ton of time. His goal for me was always get Zendesk to zero every day and generally achievable, even though we had so many different accounts on our side. At my current company, we tried that same model honestly and it was very difficult. The email was just not the function. They wanted much more instant feedback and so we had people who were just going through chat and that was great, but it was a bit difficult. It was hard to scale and it was hard to manage internally. And so what worked? There was a chatbot and that and we worked really hard. Our team worked really hard to build out the right chat flows through that based off of a knowledge base. This other startup I'm working on, they don't have a knowledge base and you have a dedicated headcount who's just responding using Intercom like a chat feature, which is not good. And we're going to build off of that. Yeah.
Luba: [00:08:35] Sounds good. Very interesting. Um, cool. So I guess customers come to you with feedback and problems. How do you pass this on to the rest of the company? Do you have any particular process that you would?
Albert: [00:08:50] Um, so I will say there is a more hands-off approach you can use. And this is hats off to Will again. Um, but what he, what we did initially was, hey, we're getting all this feedback, we're seeing what Zendesk tickets come up or I'm seeing, hey, what canned responses am I looking at the most or hey, what articles are getting the most clicks? And that would generally tell us, hey, these are where problems lie or where features could be benefited from etc. Or communication could be better. But what we did was we used this tool called Canny. Um, and it was whatever Canny.io and it was basically a way to democratize feedback. People could go over and say, Hey, I want this. And then you as a subscriber could say, oh, you're right. I actually do want my voice notes to be translated, for example, or I do want this to be an extended time. And that's was a great way, I think, to kind of build in public, make our roadmap be like very transparent and etc. And was great for community buy-in. Um on the other side where you know it is much more one off and you're not you're not using let's say a knowledge base as much and you can't get that data.
Albert: [00:10:07] It is, I would say I have seen people and myself get driven by the loudest voices to do feature updates versus think what is. Like, how do you get it to a more data-driven place? And for us it is just, hey, what? We're just trying to. Get it to that place, along with just seeing, you know, some people are not good at telling you what is wrong versus they will just vote with their feet and stop using or drop off and whatnot. And so we are very sensitive to different legs of the journey when people are dropping off. So for example, um, at my current company it was, hey, at the five-month mark people there's a precipitous drop. Okay. Clearly, it is telling something about our journey at that five-month mark we need to address and, and have these different interventions. And so that's one way we address our, our voice of the customer.
Luba: [00:11:07] I love that you said that a driven every response that comes down to data.
Albert: [00:11:12] So it's just the mindset. Yeah, yeah.
Luba: [00:11:17] Um, cool I mean okay, these days everyone's talking a lot about AI and what it means for customer support. What's your take? And it sounds like you're already using and trying it out in your business. Anything you could share, like any projects that you see coming that you want to share.
Albert: [00:11:32] Yeah. Um, I will say I am waiting first because I think, you know, whenever people rush into things like you have this kind of herd mentality where it's, it's either all good or all bad. And, I think right now there's a lot of flashy, amazing, cool things that are coming out. But I want to be a little, I'd rather be a later adopter and just kind of suss out what tools rise to the top. I am certainly keeping a pulse on it. For example, like I can name all of the different things, but one thing I think is really fascinating is like how what that's going to look like for the knowledge base, for the chatbots in particular. I've seen a lot of tools that way. I've seen tools that, you know, make great decks. If you input a bunch of things, right like that could serve as collateral assets, articles that you can use and I am using those on a one-off basis and sending it out to early adopters, people who are more tech-forward to see, you know, to play around and experiment, but nothing to deploy at a wide scale level just yet. Yeah.
Albert: [00:12:43] Makes sense.
Luba: [00:12:45] Cool. I mean, it sounds like you're very on top of things, but what is your biggest challenge right now? Like what keeps you awake at night?
Albert: [00:12:52] That's a great question. Um. So many things. But, um, you know, I think part of it is, um, I think talent is always, is always one, right? Like, I think the environment is very precarious. I think, um, one is how do you make sure it's not just retaining your people, it is keeping them highly motivated and incentivized to continue to take on the risk of working at a startup for the big dream, right? While everyone around you is telling you, hey, the big dream is it's a little shaky, right? I think that's very difficult, that human element. And then the other part is while there is this entire environment of reduction in force and etcetera, how do you make sure that people that you are also capturing great talent. Right. And while everyone else is being. Fearful. How do you be confident and bold? Right? Don't again the herd mentality like everyone cowering right now, that feels like why? Why is the sky falling? Is it falling? Or should we just kind of maintain composure and keep doing what we're really good at? Right. And so I think making sure that we're thinking for ourselves and taking advantage of our environment and not succumbing to what other people are doing, I think is the thing that keeps me up at night.
Albert: [00:14:26] Okay. Makes sense.
Luba: [00:14:27] Very interesting. Um, cool. So I often hear that customer support is thought of as a cost center in companies. What is your take on this and how do you deal with it in your organization? Yeah.
Albert: [00:14:41] I think that is. Absolutely antithetical to the truth. Right. I think we have always been the environment has always been so sales oriented. Hey, let's just get great people in the door. But the reason why actually pivoted into customer success instead of sales, by the way, when I first started out, I was actually a great seller. I was like very on track to being the top seller at my company at the time, which is not don't give me too much credit because it was a small company. It was just like three of us selling, but still it was like, I loved it. I liked it. I loved prospecting. I love trying to get people on the call and all of these things and it was great but I was certainly not. That's not in my DNA one, because I think it is unique and I admire people who are great at selling. That is not me. But my proclivity to customer success is that it was very it's a very honest business. Right. So you're telling me you paid for a product, you've tried your product. I've tried to serve you, try to make you adopt, help you adopt the program and all these things. And now my goal is to keep you as a customer. It's a very it's a very honest endeavour. And from that, what happens, you get a if someone is really thrilled with your product, really delighted by it, they will refer you because that's what we all do. Hey, you watch a great movie, dude.
Albert: [00:15:57] You should watch this movie. You should read this book or And what do we do? You should try this product, right? And so I love it in that way. And I think, you know, Catalyst had this great initiative that they're that they pushed out called customer-led growth. You know, just this whole idea of how do you continue to farm through your customers, this incredible insight, data referral, this whole like so I'm going to throw out all the buzzwords like this whole flywheel, right? This whole flywheel of revenue, right? It's like these are not stale people who are just your customers. These are these represent a whole sphere of influence that they could really. In fact, with their own affinity to your to your company, to your product. Right. And so I think. It is seen as a cost center because I don't think there's enough thought leadership and enough influence from customer support and customer success leaders to advocate for their own teams and their own customers and their own product to say, hey, this is where we can actually retrieve more value. But I see that absolutely changing as we get more talented people on the post-sales side to advocate and make a clearer case. And because honestly, at the end of the day, what makes what makes the case is the business case, right. And as we crush it on renewals, as we crush it, on bringing on referrals, I mean, you it will be, I think, undeniable in the time to come.
Luba: [00:17:31] Yeah. Yeah, I agree. And a final question from me, is there any particular company whose customer service you admire?
Albert: [00:17:40] Oh, man. So many I will say one in the in kind of the. One in SaaS and one in general life experience. One is I think. Uh, Chick-fil-A, actually. So one thing I see there is, is what I offered earlier is consistency. When I go there, people have their scripts, their lines there. Everyone seems very happy and I go there probably more times than I care to admit. But like, for example, I'll say something and they'll say, my pleasure. It's like, Oh man, I don't think I've ever heard anyone tell me that before. And it was. But whenever I go there, someone is always responding in that way and I just feel like things are like they truly care about that experience and they do a very good consistent job of it. Whether I was in Austin, Texas, or New York City or wherever. Um, and then for on the SaaS side of things, I think Catalyst does a phenomenal job of customer service and the way that they build community, the way that they respond, their entire presence online is something I will say business schools should actually look at them as a case study as to how to build, how they build their flywheel of goodwill. It's just it's nonstop. The moment you think they've like done, it's like they've done something for the community they do more and you're like, wait, should you really be doing that for free? Should you really be building this network and all these things and seeing no upside for yourself? I think companies who are building with that kind of long view in mind are the ones that are going to beat out the rest, who are just thinking about the transactional side of business versus the transformational side.
Luba: [00:19:30] Thank you for sharing this. I will definitely go and take a look at their community as much.
Luba: [00:19:53] Well thank you so much for joining me today. This was really, really interesting.
Albert: [00:19:57] Yeah, likewise. Appreciate the time. Thank you, Luba.