Pedro Souza, Vice President of Customer Care at SmartBear chats about the future of customer care in B2B and the impact of automation and how it can bring about change:
Welcome to this SalesTechStar chat Pedro, what drives you about being part of B2B customer care processes and teams: through the years – what key learnings and takeaways have you come away with through various capacities in similar roles?
Over the years, I’ve learned that collaboration is not just nice to have, but is critical, especially when trying to continuously retain your customers and keep them happy. At SmartBear, we aren’t only willing to jump in and help out in a situation, we seek out opportunities and jump at the chance to provide our unique perspectives and background to help others resolve their problems.
It’s also important to challenge the status quo and question why things have always been done in a certain way. Try to uncover better, faster, more efficient approaches to whatever you are doing.
What are some fundamental best practices that you feel B2B customer care teams should follow to build better customer experiences?
One of the ways I try to promote continuous improvement in customer experience is by measuring first contact resolution, the number of incoming service requests that are resolved in the first attempt.
There are many schools of thought on how to measure it and dozens of theories on what it means.
My philosophy is to determine a way of measuring it within the capabilities of the systems and processes in your organization. When you have a baseline where to start, you can begin driving improvement by making it part of your team goals in small increments.
For example, say 70% of the cases are closed in one go. Let’s figure out how we can increase it from 70% to 75% this year. Look at your processes and systems and establish plans on how to improve them. And customers expect improvement. It doesn’t matter if the customer is B2B or B2C. When someone has a problem, what they really want is to have it resolved as quickly as possible.
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Can you highlight some of the common flaws you see in B2B customer care processes, what kind of tools can help alleviate them?
There’s a lot of buzz today around knowledge management in a B2B environment. I have worked extensively in B2C where automation is key because of the high volume. Investment in automation has a big impact because of the sheer volume. However, in a B2B environment, knowledge is key because you don’t have that concentration of use cases. You have use cases spread out across multiple different types of problems. Having the capability to search a knowledge database for ways to resolve a case or search similar cases resolved previously, is very important.
I see a lot of attention on knowledge management tools but not as much investment in incentives and processes to shift to a more collaborative culture, to help the next engineer resolve similar problems. We need tools and process to incentivise engineers to ask themselves at the end of each case resolution, what can I do to help the next generation of engineers be successful?
That’s the beginning of a collaborative and knowledge driven environment. If I’m an engineer, and I resolve a very complex case today and explain exactly how I did it in a knowledge article or do-it-yourself video, I help the next person solve this problem easier and faster. That goes a long way when you’re onboarding new people, or helping anyone who has to deal with that same problem.
We’d love to do a quick dive into your core strategies and the kind of tools you rely on to boost the whole customer care game?
A common theme that I first tackle when I start at any organization is how do we establish a process and a culture of asking ourselves, what can I do better next time? How can I improve on coaching and developing team members to be the best they can be? Who needs help achieving their goals?
The question that we continuously need to be asking ourselves all the time is, what are the things that I can learn from my previous experiences? How can my success help somebody else? And create the opportunity for team members to share the experience with the rest of the team.
At SmartBear, I am implementing a process where we look at our metrics on a regular basis – customer satisfaction (CSAT), service level commitments, volumes, plan versus actuals, everything that drives the operation of our business. And then we ask, are we trending in the right direction? How can we improve? How can we learn from what happened last week? In the weeks ahead, what do we need to do to improve? That’s the mentality of continuous process improvement.
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A few thoughts on the future of B2B customer experiences and how customer care will need to evolve to serve self-buying and self-serve models too?
I am seeing more and more companies that are designing solutions where they use natural language to access multiple sources of knowledge and combine that with artificial intelligence to present solutions to customers’ questions. It’s very preliminary at this point. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, but I do believe it’s something that is going to grow as artificial intelligence matures. AI will make the customer care job more fun.
Some last thoughts, takeaways, before we wrap up!
Customer care is like software development; every company needs it! There’s this misconception that automation is going to eliminate customer care at some point down the road. It’s not true. There’s always going to be someone who’s in need of help.
My vision is that automation and technology is going to allow customers to resolve the vast majority of problems themselves, while the more complex issues will always require the help of a customer care organization. There’s always going to be the need for expertise, for somebody to understand your problem.
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SmartBear’s tools are built to streamline DevOps processes while seamlessly working with the products you use – and will use. SmartBear is used by 16 million developers, testers, and operations engineers at 32,000+ organizations.
Pedro Souza is VP of Customer Care at SmartBear based in the company’s Coconut Creek, Florida office. Previously, he was Senior Director of Customer Care at Paramount leading the customer support team for its main streaming services, including Paramount+, CBS Sports, and Pluto TV. Pedro managed Visa’s Global Emergency Card Replacement service for six years and performed several technology functions for Citibank for 28 years, serving in various roles, including technical support, software engineering, and program management. Originally from Brazil, Pedro has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Economy and Finances of Rio de Janeiro.
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