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Season 3 Episode 5
November 20, 2020

[Step by Step] How to Build Sustainable CX and Avoid Burnout?

Customer support and burnout often co-exist in an organization. How do you prevent burnout and have sustainable CX, while running one of the most prestigious brands in the world? Jeffrey Newman, Manager of Customer Care at Porsche shares how he keeps it all in balance. Listen now!

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Let's face it, support teams need a little extra love. They often deal with customers in high-stress situations, and those frontline CX teams bear the brunt of the frustration that customers feel when things doing go exactly right. How do you prevent burnout in your CX organization? Just ask Jeffrey Newman, the Manger of Customer Care at Porsche. He has been building support teams for decades, and knows a thing or two about delivering world-class service, investing people, and keeping good humour about it every step of the way.

This episode is packed with Jeff's "Newmanisms", quips and potent potables that serve as memorable lessons of leadership. In this episode he shares his thoughts around OKRs and team success. He unpacks management techniques and coaching tips. Most importantly, he reminds us that customers and support teams are people, and should be treated with dignity and respect.

I can teach anybody to sell. Selling is not difficult because to me it's the same servant leadership that's required. I can teach anybody to sell. That's a skill set. What I can't teach people is to legitimately care about other human beings. That's the skill set that you have to come into my organization with.

Key Takeaways

  • Handling critical escalations require good humor. Create a personal conversation with the customer. Don't handle a transaction, have a conversation.
  • Team happiness is key to delivering great service. Customers deserve to speak with happy people who represent the brand.
  • Stand "shoulder to shoulder" with people to put yourself into their perspective. Don't stand toe to toe, get into their point of view.
  • The "30 inch interaction" is key - 30 inches between the headset and the computer, 30 inches from the head to the heart. 30 inches between two people interacting.
  • Quality scores and NPS don't depend on business metrics like call time, they depend on success metrics like "did you fix the reason why I called" and "are you on my side?"
  • Good humor and a team that trusts each other, have fun together, help combat burnout. Great leadership allows this to take place.
And if you ever wake up on a Sunday morning or Monday morning, whenever your week starts and as you're going to work, you're feeling like I'm not enjoying this anymore, then talk to somebody about it. Talk to your leader, your leader's leader. Talk to me. And if it means doing something else within the company, great. You know what? If it means doing something outside the company, I encourage it because when you're here, I want you to be having fun. I want you to enjoy doing what you're doing because it's not fair to you or your family to do otherwise.

Thanks for listening to Episode 5 of our Season 3 of Step by Step! Have any questions or comments about the show? Let us know on, or reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or LinkedIn. We love hearing from our listeners!

Phillip: [00:00:52] Welcome back to Step by Step, a podcast by Future Commerce presented by Gladly, and this is our fifth episode of Season 3 of Step by Step. This is the last one. If you've made it this far, congratulations. I'm so glad that you could join us for the whole journey. But if you're just jumping into the series at the very end, why don't you go back and listen from the beginning? We've been on an amazing journey of talking about the evolution of customer experience for brands that you know and love. Today, we sit down with Jeff Newman, who is the Head of Customer Care at Porsche. Yes, Porsche, that brand that we all know and love. We talk with him about quality assurance in contact centers and how a QA program can change and empower lives and improve customer experience and improve agent experience. We hear a few of his Newmanisms. Jeff is an amazing orator and he talks about how quality is the voice of the process and how many contact centers run QA like it's a checklist. But Jeff has a little bit of a different perspective. It's an awesome listen and he's going to teach us all so much, so I can't wait for you to hear it. Let's join Jeff as he teaches us how to evolve from customer support to customer experience Step by Step.

Phillip: [00:02:16] We have a very special guest with us today, Mr. Jeff Newman, who manages Customer Care at Porsche. Welcome to the show. And say hello to the people. Jeff.

Jeff: [00:02:25] Good afternoon, Brian and Phillip, and thank you so much for having me. Good afternoon to all of the listeners.

Phillip: [00:02:28] Everybody should be familiar with the Porsche brand. It's such an incredible brand. People may not be as familiar with you. Give us a little bit of who you are and what you do and and what are some of the things that you care about in your role in Customer Care?

Jeff: [00:02:49] Sure. Interesting question, because who I am, I think is very much different than what I am. So for the purposes of this, I'll go into what I am. And so what I am is, as you mentioned, I oversee the Customer Care organization for Porsche Cars North America. At Porsche, we are an importer, so we don't actually build the cars. The importer's job is to actually get them from the manufacturer and then we turn around and sell them to our independently owned and franchised dealerships around the country or the particular market that the importer's working for. And so I've got a long background in retail, like traditional brick and mortar, as well as contact center leadership with a little bit of splash in Six Sigma and operations development and process design sprinkled in the middle. In regards for Porsche Cars North America today, it's interesting because when given an opportunity to speak to a bunch of other folks, let's say in the CX world, and I say that work with CX contact centers, I like to sort of start off the conversation with, "Ok everybody. Just by a show hands, raise your hand if you currently own a car. And of course, even today, most folks are still now raising their hands." And then I'll ask, "All right, now keep that hand raised if you've ever called the manufacturer of your automobile," and then almost all the hands go down. And then that's when I get that sort of cock-eyed to the head, sideways head look that a dog might give you when it doesn't understand what you're asking of it because yeah, then everyone is like, "So what is it that you do?" And I'm sure as we go into this conversation, we can talk a little more about that in detail. But we have what you would consider in the customer service world, sort of that traditional care organization. But I also oversee our sort of like a digital tech support, the Infotainment wi fi side of the vehicle, as well as our roadside assistance program, and then a few other odds and ends that help make all this stuff work together.

Phillip: [00:04:53] Well, and if people are calling the manufacturer of the vehicle or the importer in your case, who have they already talked to along the way? I guess that's my next question for you?

Jeff: [00:05:06] No, that's a great question. And again, if you think about it, who is that relationship you have with when you think about your vehicle? If something goes wrong, you think of that relationship that you have with your local dealer. So if it gets to the point where you feel like I need to talk to the manufacturer of my vehicle directly, you're probably not in a really good place at that moment, either with the vehicle or with your dealer.

Phillip: [00:05:32] Wow.

Jeff: [00:05:32] So you can imagine that those are some difficult conversations that our folks need to have because I don't want that care organization to have relationships with our customers, our drivers. I want them to mend the relationship with the brand and make them feel good about going back to the dealer, if that's where there was a break.

Phillip: [00:05:49] Hmm.

Brian: [00:05:51] That makes a lot of sense. Yeah, that sounds like a lot of pretty difficult conversations. I would imagine there's some strategies that you've employed to help turn those conversations into really, really positive experiences. Maybe give us a few of the types of things that you might hear and some ways that you mitigate those conversations.

Jeff: [00:06:21] That's a good question. And I don't know if I would consider it a strategy as much as philosophy and putting things into action. But we're a contact center, and [00:06:33] for me and any time that I've led any sort of customer facing organizations, I don't want people having a transaction with a customer. I want them to have a conversation with a customer. [00:06:43] I've sort of built this reputation for having a bunch of what other people have coined as Newmanisms. But I also believe in keeping it really, really simple. And I use a lot of simple Newmanism philosophies to kind of keep in mind, to help them have conversations and to not just have a transaction. And whether it's the 30 inch interaction in person, standing next to somebody or the 30 inches between your headset and your computer these days over the phone, when somebody comes to you and they're having a problem with your brand... Let's think about it physically at first. When they walk into your store, if they're having a problem with your brand, they're going to come and they are physically now standing toe to toe with you, which is a very, very antagonistic stature. And I'm mad at you. And mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad. And I've taught people, and I teach people, the first thing you need to do is after you let them vent is you turn and you stand shoulder to shoulder to them. Take away that defensive statue or stand shoulder to shoulder and find a place to look at in front of you. So now physically, you're now looking at the world the same way that your customer is. And I take that same mentality and I put it into the phone environment. If somebody calls you and they're not having a great day. And they might be yelling at you, but they're not really mad at you. You didn't make them this way. But they had to have some place to vent and to let it out. Now, instead of doing this physical shoulder to shoulder sort of a turn, you need to do that mentally. And now, how do you best use your words to start identifying with the customer so that they know you're on their side now? Boy, Mr. Newman, I really could see how that would be frustrating. I would be frustrated, too, if that happened to me. I am so glad you brought this to my attention. Let's see how I can make this better for you today.

Phillip: [00:08:47] There's so much to unpack there. You said Newmanisms, I have to pick at some of those because, at least in our prior conversations that brought us up to this podcast, I've been very fascinated and very inspired by some of the things you said. And for those who want a wealth of Newmanisms, it's actually the Radically Personal podcast, Jeff, you had appeared on that. And I feel like you go quite into depth on some of those. So future reading homework for our listener crowd. When thinking about putting yourself in the position of the customer or having to approach these sort of, I would say I would tense maybe or sometimes emotionally charged events, let's talk a little bit about as a leader, what kind of culture you need to try to create to keep your own team energized and recharged. Because that sounds like it can be a high stakes are high stress environment to work in from day to day.

Jeff: [00:10:05] Yeah, that's a a great point. I firmly believe and without naming the companies, our executives went and visited some Silicon Valley companies a couple of years ago and some very well-known ones. And they were all amazed when a former CEO and Founder of a particular company said, "What do you think the most important thing is that we do?" And of course, as executives, their first thoughts were going to their core business. Right? And trying to figure out which one of those core business items was it. And the gentleman said, "No, no, no, it's hiring. Hiring is the most important thing we do." And I don't know how that's different in any company, in any organization, how that is not the most important thing that you do. You have to know the profile of the person that you're looking for and you have to know how to recruit them and you have to know how to retain them and develop them. [00:11:00] I've said this before, especially when I've been leading sales positions, I can teach anybody to sell. Selling is not difficult because to me it's the same servant leadership that's required. I can teach anybody to sell. That's a skill set. What I can't teach people is to legitimately care about other human beings. That's the skill set that you have to come into my organization with. [00:11:24] Now, the question is, how do you develop a recruiting program where you're getting those people that you know have that innate characteristic of caring for other human beings? So that to me is one of the first things. And so you have to put all that energy into what you do to build the right organization. To me, another key is [00:11:48] when I look at the soft skills or the human behaviors that I want people to have in my organization, if you were to think about it figuratively as part of a human body, to me that's the backbone, right? Everything should be ancillary to those human behaviors that you want them to exhibit. So what does that mean? Well, specifically, don't get an IT platform or multiple tools that you want them to work off of and make them change their behaviors to fit your tools. Get the tools and make the tools fit the behaviors that you expect your people to exhibit.  [00:12:24]Create incentive programs that only help to encourage them to continue to exhibit the skills that you want them to. Their annual reviews in the context in our world, there should be all these things. The most important thing that should have the most weight is are they exhibiting the human behaviors that you expect?

Brian: [00:12:43] I just think about things from an eCommerce world. And as we've seen a huge shift away from stores, physical stores, where you have store associates, like you said, that we're physically able to stand shoulder to shoulder with people and now we're seeing a huge increase in online transactions and purchasing that is channel shifting. Right? We're now seeing the need to expand customer service teams across the world in the world of eCommerce just because of the changing purchasing patterns. A lot of these stores have never had to look at customer service team for their eCommerce store as like the main brand ambassador for their company. Can you talk to us a little bit about what you've seen in terms of how people are responding, what kinds of results that you're seeing, the measurables as a result of this thought process and ethos that you brought?

Jeff: [00:13:43] Your thoughts and questions lead me to a bunch of things to answer. So just bear with me and let me kind of walk through this. I think everybody in the customer experience world totally recognizes what's going on digitally and understands that with all this technology that we're building and artificial intelligence and RPAs and the move to self serve, so forth and so on, what we're doing is not making contact centers or humans go away, but what we're doing is we're actually increasing the importance of those folks. Because now you figure with all the abilities to get stuff done on my own before I need to talk to a human, think about how much more complex my situation must be for why I need to speak to a human. And so I think folks are getting that, and for anyone that's leading contact center organizations, when they're hearing rumblings from their teams that all these darn computers are just going to take away our jobs, it's actually the opposite. It's going to make your jobs more important than ever and it's going to be really incumbent upon the leaders to make sure that we're, again, getting the right people and developing appropriately to handle that. And then in regards to how do you get folks to properly respond once they land in your center? There's not a silver bullet. There's a lot of work that needs to be done to get there. There was a survey several years ago from a consulting company that was about employee engagement. And it said basically how high of an employee, how engaged was that particular employee based upon where they were in the company? And near the middle of the group were your salespeople, do you know who your least engaged employee was? It was your customer service agents.

Brian: [00:15:36] Mmm.

Jeff: [00:15:36] So think about that, the folks that are talking to your customers, probably more than any other group, statistically speaking, were you at least engaged employees. If that doesn't motivate you to make sure that you're doing a good job to lead them and inspire and motivate them, I don't know what else there is. And they're probably not the highest paid folks in your organization on top of that. They probably have a higher attrition rate than in other parts of your organization.

Phillip: [00:16:02] Wow.

Jeff: [00:16:02] And so for us and for my teams, especially here at Porsche, we spend so much time and effort and energy to engage with our contact centers. I don't mind sharing, but all of my folks are outsourced. But I'd like to think that if you asked any of them, while Porsche might not be in their paycheck, if you asked them who they work for they're going to tell you it's Porsche. And we take a lot of pride in that, and we work really hard on that. And there's a lot of things that we do to make them feel like a Porsche employee, because I know how difficult it can be for them to feel engaged. And so I think about the fact that don't even work directly for my team. The risk that's there as far as not being engaged, so that's a huge part of our efforts, is to make them feel like part of our team.

Phillip: [00:16:52] Let me ask you this, Jeff, in your wealth of experience and both in automotive and before, outside of the automotive industry. I'm sure that somewhere on some spreadsheet, the result that the OKRs are something that needs to be measured. So how do you measure? Is it retention? Is it employee retention? What are some of the OKRs that your higher ups are looking for? And how do you sort of adapt to... Are there natural outgrowths from your leadership style that will lead to the measurable tangibles? Or is that something that is a misconception on my part?

Jeff: [00:17:38] I think it's very, very specific to the call types that you're taking, especially, let's say in the contact center role, right. If you're on the sales side, if you're on the retention side, if you're on the service side, they're all going to have different metrics that matter. For us, I would say your typical call metrics are not as important to me as, let's say NPS would be. Doesn't mean that we're going to allow people to talk endlessly to our customers, because, again, you can statistically prove that adding extra time does not increase NPS results. But what increases NPS results is doing what you said you were going to do and fixing the reason why I called. That's what gets the NPS results. So for my group, in the role that I'm in now, it all goes back to loyalty. Like anything that my group can do to help with customer loyalty. Again, I've got that traditional care group that's a bit of a more of a challenge based upon the things, the situations that they're needing to handle versus that digital tech support type team.

Phillip: [00:18:54] Is is there something that sort of goes hand in hand with this idea of like you have to track to some sort of a goal and is that goal changing over time or is there any sort of dissonance there as something that you feel like is something that you have to help inform or guide for other areas of the organization that may not understand what it's like to be in the role of the customer contact center?

Jeff: [00:19:21] It's an interesting question. For me, everybody is familiar with voice of the customer, right? And again, you might have different ways of measuring it. Ease. Loyalty. So forth and so on. In the contact center world, another measurement that is looked at a lot is quality assurance, quality monitoring. There's lots of different ways of talking about it. And it's really about measuring, again, those human behavior skills that we're expecting our agents to be exhibiting in conversations. What I have challenged people with is I consider that quality monitoring process sort of the voice of the process. So now you have the voice of the customer. That's the end result, right? That's when they're telling us how we did. And this voice of the process is us telling ourselves how well we did. And so what I challenge the analysts to do is let's track those two lines over time. And while I don't necessarily care if the numbers are the same, I really don't. I just want to make sure they're trending the same, up or down. And the reason is, is because if you think about this, what if they're trending in opposite directions? What if you've got sort of a negative one correlation? What if your customers are saying, man, your team is doing great, but internally we're scoring them horribly on our quality scores? How fair is that to the agents? And similarly, what if we're giving our quality scores are giving all agents 90 and above, but our customers are telling us we stink and I can't get rid of you fast enough? So, again, something's broken. And so you can't look at both of these processes separately. So if you've got separate organizations that run your quality and your voice of the customer analysis, I would challenge you to have those two teams meet up with each other and find out where those correlations lie so that you can start tweaking both of those. How do you tweak your surveys to your customers? And how do you tweak your quality program so that you're seeing sort of the same ups and down flows over time that let you know that there really is some sort of a form of correlation between what we expect of our agents and how that then transcends into what our customers tell us about our company.

Brian: [00:22:44] I have another question for you, Jeff. This is going to take a little bit of a different turn here. It's going to be another two part question, although my last question might have been like five parts. {laughter}.

Phillip: [00:22:56] That's his love language, which is five part questions.

Brian: [00:23:02] {laughter} So hopefully this isn't embarrassing for me to bring this up. I don't know if I asked you if I could talk about this in the podcast, but in a former life, you used to be a comedian. And there's a lot of chatter right now in the brand world about the role of humor in brand and in your company ethos. And also positivity and excitement as well. Can you talk to me a little bit about sort of those two different things? I kind of want to go into a deep dive on both, but does humor ever play a part in this process, just given your background? I just feel like that might be something worth exploring a little further. And the second thing is as you talk about these groups, and we talk about metrics, we talk about who's on the team, we talk about it strategies for working with customers, ultimately, that sort of results in an outcome and a culture as a team. And so tell me, and we talked about burnout. We talked about how you're not even necessarily employing all of your agents. How does this all come together? And how does humor influence your team and how does the types of people coming together that are on your team ultimately result in sort of the type of culture that you were looking to achieve at Porsche?

Brian: [00:24:30] I lost count, actually, after five. I'm not even sure how many I got that one. {laughter} So the role of humor [00:24:37]. I would just say in life in general, there is a saint from about eight hundred years ago who said, "To have a sense of humor shows that you have hope." Because I often joke that if God doesn't have a sense of humor, I am doomed. So I really do find that humor is such an outlet and a release and there's a time and place for everything. I probably can be accused of maybe trying to have too much humor when not always necessary or appropriate. But at the same time, be darn sure that I also know when to be very straightforward and play the role that's necessary. So it's just knowing when to put on which hat. [00:25:20] I just think that it's interesting, when I was really, really young into leadership, mean without giving my age, I would say that was many presidents ago, unfortunately. {laughter} I remember somebody, one of the first of my leaders when I was in leader role, told me I had an incredible ability to be a blank ticker without being a blank hole, if you will. And it was kind of a haha funny thing at that time, but the more I thought about it, it's was like that's actually a really nice thing to say. Like I had this ability to get things done. But people wanting to do it. Which you hear is like a key to good leadership. Right? People want to follow you not they have to follow you. And similarly, I remember back in those times too, remember one time I walked into... I'm talking a long time ago, somebody just laughed. Jeff's wearing his firing tie today. And again, the fact that someone who felt comfortable to make a joke like that again, while haha funny, still let everybody know that you can make a joke like that with me. But at the same time, I probably had a reputation for making sure I took care of things need to be taken care of. So hopefully that answers part of one of the questions that you asked.

Phillip: [00:26:33] Tiger Woods has his red shirt, and Jeff Newman has his firing tie.

Jeff: [00:26:38] I can't even tell you the last time I wore a tie into the office, but we'll stop. And that was before the quarantine. So and as far as burnout, if you tie it back to that, oh, my gosh, how can you not have humor, especially when things are stressful or in burnout? If you're talking about teams that are in tension groups, you need that ability to let go. Do we show that to the customer? Not typically. In this particular brand, we sort of have an image and a reputation that we adhere to and we can do a great job of doing that. But when it's among ourselves, yeah, we can have a good time. We can get all the work done we need to get done. But gosh darnit, we are going to have fun. And if you want, I can share a little bit more insights onto that, how I bring that whole philosophy into place, but...

Phillip: [00:27:24] Oh, please. Yeah, yeah.

Jeff: [00:27:26] So I've been doing this, again, I've been doing this thing for a long time. One of my favorite things to do, especially when I've been in contact center roles, is I love to get in front of a new hire team within the first couple of days that they go into training. Post all the this is the company, the company that hire them, if you will, or the HR type stuff. Like once they get beyond all that, I want to get in there within the first couple of days. And I've sort of developed this funnel approach to introducing them to me and to the company. So if you think about a funnel. At the very top, that very big macro picture... Welcome. Here's the company that you've joined. Here's who we are. Here's what we are. I come down the funnel a little bit. Here is kind of either what our market is. A little bit further, here's our channel. Here's what we do. A little bit further down, here's what our group does. And then maybe even now starting to get towards the bottom where it gets really thin. And I start talking about here's what I expect of you in this role. And I start talking about this human behavior skills and conversation over transaction and even maybe do a little bit of role playing with them to really help to demonstrate my perspective on what it means to be consultative. And we could dive into that later, if you'd like too. But then I get really, really personal. And here's who I am. You probably have gathered the what I am, but that's not who I am. And I let them know, I say, I have this living fear that if when I am food for worms, my tombstone says anything about who I was as a Porsche employee and not who I was as a father and a husband, I've really messed up. And I tell them I am a man of deep faith and I truly believe that my primary job is to get my family to Heaven. And I would love to be with them all the waking time, and of course, that had different context before this quarantine, but pre quarantine... And I would say that, look, if I'm going to have to be away from my family 60, 70, 80 hours a week if I'm traveling, I'll be darned if it's not a place that I thoroughly enjoy, love, and have fun at. Because to do otherwise is not fair to the people I work with or the people I come home to.

Phillip: [00:29:51] Wow.

Jeff: [00:29:51]  [00:29:51]And if you ever wake up on a Sunday morning or Monday morning, whenever your week starts and as you're going to work, you're feeling like I'm not enjoying this anymore, then talk to somebody about it. Talk to your leader, your leader's leader. Talk to me. And if it means doing something else within the company, great. You know what? If it means doing something outside the company, I encourage it because when you're here, I want you to be having fun. I want you to enjoy doing what you're doing because it's not fair to you or your family to do otherwise. [00:30:22]

Brian: [00:30:23] I feel like there's a lot of customer service teams out there that would love to have that talk. And that would really benefit from a talk like that.

Phillip: [00:30:33] Yeah.

Jeff: [00:30:34] Steal seamlessly.

Phillip: [00:30:36] At some point in the future, we may be able to I hear you're in the process of writing some of these, capturing these thoughts, putting pen to paper. Really interested in hearing more depth in the wealth of your experience. Things and relationships don't change as frequently as the context of your job or how you're performing in your job. Maybe you could talk to that a bit and talk a little bit about sort of the stability and the predictability of the work and the way that you approach your work in your career in that role.

Jeff: [00:31:07] Hopefully I'm going to go down the path that you're looking for here. Thank you for teeing me up a little bit. So, yes, I'm trying to put a little pen to paper, if you will. It's something I've thought about for a long time. And if I were to ever to try to do a book, what would it be on? What would be my first topic? And I found that quality monitoring and the quality assurance program made the most sense at this time. I feel like with the exposures I've had to other companies, my own companies that I've worked for, I really see it as a gaping opportunity. And so that's what I'm doing. And to just to help understand why, because I have sort of, again, some Newmanisms, philosophies, if not about why it's not working today for most companies. Maybe Brian and Philip, I can pick on you guys for a couple of minutes. What I love to do again, from a framing this up for an audience, if you will, a group of folks is just role play for a minute. And again, bear in mind, I'm talking to a bunch of CX leaders or folks that have customer contact centers under them. They get this. If I were to ask you about the contact center you run, I would ask them how many formal coaching sessions, quality coaching sessions do you think you guys are giving your agents a month? And I'll get back a whole bunch of answers of four to six or whatnot. Well, let me step back for one second, because before I lead into that, this is where I'll pick on you two guys. Brian and Philip, if I were to ask your significant others, how many things have changed about your behaviors, like how many distinct behaviors of yours have changed in the past twelve months? Now, again, not what you think of yourself. If I were to ask your significant other or somebody that knows you better than anybody else, how many significant behavioral changes about you changed in the last year? What would they say?

Phillip: [00:32:47] Not many.

Brian: [00:32:48] Some. Some? I've had some changes.

Phillip: [00:32:54] I keep being told the same things I was being told fifteen years ago, like not stealing the sheets, and taking out the trash at a reasonable and predictable cadence.

Jeff: [00:33:08] My wife would probably ask, "Am I allowed to give a negative number?" He's regressed. Sorry. So let's keep that in mind about ourselves. All right. So then we go back to this conversation about how many coaching sessions a month do you give your agents? I'll get a whole range numbers. I try to lowball it, go with the middle number and lowball with a number I get back. So let's for the sake of this argument, I'll say five. And then I'll ask. OK, so in each coaching session, how many things do you think you ask your agents to improve upon? And you'd be amazed at some of those answers. I could hear anything from two to ten to who knows. And again, I like to lowball it, give an average based on the feedback. I'll say, how about let's say three? Get the head nods. All right. So five times three. So we're giving our agents on average about fifteen things to improve on every week. Get the head nods. Yes. All right. I'm going to assume that some of that stuff repeats. I might even say a bunch of it repeats. Let's say, is it fair to say maybe give them five unique things to work on every month? Sure. OK, good. Five times twelve. So they'd be up to maybe 60 different things we want them to work on in a year, right? Yes. Again, I'm going to assume, give you the benefit of the doubt, let's say a whole bunch of those end up repeating over the time. How about twenty unique things? Does that sound about fair? Yep. Twenty sounds right. OK, so let's go back to the conversation we just had two minutes ago with Brian and Phillip and myself. How many things did we change about ourselves in the last twelve months? And yet now you're telling me that a typical contact centers you're asking your agent to change maybe 20 things about the way they handle calls over the course of a year? Does that sound like a recipe for success?

Brian: [00:34:43] That's a great leading set of questions. {laughter}

Jeff: [00:34:47] Right. And if you think about it, what's one of the number of reasons that people are not satisfied at work? If you think about why are they not engaged or why do they not have satisfaction is because I'm not growing. People naturally want to grow and develop. They want to be successful. Yet here we are with something in the contact centers that's probably the most important thing that we do with them, and we put them in positions that you just can't possibly be successful at. So that's sort of the whole premise of my quality program. The outcome really should be quite simple. It's let's agree upon one thing that went well, collaboratively. Collaboratively, let's agree upon what's the one thing that could have gone better. And let's work together to come up with an action plan that best uses your learning styles to create an action plan for you to work on to try to get better at this. And let's make sure that we have a date to follow up and review how it's going. Which, by the way, I think most organizations are good at coming up with these action plans, but then they leave them. And if you're not aware, your voice of the customer team will tell you one of the number one reasons you have detractors is lack of follow up. But what do you think it means when my coach and my leader don't follow up with me when they said they would? So it's a key part of it is to check in on them and say, hey, how's it going? And if they say not, well, then let's call an audible and change it up and change the action plan. And then think about the next quality coaching session, where do you think you should start? Do you want to go like the last coaching session ever happened and find something new to work on? No. We're going to sit down and go, OK Jeff, here's what we talked about last time we met, right? Here's what went well. Here's where we said we needed to work on. Looks like the action plan went well for you. I can't wait to hear on these calls how you did with implementing that. And that's what you're going to be looking for.

Phillip: [00:36:45] Right.

Jeff: [00:36:45] And so you listen to your calls and let's say, again, there might maybe there several things that they didn't do well. And unless one of those things was truly egregious, if this was still one of them, why would you move on to anything else?

Brian: [00:36:56] One thing I love about this is that we talk about what it means to make digital more personal all the time. And what I hear you saying in all of this is we need to get back to treating people like people. I think that's what you're saying. We can't treat them like they're just a machine that you can optimize by, again, telling them they have to change 20 different things about themselves. It's about a relationship. And I just find that so refreshing.

Jeff: [00:37:38] Absolutely. There's a very famous quote. I'm sure most people have heard of it. And a lot of people have been attributed with saying it, and I'm going to give credit to Eddie Robinson, the former football coach at Grambling, who, when he retired had the most wins in football history, college football history. But "People don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care." And I've told people for years, when you're in a leadership position, it's no different than a parent. You can't tan your children, if you will. But it's no different than being a parent. Right? You are leading by example all the time, whether you like it or not. And one of the biggest mistakes that I see when I associate that with the quality program is most quality programs are quite the same, right? They might have their own acronyms to fit their company or their division within the company, but they're mostly the same. They have somewhat of a similar flow. There's some sort of form of a warm welcome. There's some sort of assessing needs, checking for concurrence, making a recommendation or solution, following up, thanking... Something along those lines. But it always starts off with that warm welcome. Now, what kind of message do you think you're sending to your agents if when you're about to sit down to do a formal coaching session you go, OK, Jeff, let's talk about those last few calls that we listened to. I just skipped over the warm welcome. Right? Now, you as my leader are telling me when I talk to a complete stranger, I'm supposed to welcome them to the brand. And yet you, my leader who's supposed to love me and care for me, doesn't even take two seconds to ask me how I'm doing or have any sort of small talk. You go right to the transaction, if you will. I don't have a conversation. You don't give me that. You give me straight to transaction. What kind of example does that set?

Phillip: [00:39:32] I think it's understated how important that kind of a consistency is in the experience. It's one of those things you probably wouldn't ever put your finger on, or maybe you're frustrated and you can't really figure out why, is that the culture doesn't match up with the thing that we're preaching. Not to call it hypocrisy, but in some semblance, it's that there are certain people that are deserving of some sort of an interaction and there are others that are not. And when we come back to, yeah, just we are people-centric. I think the thing that we preach a lot and I know that Gladly thinks about this a lot, too, of course, Gladly sponsoring this particular series of Step by Step, they use this phrase radically personal. Well, it's hard to be really radically personal with someone if you're not actually concerned about the other human being. It's not really it's radically fake then. And so I think when you put the human back at the center of the relationship, it's so important. This is just so fascinating. I was thinking then there, Jeff, and this has just been such a master class for me. Yeah. When you're thinking about this idea of being human-centric or coming back to that, at what point do you come back and you say the action plan is not working? Let's talk a little bit about the contingency of like how do you then realize that maybe somebody isn't a good fit or doesn't fit into the culture? Like what happens then?

Jeff: [00:41:13] Great question.

Phillip: [00:41:14] I'm curious about that.

Jeff: [00:41:16] Great question. And again, you have to have leaders who are trained to know how to see this, too, right? And not to oversimplify things, but I tend to try to do that. You've got to be able to recognize will versus skill. Right? That's one easy way of an indicator. Can I figure out, are we working on this particular item for the third session in a row because it's a skill thing and they just can't get over the hump? That's a different path than if they're just blatantly not even trying. And if you're blatantly not trying, you're going down a different path there as well. I recognize when you're working for large companies, I think you actually have to try harder to fail than you do to succeed. And it's always been my philosophy that if you're going to try that hard, by gosh, I'm going to help you. {laughter} So I'm a big believer in sort of a three strikes and you're out sort of a rule. It's not always that clean and simple, but that's typically how you can deal with the will issues. With the skill issues, you're right. It's just not always a good fit, but it could still be a great employee. There's a philosophy that I incorporated into one of my previous jobs that I've taken with me. It's called top grading. And it's by a gentleman that did, I believe, work with Jack Welch at some point, but had a little bit of a different way of categorizing people. I think the Whelchon approach, if you will, was just you either are in A, B or C player, period. Whereas with top grading, it has more of approach of it's you're an A player or B player or C player in the role you're in. So maybe somebody would say, gee, Jeff is a B player in IT, but man, if you put him into contact centers he'd be an A player. That's more about that fit, and I kind of believe in that. So if you've got somebody that has all the will in the world and wants to be successful, but maybe they're just not in a good job, think about all the time and energy money we spend to try to get them to be successful in the role they're in. I don't want to just get them out of the company at that point. It's like, OK, well, let's find a better fit for you within the company.

Phillip: [00:43:31] I feel like there's little clips we could pull for all of these and it's sort of just carry them around whenever I'm feeling down on myself.

Brian: [00:43:42] You told us what's going to be on your real tombstone. I am curious. So when you retire and let's say that's the death of work for you, I would be curious what would be on your work death tombstone.

Phillip: [00:44:01] Work death tombstone. {laughter} Your retirement speech. What will people say about you.

Brian: [00:44:07] What's your telos, like your end goal of your life in the job? I want to know what you want to go out with.

Jeff: [00:44:14] That's a great question. I probably would need a little bit of time to refine it down to just a few words, but [00:44:19] I would want to be known as someone who helped make other people better. And again, I don't know. I don't really try to differentiate who I am at work and who I am at home. I think the things that make me happy and successful in one place are the same characteristics that make me happy and successful in the other. I'm not a different person in either environment. I'm the same person. I thoroughly believe in hope. I'm living the servant life that I was asked to, born to do, whether it's an organization or people, I hope that I leave it in a better place than it was when I got there. [00:44:49]

Phillip: [00:44:49] That's a great way to end. We shouldn't push on past that. I'm curious, do you think as a follow up on that, do you think that there's some dissonance from time to time that leads to people when they attempt to try to be someone different at work and at home? And how did you arrive at the place to true those two things up? Because it sounds like something that's not terribly natural. Some people may feel like they have to try to attempt to be someone different in their professional capacity.

Jeff: [00:45:15] Yeah, it's an interesting point, right? There's countless behavioral type tests that we've all taken. Meyers/Briggs, DISC, so forth and so on. The DISC would tend to, it teaches that this is where I'm comfortable, but then people might not actually perceive me as. People might be actually perceiving is a different persona than I am actually in my own comfortable space. There are a lot of like very famous entertainers that are complete introverts. But you wouldn't think that because of the persona that you see on stage, either playing music or making a movie, but then when you see them in their personal environment, they're complete introverts. Right? But you would never think that about them because of the persona that they give off. I think you're right. I think there is maybe there's a sense of naturalness and I don't want to necessarily speak for everybody else. I can just tell you how I operate per se. But that doesn't mean that, again, we don't put on a different persona based on the situation that's in hand.

Phillip: [00:46:08] I think it's sort of this goal that I would have is to be a more authentic person in every aspect and every interaction. And I think that would be, I would love that to have been said of me when it's all said and done. And what an incredible personal mission of yours. Jeff, we'll give you the final word. I'm curious what is something that we can leave folks with? You know, this whole series we're capping off the series. And the series has really been about how to evolve from just like plain old support or issue resolution to experience. What is something that you can leave our listeners with in this part five of the series for how to think about contact centers differently?

Jeff: [00:46:58] Again, we've talked about this before, but it's kind of becoming common language, if you will, that companies when you think about customers, they're not comparing you to your competitors anymore. They comparing you to other great customer experiences. If I can have a gallon of milk delivered to my front door in two hours, why can't my hundred and fifty thousand dollar car fill in the blank? If I can order a five dollar cup of coffee that's ready for me when I get there, why I can't buy one hundred and fifty thousand dollar car do blank? And so if you're thinking about knowing that that's what some great companies have done out there to completely change customers expectations with the brands that they choose to do business with, I would continue to challenge you with how do you help prepare your humans to help make that part of the show, if you will? How do you get them engaged? How do you get them to be a brand hero? Think about what I said earlier. [00:47:53] Statistically, we know that contact center agents, customer service agents, are your least engaged employee, yet your customers are talking to them maybe more than any other part of the company. What are you doing to help inspire and motivate them, to help them be a true promoter for the brand and bringing customers back and having them bring their friends with them? [00:48:13]

Brian: [00:48:14] I think that's a great place to leave it. Jeff, thank you so much for the wisdom and thoughts you brought to this episode. We were so... It was such a good conversation. And we're looking forward to re listening to this one.

Jeff: [00:48:28] You guys have been awfully kind. I appreciate the kind words. It's probably more than necessary, but I really do appreciate it. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure.

Phillip: [00:48:38] Thank you so much, Jeff, for joining us on Step by Step. Thank you so much for listening through this five part series. I want to know what was a Newmanism that resonated with you? Drop us a line. Let us know at And I want to ask you, are you ready to take the plunge and go to the next level in your customer support program? Are you ready to stop focusing on tickets and just focus on people? Are you ready to put people at the center? If so, I believe you're ready for Gladly. Gladly is a radically personal customer service platform that puts people at the center. It has integration's to every channel that your customer is in. And frankly, you need this platform to deliver on modern customer expectations. Find out why brands like Warby Parker and Tumi and Ralph Lauren and Chubbies all trust Gladly with their customer experience. Why don't you go get a demo and tell them Phillip from Future Commerce sent you? Go right now to and get radically personal with your customers and start driving 10 percent average increase contact center generated revenue. Find out right now how you can take it to the next level with Gladly. Well, thank you so much for listening to Step by Step. And thank you to Gladly for making this season possible. This has been Step by Step, a podcast brought to you by Future Commerce.

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