SalesTechStar Interview with Jarrod Johnson, Chief Customer Officer at TaskUs
As customer experience trends change, in part due to the pandemic, there is a lot that B2B sales and marketing teams need to (still!) do to stay ahead of the game, Jarrod Johnson, Chief Customer Officer at TaskUs dives deeper into a few aspects in our recent conversation:
Hi Jarrod, welcome to SalesTechStar! Tell us a little about your journey through the years, we’d love to hear more about your time at TaskUs and how your team drives customer initiatives!
I’m passionate about helping companies grow, and have spent my career with some of the most well-known tech and consumer brands in the service sector. At Xerox, I served as Group President of Retail and Consumer Brand IT services globally and held multiple sales leadership positions. And in my 10 years at IBM, I was involved in digital consulting, strategic account management, sales, and sales operations. My career has been built on helping the world’s leading consumer brands leverage technology and transformation to drive their growth. So, TaskUs was a wonderful opportunity to continue that journey.
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Joining TaskUs provided an unmatched opportunity to support the most disruptive companies in the digital economy. Our reach and impact has only grown as those original disruptors have become unicorns and companies of all sizes move towards digitization. At TaskUs, our commitment to scaling our operating platform globally allows us to serve our clients with even more solutions across more markets.
Today at TaskUs we embrace the growth challenges of the digital economy by being the agile, flexible, and trusted partner brands need to scale their businesses. We bring deep expertise in customer support for digital channels–channels such as social media, in-app chat, and SMS. We also bring a wealth of experience to help our clients protect their brands and reputations as they grow. Specialized support services like fraud detection, keeping bad actors off their platforms, and supporting critical trust and safety issues for their users are incredibly important to our clients; and we’re proud of the work our frontline teammates provide to help keep the world safe. We deliver all these services on cloud-based platforms that are proven for speed, security, and scale.
What are some of the challenges that you still see in B2B teams; when it comes to choosing the right tech to provide better customer facing services? A few best practices to share here?
First, B2B teams don’t educate themselves enough about the tools and techniques that are out there. Just like every other part of our lives, technology is changing things very quickly. There are a myriad of new SaaS-based tools to solve problems, and clients (as well as customers) are more willing than ever to engage with you quickly and meaningfully online. In order to see this and take advantage of it you have to be constantly adapting and evolving your go-to-market model. The barriers to entry are getting so low across many industries that if you sit still for too long, you’ll get outflanked by the competition. And it’s a tough balance to decide when to execute what you do well and when it’s time to mix things up with new techniques.
A best practice for us has been to have a technology and tool strategy to start with. And this need not be grandiose. For example, we simply made the decision early to double down on our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Among others, this made us closer with our partner vendors to really make sure we were maximizing our investment. It also helped us push the envelope to take advantage of new technology and tools when they became available, as well as leverage our partner’s best practices to see if they worked for us.
This strategy helped us try new tools, tricks, and techniques without a ton of tool integration hassles because they were mostly pre-integrated. And if something did not work out, the relationship we had formed with our partner vendors afforded us to ditch tools that weren’t for us and trade them in for other tools that made sense.
For instance, we tried a nifty looking analytics tool for about a year, but it just didn’t work for us. So we renegotiated the deal and returned the old product to get greater functionality in other aspects, such as more email and calendar integration for sales metrics tracking.
I guess the last thing I’d say is you have to leverage data. Tools would not really matter much if you can’t get insights out of the data, see trends, gain insights, and then execute to fix your gaps. We have a pretty tight sales process overall and some great tooling, but we’re constantly looking for ways to make our sellers more efficient, reduce friction, and increase value for our customers. That sounds a little basic, but it really takes effort to stay at it every single day. We set quarterly and annual goals that are very specific in these areas and hold ourselves accountable for achieving those goals.
The last challenge I’ll mention is the changing buyer. Buyers are so smart now, with tons of information right at their fingertips. And they’re being bombarded by competitors and offers every day, every hour. This means when you get the chance to engage, you have to be on your game. Buyers want a sincere partner and a consultative seller. The challenge this represents is most sales organizations are still old school–drive, drive, drive, and always be closing–and you need that tenacity. But it has to come with a super high EQ sales person. Today’s B2B sales team needs the same professional persistence, but with unbelievable humility and likeability. People still buy from whom they like. And you’d better be sure your team knows their products and services cold, because your clients probably do. This has all become massively heightened in the remote world of COVID-19.
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Can you share a few thoughts on the state of customer experience in B2B and B2C today and how you see it shape up in 2021 and beyond?
As more of our lives become digitized and distributed, customers and companies expect tailored, personalized experiences. That means that every company needs to move to adapt and be able to meet the elevated demands to create a positive experience that retains customers. But it also creates additional changes, specifically online safety. Technology and digitization bring more of our personal and company data online, which creates the risk of hacking, security breaches, and an evolving and sometimes hostile online cultural environment.
The University of Michigan Children’s Hospital recently released a national poll reflecting the top concerns parents have for their children and of the infinite number of concerns a parent could have for their child: The top three were the Overuse of Social Media, Cyberbullying and Internet Safety. These are three customer experience issues that companies will have to address in 2021.
Technology and digital services like those we provide companies at TaskUs have the ability to elevate the digital customer experience and also remedy and protect against those increased risks.
For B2B businesses this is also true. One major brand misstep like a data breach or ethics violation and clients will just leave; there are too many options out there. Much like watching people buy shoes and socks now from companies who make a commitment to donate to the needy with every purchase, buyers make decisions on more than just feature and function. You’d better stand for something and have clear core values, even as part of your value proposition, or customers will figure it out and move on. Sure there are some technology products out there that are silver bullets and can win without this, but for how long? What do you do when you’re yesterday’s silver bullet?
In today’s business climate in the new normal, what according to you are some of the most critical areas that marketing and sales teams need to focus on when planning and implementing digital customer journeys?
Put the focus on the people. When implementing digital customer journeys it’s essential not to favor and prioritize technology over humans, or vice versa. Customers want the ease of technology but also the ability to connect with a highly capable person if need be. Technology cannot fully replace human contact, but it can greatly amplify customer service. Having a team of intelligent and savvy people that know when and how to use technology, or when to work with the customer directly, is key to a successful customer experience.
Can you take us through your thoughts and observations on digital transformation in customer experience in 2020 and the top technologies that will drive this in 2021?
As the 2020 pandemic forced almost every aspect of our daily lives online, companies that had never before invested in digital customer experience were suddenly facing a new challenge. The flood of online activity means that a successful digital customer experience strategy is key to companies’ survival. Look at the number of mom-and-pop stores, hair salons, and retail stores that have embraced online ordering, in-home services, delivery, and the like. It’s like everything we preached for years back at IBM came true in only 6 months–because people had to.
I’m excited to see what 2021 holds in 3 major areas…
- Social media sites and media in general are in such upheaval and disarray. Yet the ad dollars they are getting is absolutely massive. So I think watching social media advertising, engagement, and ecommerce trends in 2021 will be really eye opening and change the economy long term.
- I hate to say it because it’s cliche: but AI and Machine Learning. I don’t mean AI solving all our problems. That is a long way off, and human centered interactions are far too important especially with COVID-19. What I do mean is how AI is going to seep into lots of areas in our lives. It will be in personalization algorithms on our favorite sites and streaming platforms. It will make complex tasks easier, and I think it will assist humans in doing things that are really hard today like finding out why your Uber Eats order is late. That’s massively complex during a busy lunch hour to get to the customer from the driver or restaurant–in real time–before you cancel the order.
- Lastly, again cliche, but data science. This means different things to different people but to me it’s just improving your data IQ to get new insights. For some, that’s just accessing data and doing some pivots or trending. For others, it’s detailed regressions and statistical models depending on their business. But data is so available now, and can be aggregated so quickly, that you just have to be doing more to use it.
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A parting thought on your most memorable moment in tech or biggest goof-up and the learning that came from it!
I’ll stay away from goof-up so I don’t alienate any prospect or client… I guess I’ll give you my memorable moment, but this is only as tied to my life personally. I remember in my 20s buying the first commercial MP3 player from Creative. It looked just like the old Sony Discman in size and shape, just filled with a hard drive. I loved it and thought I was the cool kid for having one. Then the ipod hit and I was obsolete. I fought it for a while then gave in like everyone else. Don’t forget the whole Napster file sharing debacle during this time as well. So the thought is that you never know what can disrupt you (government laws, or the newest player that leapfrogs you), so you had better be pushing the envelope every day and have client relationships that help you understand what’s happening or you won’t stand a chance.
Jarrod Johnson is the Chief Customer Officer at TaskUs
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