Another Cloud Podcast

A podcast designed to bring you stories from the smartest minds in IT, operations and business, and learn how they're using Cloud Technology to improve business and the customer experience.

Remote Work and UCaaS — Breaking Down WFM and CX

with Alex McBratney and Aarde Cosseboom


Don't have time to listen? Read the full transcription.

Alex McBratney (Host) (00:02):

Hello and Welcome to Another Cloud Podcast, a podcast designed to bring you stories from the smartest minds in IT, Operations, and Business, and learn how they're using Cloud Technology to improve business and the customer experience. So, Graham, you had a great question that we were talking about earlier. I want you to bring it up on the podcast here just so people can understand what's changing and what are on people's minds right now?

Graham Carter (00:28):

Well, I think my question is how are we dealing with the resistance to permanent work from home, right? I think everyone's saying, okay, we're going to work from home for now. And then six months go by and it's like, okay, we're still working from home. And I think there's this concept that we're going to go back to this normal, that probably isn't going to happen really. And that the advantages of work from home aren't permanent in some way. Like how are we dealing with that?

Aarde Cosseboom (00:51):

Yeah, Graham, that's a great question. The way that we see it, at least with a lot of people that we consult with is they've got either people in a contact center, home-grown like in a physical location, 200 people go in, they clock and answer calls. They're literally like a foot away from each other desk space-wise, or they're sharing desks. You have someone coming in in the morning and then they leave at about noontime and then someone else comes in and uses the same space. So they could cut down on physical, office space, and equipment. Also, there's a lot of BPO's out there, business processing outsourcers that have contact centers with thousands of people in a high rise, and they've had to migrate to work from home. And I think it's adapting to the new norm, which means that, you may not have your full workforce back in the office ever again. It may just be, two days a week or maybe this 500 agents go in Monday, Tuesday, and this 500 agents go in Thursday, Friday, and on a Wednesday, cleaning crew goes in and does a deep clean, or it may be no more desk sharing instead. It's like, instead of it being a foot away from each other, it's every other desk is occupied. And the desk in between is like, used for storage or for a Zen space or something like that. So I don't know, adapting to the new norm is going to be weird and different and it's gonna be different for every company. And then there's going to be some companies that are going to be like, Nope, just come back to the office the way it was. And there's some companies that are going to be like, we're never going to hire people in the office ever again. We're just going to look for work from home agents. But Graham, what are your thoughts?

Graham Carter (02:37):

Well, I think there's a lot of advantages to work from home that I don't think smaller, maybe smaller organizations don't recognize upfront, like I'm in Northern California, probably the most expensive real estate market in the country outside of New York. Right. And it's really difficult, I think to have a contact center and then bring people in. And when you realize that, like you don't need that contact center and you could spend a quarter of that amount of money and just have HR representatives who understand out of state HR regulations and then hire people wherever you want it. You almost get an organic follow the sun model and you get access to a workforce where you, you know, $15 in California is basically nothing but $15 in Minot, North Dakota is amazing money. And I think that increases your engagement with the customers. It makes your recruiting easier. I think that the benefits are there. I think it's going to be, I'm not sure we're ever going to go back to normal though, to be honest. I think this is a pandemic, and then after that, there will be something else that will again sell the value of work from home.

Aarde Cosseboom (03:42):

And a shameless plug here on the book because you brought it up. In my book, there's a chapter about a performance-based pay and Graham, you and I worked at a company that enabled or allowed people to have performance-based pay. And one of the things we stole with our model or performance-based pay model was this work in office first worked from home and we stole it from a company called Shopify, they had an issue where they didn't have enough office space. This is about seven years ago and in their headquarter office didn't have enough office space. So what they did was they employed people who are at home, work from home agents and in their job description it said work from home. And you take calls from home in the contact center. And if you want, you can shift bid to work in the office. And when you do, go into the office, you would get an extra dollar per hour on your wage because they knew the power of people being in the office, being collaborative next to each other, learning from one another, they're more productive. So they're worth more to the organization. As they're in the office, you get that team building, atmosphere, you know, you get that birthday cake, birthday card kind of feel, which is amazing. And they were willing to pay a little bit more for that. And people were fighting over it. At first, they thought, no one's going to come into the office even if it's for an extra dollar, like the advantages of working from home is so much better, you can do your laundry while you're working, blah, blah, blah. But people were like signing up in droves to work in the office so much so that they actually opened up like a spillover office to do the same thing. So that there's different ways to incentivize people to go one way or the other. And you may not want to incentivize, you might want to incentivize them to stay home instead of going into the office.

Alex McBratney (Host) (05:30):

Yeah, I think it's interesting cause there's a lot of ways to slice it, right. And Graham you're talking about the next pandemic or endemic or whichever it is. But then we look at the polar vortex coming down from Canada that blasts of the Midwest, you know, so all of a sudden, if you have all of your operations in Dallas, Texas, and you're not spread out with a work from home model is redundancy just like having internet redundancy, where's your labor redundancy. And being able to stay operational 24/7 or, you know, nine to five when you're stuck in one location and it's iced over and trees are falling over and houses are flooding. And I think that's another thing to consider is just that redundancy aspect to it as well.

Graham Carter (06:14):

Absolutely. I mean, Aarde and I worked at a place where, you know, we went from being an eight to five Monday through Friday to being a 24/7 company and getting people to migrate also those schedules, you know, because a lot of people didn't want to give up the time with their family. And you know, if you have a slow weekend operation working from home, doesn't feel that bad because you get to spend time with the family, but you're also not like buried in work, but you're also, like you said, you get that redundancy, you get that follow the sun model.

Alex McBratney (Host) (06:43):

You and Aarde have a lot of experience in your earlier days of working in the trenches, right? Whether you're a team lead, manager, up to director, like as you guys worked your way up, like what process did you go from everyone being in the office to work from home? How do you adjust the processes that you have in place to fix that or to make it work and still be able to get the performance that you want?

Graham Carter (07:08):

Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing, and there's a really great book that Aarde actually asked me to read a couple of years ago called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us and what motivates us is actually pretty much a universal standard. It doesn't matter where you're physically located, right? And the whole book is basically about identifying those turn, what I call turnkey motivations, that if you turn it, someone just takes off. And I think using the technology to modify your processes, to allow more human interaction, even if it's just over Zoom, I'll give you an example, I had to manage almost 27 people when I was at the end of my time in my last big company and they were on three different continents. The way that I would do this is I would literally leave my Zoom on all the time as if I was just at my desk working, I would leave it on so that people could feel like they could digitally poke their head into my office and say, Hey, you're doing okay. Or, Hey, can I get some help on this? And it was really, really useful. In regards to that, and that's just using the technology, then you don't really have to have too much of a different process. But the other thing too is to make sure that your one-on-ones really focus on those turnkey motivators, you know, why do you want to do this job? Not why do I want you to do this job, right? And then through that, people find meaning in their work and it doesn't feel like a chore.

Aarde Cosseboom (08:25):

Yeah. So Alex, I'm going to ask you a question because we were talking a little bit about technology, enabling businesses and technology, enabling agents and leaders and people to do better. So, Alex, you do a lot of consulting. You talk to a lot of different companies and usually they're coming to you and asking you for technology for solutions, and they're really looking for a solution to a problem that they have. What have you seen with regards to people asking about Cloud technologies? What have you seen? What are the trends? What are the problems they're trying to solve? And maybe we could bring one or two of those up and then maybe Graham can help answer some.

Alex McBratney (Host) (09:06):

Absolutely. I think all of 2021, the biggest problem was how do we get our communications to the work from home productivity, right? So there are on-prem that are trying to figure out how to get their VPNs and they're forwarding calls over to their employees on their cell phones. And so that was the biggest trend has worked from home and still trending because people are in contracts with their Avaya's and their Cisco's and whatnot. But outside of that, what we're seeing is it's just integrations that they're trying to get and they can't get on with their old systems. They're moving. People are moving from their SQL servers to CRMs like Salesforce or dynamics or other service. Now, like all these different systems that they're trying to put in place and it's disparate that you have bright metrics over here that you're using it with your ShoreTel. Whereas, a cloud solution can bake it all in together, flip a switch and it's right there running for you. So it's so disparate systems is the next, probably number two. And then number three, was always coming up is, are they using teams? You know, Microsoft Teams. We're moving to Office 365, we're using teams, how can we use voice with teams, right? And so then we go down that path as well. So those are probably the top three, but it changes on a monthly basis practically on what industry you're in, what time of year and seasonally. But those are some of the key pains that we're seeing and people trying to solve for and what they're looking at.

Aarde Cosseboom (10:41):

And Graham, you went through that. So you oversaw a team through March 2020, I know it's like a horrible month to say out loud. I regretted it in a minute I said it, but, through that month or the following two months, how did you try to solve for those problems? Were you already in the cloud? Were you safe? Was it easy turnkey? Or did you have to go through VPN connections or getting people certain licenses? Or maybe spinning things up or getting headsets that work with computers? Like tell us a little bit about that transition and how you helped your team go through that.

Graham Carter (11:18):

Sure. I'm always really focused or I've always been very focused on the people first, the mission second, and then the KPIs third, right? Because you can't get to that third part without the first part being able to do their job. So yeah, we went through a lot of really hard processes around work from home. And that wasn't even just in March 2020. I mean, that goes back to when when we really kind of opened up the flood gates on allowing employees to move around to different locations, right. And so, in terms of the VPNs and things like that, that was all pretty straight-forward. That was always handled by our IT department. The part that I was mostly involved in was making sure that, say for instance, they're in contact can actually forward to an outside phone number, which is tricky, right? That's not good if no one's phone rings and the other thing was headsets. I can't stress this enough that anyone who manages a contact center, but headsets are the creature comfort of a call center job. If you have a crappy headset, it is the worst thing on earth. I mean, we had several different times when we switched over from like wired headsets to wireless ones and we had too many wireless ones. And like, just making sure you have something that can scale to the size of an operation that you may have in four or five years saves you tons of money and making sure that like the tools that you use around communication. We went through, I think we had Sparked, then we had Teams, then we had Slack and it was just finding the right one that had the right feature set. And I think that making sure that you're thinking forward, not what you need today, but what you may need in two years will save you a lot of money down the road.

Alex McBratney (Host) (13:00):

Yeah. Well, I mean, we see customers that are going from prem to voip and, a lot of them are ditching the phones reluctantly at times, but it's like, well, you're saving $200, $300 on a polycom, 300 or 350. Well now, for a good headset. I mean, you're looking at $150 upwards of $300. So it's the same cost. But then the issue is, does it work? Is the quality good? I went through a bunch of headsets and I finally landed on a $15, one off Amazon that seemed to work the best. I mean, it was all over the board and that's what cracks me up.

Aarde Cosseboom (13:36):

And whoever's listening by the way, Alex and I can help you find headsets because we have a supplier and provider for that. But also what I learned today is that some of the headset providers can actually purchase back your old headsets, refurbish them, and also purchase back your old phones too. So if you have a old Cisco desk phone that you don't want to throw in the dumpster, and you're going to want to get something for it, you could trade it in for either some cash or you can trade it in for a discount off of another headset. So there's ways to solve for these problems. But you have to think outside the box and yeah, Graham, to your point creature, I've literally had this on for eight hours and if it wasn't comfortable on my ears, like the padding right here is probably like I would pay a hundred dollars to get the best softest padding, because after about eight hours, it kind of presses on my head and it just feels unbearing. So imagine doing your job and taking 40 calls a day, eight minutes a piece, barely getting a lunch break, barely getting your other breaks, trying to be as focused as possible while you're distracted from a work from home environment, with like dogs and doorbells and things going around you in the background. And at the end of the day, it's the whole image of the 1950s person comes home from a hard day at work, like takes off the work boots and her feet hurt. It's the same thing for contact center, but it's a year. So it's really just, everything is around your headset. So that's a good call out.

Graham Carter (15:11):

I always kind of equate it to being a carpenter, right. Your tool as a carpenter, you need to have work, is your drill and your hammer. And if those don't work, you pretty much can't get anything done. I mean, can you imagine, trying to hammer nails with one that like the heads flopping off, like you wouldn't do that to a carpenter, don't do it to your call center employees.

Aarde Cosseboom (15:30):

Yeah. Isn't that amazing. And what a $15 can go a long way and it's a one-time cost too. It's not like you're paying monthly to license the headset per se.

Alex McBratney (Host) (15:40):

Yeah. You know what I found interesting. And I think this has helped the work from home movement. So before COVID, people are working from home, a lot of salespeople, a lot of just industries or work they're out there, but it wasn't obviously like front and center, but with those dogs barking, the kids literally outside my window, yelling and screaming, texting my wife, get them to be quiet, I'm on a podcast. But it's almost like the professionalism, people, there's a lot of grace there to where they're not expecting perfection at your home, right. They understand you have kids. It humanizes the experience, I feel like even more. But it also kind of lightens the load a little bit on having to be perfectly buttoned up and suited up and ready to go, here's my presentation to hey, we're all human. We have kids, we have dogs, we have wives, husbands, whatever and it's more accepting. I think it's nice to have that now, too. And if that's where it's going to help transition people more to where yeah, we're working from home, I'm in my house. Okay, cool. It's not a big deal anymore.

Aarde Cosseboom (16:46):

Yeah. I read an article recently about some of the large contact centers that support some of the Silicon Valley type companies are trying to get away from this concept of Zoom and gloom, which is like eight hours of Zoom meetings and you're just, you get kind of depressed, in a way or cause you don't have human interaction. You don't have outdoors. So what they're trying to do is, enable or allow people based off technology to go to parks and just do their jobs from parks. Like literally just go to an open space outdoors, relax and the way that they're enabled to do that, not only from wireless plans on your phone, that you can tether to your computer or apps where you can do your job and take calls from the app itself, but also headsets that have noise canceling and then also some AI tools in the background that also do some noise canceling as well, too. So, there's this article, it was in wired magazine and at the end of the article, it said that they tested the theory out and they had someone literally sitting in a hen coop where there's birds squawking all around them with all these technologies in place, the noise canceling headset and noise canceling AI machine, and a cell phone just to get data signal and connect to some of these providers and it worked magically and perfectly. People didn't even know that they were in a hen coop with 10 or 20 hands around them.

Graham Carter (18:21):

There's also like a lot of psychology to that too, right. I mean, even before Zoom, we knew that like the two things that people hated most about work were meetings and managers, right? Because the company hates them because they cost a lot of money and people hate them because you often end up in a meeting that's going to be about the meeting that you're going to have about the next meeting, right? And one of the ways that I used to really get great performance out of people was, and this was a running joke, actually won an award when Aarde and I were working together for being away from my desk was that I would take people out and get them outside. If you can get a meeting outside, if you can take people on a walk for a one-on-one, it fundamentally changes the way their brain thinks about issues that they have in the workplace. And if we can find a way to set people up in a park, man, I bet you, that's going to just drive performance through the roof because how can you be unhappy in a park?

Alex McBratney (Host) (19:13):


Aarde Cosseboom (19:14):

Love that.

Alex McBratney (Host) (19:15):

That's what you need. I get out from a day's work or a whole day. And then to the next day, I'm like telling my wife, like I haven't left our property in 48 hours. And it's just like, what is the heck is going on here? It feels depressing. Like I got to take a walk, and you take the dog for a walk to get some fresh air and reset. But it's so easy just to get hunkered down on the Zoom calls, and it's debilitating. I feel like if you're sitting down the whole day, you're not getting up, you're not taking a little water breaks or going out to lunch with your colleagues because you're just sitting at home. And so it definitely takes some interesting tactics, I think, creativity to get through it. And that's where the technology allows the creativity though, too, because you could be sitting on the beach if there's good, if there's 4G LTE internet, you're pretty much good to go. Go ahead.

Graham Carter (20:13):

It's really interesting though, you know, and you were mentioning that people kind of get glued to their desks. And I think there's this weird thing cause I was working for, I was doing some consulting for a really small company up here recently and they were talking about they didn't want to trust their employees to work from home. Their view, that was very old school. If we have people working from home. And so I think that there's a lot of people who are working from home who are like, if I get out of this desk for any reason, you know, like I'm going to be in so much trouble. And no, if we can not lose any productivity and allow people to get up and move around and have a more natural life in what is now new normal, I don't think there's anything negative that can come out of that.

Alex McBratney (Host) (20:51):

Yeah. So Graham, what sort of metrics, or how do you keep that performance going? Does it change what you look at on the metrics that you're tracking or are there different KPIs that you're going to be focusing on because it's work from home versus an butts in the seat at the office?

Graham Carter (21:08):

I think it depends on obviously on the product that you're you're supporting, right? The KPIs that I was using most of the time were pretty straightforward, right? There's a bare minimum number of contacts. I need you to take on average per week. How are we doing on those contacts? Are we actually providing quality support? You do have a quality monitoring system and making sure that you're adhering to whatever schedule that you have and making sure you're where you're supposed to be. I don't think it really changes anything. I think the biggest thing is, especially for people who are for the first time working from home, there's an adjustment period, right? You're used to having that person you can turn to and just go, hey, what was that thing? I don't know what that is, right? And now you don't have it. And it's making sure that they know that digitally using Slack, using Teams, even texting your teammates is totally okay. As long as we're doing the best we can to create that quality customer experience.

Aarde Cosseboom (22:09):

So Graham earlier you talked a little bit about changing of tool sets and tool sets changing maybe two, three, four, five times within a year or a couple of years, or a tenure of an agent, answering calls or doing their day to day job. So, tell us a little bit about how the changing of a tool and the change management behind it. Is it hard? Is it easy? Is it stressful for the agent? Can you do it successfully? Does it always fail? What are the things you should think of while you're doing it? And I'm asking way too many questions, but just give us a little insight and talk a little bit about change management and tool sets.

Graham Carter (22:50):

I think that's a really great question. The way I've always led through change, because I don't even like the term management, I just like change leadership, right? I think any good manager is a leader in any poor manager is just a manager, right? I think that when you're going to lead through change, you have to one, really own the nasty stuff that's in there, right? Like something may fail, right. Something may go wrong and then really pivot, we've done this before and we know how to get us through it, right? So it's always like, Hey, yes, that fear is a real possibility and we're going to own it, but we are prepared for what happens when that thing goes wrong. So in rolling out new technologies in your planning sessions, you need to take into account, what do we do if something goes wrong, right? Do we have a fail back position? And then you need to explain to people what that failed back position is. Okay. So we're going to migrate everyone today over to the in contact from basic RingCentral system. If in contact fails, we will fail back to RingCentral. And we will have an announcement of when we need to do that, we will be watching it. These are the people that are going to be looking at it, to know when, where we need to do that. And really like getting into that nitty gritty so that the person who's on the front lines knows what to look for. And isn't just, am I the only one not getting calls? Is this bad? Right. And then the last thing is, you know, and again, I can't stress this enough pivot to a point of hope, right. Which is like, this is going to benefit you. And here is why, right. We're not doing this just because we want to do it. We're doing it because it's useful to you on the front line.

Aarde Cosseboom (24:34):

That's really good. Alex, in your experience, have you had to help people through the fear of change? Like, you know, you're helping them find the best potential product for them. And you know, that you might get all, you might have a list of here's your current feature set. And here's what you're going to get. This is going to be cheaper, more efficient. It's going to be in the cloud, but then you might get some hesitation because, well, we have to train 300 people on this platform. That's a big undertaking. How do I even accomplish that? Like how do you support and consult people through that?

Alex McBratney (Host) (25:11):

Yeah. I think, a lot of times with the clients we're dealing with, the CIO or the VP or director of it, it falls a lot on their hands. And that's typically a reason why they don't want to make any change. They could want to move to the cloud. They could be on prem. So yeah, there's all these great things, but my job's at stake. If I mess this up, I'm going to lose my job. I've seen the horrors of telecom when numbers have to go from one carrier to another. And on the small end of the spectrum, the horror story was over Christmas for Verizon dropped. We were transferring from Verizon over to Spectrum. This is actually Time Warner, but Spectrum now, and the gentlemen at the company that we're switching over a cancel the order mid-flight and Verizon had already released the numbers and Time Warner never got them. And it was a hotel, by the way, too, they lost all their numbers for about a week because they canceled the installation because he wanted to postpone it. Those were the horror stories. And so like to put stuff in place the systems in place, and sadly, like I was agreeing at that time, you know, it was one of those things where you should tell the customer, don't do this, don't do that, or else this is going to happen. And it's the same thing in any technology change, like laying out the expectations, letting the staff know like, Hey, this is going to be a bumpy road. Like there's going to be a learning curve. You're gonna hate it at first. But once you get used to the new system, you start to go, you start to see like, Oh, wow, this is why moved. This is great, but there's always a learning curve. It's like going from Mac to a PC again, or a PC to a Mac is completely different. But once you learn it, it's great. You know, but Graham, I liked how you talked about the point of hope, right? Making it, putting it on how they're going to benefit from it. It's just like in sales too, right. Where here's how they're going to benefit from this new technology. Not the features are great because it has all these bells and whistles. What's it going to do for me? How's it going to make my life easier and less stressful? And I can go home and be like, Oh, I work. Wasn't too bad today. You know.

Graham Carter (27:17):

Well, and it's tough because I think the other thing you're really pointing this out there, which is that, you know, a lot of technologies look very similar to each other. Just like a lot of cars look very similar to each other, right? Like tell me the difference between a Honda civic and an Acura. Well, the value is if you're driving a hundred miles a day, you're probably gonna get out of the Acura a little more relaxed. It's going to feel a little smoother. There's nothing wrong with the Honda, but like you get an out of court and you're on the road for a hundred miles a day, your backs might be hurting a little bit. You probably don't have those heated seats. Right. And it's just a value proposition and you always have to talk value in customer support. Otherwise you're not retaining your employees, but you're also not retaining your customers either.

Alex McBratney (Host) (27:57):

Yeah. And then what's the cost, right? I mean, very clearly you and Aarde both on replacing employees is not a very inexpensive thing to do because employee retention is one of the biggest when I look at the contact center pipeline and magazine stuff, that's like the number one thing is retaining employees and they're the biggest cost center and the super expensive to replace, right? So...

Aarde Cosseboom (28:23):

I read an article that said that the best way to retain contact center agents is to buy them a new chair of their liking. You get put a little storefront of like four or five chairs they can choose from. They get to choose a new chair every single year. Then that way they could get their creature comfort, they could choose their chair, put their name on it, and you're going to retain them for longer. Not only are they going to be more comfortable and happy, but they're going to feel more appreciated because you're going to be buying something that's unique to them. So for anniversary work, anniversary presents, get them a new chair and a new headset, too.

Alex McBratney (Host) (29:01):

Yeah. Make it their own. And that's the beauty of having your own little cubicle too, right. I think when people go to the office, they have their own little space. They can put their little trinkets on their family photos, like make it their own. So then it feels like there's ownership to it as well. And I'm sure, you know, Graham and Aarde, you probably both as you've led teams, like giving them, letting them take ownership in a project or letting them step up and not just be someone that answers phones or makes phone calls, whereas, Hey, give them something to strive towards to learn and to grow, right. Not just, I'd say 90, 95, probably 99% of people want to grow, right? And not just like clock in and clock out, but if you give them a good reason to grow and it inspires them, happy employees, right? Giving examples of stuff like that.

Graham Carter (29:54):

Oh yeah. Well, I mean, we got Aarde on the call so I can make him blush, you know, but I really wanted, I mean, I came to work at that company and I'll be honest with you. I wanted to be an IT administrator. Like I thought changing mice and keyboards was the bee's knees. We went through this period of time or we got DDOSed and we basically went from being at a five day a week company to being 24/7 overnight. And I slept in the yoga room and I already saw that and was like, wow, this guy really has a work ethic. And he came to me and he said, have you ever thought about leadership? That was the exact way he phrased it. Not, you should be a leader, you should do this. It was, have you ever thought about it? And I kind of giggled. I was like, you want me to leave? Really what's wrong with you? And then he was like, no, seriously. And then I was like, Oh, okay. And it was like having someone say, I see what you did. That was valuable. Now let's capitalize on it. Let's turn that into something. It makes somebody feel like you're paying attention and then I think the other thing too is it's like when I finally had my own team, right. When I had finally learned enough about leadership and I had gone through an interview process and gotten that role, what I always wanted to do was make sure that your top players are helping your bottom players, right? Like create an internal network of those learning opportunities. So that it's not you only hear from the boss when something's messed up, but you're also not only hearing from your peers when they're mad at you, you're hearing like, Hey man, I saw what you did there. That was great. Also here's this other tool that's really useful. And it tends to drive this dynamic of teamwork that creates a really strong KPI out of it. And I can't explain it other than like, they see each other work and they become it's that horse factor, right? You know, two horses will pull 1.5, their own weight, which is one of the only creatures that is that right. Like human beings only can pull 1.0 their weight, but put two horses together. They'll pull three horses worth of weight, you know?

Alex McBratney (Host) (31:54):

Yeah. That's interesting, really quick Aarde. And I want to go back to Graham. You mentioned tools. And one of the things I want to dig into a little bit more is like, you know, some of the tools you've used and Aarde, you too. What would you say is one or two of not just like the overall platform of a contact center, like any contact or Genesys, but like the tool app add-on that you've found really valuable that maybe some people, most people don't use or haven't heard about that. You've just loved, right? This is a great little tool that's improved the contact center, improved employee experience. Both of it.

Graham Carter (32:30):

I'll let Aarde go first on that one.

Aarde Cosseboom (32:32):

It's going to be surprising because it's something that's free, but Google Hangouts. I remember setting up, so Graham and I are working at the same company and we had multiple different contact centers across the world. This is before Zoom really. But Google Hangouts were available and we said, Hey, let's just connect all of the people from each office, put a flat screen TV up and log into this Google hangout every single day. And most of the time we wouldn't really go on there to talk to anything, you know, we didn't talk shop on it, but it was really just going in there and seeing it was just seeing that there was another office that was there and we're all a part of one team, and working together. So I would say, go low tech first and then go high-tech like Google sheets, Google, you know, and there's the Amazon and SharePoint and all the equivalents, but just take a process and don't over-engineer it just do something simple. See if it works, then if you like it, then yeah, buy the Slack, buy the one drive, buy the whatever it is that's like Ferrari of that product. But you don't need to buy the Ferrari right out of the gate. Graham, what about you?

Graham Carter (33:44):

One is just my personal favorite thing, just in general about leadership, which is the handwritten note as a tool. If you're going to be in the same workspace to say, thank you, nothing beats the handwritten note, especially when you leave it on their desk on a Friday afternoon and they've already left and they come back Monday morning and they see that best thing ever because it starts their week in just the right headspace. And then the second thing, I'm a data nerd, right? Like the ability to look at stats and KPIs is useful, but it's also way more useful for me to be able to see the raw data. And like man Tablo changed my life. Like being able to really dig in and create my own analysis of raw data. That's separate than what's being presented to me by say the workforce team or something allowed me to really coach down to behaviors and say, Hey, I noticed on Thursdays at like three in the afternoon, you're clearly getting tired because you go from having one minute after calls to having seven. And you're just like, exhausted. What can we do to fix that for you? Like what tools do you need? Being able to ask those questions with informed information is just awesome.

Aarde Cosseboom (34:48):

I love that handwritten note thing. And I have to do a shameless, Amazon plug. You have to buy these on Amazon. I don't know if you could see it, but it says from the desk of, and your name and it comes with little envelopes, literally have these on your desk. And when someone does something amazing, if it's minor, just write like Graham, thank you for taking that call or taking that escalation. And if you want to put a little color on it, that's kind of fun. And this may not be allowed in most States. So I don't know, check first, but put a lottery scratcher in there or something like, make it fun. Don't put a gift card. That's boring. Put, split like, Hey, put a lottery scotch or in there I used to go around. I used to go to a gas station next to where we worked. And, I would buy $30 in scratchers and we're in California. So there's California scratchers. And I would literally keep them in my pocket. And then as I would walk the floor, if someone was doing something great, and be like, here you go. Here's a scratcher. Like hopefully you win something or you want a free ticket or you just enjoy that. I gave you like a piece of paper. That's fun and little things like that put a smile on people's faces and builds loyalty. And then, a handwritten note goes a really, really long way.

Alex McBratney (Host) (36:00):

Yeah. That's such a good idea. And it's funny, I'll show you mine. So I had these made up because when I reached out to IT executives that we work with a lot of times, this is their day in the life, right? And pretty much like anyone in business can relate to this or it's just the stress of work, right. And it's just little pokes fun at just the day-to-day. We're all in the hamster wheel, stressing out about stuff, and so it's a good way to just touch base, humanize it again, right?

Graham Carter (36:33):

I just think of one of the things I realized was a little tool that I picked up. Actually, I think I picked this up from Aarde when you do your reviews and you've got all the nitty-gritty stuff, have a conclusion sentence that actually is about them as a person, as opposed to like, yeah. And your numbers were really good this year, right? Like no one remembers that from a review, but when you caught a pace, unlike anybody I've ever seen, your numbers are spectacular. And your value to the team is limited or something that makes them feel really good about it. Or if they have something that they need to improve on, like, hey, you're really good at this nut there are some areas that we need to help make you better in, right? Like those things really stick with somebody and they create the drive to get that again next year, if it's positive or avoided again next year, if it's not so positive.

Aarde Cosseboom (37:25):

Yeah. That's a good takeaway. When I ran a call center, I used to do this. I would go around and try to remember one specific thing about every single person and the thing that stuck out in my mind the most was when we're working together in a 200 seat contact center, it's a lot of people, a lot of turnover too. So the people change almost every month. There's four or five new faces every single month. So what I would do is try to in my mind, figure out like, what is this? What's the one thing I know about this person, that person likes to surf. That person loves coffee, all these little things and the one story that sticks out in my mind is, we used to have this fruit basket. They would refresh all this fruit in the break room, apples, pears, oranges, and bananas and bananas were always the first thing that was chosen. It was gone no matter what, if you had a shift that started at 9:00 AM, only apples were left. Bananas were gone, pears, oranges, all gone. So I had a person on my team that loved bananas. They brought oatmeal to the office, made oatmeal and wanted to cut the bananas in and like all this stuff. And they were really frustrated that they didn't get bananas cause they always came into work at about nine or 10. And they were just like 30 minutes too late in this rush of people would come in and grab all the bananas. So I would always take a banana cause I would come in the office early that's when I used to come to the office early, take a banana, put it on my desk, put a little note on it, to myself to walk it over to them at 10 o'clock when their shifts started and say, Hey, you know, welcome to your shift today. I saved a banana for you. I grabbed it for you cause I know you like in your oatmeal. A little thing that stuck for a long time and we always had something to talk about, but you know, that agent was a part of my team longer than I was, I left that company and they stayed there. So it was just those little things. Just remember something little about them and what they like and try to do something for them if you can.

Alex McBratney (Host) (39:29):

Yeah. I think I was looking over here. we're doing a webinar next week and one of the bullet points is about the importance of experience, but not just the customer experience, but the EX, right. The employee experience. And companies that Excel at customer experience have one and a half times more engaged employees than companies with poor customer experience. So right there. Right. It's so easy to look at an employee as a cog in the wheel. That's just go sit, get your button to see, do your job. Depending on what kind of contact center or call center it is and not engage and not empathize and not do those nice things, right? But for a company that's in that wants to have more revenue or wants to have happy customers, which either retains revenue or gross revenue, you can't just gloss over the context center or the call center as an expense center, just like it. A lot of times as glossed over as a callcenter and as just Joseph's show how important it is. And I'm curious when you guys hire for say team leads or managers, are there certain personality types that fill that role better to take care of those employees like mother bird kind of things?

Aarde Cosseboom (40:47):

Yeah. You want to go first, Graham?

Graham Carter (40:48):

Yeah, I'll take this one first and then I'll hand it over Aarde cause I know that Aarde and I probably have slightly different things that we look for, but I think the first thing is a resilient personality. Can you take a hint and can you keep moving, right? Leadership is not about being perfect. It's about what you do when you get hit by something, right? You just fall apart or do you say let's get through it together and we'll figure out a way to do this. And then afterwards you like post-mortem it and really take it apart. The second thing is actually, I don't want a mother hen personality. What I want is someone who doesn't protect people from their mistakes. People only pretty much learn by their mistakes, right? But someone who helps that person after they made a mistake, pick themselves, dust themselves off and say, cool, what'd you learn? I learned this, this and this. Cool. It's not a punishment situation. You learn something. It was valuable. Let's move forward. I think those are the two things that I really look for in terms of personality.

Aarde Cosseboom (41:45):

Awesome. Yeah. I did a little bit of a study on it when I worked at the previous company with Graham and other than Graham, cause he was an amazing leader and still is an amazing leader. I'd say the two types of people I look for, I actually look for their previous work experience and I look for these two types of people. They're very specific. It's actually in my book. Definitely read it, but it's people who are bag boys or people who help at the grocery store that literally pack your bag and walk old ladies to cars. Those people have resiliency. Like they can help someone who can't walk on their own with their groceries, loaded into a car. And the person gets out to the parking lot. Like, oh I forgot my car is over here. Oh, let me unlock that for you. When we find my keys. Someone who has a high level of patience can take direction, but also can be very organized and focused on the task at hand, which is something that a bag boy really needs to do, understand that there's a line that needs that support. They jump over to that line. They have that customer service. They greet the person really well. They pack the bag in a way so that it's the most efficient and the eggs and the bread don't get smushed. And then they're also having customer services. They're walking people out the door and then when there's a time to lean, there's time to clean, which means that whenever there was no one in the store, they pick up a mop and they start in a squeegee and they start cleaning the store. So that's one. The other one that I like to bring up is coffee baristas. That's one of the hardest service job in the world. Literally, people who haven't had their coffee yet are very aggravated and people like their coffee a certain way. I'm just generalizing here. Not everyone's like this, but people who go into the coffee shops, they're one of those two things or both. And it comes off as very entitled, which is really hard for someone on the other side, on the customer service side, to turn them into a happy camper while they haven't had their first sip of coffee yet. And maybe they got their coffee wrong and they had the first sip and you have to correct it. or maybe someone dropped the coffee in the back on a couch and you have to go clean the couch. That's the level of resiliency that is really, really tough. So those two types of people I have found or people who are in similar type jobs, sometimes bartender works. Any of that type of face-to-face customer service usually are the best with people and are resilient and are task-oriented and care and have enough empathy to carry the leadership job through.

Graham Carter (44:32):

Yeah. Aarde I mean Aarde, he's not lying. I actually little did already know I was a bag boy for a little while when I worked at Trader Joe's, cheap plug for trader Joe's. I will never live anywhere where I'm that far from Trader Joe's because I enjoyed working there so much that I have just become addicted to the company as a whole. But I think that the other thing that's in there that sort of an unsaid thing is there are two traits to those types of people as well, which is they are capable of understanding that a team has to function in order to get things done. No one person can run an entire Starbucks or an entire trader Joe's on their own. It's impossible. And the second thing is inherently, those, those individuals can be quite competitive as well. Not in a negative way, but in a like we can do. Yeah, we did really well, but we can do a little better. We can do a little better here. We can do a little better there. I mean, when you think about it, when you work at a grocery store, let's say you close at nine o'clock, right. You really only have an hour and a half to two hours to clean up the store, restock everything and get out of there before you have to go back from the next day. And a lot of grocery stores function on a waterfall schedule. So if you're off at 11, one day, you may be back at 5:00 AM the next day, right? And so you have to be just super detail oriented, very competitive to get that done as quickly and as efficiently as possible in both of those types of personalities that already mentioned are like that.

Alex McBratney (Host) (45:55):

Yeah. That's very interesting. I'm glad you guys both came from different angles to the same conclusion, right? Is that resilience is doing what it takes to get the job done, right? Whether it's restocking the shelves or whether it's getting that customer to leave that call or that chat happy. So, Graham has been great to get to know you, bud, and I'm glad you jumped on and Aarde as always co-hosts and contact center extraordinaire, author, love having you on. We'll definitely have to do this again, Graham, cause I think we can go in so many different directions. Even at the end there, I was tempted to go and start talking about some other things around just resiliency and in the contact center and how we can adjust that. But it's been great having...

Graham Carter (46:40):

Anytime I can come on and be of help, I'm always happy to do so. I've got any time Aarde says, Hey, I've got something interesting for you to do. I'm all about it. So I have a blast. Thank you so much for your time. You got it.

Aarde Cosseboom (46:52):

Thank you so much, Alex, for hosting. And Alex said, Graham, it's been a pleasure as always, and we'll invite you back for many, many more and the next time you come back, we'll let you share some kind of interesting and fun stories about customer service cause we didn't get to ask our favorite question, which is what was your best and worst customer experience. So we'll do that next time.

Graham Carter (47:11):

Tell you what I'll tell you what I will give it a stretch 10 minutes on this cause I can do that. I will answer that question for you guys right now, if you want.

Aarde Cosseboom (47:20):

Sure. Yeah. Go for it. What is your best and worst customer experience?

Graham Carter (47:26):

Okay. I will start with the worst. So there was a period of time when Aarde worked together. I was responsible for a very niche part of the software, which was the door access system. I was the only employee who supported it at that point. There was only one developer who had it and the way that I was introduced to it by my boss at that time, it was not Aarde was just like, Hey yeah, you'll be able to figure this out. It'll be fine. Right. And it wasn't difficult. There were just pieces to it that I didn't understand. Cause I had never worked on an API before. So I had no idea how API calls worked. I get on the phone with this guy once and we're working for about three hours getting the API set up on his PC. You know, it's connected to what I believe is the door.

Graham Carter (48:12):

He's having some issues around it. He's not actually physically near the PC. He's using a remote software and then he has to reboot it. And he's having to have his insistent. Replug in remote software. We get three hours into this and we've got it all set up. I'm ready to go. I say, go ahead and scan the key card and see if you can open the door. And he goes, what door? And I said, what do you mean what door? And he goes, there's a door that I'm supposed to have for this. I was like, Oh my God have a door. And he goes, no, I thought this was like a kiosk system was like, I didn't check at the beginning of the call. Do you have the scan card? Yeah. Do you have the scanning machine yet? Do you have a door? I never thought I would need to ask. And then he starts apologizing and this is the cap burrata, he says, thanks. Thanks so much for your time, Steve.

Aarde Cosseboom (49:02):

Oh geez.

Graham Carter (49:05):

It's like going on a date and the girl kisses you at the end and calls you another guy's name. I didn't have the heart to tell him either. I was like, yeah, no problem.

Aarde Cosseboom (49:14):

You're welcome. Make sure you rate Steve on the compliment card or email later.

Graham Carter (49:21):

My best one. There was a guy, so a little background. My father was like 60 when I was born, when he passed away at 93, he had complications of Alzheimer's it happens, right? You're getting older, your brain just does things. And I had been back at work probably. I want to say about six weeks after he had passed away and I got an escalation and my team has sort of like one commandment is thou shalt not escalate unless entirely necessary. And it was Friday afternoon. And I think it was 5:00 PM and I was getting ready to leave. And I had an employee who just never escalated and he was walking out and he says, Hey, I got an escalation. And I said, Oh, what's going on? And he goes, yeah, this dude's like, I'm pretty sure he's drunk. And he's real mad. And I can't talk to him. He wants to talk to you. And I said, okay, no problem. Went back to my desk, set up my laptop, not on the phone. And this guy is drunk and he's drunk with good reason. His mom is dying of Alzheimer's, he's using the software, which isn't helping him get any customers. So he's having to spend time literally going around into his neighborhood, putting up pamphlets and flyers and things like that. Trying to get customers in. He's not retaining anybody and he's 90 days behind on his bill and he doesn't even know what he's paying for. And so we get on the phone call and I mean, he says he's like sloshed drunk. And I had always been taught sort of to ask questions. Right. And in the back of my head, I don't know how this is going to go. And I started asking him questions and he immediately deescalates. He's just like he goes from being that angry drunk to being just the guy who just happens to be a little inebriated. We get through our conversation. We talk about, the fact that I can't guarantee I can get his bill waived, but I understand now what's going on in his life. And we talked for a little bit about what he was using the solver for and the way he was using it just wasn't set up correctly. And I asked him, I was like, would you be willing tomorrow? When it's a better time to work with someone on my team, who's a specialist in resetting up these accounts, making sure that you're really taking advantage of it and getting the value that you're paying for while I work on what I can do financially to help you, which may not be much, but I will try.

Graham Carter (51:41):

And he said, yeah, it would be. And then I told him, listen, what I want you to do now is get off the phone and go spend some time with your mom because you're not going to get that time back. And the reality is, this is just a piece of software. That's your family. And you know, later on you don't want to be like man, I wish I'd spent more time on the software. When my mom was dying it's not something someone's going to say. And the next day my employee got him squared away with his new software we wiped away, about half of his bill. He paid the other half that day when I was done following up on the conversation between him and my specialist. And, he told me that it meant everything to him to have somebody who understood and really was listening to what he was saying. And he promised never to call back in drunk. And I was like, well, even if you do just, make sure you let me know if you need anything. And he was really, really cool about it. As far as I know, he's pretty much a customer for life. That's someone that will never go to another software because they're not going to get that experience somewhere else.

Alex McBratney (Host) (52:39):

That's a great story. And so many things we can unpack on that just as far as what went well and how to treat a customer the right way and do what's right. Treating them, not like a number, but as a person. That's awesome. I'm glad we stretched it out a little bit to hear that and your best and worst. So absolutely great. But again, thank you so much Aarde. It was great. And I'm going to sign off until next time and Graham...

Aarde Cosseboom (53:07):

I'd say Thank you, Steve for joining us. No, no, no. Your name is Graham. I remember it's Graham.

Alex McBratney (Host) (53:16):

Well, that wraps up the show for today. Thanks for joining and don't forget to join us next week as we bring another guest in to talk about the trends around cloud contact center and customer experience. Also, you can find us, LinkedIn, or your favorite podcast platform. We'll see you next week on Another Cloud Podcast.