Luba: [00:00:03] Welcome to the Cordless Customer Support Interview Series where we talk about the best practices in the space and the latest trends. So today I'm very pleased to introduce Exequiel Alcober from RVezy. Thank you so much for joining us today! Could you please introduce yourself very quickly?
Exequiel: [00:00:25] Yeah, absolutely. Well, Luba thank you so much for having me and for getting to know me and a little bit of the work that I do. So I'm currently the director of customer success for RVezy, which it's a platform that allows RV owners to connect with people that want to go on a vacation and travel. So we are a marketplace and we are located in Ottawa. So Canada's capital, which has been a huge success over the past six years, and we are continuing to grow, to tell you a little bit about myself and my career. So I started in tech over ten years ago, so I've been in this industry for quite a bit now. I started my career working for the big Giant Apple, where I learned a lot of the good practices that I can now bring to my team. And then I at some point after working for a big corporation, I was looking for a change where I can have a direct impact. And that's when I pivoted a little bit and I started working and connected more with startups. So this is my fourth startup and I had different types of roles. Some of them were more of a mentoring roles, some of them were more of like individual contributors. Some of them I was in management and leadership and which brought me to now RVezy, which I spent over two years now leading the support team and, and working hard to just to make sure that we support our customers and that we add value to the work that we do every day.
Luba: [00:02:01] Sounds great. Thank you for this. Sounds like you've seen a lot of different companies and how they do operations. So in your opinion, what is the most important thing to make customer support a success?
Exequiel: [00:02:13] I think the biggest thing there are different elements that I would consider that you need to have. Number one, one of them is just having active listening and always leading with empathy. And what I mean by that is that we always say you got to listen to your customers, but it's not about when customers are necessarily calling you because they're either complaining about an interaction that they had. It's also listening to the feedback they're giving you. Usually, they're the ones that are using your platform, right? So how can we make that experience as seamless as possible? So when you're listening to them, whether they're having, again, a challenge with the platform or the interaction that they have, I think it's important to acknowledge that at the same time, they're screaming for help and they're telling you, Hey, this isn't working. How can we make it better? So it's important to collect that feedback and bring it back to your product team so that they can iterate on the product and really fix those things that perhaps are not working or perhaps are just not adding value to your customers. The second piece, I would say it's empathy. It's important to like acknowledge with the customers just making sure you understand what they're going through, assure them that you're going to help them out and just align with them so that you have the best result. So I think those are like some of the two core things that I always bring to my team.
Luba: [00:03:34] Makes sense. So you mentioned product feedback. I was going to ask this question later, but I think it makes sense to ask it now. Do you have any particular processes in place to make sure that your team is actually passing on that feedback and it's taking action on?
Exequiel: [00:03:50] Yeah. So we do. So we are one of the things that, that we pride ourselves on. It's, it's listening to customers' feedback. So we have different things that, that we have implemented. One of them is that we have a dedicated product feedback team that lives within the customer success team. So within the support team. And so what we do is this team meets every week. So, so it's a, it's a cadence of every week where what we do is we send a survey to all the agents that have been talking to our customers, right? So they're the ones that are really listening to the customer's feedback. They get to like fill out the survey where they tell us, Hey, this is what customers are struggling with, this is what customers want. Then every week the team collects all the feedback, and then once a month we meet with the director of product and all the PMs. And that's where we go through all the different pieces of feedback that the customers have provided. And then we invite some of the support agents to join the call to just give us a little bit more background.
Exequiel: [00:04:48] Okay. Why is this a problem right now and how can we fix it? And then we obviously bring all the problems. We focus more on the problem than on the solution. We usually leave the solution to the PMs because those are the experts at it. And so the CS team is really good at like collecting the feedback again, making sure that we're empathizing with the customer, but like, where is that information going, right? So we keep it all together in the team, then we bring it back to the product. And then I think the most rewarding part is when you get to see all those different things come to life, you know, and then we can go back to that customer and say, remember that one feature that you were telling us about? Well, go and log into the app and you're going to see it live now. So we do that. Like I think we do a great job at that. Obviously, we can always improve, but we also improve with the feedback that our agents are giving us as well on how we can make the process a little bit more seamless.
Luba: [00:05:40] Yeah, 100%. To be honest, I have never heard this before. So we actually do a survey of customer support team to then pass it on to to your product team. Can you share what kind of questions do you ask?
Exequiel: [00:05:53] Yeah. So some of the questions that we usually ask is what is the one problem that was reported this week? Again, because we have this cadence of doing it every week. The good thing is that all the information that's coming in is very tangible and it's just fresh so that it's we don't forget about it. Another one is around like just give us some support tickets where you know that the product failed the customer and we knew that there's a better way of doing it. And then they would give us the support tickets so that when the PMs go in, they don't just see the problem, they also see the interaction that we had with the customer. Um, another question that we ask is from, from a, from an agent perspective, like what are some of the things that the product can do so that you can serve the customers better? So even though we take feedback from our customers to improve the platform, we also do the same for our agencies. Like what can we do to improve it so that when you are, whether it's on the phone or through an email with a customer, you can actually have all the tools at your disposal that are going to not only support that customer, but also add value to that interaction.
Luba: [00:07:04] Yeah, makes sense. That's very interesting. Um, you mentioned that you support different channels. Um, how do you think about it? Why do you decided to support these particular ones and not others? And how do you make sure they work well together?
Exequiel: [00:07:19] So we currently have several different channels that we that we support so customers can reach out to us through our one 800 number so they can literally pick up the phone and talk to us because we are in Canada, we support the two official languages, English and French. So we do that through the phone. We do that also through email, which is our ticketing system. And we also do live chat. So people can go into either the app or the platform and just talk to us live. And we're looking now to continue to integrate new channels. So you probably know right now social media, it's a very quick and easy way for customers to interact with you. So we're looking to integrate with some of those social media applications. Whatsapp is another app that's right now in the pipeline for us to see if we can It's easier to interact, especially with our European customers. Right now we we are only in Canada and the US, but we do have a lot of travelers that come in the summer to both markets to experience the RV rental platform. And so that's why we're trying to see how can we support our customers not only in North America, but also abroad.
Luba: [00:08:31] Yeah, makes sense. I guess many channels could bring complexity into how you run your operations. Things like scheduling and staffing. How do you deal with that?
Exequiel: [00:08:41] So the way that we do it, so we use a platform that the beauty of it is it allows us to bring all these like pieces together so that basically when you are looking at the screen, you're looking at the customer talking to you. Doesn't matter what channel they're using. Obviously, that one doesn't apply for phone because phone is a little bit different, but you can also make a phone call from that. So when the agent is logging into this platform, they can see, hey, there's a here we have a guest that is requesting some information about a specific part of the product. Then we can reply to them and we can see how did they reach out to us? Was it through again? Was it through a chat? Was it a ticket or an email that they send? Did they went into the app and went through the help center? We can see how they reach out to us. And so we try to use the exact same channel to get back to them. But it's all in the same would say screen so we don't have to leave the screen. It's all in there. And then if they reply to us, let's say via text message, then it will go back to the same screen. So you have a history of everything that you've been talking to the customer and you don't have all these joint pieces, you know that you're like, Hey, I have six tickets, I need to go and see all of them because each one reach out through a different channel. Thankfully, we have this platform that allows us to connect all of them together and then we can just use it.
Luba: [00:09:58] Makes sense for the which platform are you using just out of curiosity. Yeah.
Exequiel: [00:10:04] So we're using Zendesk. So we have the enterprise model that allows you to do this. So they launch a new feature now with the work agent space that allows you to do this, connect all these different platforms, but everything in one screen.
Luba: [00:10:19] Yeah, that sounds, sounds good. So with a large team, sometimes it could be hard to maintain the quality of support, especially across different channels where communication could be slightly different and expectations could be different. How do you maintain the quality of support in your team?
Exequiel: [00:10:38] Yeah, I really like this question because I think we all strive to to provide the best customer support, right. And myself as being the head of the department, making sure that the quality of the support stays the same across the teams. It's very important. So I would say that one of the biggest things that we do is we empower our leaders in our team members to make the right decision for the customer. So we do have policies in place that allows people to guide them to get to the right solution. But I always tell everyone, policy is not the law. You don't need to follow the policy to a T. The policy is just simply a guide that will allow you to make the right decision. It doesn't mean that the customer is right or the agent is right. It's like, what is the right thing to do for this customer? What do we need to do to make sure that they trust us and they come back to the app? So we and we communicate all this through different ways. So every single day we have a standup. So every morning the whole team rallies together. And we basically talk about some of like new initiatives any new features that perhaps are being launched. And then we have different managers that own different parts of the business. So we have a manager that owns everything that has to do with the scheduling piece. So if there's any changes to the schedule, any changes to perhaps new channels that they're going to be scheduled for so that the manager will do the updates, then we have somebody specifically for the different platforms that we use and if there's any new releases or if we're introducing anything new, just to give them a little bit of a heads up.
Exequiel: [00:12:10] I joined personally that those meetings every single day to also stay connected with the team and just also provide some feedback. Sometimes we do some role-play. So if we have perhaps a new feature that's being released and people are not quite familiar, we do a lot of role playing because that's a really good way for you to like put yourself in the shoes of the customer and say, okay, if I ask you this question, what is the best way to answer it so that they understand it and we're not using our internal lingo, you know, to help them navigate through that, which I think is a pitfall of a lot of startups. You know, everybody has their own lingo, but the customer needs to understand what you're saying. So so we do that. And I think those like just having those, you know, meetings really allows us to come together as a team. And we also sometimes have some fun activities just to help with the morale of the team. If the team is struggling with a specific thing, we try to address it on the spot. And then once a quarter we are starting to do this new thing called Ask Me Anything where they have an opportunity to ask different business leaders any questions that they might have that can improve the communication among the teams and always keeping in mind that the quality of the service that we do has to be the same no matter who they talk to, so that when they call, it doesn't matter who you're talking to, you know you're going to get an A plus experience.
Luba: [00:13:31] Yeah. Sounds like you have a lot of things sorted out. What's your biggest challenge right now?
Exequiel: [00:13:39] Um. I think that our biggest challenge and I can see that I've talked to some of my colleagues that work for different startups and they're, I think after the pandemic and sort of when we started seeing the tail, there was a lot of like behaviours that were changed. So one of the behaviours, the working from home policy, the way that we collaborated or interacted, the sense of urgency, I think that there was sort of a shift, uh, pre-pandemic during the pandemic and after the pandemic. So the way that we interacted as a team before the pandemic was very different. We would literally, if we have any, any issues, we would say, Hey, let's rally into the boardroom and the whole team would go into the boardroom, put a sticky note on the wall and just, you know, brainstorm, try to come out of that room with a solution and just move on. Obviously, the pandemic was a turbulent time where everybody was trying to figure out what is the right thing to do, not only for the customer, but also for the employees. And so everybody was working from home. It just kind of like that culture, that company culture that most startups have was kind of like broken into pieces because you're trying to get the team together. And it's just it was very, very challenging. And now there was kind of like this post-pandemic and we're slowly coming out of it. It's like, how do we come back to those principles where we protect the company culture, where we encourage people to either come into the office to collaborate or do some outings. And so I think that those sort of like things that we're still navigating through or still trying to figure out like what works best for both the customer but also the employees. I think it's important to recognize that when you have a team that's happy, they're going to provide the best customer service, right? And so making sure that we are staying connected with the culture of the company, it's important and also do temperature checks to see where your team is at.
Luba: [00:15:27] Yeah. Makes sense. To talk about the trends a little bit. So these days everyone's talking about Chat-GPT and AI. What do you think about this? What is the application for customer support and is there anything you are trialling right now?
Exequiel: [00:15:41] So I think it's definitely going to change the way that we do support. I'm definitely confident that we're already seeing so many trends and so many things happening, so many companies that are already adopting this new way of doing it. So going back to the different software that we use, I've been able to like join some like conferences online and different like chats that are happening around this topic. And I can see this trend that everybody's trying to incorporate it. Obviously, I'm looking at it from a support perspective and it's how can we incorporate this that was going to add value to, again, the customer, how we interact with customers. Because for me, that's the most important part. Going back to one of your previous questions is like, how do you control the quality of the service that you're providing, right? So I think it's like we need to keep that in mind at all times, is that, yes, this is going to perhaps make us more efficient, quicker to answer and just get back to the customer. But let's not forget that human element. At the end of the day, people just want to talk to a person sometimes and it's like, how do we connect with that person? And if we're using new tools to do that, let's just not lose that element because that's what makes us so unique in support, is that having the ability to to be able to connect with somebody, you know? So, um, I think, yes, we're seeing this trend. We, we're looking into it. My team specifically is also looking into it just to see what else we can do. Tech moves really, really fast, as you probably know. And so it's like, how can we adapt to the changes that are happening? How can we adopt the new technology without losing in mind that we still need to provide top-notch support?
Luba: [00:17:16] Yeah. Makes sense. Um, okay. Just to switch the topic a little bit, I often hear that customer support is thought of as a cost centre in the business. What do you think about this statement and how do you navigate this with your team?
Exequiel: [00:17:31] Yeah, I think that's a great question. Um, I think I've mentioned it already a little bit through this, the chat that we're having. And I think it's how do we add value to the business and bring that value also back to the customers. So one example is the support team is the customer facing team, that's the team that's talking to your customers, interacting with your customers. So what are you doing with the feedback that they're giving you and how are you using that, that feedback to improve their experience with the app? I think that's one of ways that we can add a lot of value and not being seen as, like you're saying, a cost centre to the business. We also have specifically a lot of proactive projects and what I mean by this is like instead of being reactive and waiting for the customer to get back to you or reach out to you when they need you is what can we do to prevent that? We already know some of the things that we can do ahead of time. So how do we do that? How can the team do that to add value to the interaction that the customer is having with you and also obviously add value to the company? So there are different ways of doing it for us. It's, it's keeping that in mind. It's like how can we turn our support team into a proactive team instead of a reactive team? I think that there is the reactive piece that's never going away. Customers will always reach out to you when they need to talk to your support team. So like, how can we improve that process? But then on the reactive side, on the proactive side, sorry is what can we do to get ahead of the curve so that when they are calling us, we already have a solution? Or let us call you and let us talk to you first so that we can improve that process.
Luba: [00:19:13] Yeah, definitely. Um, actually, to come back to the previous question, you mentioned that you were joining different webinars to learn about Chat-GPT specifically, but maybe also customer support trends. What kind of resources or maybe tools do you tend to use to be up to date with customer support trends?
Exequiel: [00:19:33] You know what a really good tool that I use in a daily basis is LinkedIn. So LinkedIn is especially because I have my network being in tech, it's pretty big in LinkedIn. So I have people that sometimes reach out to me or I sometimes reach out to like business leaders that I'm interested in to see how the company is going. And maybe I'm like, I like what you're doing. So I connect with them. Um, the majority of the time that I've been in tech, I've been in Ottawa, so I have a pretty extensive network in Ottawa where I connect with other business leaders that are in the same space, so in different startups. And I just reach out to them and have conversations. There are some Slack channels as well that I've joined where you can again talk to other business leaders that perhaps are not doing the same work. I have the privilege to work in different types of businesses where it's like, um, direct to consumer or B2B. And right now I'm in a marketplace which they're all very different, right? So you're dealing with two very different customers and so that brings different challenges.
Exequiel: [00:20:33] So maybe connecting with other business leaders that are in the same environment. It's one way. Also through LinkedIn, sometimes they post a lot of webinars or conferences and things that you can attend and you can go. So if there's something that piqued my interest, I put it in my calendar. And then if the time allows, I usually go back and join and then whenever we get invited. So I mentioned previously we use Zendesk, so Zendesk sometimes hosts some webinars and conferences. So every time I get those invites, I try to make a point to get me, myself and some of my team members to join it just so that we see again, what are the trends, what are some of the things that are in the pipeline? We're already using the platform well, are we using it to its full potential or are we, you know, are we getting everything out of it or are we just using 2 or 3 features that are suiting the business right now? So different different channels and different things that just to stay active and proactive, to stay with the trends?
Luba: [00:21:32] Um, final question, can you tell me about one company or maybe two whose customer service you really admire and why?
Exequiel: [00:21:41] Yeah. So I think I spent quite a bit of time working for Apple and I definitely call them up all the time. As to me, one of the role models for customer service is specifically just because of the way they looked at customer service. So I've seen in the past some companies that the model is like the customer is right, do whatever it takes to, to please the customer. And yes, you can do that, but that can bring some complications because sometimes that is not the right thing to do things. And so one of the things that I that I love about Apple is that the way that they operate is slightly different so they don't they don't really go to the customer to say yes, always to the customer. They approach it in a very different way, which is how can we fix. So assuming you have a problem with your Apple device and you need it, you need help with that. The way that Apple will approach it is how can we make you trust that product again and how can we gain that trust? So it's all it's not really necessarily about pleasing the customer. It's about fixing the relationship. Right? So how can we fix the relationship between you and the product? Because if you if we can tell you, hey, I'm sorry that you had this inconvenience with this problem, but we guarantee you that if we fix it, that that relationship and you can trust the product again and like and resolve the company, you become a customer for life, right? You're a loyal customer.
Exequiel: [00:23:09] So it's about that loyalty. How do you do that? So I really always admire Apple and I brought a lot of those practices with me, which I use on a daily basis. And I think another company I always like to call out, it's not in the tech space, but I think they really do a good job. It's Disney. Every time you go to a Disney park and you happen to talk to one of the characters, one of the things that amazes me is that they never break character. They're always living in that magical world. You know, they always say a Disney is the happiest, happiest place on earth. And the few times that I've had the opportunity to go, it is true. You go in and you feel so happy. And every interaction, whether it's going into a roller coaster, whether it's buying popcorn, whether it's interacting with those characters, nobody breaks character. Everyone is so committed to making sure that from the moment you buy that ticket to the moment you walk out of those gates, that you have an amazing experience and so I admire that to make sure everybody keeps their composure and everybody keeps their character in check to make sure that the customer is their priority. So I would say those are the two companies I truly admire, and I've picked up a lot of things from them. And I and I now bring back to RVezy.
Luba: [00:24:22] Thank you so much for sharing that and thank you so much for your time. That's it for today.
Exequiel: [00:24:27] Thank you. This was a pleasure. And thank you so much for having me again.
Luba: [00:24:30] Likewise. I really enjoyed it. Thank you.