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Cordless interview series: 3 October 2023

Lynda Harvey
Director of Customer Support
at Kind

In this episode of Cordless interview series, the wonderful Lynda Harvey - Director of Customer Support at Kin talks about how she loves working in customer support because of a huge positive impact it can have on people and the importance of empowering your team.

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

Luba: [00:00:03] So welcome to Cordless Interview series, where we invite customer support leaders to talk about trends and the best practices in the space. I'm very pleased to introduce Lynda Harvey today, who is a customer support director at Kin Insurance. Thank you so much for joining me.

Lynda: [00:00:22] Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here.

Luba: [00:00:26] Uh, cool. So to get us started, maybe you could say a couple of words about your background and career so far.

Lynda: [00:00:33] Sure. So, um, I've had kind of an interesting career. I've really kind of focused on CX and customer experience for about the last ten years and primarily in the startup space. Um, but I mean, I've done everything right, like I've, I've done it all. I have worked in retail, I have managed a dental office, I've done medical recruiting, I've done software sales. I mean, I have done so many things. But what I really discovered about ten years ago was that although I was bouncing around a lot in different fields, I would always come back to customer service or customer experience because I found that I was really personally fulfilled in that space. I found that I could impact somebody's day, um, in such, in such a positive way, right? Like I could really have a conversation with somebody and have it be really meaningful and impactful and improve, you know, their day. I don't know what their journey was like on that day or what it was, but I knew that I could have an impact and I felt like I was creating a larger impact. And just by being in customer experience. And so really kind of doubled down on that and really started building, you know, a career in that space and especially in a leadership capacity. So really passionate about creating that same space for others to do that, providing an experience where they could break the scripts or they could go outside of, you know, the policy and create like a really great experience for somebody and, and understanding how it impacted the business in such a big way. Um, and, and really giving them the empowerment to do that. So I've been doing that. I've been in kind of a director role for the last ten years, building and scaling teams from corporate environments to startup environments.

Luba: [00:02:34] Cool. That's really great to meet someone who is so passionate about customer service. Um, cool. I guess in this case, what do you think is the most important thing to make customer service a success?

Lynda: [00:02:48] I think it's about embracing. It's about embracing the customer experience. And I think it's also about figuring out how to create autonomy within your department. So I think so often, you know, we have rules and guidelines and policies and procedures and I think that what we have to do is find kind of the grey areas in those and create space for our team members to make it their own. And I think when you create an environment where people are allowed to make their job their own, we have better retention with our agents because let's face it, our agents have a tough job. It's a hard job to go call, to call, to call, to call with customers. And if we can give them some kind of semblance of autonomy over their role or they know that it's not always black and white and they can also live a little bit in the grey, then I think you find happier departments. And I think in turn, like that really passes on to your customers as well. Your customers are happier too, and I think it's because they feel that through your team members.

Luba: [00:03:53] Yeah, really love that. Yeah, I totally agree. That's what we try to do when I was leading customer support teams as well, creating autonomy for sure, but at the same time, especially with a larger team, it could be really hard to maintain consistency of service. How do you achieve that?

Lynda: [00:04:11] I mean, you have to put the checks and balances in place, right? Like it's all about checks and balances. And so, you know, if you are grading people on quality, you should also balance that with CSAT, right? I think so many organizations have gone like, Oh, we only look at CSAT. Well, sadly, if you're only looking at CSAT and you're not doing your internal quality checks, then you're missing opportunities where maybe you've got an agent who tells the customer whatever they want to hear but isn't doing the right thing, which also puts your organization at risk. So I think it's really important to have the balance. You know, if you're measuring your metrics on something here, then you balance it with another component here. So it's all about creating balance within your organization and then, you know, having really good firm guidelines and documented processes. I think that so often, especially in the startup space, we like are going a mile a minute and we don't document our processes or we don't think that a policy needs to be written. It's a one off. And I think that you always need to figure out how to create documentation and create those processes for your employees to lean on and then and then, you know, hold them to it, create an environment of accountability. And I think that that is at the top. I think that we as leaders have to figure out how to hold ourselves accountable and allow our leaders who report to us to hold us accountable because we're going to hold them accountable. And I think that if we create like those levels of accountability, that creates a lot of consistency as well.

Luba: [00:05:47] Yeah. So, um, what kind of channels do you support at Kin and how do you make sure that they work well together?

Lynda: [00:05:56] So currently we are only supporting phone and email and that's a little bit with SMS, but we haven't maximized our SMS. We plan to launch chat in the next few months and we had chat on before, but it had not been as successful as I would have liked. And so we turn chat off so we could revamp it and relaunch it in a more successful way. And then, um, again, we're going to make a bigger splash with SMS as well.

Luba: [00:06:25] Yeah. Do you mind sharing why it didn't work the first time around with chat?

Lynda: [00:06:29] Um, so, so I think that it wasn't rolled out well and I don't think that it was managed and executed in an effective way. And I think that there were a lot of people doing a lot of different things. And so the expectation was like you were on phones, you were on chat, you were on emails, it was too much for people. And the one thing that I've learned about chat, same with phones. There are very certain people who have a talent for that channel. And if you're putting people who don't have that talent into chat, then you start to see a lot of failure. So it's really about identifying the right team members who can do chat. And I know a lot of, um, a lot of organizations, especially in the startup space, will have everybody rotate through the channels so they have time in phones and they have time in emails, they have time in chat. The trouble with that is that you never end up finding your groove, so you're constantly kind of changing gears and it's stop-and-go. Um, and it's very difficult mentally on someone. So it's about identifying the people in your department who have a talent and an interest in that channel and then allowing them to just like kill it every day.

Luba: [00:07:45] Makes sense. Cool. I guess customers come to you with problems and feedback and issues and guess it's so important to pass it on to the rest of the company to make the experience nicer. How do you do that? What kind of processes do you have in place?

Lynda: [00:08:01] So, you know, think if I were to take the feedback that I get every day from customers to every department, I would be on calls all day, every day. So I think it's really important about figuring out a way to quantify your responses from customers. So currently we use tags in our system, and then we also have certain feedback loops that we've created where we have documents that people fill out so we can quantify the data. And then once we see a certain number of data, as long as it's not like a huge compliance issue or something that maybe we could legally have a problem with the organization. Once I have about ten concerns in the same category, you know, that's when we go ahead and really escalate a problem. Now, these feedback docs are shared with all of the important people. So, anybody who wants to look at these documents, the heads of departments, anybody who wants to take a look and see the verbatims from the customers, we are never shying away from that. But really we want to make sure that if we're escalating a problem, that it really, truly is something that needs to be escalated. And so, you know, we start to quantify it that way.

Luba: [00:09:11] But you mentioned you have also documents of how you collect additional information. Is it like a survey for customer support teams?

Lynda: [00:09:18] Right. So we we do a lot of Google surveys and have our agents fill it out because they can bookmark the survey. They can just go in and fill it out. And then, of course, you know, we look at our monthly reports and we look at our the tags that are being used and we start to look for anomalies there. And then, of course, we look at our customer reviews as well. So, you know, all of the data makes sense.

Luba: [00:09:41] Cool. What is your biggest challenge right now? What keeps you awake at night?

Lynda: [00:09:46] I think the whole world is filling the staffing issue. I think everybody is wondering, where do I get staff? How do I keep staff? Um. Yeah, staffing I think is probably the hardest challenge. And I think part of that is because it is kind of it can be a really thankless job and it can be a lot. Um, and so I think, you know, the way that we're kind of combating that is we're looking for opportunities to differentiate ourselves. So what are we offering? Um, you know, I think that, you know, COVID was that experiment of everybody going remote and we all went remote. And I think that was really beneficial for the customer support space. We have a lot less drama. You know, I think that when you're in a call center, you get so much drama all of the time, and I think it's because everybody's together and they're all doing such similar work that I think it creates kind of. An area where you can create drama. And so for us, going home has been really, really great for the for I think, in the customer service space. And so I think but a lot of businesses are going back to the office or pulling their people back into the office because they believe they have an in-office culture and think it's about looking at customer service and customer experience and saying like, is this is an in-office culture really best for our people? And I think I would hope that unless you have, you know, there are some businesses where you absolutely have to be in office for compliance issues and those types of things.

Lynda: [00:11:29] So those I think are exempt from this conversation. But I think that there's so much time and space for us to say like, we can make it work at home. And yes, it's a little bit more painful. And yes, we have a harder time tracking productivity, but I promise you, you're having a hard time tracking productivity when you were in the office anyway because people would get up from their desks or they would take extra breaks or they would do whatever. But I think that, you know, you can actually create a really positive culture and create something that really works in a remote environment for customer support. But then you also have to figure out how do you create a work-from-home culture, right? Because then everybody has their own little mini culture and it's about like, how are we recognizing our employees or how are we rewarding our employees and how are we making this a great environment for them to work even if they're not there in the office? So I think there's a lot of that.

Luba: [00:12:28] Yeah. Yeah. It's funny you say that. Every interview I do when I ask about challenges, talent comes up. You're totally right. It sounds like it is a problem for everybody. Yes. Uh, I mean, these days everyone's talking about AI and how it's going to change customer support in particular. What's your take on this and are there any initiatives you're planning?

Lynda: [00:12:53] So I think number one, I think AI is great. You know, if we look at AI today versus the AI that we had even five years ago, it is monumentally different. And I think that there's a lot of leverage that one can gain and efficiencies that you can gain from utilizing AI. And I think that it can be really, really beneficial as long as you know where to draw the line. Right. So I think that sometimes we think we can take an AI like in chat specifically and take it all the way to completion of the chat, which may or may not be true. I know. Um, I used for a flight not too long ago. I used a chatbot and it was beautiful and I never had to talk to an agent because it was basically yes or no questions that I could get to the end with. Um, so I think that it's going to be, I think it's great already in this space and I think it's going to continue to grow in this space. I think the challenges of AI are really when we're working with so many of our homegrown systems, so, so many platforms have a homegrown system. And, you know, that's according to whatever developer that, you know, was using their school of thought to build the platform at that time. And I think sadly, that's where the biggest barrier is. So it doesn't matter like how open the API is or it doesn't matter. Like, yeah, it'll plug into everything. But the thing is, is if your organization doesn't have some transparency with their data and with their systems, you can plug in a, you know, chat and or any of the AIs all you want, but they're going to be very limited based on your homegrown systems. So I think that's really where the challenges are. And I think, you know, there's a really big opportunity for organizations to audit think it's more about auditing their systems and employing engineers to build it so it can plug into these open APIs.

Luba: [00:15:00] Yeah, that's very interesting. Yeah, it's, it's true. I guess it will require quite a lot of engineering work if it's a build system and to actually properly implement it. Yeah. Makes sense. I often hear that customer support is viewed as a cost center within companies and within management. What's your take on this and how do you deal with this in your company?

Lynda: [00:15:25] So I like to flip the script on this one and I like to call it an opportunity center. So this is an area of opportunity for the business. And I understand like the whole concept behind a cost center is that, oh, you know, you're not generating revenue well, but if you're creating these moments with your customers and you're building loyalty with your customer, that's untapped money that could be coming into your business. Right? You cannot put a price on loyalty. And so that's why I call it an opportunity center. This is an opportunity for us to build long-term relationships with our customers. This is a place where we can really, you know, carry that brand voice and really be the voice of the company. And so I think it's really limiting to just say, Oh, it's a cost center. It really is an opportunity center.

Luba: [00:16:17] How do you how do you change that perception in your company? Or maybe everyone's already on board with that.

Lynda: [00:16:23] I think a lot of it is like, again, going through the data, right, looking at your CSAT numbers, looking at your Trustpilot reviews, looking at your Google reviews, look at what people are saying. And oftentimes when people are talking about the company, they talk about customer service first. They very, very rarely. You know, it's usually like, Oh, I had this experience and let me tell you why it was the worst experience ever. Or let me tell you why. It's the best experience ever. And the best way to pull from those is by finding reviews where people mention your agents by name, right? Like somebody took the effort to remember the name of the person who's really a faceless person on the other end it. And it's because they made that connection. And so really kind of talking about how these connections matter and how by looking at this like we have these loyalty of these customers by creating these connections.

Luba: [00:17:20] Can you share do you have any company whose customer service you admire and why?

Lynda: [00:17:28] Oh, probably a lot. I think you know, one of the gold standards here in the States think everybody talks a little bit about Chewy. I think Chewy is doing a really wonderful job. And I think Chewy is doing a really wonderful job because they really humanized or pet sized. I don't know. That's a word. They've really humanized the process. And so, you know, I get a holiday card every year through my pet. It's not to me, it's to my pet. I get a holiday card. Um, or we had, you know, sadly, we had a subscription of, of some litter and my cat had sadly passed away. And so I had to end my subscription and I got a condolences card. I mean, you know, little things like that. And I think that if you were to go on and look at so many other things that people the service that they're receiving from Chewy and I think it's really because they've nailed that surprise and delight piece. And I think that's the area where so many organizations struggle. What is surprise and delight and how do we create those moments of magic with those customers? And then how do you differentiate between too much and not enough? Right. So and I think Chewy has really kind of struck that balance.

Luba: [00:18:50] Yeah, Sounds like a really great example. Well, thank you so much for joining me today. I really enjoyed that. Thank you for your time.

Lynda: [00:18:56] You are so welcome. Thank you. And good luck with everything.

Luba: [00:19:00] Thank you.
Luba Chudnovets
Co-Founder and CEO