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Cordless interview series: 25 july 2023

Emilie Vennes
Associate Customer Care Director at Cesium Telecom

In this episode of Cordless interview series, Emilie Vennes - Associate Customer Care Director at Cesium Telecom talks about the challenges of recruitment, remote working and keeping the team excited about helping customers.

Prefer to read? Here is the full transcript of the interview:

Luba: [00:00:06] Welcome to Cordless Interview series. As part of this series, we talk with customer support leaders to find out a bit more about different best practices in this space. And I'm very pleased today to introduce Emily Vennes from Cesium Telecom. Thank you so much for joining me today. Just to get things started, could you please introduce yourself as well and maybe say a couple of words about your career so far?

Emilie: [00:00:31] Sure. Thank you, Luba. Um, so my name is Emily Vennes. I currently work in a tech company called Cesium Telecom, Incorporated. Um, my career path started in the fashion industry. Always working in sales and in the back ends of things. Always like account manager or supporting the VP of sales in all of their aspects of projects, the customers supporting them and everything. And at Cesium I rebuilt the whole customer care team to what it is now.

Luba: [00:01:08] Amazing. Thank you. Guess given all of that experience, what do you think is the most important thing to get to make customer support really a success?

Emilie: [00:01:19] Unfortunately, I'm very old school. So I get that everything's going like high tech and all that, but I truly believe that our relationship is important and to create that with your customers and accounts. So for my team and the way I believe a customer care to be is to be transparent with your customers up front and to keep that rapport, not always having, robots explain things or communicate with them. We always have people online, answering calls because I find even though the world is going through technology at the end, people want to deal with people.

Luba: [00:02:04] Yeah, 100%. I guess, yeah, I'm totally with you. But I guess when you're growing your team, there are a lot of different interactions. How do you maintain the quality of support in your team?

Emilie: [00:02:18] For my team, we have well, because of technology, we work with Gmail, so we have chats where we're constantly, constantly, constantly helping each other. I always tell them my motto for my team is if one falls, we all fall. So we always help each other out. And we have weekly meetings where we talk about everything, talk about issues that are happening, even personal life, you know, like what's good? What's bad? Okay, next. Okay. It's so important to keep that rapport with your employees and to make them feel like they're part of the bigger picture. And that's what's important because they're not just customer care. They're in the middle of everything. They're in the nucleus of what's coming in and what's going out of the company. So to make them understand that and to create that picture and that vision and to move forward with them and always to be there for them, they're people at the end of the day, and my team is exceptionally young and internationally based. So, um, I have people in Colombia, I have people in Spain and I have people here in Montreal. So it's important to always keep contact. Every morning we have good mornings, we get on a little chat. How's everybody? Okay, we got this. So it's to keep that rapport going and the motivation.

Luba: [00:03:44] It sounds like a very nice team to be part of.

Emilie: [00:03:47] It's very dynamic. It's very dynamic and we have such a good time. We have lots of laughs. But at the end of the day, you know, and I always tell them we're not saving lives. So take a breather, think about what you're doing, your customer, and then you're able to move forward with each issue that's brought up to you. Yeah.

Luba: [00:04:07] You mentioned you have a team in Colombia and Spain had a lot of different cultures. How do you help them maintain consistency in terms of their interaction with clients?

Emilie: [00:04:19] So it's like I'd say 30 years from now, 30 years ago, it would have been very different. But now with technology and everything, we're able to hop on a virtual call and have that connection. Um, I go to Colombia once a year and I spend time with my team, but to keep everything consistent, it's communication, communication, verbalization of the processes, repetition always like repeating things and making sure they're aligned with the company values. We have great core values at Cesium and to make sure that everybody's aligned, attitude is key to, I mean having a great attitude to want to learn. That creates the consistency in the team and being people aligned with your vision as well. So if you're able to sell the vision of the company and your team is able to follow you and to, want to do better. I mean, that's key and consistency and creating such a great customer experience for our accounts.

Luba: [00:05:32] Yeah, that makes sense. I guess in terms of individual feedback, do you ever have to listen to calls or like read chats to give more specific coaching to any of your team members?

Emilie: [00:05:43] Yeah. So, um, we're currently looking into because we're based in Montreal, there's a French culture. So we're looking into, um, we're always looking into like educating. So we're looking into a French class for the customer care team. They went through a whole, um, customer care program where it was how to deal with different issues. What do you do when a customer is yelling at you? And we've had those, um, simulations done also with them to prepare them for worst case scenarios.

Luba: [00:06:22] Yeah. Got it. Okay. Um, and in terms of how your team interacts with the rest of the business, so I guess customers call you with problems. They have some feedback. How do you work with the rest of the company to pass it on? What kind of processes do you have in place?

Emilie: [00:06:38] Well, we do have sales meeting every day, Every Monday. Excuse me, Every Mondays we have sales meeting with the whole sales team. We're very close with the sales team. We have about 12 representatives across Canada. So they call us every day. We're very, very tight, close-knit, um, customer care and sales rep, each customer care. I'm just going to open parentheses. Each customer care representative is associate to a rep. So they create that bond where they know each other's accounts and how they work. So whenever there's an issue, it's told to my rep and my rep tells me, and then we discuss it on our when it's a big, big issue, obviously little things that can be handled very easily it's within the team, but they're there. Everything, like I said, is transparent within the company. So it's said during the sales team. And then we have customer surveys that go out and we learn what the customer's perspective is to better the way we work. Um, we've revamped our website because we had comments from our customers based on the survey that we sent that our, our website was not user-friendly, so we've updated it.

Luba: [00:07:54] It sounds like you have a very tight feedback loop.

Emilie: [00:07:57] Yes, we do. We do.

Luba: [00:08:00] You touched on this a little bit already. So right now there's a lot of talk about AI and three and four and, you know, its applications and customer support specifically. How are you thinking about it? Is there anything you are thinking of trying?

Emilie: [00:08:16] Actually, it's so funny you're mentioning that yesterday we were in our team meetings and one of one of my employees who's based out of Columbia needs to write like French templates and all that. And she showed us the GPT chat box and every like we had all heard about it, but we had never like really like discussed it at as a team. So it's just so funny that you're bringing it up. We were floored, but at the same time, like all of us were like, well, we got to use our brains. Like if it's always an AI that's going to decide for us, are we really going to make the right decisions for our customers and for the business? So I don't really I'm, I'm mitigated about it. I guess you could say I'm a little bit like up in the air about it. I think it's fantastic. But I also feel it's like a cheat code for an easy route. And I think people are more complex than just straight up answers from a chat box.

Luba: [00:09:22] Sounds good. Guess what is your biggest challenge right now? What is your pain point on the team? Something that you're thinking about?

Emilie: [00:09:30] I think in terms of, um. Being in charge of a team and hiring people. It's, there's different, um, how can I put it? There's that younger generation that has this mentality that everything is owed to them, that when they start a new job, um, or a new career path, that they're owed three weeks vacation or it's like everything's owed to them and they don't want to work for it. As for when I started working, when I was, uh, in, in my career path, you had to work really hard to prove yourself and to show your worth. And guess I have that difficulty, seeing eye to eye with that type of personality, that type of generation. So for me, it's a challenge, um, to, uh. To figure out that complexity of this generation that has everything at their fingertips, you know, like they see things on social media and so their career path is completely different from what we were taught. My team is a young team. We have about 20 years of difference. But I'm lucky to have people that want to learn and, and uh, and, and want to grow with the team. But it's more at the interview process when you want to hire somebody. There's that little attitude and mentality that everything is owed to them. I want this. I want that when I don't know about you, but we've all worked for what we got. So that's my little painpoint that I have. Okay.

Luba: [00:11:28] Switch the topic slightly on the topic of technology. What kind of channels do you use right now? And so you mentioned I think you have phone as well and email. Just to give context to this question, so I've heard multiple times that everyone's switching over to email and chat. What is your take on the phone?

Emilie: [00:11:52] Well, actually, um, our phone system is integrated within our computer. So customers can call, they can chat on our web. And we have somebody that's a that can jump on that and emails. And to be honest, the volume of phone calls to emails to chat is minimal. Most customers and I think maybe it's the way they were educated. With our company, everything goes through email or chat. We have rarely phone calls. So it's not even a 2 to 1 ratio. It's much more elevated than that. So, um, I think when your team can eloquently type a very professional email, the message still gets across.

Luba: [00:12:45] Got it.

Emilie: [00:12:46] I'm sorry. Obviously, when things escalate, I always tell them, you know, when it's gone to like three emails, the customer still doesn't understand. Pick up the phone, call them. I mean.

Luba: [00:12:58] Got it. Okay. And then the final question. Can you tell me about a company whose customer service you admire and why?

Emilie: [00:13:07] I don't know if you know this company. It's a small Montreal based company. It's called Boutique Croissants. Wasn't there when you order anything online? They always reply back with an awesome little like, text. And then when you receive your goods, everything's wrapped up properly with a personalized note. It always makes me feel special. That's why I'm so for, creating that relationship with customers, and then they'll call you. Hey, how do you like your dress? Or they'll send you a quick email. So I think that's enveloped the human touch to it. That's always appreciated. So yeah, that for me I mean you probably don't know this, this, this little store, but it's an amazing customer service. Okay.

Luba: [00:13:59] Actually, another final question. What would be your advice to someone who is just starting out in customer support in the manager role?

Emilie: [00:14:08] Carry a pen and paper everywhere you go. Take notes. Learn. Be a sponge. Absorb everything. Absorb body language. Tonality. A sense of presence of a room. When you walk in, it's super important. At the end of the day, customer care is like a psychologist. We get, we we soak in every issue, every possibility that could happen, and we need to rectify it so we could create, like I said, the best customer experience. Um, so we need to be able to read, read between the lines. And so I think for me that would be the biggest, um. The biggest headway I could give to somebody that wants to go into customer care.

Luba: [00:15:02] Any particular tools or resources you would recommend to them?

Emilie: [00:15:07] Tools or resources.

Luba: [00:15:10] Resources and blogs, maybe. Or books that you found.

Emilie: [00:15:13] Oh, gosh, no. You know what? I would love to recommend a book and all that, but. I learned it on the fly. Like from learning around me, being aware. You have to be aware. I don't have a great book per se, but be aware, be aware of the people, be aware. At the end of the day, we're all humans. We all want to be treated right. And that's what customer care is. It's like the hospital of a company. Well, all the issues arrive and you need to put out the fires.

Luba: [00:15:44] I quite like the definition of the company. Great. Well, thank you so much. That's pretty much it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.

Emilie: [00:15:54] Thank you for contacting me. It was a pleasure.
Luba Chudnovets
Co-Founder and CEO