Agent Engagement

6 Best Practices for Scaling a CX Team – Stella Connect

At Stella Connect we strive to provide CX professionals with fresh and actionable resources. To that end, we’re speaking with industry thought leaders to share their experiences with the broader CX community.

Novo is a small business banking platform that offers powerfully simple banking with their online checking and debit accounts. Novo is designed to empower small business owners with better access to their financial data and provide a more seamless banking experience. Novo is on track to grow their customer success team over the next year.

Brian Kale

Brian Kale

Head of Customer Success at Novo

At such an exciting time, we sat down with Brian Kale, Head of Customer Success at Novo to learn about his approach to CX in a scaling startup. Here are six ways Brian and his team are laying the foundation for rapid growth:

1. Turn Customers into Product Evangelists

Brian shared that one of the most rewarding aspects of his role at Bank Novo is empowering his team with the tools to find meaningful solutions and make a positive impact.

Oftentimes when people have a problem, customers think it’s one thing, but in reality it’s something completely different or just one part of the issue. Helping people find the root cause of the actual problem and then solving that problem is very rewarding.”

Enabling customers to become product experts drives loyalty and retention. As a result, the people who receive support from the CX team have the potential to become your biggest brand advocates.

This approach has proven true at Novo, and Brian went on to say, “true customer success is about quietly enabling customers to maximize their value (and minimize their time to value) with our product. In turn, these customers become product evangelists.”

2. Create a Culture of Agent Engagement

According to a study by Gallup, companies with higher employee engagement outperformed those with lower engagement by 10 percent on customer ratings, 17 percent in productivity, 20 percent in sales, and 21 percent in profitability. This proves that companies can’t ignore the importance of employee engagement, and as the frontline of defense, this holds particularly true in the customer success organization.

Brian highlighted the importance of agent engagement and shared his approach: “the first step is to talk to your agents. It sounds simple, but I think 90 percent of managers don’t do this. They simply shoot KPIs at agents and say, ‘do better’ but they don’t tell agents what they’re doing wrong and how to do better. Having an open dialogue helps agents feel invested in their performance and make more of an impact.”

Agents are the gateway for information to pass from the customer all the way to the product and engineering teams, and then back to the customer again. Making sure agents understand and appreciate their own impact enables them to feel a greater sense of purpose than merely answering tickets. As a result, they are more empowered to do their best work. 

Agent engagement starts with in-the-moment coaching. Streamline real-time feedback and coaching with Stella Connect.

3. Embrace Rapid Change

High growth means constant change, so when hiring and training agents, motivation and soft skills are critical for success. Someone may have the right technical knowledge, but without a willingness to learn, strong work ethic, and a sincere desire to help people, it’s impossible to thrive in such a fast-paced environment.

“At an early-stage startup you have to be flexible and willing to wear multiple hats. Even my day-to-day responsibilities as the Head of Customer Success change on a regular basis. When I first started, I was answering tickets, building our Zendesk process, and writing hundreds of thousands of words of copy.”

It’s important for CX leaders to balance day-to-day adaptability with a clear high-level strategy. According to brian, the role of a leader is to “enable individual contributors to accomplish more than they initially realized that they could.” For advice on how to do this effectively, Brian recommends a book called Multipliers

4. Recognize Agent Performance

Rapid change can lead to employee burnout. Even in the best startups, the fast pace and high volume of customer requests can take its toll. As a result, it’s crucial to nurture agents with ongoing and systematic recognition. Introducing a formal rewards program is one way to ensure that no opportunity is missed to highlight accomplishments and boost agent morale.

“Stella Connect has played a big role in helping us reward and recognize our team. We set up a shout-outs Slack channel and all customer reviews––both negative and positive––are pushed to this channel so that agents have access to real-time feedback.”

After every ticket is closed, Novo uses Stella Connect to request user feedback, and in turn, users are prompted to suggest rewards for agents. Novo’s most unique reward is the option to plant a tree in an agent’s name for going above and beyond. The Novo customer success team has a KPI to plant 200 trees by April 2020.

Don’t let time or budget prevent you from creating a formal rewards program. There are many ways to recognize achievements in a way that aligns with your company goals. Even team lunches, coffees, and high-fives have proven popular ways to appreciate agents.

Turn positive interactions into agent rewards. Learn about Stella Connect’s rewards and recognition tool.

5. Stay Connected

As companies scale, space and economics come into play. However, when still small, mighty, and growing, it is important to keep teams close for as long as possible to support a culture of interconnectedness.

“We value keeping the team as close to the central hub as possible. That way I can see everyone multiple times a week. If there’s a fire to put out, I can be there. Agents are more ingrained in the culture and are able to feel their impact on the company.”

One major way Novo agents stay connected is through quarterly shadows. Each quarter, the Novo team matches every person in the company with a customer success agent. Over the course of the quarter, each week one or two people shadow an agent for an hour and help handle tickets. This encourages a culture of collaboration and transparency and gives everyone in the company––from the product team to the development team to the founders––learn more about their customers.

Even once growing companies ultimately expand their contact center presence into different locations, it’s crucial to find ways of keeping agents motivated, visible, and involved in the company and the culture.

6. Look Toward the Future

Consumer expectations are dramatically changing. Now more than ever, proactive service and instant on-demand support are the basic expectations of every customer in need. Education and enablement are becoming the most important function of the customer success organization.

“The trend toward automation is going to continue. We’re already subtly talking to people without actually talking to them through automated systems and behind-the-scenes improvements to the point where the user experience is so seamless that they don’t need to engage with an actual agent. As a result, the industry is moving more and more towards core customer success and away from customer service. Our job is to support customers and enable them to succeed, not do things for them.”

Technology enables companies to move faster and become more agile, but despite the move toward automation, the human touch is central to customer success. 

“There will always be a human in the loop. I think for the foreseeable future customers will still want to escalate to a real person. For most companies, automation is already in place––all the email drips and onboarding systems, that’s all automated. But as AI continues to develop, I think the role of the human will evolve to provide more proactive and preventative outreach.”

Customer success is the glue that binds everyone in an organization together, including the customers. As Brian Kale would say, that’s the secret sauce and the #hotsauce.