104: The Importance of Being Reliable, Relatable and Responsive to Deliver a Fantastic Customer Experience with Daniel Rodriguez

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By Yanique Grant and Customer Experience Strategist. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

Daniel Rodriguez is the head of marketing at Simplr, which is upending the traditional customer service model by providing premium brands with flexible, 24/7 on-demand specialists for all digital channels. The company's specialists are unique work-from-home pool of highly educated professionals who use Simplr's, AI-powered platform to replicate tone and brand integrity with speed, empathy and precision.

Danielle has extensive marketing and entrepreneurial experience, having served as the VP of marketing for Seismic and the co-founder of multiple companies, including Indivly Magic and PrizeTube. Daniel earned a BA in Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from MIT.

Questions

  • Could you share a little bit with us about your history? I know it says here that you are Head of Marketing at Simplr and that you've gained a lot of experience as it relates to digital marketing and also entrepreneurial skill. But just share with us a little bit about how you got to where you are today.
  • Simlpr recently conducted a study, a customer experience study, where it says 27% consumers say their brand loyalty has wavered during the pandemic due to long customer service wait times. Could you share a little bit about some of the insights that you gained from that study?
  • Let's say our audience; they do have some of these issues that we're talking about. What are maybe two or three things that they should do that maybe they're not doing now in a very practical sense, things they should really be focused on to just give that great customer experience?
  • Could you share with us what is the one online resource, website tool or app that you absolutely cannot live without in your business?
  • Could you share with us maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read since the pandemic, or it could be a book that you read many, many years ago. But it still has had a great impact on you.
  • Now, can you share with us what's one thing that's going on in your life right now, something that you're really excited about - either something you're working on to develop yourself or your people?
  • Where can they find you online?
  • Do you have a quote or saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you will revert to this quote, it kind of helps you to move forward, to keep pushing. Do you have one of those?

Highlights

Daniel’s Journey

Daniel shared that he spent the past 8 years of his career running marketing teams at start-up companies, tech companies in the B2B space. So, very high growth companies, they're all venture funded and have high growth expectations. And it's been a really rewarding journey, he thinks, for him, because he started his career on the consulting and finance side, and he had this moment as the wise poet John Mayer once said. He had a quarter life crisis and realized that if he didn't actually be the doer, meaning, be actually on the operating side, he was going to have regrets in his own life about the career choices that he was making.

So that really started him down a path and he’s very thankful to Brad Rosen, who's the CEO of a company called Drink, for taking a chance on him and letting him work for him on kind of a volunteer nights and weekends basis and Drink is a wine app. And for him, it was great to be able to dive into on the operating side, dive into something that he was also passionate about just at a personal level.

So that gave him his first taste, if you will, of actually being at a start-up, super early stage start-up and that really scrappy mode. And once he had that taste, he was completely hooked. So, that started his path then to go to business school, which was giving him an opportunity to learn a lot more about entrepreneurship, experience entrepreneurship himself, try to start a company himself. And it was kind of from there and from some of those failed experiences of his own and trying to get companies off the ground that he was able to then get jobs at more established, albeit still very early stage companies. And so, that's where he has been spending the majority of his career at this point.

Simplr’s Insight on Customer Experience Study

Me: So, in preparing for this interview, we were informed that your company Simlpr recently conducted a study, a customer experience study, where it says 27% of consumers say their brand loyalty has wavered during the pandemic due to long customer service wait times. Being in customer service myself, I know that's like one of the biggest pet peeves of customers waiting, whether it be face to face or over the phone or even in a web forum if you have to wait on a chat for somebody to give you feedback, could you share a little bit about some of the insights that you gained from that study?

Daniel shared that they've conducted 3 of these mystery shop reports, the survey that they've gone out, partnered with a third party. They've done 3 of them over the past year. So, they did one in June where they mystery shopped about 800 eCommerce retail brands. And they were looking for areas where they could identify the things that are really important to customers and therefore result in customers having an exceptional experience, an experience that they would want to give somebody a 5-star rating about and tell their friends.

And so they looked at dimensions of Reliability, Relatability and Responsiveness. So, one of the hypotheses that they had was and this was predominantly U.S. based brands, although there are people purchasing products from all parts of the world. And they also then interviewed 500 U.S. customers of those brands, consumers not necessarily specific to any of these brands, but just 500 hundred people that are consumers in the United States.

And they asked them, how did they feel about wait times? How do they feel about brands and their willingness to stick with that brand, if there was going to be a longer wait time?

And their hypothesis was and this was something that they have also been feeling themselves during the pandemic. When the pandemic began in March and April, there was a lot of forgiveness. People were willing to say, “Oh my gosh, the world has just been completely turned upside down. I'm not going to hold it against my favourite brand that things are messed up. And they have shipping delays and they can't figure out where things are. And they might be getting slammed with a backlog because people weren't able to go into the office to answer to these questions.”

So, this idea that he thinks we as consumers were permitting, we were okay with the dreaded backlog happening, consumers don't think of it as a backlog. But we, of course, as the providers of a great customer experience, we think of backlogs and the dreaded backlog, which happens to many companies and for various reasons, he thinks reared its ugly head for many brands.

And what they saw then happen was consumers stopped being as forgiving, basically, they were saying, “Hey, now that we're three or four months into this thing, I've gone back to my previously picky ways and I'm no longer willing to put up with this.” And that obviously is concerning because it's still very difficult for many brands to figure out how to provide a great customer experience.

Me: So, your study focused on ensuring that you are looking at brands that were providing a really fantastic customer experience. And the biggest pet peeve that you picked up in this report was wait times. Why do you think customers as the pandemic got more and more deeper, people got less forgiving or patient as it related to giving brands the breather that they needed?

Daniel shared that what's really interesting about this finding is that he does think that part of this finding is cultural. And by that, he means, Americans are not the same as people from other countries. They had a webinar and they had a couple of guest speakers on the webinar, one of which her name is Alex, she runs customer success at Princess Polly. Princess Polly is an Australian brand. So they have a lot of customers in Australia.

And this idea that felt very validated by an American hypothesis in the data by Americans doesn't actually play out anecdotally anyway, in Alex's experience for their Australian customers. They were just very willing to be forgiving still of things being delayed and challenges, a lot of things relating to shipping and the forgiveness around that.

So, he thinks there's a fair amount of a cultural challenge around this. He thinks the American market; you can probably say that the American consumer has a very high bar. And unfortunately, it's harder than ever before to probably deliver on that high bar.

What he means by that high bar by the way, he thinks that high bar is, he doesn't want to use words that are that are either positive or negative in kind of describing the American consumer here. He is an American. He is an American consumer, but he thinks that the American consumer has been very much influenced by a lot of the existing technology and the way that American consumers have been catered to by that technology.

So Amazon, which is absolutely a ubiquitous company in not just the United States, but as he’s speaking specifically about this has he thinks created an expectation of you get whatever you want, whenever you want it, and it comes fast and that whole idea of hyper catered to.

And so, he thinks that's what we're kind of seeing play out here. There has been a very significant trend that was already happening before the pandemic of both his generation, as well as the generation below us, so the millennial.

He’s a reluctant millennial because sometimes the pejorative to call someone a millennial, he’s like the oldest millennial you can get, he’s like, “No, not those millennials. They're all so young and don't respect their boss and all this stuff.”

But as a millennial and then as Gen Z, there is a there's a pretty significant shift in the way that we want to interact with our brands as consumers away from that kind of unilateral, “Hey, here's the phone and we're available when you need us, if you ever have an issue. And by when you need us, I mean, between the hours of 9:00 and 5:00 Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday.”

So, that expectation that customers then have, “Well, actually, I want to be able to interact with a brand on a different channel. I want to be able to use email. I want to be able to use Instagram. I want to be able to use chat right on the website. And by the way, I want to be able to do that whenever it's convenient for me and it's convenient for me probably not when it's convenient for you.”

And that expectation has been exacerbated actually by the pandemic. And the data that they collected also reflects this narrative where brands have now recognized because of the pandemic that they need to offer more digital options for people to interact with them.

They just have to, it becomes table stakes and then it becomes punitive if you're not actually playing the game. The problem is most of the brands in the study hadn't quite cracked the nut on how do I actually deliver a customer experience that is expected by this customer. I'm offering something, I have chat, but then, sometimes it takes more than 5 minutes to respond to a chat and 92% of the people who experience a 5 minute wait time on chat give the brand a very poor rating on responsiveness.

Me: Because their expectation is immediate response.

Daniel agreed and stated that 30 seconds or less, “If it's more than a minute, I'm starting to really get mad; I'll give you a minute. I might start wavering, but if it's more than a minute, I'm actually going to get mad.”

And this world of CX that we've kind of immersed ourselves in here, it's an emotional world. He thinks of times in his own life where he can remember either good or bad experiences with brands. And his blood gets boiling, really bothers him. And these are things he can remember from like 10 years ago.

So, he thinks it's so important for us to remember that in a time, particularly in a pandemic, in a time where everyone is feeling kind of raw, actually, and we're willing to then if we put our own feelings on a 10 point scale, he thinks that our capacity to feel at a 10 is actually heightened by the fact that we are in this kind of simmering state of anxiety.

And so, providing somebody with a very good experience can make someone feel amazing, providing something the very poor experience can make somebody maybe kind of tip over. And this will finally be the thing that I feel like I can scream about.

Me: Agreed. So, you touched on a few stuff that I thought was really, really interesting. One was you said that you thought that at the end of the day, even though you did a study and it was primarily reflective of the American consumer, you also think it's very cultural. And it's funny you said that because I do agree with you, but at the same time, you went ahead to then allude to the fact that Amazon has kind of set the bar so high and I'm doing some research for a customer experience management program I'm building for a client.

And in my research, one of the things that I realized was, no matter what industry you're in, whether are you're a bank or you're a supermarket or you're delivering pizza. Because Amazon has created technology or an experience by which you can just go online and press the button and within minutes or hours depending on what it is that you're ordering, you can get the item delivered to you. You can see where it is every step along the way, it's almost like consumers expect that same experience in other types of businesses, even if the business model is not similar to yours.

And I don't think that's specific to country. I don't think it's because Amazon is an American brand. I think Jamaicans have that expectation as well. Two nights ago, my godchildren's father called me and he asked me. So a lot of companies in Jamaica, especially the fast food restaurants, have been doing delivery services now. And companies like Kentucky Fried Chicken, for example, that never used to deliver in Jamaica, that was like something that we never thought we'd live to see. I couldn't understand why they wouldn't deliver just like pizza delivers, because when I did some research, KFC delivers in Trinidad, but it doesn't deliver here in Jamaica.

And I was like, well, if they can do it in Trinidad and population is less, why can't they do it here? Anyhow, he called and said that his wife ordered some food from like 6:30 pm and it was like 9:00 o'clock and the food hadn't come. And when he called the lady, the lady at the delivery place says to him, “Oh, but we told you 30 to 45 minutes.” I don't even know how giving that statement to the customer is relevant because we're now way past 45 minutes. Six thirty to 9:00 is way past what you would have told them to expect.

So at this point, he's so mad he wants a full refund and then they further said to him, it's going to take them 7 to 10 business days to process this refund. And remember when they took his money; I'm sure it didn't take 30 seconds to run that money off of his card or whatever payment, well, it would have to be off his card if it was a digital payment, because he did it through an app that he use on the phone.

But I'm saying this is say Daniel, you are correct because of the experience that Amazon has created for us and as I said, I don't think it's necessarily cultural. I think, generally speaking, regardless of the country that you are from, if you know of Amazon and you've done business with them, it's almost like your brain is saying to yourself, “Well, if Amazon has human beings that work in their organization and they're able to create these technologies that create this type of experience, why can't other businesses think like this and operate like these to create a similar kind of experience to make life less stressful for me, because there are other things that I have to worry about, and this would be one less thing for me to stress about.”

So I thought that was really, really brilliant. And I think all organizations should really be looking at benchmarking themselves, not against companies that are in the same industry as them, but even companies that are outside of their industry because that's what their customers are viewing their businesses.

Daniel shared that he totally agreed with that. And thanks Yanique for just sharing that anecdote as well. They actually we work with a large restaurant, quick serve restaurant. And they have an application and it's a very similar type of thing where you see a lot of times confusion that people have. And what was sad, they saw recently this really great kind of interaction with the brand they're helping out on helping them answer these customer inquiries. And somebody writes in with basically that same story like, “Hey, something got messed up with my order. It hasn't been here for way too long.”

And he thinks that the bar is currently so low, actually. Here's the saving grace. We don't want to give doom and gloom to everybody. But maybe the saving grace is that the bar is actually quite low in terms of reality and if you then are responsive to people and you are empathetic and this was another thing that their data showed is the relatability aspect.

So being empathetic, showing somebody that you're a human, which bots obviously struggle to do, and which is why people get frustrated with bots. And he’s not saying bots should never be used, but he’s saying and in certain instances, if you put a bot in front of somebody and they are unable to get their situation resolved, it will make them even more mad than they would have been in any other situation.

But when we talk about just that bar being kind of low, you give somebody a quick response, you immediately tell them, “Hey, I am so sorry that your food did not get there when it needed to. That must have been extremely frustrating. And you're probably hungry right now.”

You immediately have made the person feel validated because being validated is the cornerstone, he thinks, of being able to make somebody feel open to then working with you and coming back, so you start with that validation, which is, he thinks, the cornerstone of empathy. And then you give them that refund, you get that processed much more quickly and then what does that person do? And this is actually a real example, by the way.

So, they saw this exact example happen and this person wrote back 5 out of 5 star review on the CSAT survey. And then they write in and they say, “I just have to tell you, I didn't even think anyone was going to write me back. And you've totally blown me away.”

But that first initial idea that they had actually written in, they'd taken the time to write in to express their frustration and they still didn't even expect to hear back to him shows that there is a real disconnect between where people's bar is in terms of like, if you can get over this bar, you're going to actually satisfy people. And then if you can really go beyond it to just the expectation that we want to have for our consumers, that there's plenty of 5 star moments out there to be had.

Me: Agreed. So, true. So one of the things your study actually said, which I thought was really very important, reinforcing what you just said. So, “AI driven chatbots are making significant strides in providing Real-Time information to solve simple customer concerns. But it still remains important to the customer experience that a company brings empathy and humanity to each customer interaction.”

Because, as you said, bots are here to help us, the technology is there to help us. But at the end of the day, there are some circumstances that require human interaction. I honestly don't think that even though technology has advanced so much that the human element of a customer experience is ever, ever going to be void and null, it's still going to need some form of human interaction.

Daniel agreed and shared that a couple of years ago, they were living in the rage; AI bots are going to be able to completely take over multiple parts of the organization actually, it was customer success, it was also sales. He remembers hearing we're never going to need sales reps because the bots can do all the work.

And the reality is, we think of ourselves as a human enabled technology company and we think that there is a place for technology and we see companies and he’s not even talking about their own customers. They see big brands, there's a place for bots and it has certain limited scope. And it's an incredibly valuable way for them to reduce their overall cost of service.

And we see companies that then are using people to answer questions in an on brand way. And you really got a nail that kind of tone and brand. And you have to have the knowledge and the people have to have that knowledge. And we play that role; we play that role for companies. But there's different ways that companies do that. And then there's also always this like core team internally where things need to get escalated to, if something is really going bad, you really need to have some people that are inside the organization that might be able to move larger mountains if need be.

And so, that's kind of where things he thinks sit today. And he doesn't necessarily see a lot of companies saying, “What we really need is more bots.” He hears them say, “What we really need is fewer backlogs.” Because the backlogs are what is killing their customer satisfaction. And bots don't necessarily take away the backlog, they might give you an immediate quick responsiveness, but they won't necessarily be able to resolve the issue. And of course, if you don't resolve the issue, you don't really change the situation.

So, they see a lot of companies also really focused on resolution, first time resolution. Just resolving something is obviously important but if it takes you, “Hey, we're on chat and I can't help you, now email us and I'll get back to you in a few days and we'll work on this over the course of the next week.”

That's not okay, that is just not okay. And when he says it's not okay, the data reflects that CSAT scores are not good when that happens. So, they're really focused on and he thinks a lot of companies agree with this, really focused on getting that resolution to happen in that first interaction.

Things to Focus on to Give Great Customer Experience

Daniel shared that yes, he would say the First Time Resolution. And you accomplish a first time resolution by making sure that the people who are responding on your behalf are empowered to be able to resolve the issue that they are being asked to resolve.

So that's critically important. He would say another thing to do is around Relatability. Oftentimes, we have people that are doing the customer service response, they’re writing back and yet for a variety of reasons, whether it's the incentives we're giving them or whether it's a lack of directive, we are taking out their humanity from the interaction.

If we're just telling somebody, just get through this quickly and get it done, which is sometimes the way that we align the incentive, we then just get them to just do something really fast. And you can tell when you get an email when it's kind of fast, somebody is just being quick. And so, when he means relatability, he means empowering people to actually show that they're people and using that personality.

So, giving a potential anecdote, being able to be empathetic like we were talking about before, validating how somebody is feeling, it's hard for bots to do those things, credibly. They can do them maybe in a way that will get it right some of the time and then not some of the time. And that not some of the time is really a disaster, basically. So, this is where human beings, we have this capacity to allow somebody to have an emotional connection to what you're saying because you're showing your humanity and we need to encourage people to do that.

And the last that he’ll say is it is important to be able to be Reliable with your customers and where they want to be, the data does suggest this, and this is also where the world has been going. If you have chat and you cannot respond to people on chat, it's like what is worse, having it in the first place or giving people a terrible customer experience. It's like a two sides of the same thing. It's terrible because you're going to miss out on these presale opportunities by not having it and a lot of people just prefer to go in through chat for even for a post sale inquiry. But if you don't service it properly, it's a terrible experience.

Same thing with email. People offer up email and they should because many people like to email and they recognize that I'm going to send you an email and he thinks the expectation from what we can see, is the expectation is a day. If you're getting back to him in 24 hours on an email, that is about what he would expect. That's how he kind of think about it even in his own life in business. He writes somebody an email; he expects them to get back to him within 24 hours.

Me: Even if it's just an acknowledgement.

Daniel agreed and stated that just to be able to say I hear you right. Oftentimes in our customer service world, we end up giving people an automated response, just let them know I received your email and we will be getting back to you.

But, in the survey that they did, the average response time on email was 48 hours. He thinks that people recognize that that's probably not acceptable. He thinks that the bar for what we should be attempting to provide, it is attainable because where things currently are has plenty of room to get better. And I think that when you impress people, so if you then get back to people every time in less than 24 hours, every time, and you never create a backlog.

So, because you never want to have a backlog and because customers feel the backlog, the backlog means you can't get back to them for days or chat if your chats are piling up and he’s not talking about at 3:00 a.m. when for some strange reason somebody doesn't get back to a chat, maybe you can be forgiving of that. He’s talking about during a time where you expect somebody to be able to chat and they're piling up, that's a chat backlog. That's a disaster and those should be avoided at all costs.

App, Website or Tool that Daniel Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business

When asked about on online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Daniel shared that they use a technology called Gong to listen to their sales calls. And he will say that it has been very powerful. As somebody on the marketing side where they are really trying to support their sales team, make sure that they understand what their prospective customers are actually saying about their pain, what is that language and their ability to then provide the right information to their sales team so that they can be successful in those selling interactions.

Gong has been amazing because it allows them to asynchronously participate in the sales conversation, because they can listen to the calls, they can listen to them at faster than real time speed. So you can make it play at more than 1X speed, which is great, too, because it allows him to catch up on some things that at a faster pace. He can skip forward and listen, what they've done is within the Gong platform, they're using Natural Language Processing to tag what people are talking about.

So, when somebody is talking about pricing, when somebody is talking about positioning, He can kind of see where that is in the conversation so he can kind of skip forward to the things that are going to be really useful for him. If it's 2 minutes or 5 minutes at the beginning of just kind of set up time, he can see what that is because that's tag there so he can move past it. So Gong has been a real benefit to them, and he’s only assuming that also because of the pandemic, that it's even more useful because he can't easily just kind of hop in a room and join one of his sales teammates on a call.

Books That Have Had the Greatest Impact on Daniel

When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Daniel shared that on the professional side, Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, which he loved, was 10 years ago. He still loves that book because he thinks in many ways, Tony's way of thinking about the business model as customer centric and obviously he also sold the business to Amazon, which at the time felt like, well, maybe that's not a win and if he's been holding onto that Amazon stock, most of us would think he's probably a billionaire at this point. But they were two companies cut from the same cloth because Amazon also has done the exact same thing and he has listened to podcasts and things where people from Amazon are talking about how do they think about solving business problems.

And they always start with the customer perspective. What will make the customer happier in this circumstance? And he thinks that that ethos and Tony just talks about this basically throughout the entire book, that ethos is what makes the whole discipline of CX a reality, it's not just your customer support function. You have to be thinking about this in every part of the company. Well, what would be better for the customer? And that informs what we do on the marketing side too, what you make this easier for the customer to be able to understand our value, understand what we do, how can we give them more useful information that will make their jobs easier? So, he loves that book.

On the personal side, he recently finished reading How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi and it's an amazing book. It he thinks gave him a lot more language to be able to understand the role that he needs to play in the world and how he’s going to be part of change that needs to happen and the role that policy needs to play and what he needs to do to support policy that is anti-racist so that we can dismantle the systemic racism that has plagued not only this country, obviously, but many parts of the world for a long time for centuries.

And so, he’s incredibly grateful for the scholarship of Ibram X. Kendi. He’s actually attending a seminar that he's putting on. So, he’s very, very excited about that book and if anybody else has read this book and is interested in talking about it, he’s very much looking to connect with people who are interested in this as a topic.

What Daniel is Really Excited About Now!

Daniel shared that the funny thing about a pandemic is that it can change a lot of the priorities of what you’re able to try to do or not do. One of the things that he’s passionate about is meditation. He started meditating about 10 years ago and has been meditating on a daily basis for close to 4 years at this point. So he's kind of gone on and off in the past with some different ways of doing it. And one of the things for those who have meditated regularly and have done so kind of alone, one of the things that he was realizing he was doing, he has been doing a guided meditation, a daily 10 minute guided meditation through an app called Calm. And there are different apps for this; Headspace is another app. WakingUp is an app that was recently introduced to him. There are lessons that are being broached and he wanted more opportunities to kind of talk about those, talk about those lessons and to reflect on them and hear other people's thoughts on them.

So, he feels like he has been doing this in kind of a siloed, personal way. And recently he brought this to Simplr and he said, “Hey, does anyone want to do a meditation?” He'll talk about why he’s into meditation and they can do one of these guided meditations through the through the app. And to his pleasant surprise, a bunch of people were very interested. And there were also a bunch of people that have meditated, either sporadically in the past or that meditate quite regularly for longer periods of time even more than he does.

So for now, they're starting a company meditation practice where they get together every couple of weeks, every two weeks, and they have a prompt that they are going to then reflect on and then when they get together, they are going discuss what was covered in that prompt as a way of trying to deepen their own practice and understanding. And also just to get to know people on a kind of a different level. So, really, really excited about the things that they can do that will bring them together while obviously, they can't actually see anybody face to face.

Where Can We Find Daniel Online

Daniel shared listeners can find him at –

LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/in/drodriguez4/

Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Daniel Uses

When asked if he has a quote or saying that he reverts to in times of adversity or challenge, Daniel shared that in meditation, he thinks so much of what he’s trying to do is actually just come back to the present and come back to the breath. So, he actually really like to remind himself to just breathe and then to actually do it. And oftentimes, if he’s feeling overwhelmed, if he just focuses on that feeling of his breath and just tell himself the word breathe, that it has an incredible effect. So, he will just leave everybody with the single word, “Breathe”

Me: That's brilliant. It's funny you said that because I have an Apple Watch and every now and again I see the breathe thing comes up on it and it says breathe. I guess it's reminding me to breathe. I don't know if it's built into the watch like that or maybe it picks up that my body energy needs to kind of cool down, I have no idea. But yes, breathing definitely does help. I don't know if I intentionally sit down and breathe from time to time because I do meditate sporadically. But breathing, it can definitely create clarity for you; it causes you to kind of just slow down and as you said, brings you back to the present. I have actually experienced that on many, many occasions.

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