Customer Success vs. Customer Service

In this episode, we are joined by Emily Keller, LinkedIn’s Head of Talent Solutions Enterprise Customer Success. We discuss the complex relationship that many companies today have with their customers and how these complexities have forced organizations to think more holistically and proactively relative to their customer management strategy. As Emily tells us, it’s not just about average handle time, # of calls per hour, or even the traditional quality assurance metrics anymore. Customer engagement, using data to predict customer behavior, leveraging innovative approaches to driving customer satisfaction, and many more; are all key to driving a true “Customer Success” approach. The customer experience paradigm has changed, and smart organizations are changing with it. Are you?

 

Brian:

Doug and I are here with our very special guest, Emily Keller. Emily is a very recent connection of Doug and I’s. We’re always looking for opportunities to connect with know influencers in the contact center and customer success, customer service space. When I saw Emily’s profile on LinkedIn, I just had to reach out and have a conversation with her because it looked like based on her credentials and at the time that she’s been in the space that there’d be a lot to learn from Emily. Emily and I had a chance to go back and forth on LinkedIn a little bit. And we immediately got into a very cool discussion around kind of comparing customer service versus customer success and kind of the differences between the two and the different ideologies and so forth. And I just said, “You know what? That sounds like a topic that would go very, very well on one of our podcast.” So that’s why we’re here today. But before we get started with the discussion, Emily, I would love it if you would take an opportunity just to tell our listeners about you and your background, everything else and then we’ll dive right in.

 

Emily:

Sounds good. Thank you so much. My name is Emily Keller. My current role is with LinkedIn. I’ve been with LinkedIn going on three years in the customer success space. I currently oversee our enterprise business, which is about companies that have about 1,000 to 10,000 employee count. And we oversee both our hiring and LinkedIn learning teams in both the US and in Canada. And prior to that, I worked with ADP for 25 years, primarily in customer service. So call center contacts as well as operations and in our global market.

 

Brian:

Excellent. Well, like I said, I was very impressed. One of the things, there’s a lot of people in our business and we know we meet folks at conferences and we connect with people all the time on LinkedIn, which is fantastic, but there’s not a whole lot of influencers out there in our space. When I came across your profile, I was like, my goodness, this is definitely an influencer our industry. And like I said, we’re very excited to have this opportunity to chat with you today. So thank you for joining us. So for our listeners out there, today’s topic is something I think is very interesting for all the contact center folks out there. I’m sure, based on all the conversations and experience that Doug and I have had. We always talk about customer service, customer experience and there’s a variety of different things that go into that. Different comparisons, the metrics, the approach, leadership tactics, operational tactics and so forth, organizational structures that support customer service versus customer experience. But when Emily and I started to talk, she introduced to me the idea of customer success and how it is different from customer service and customer experience. Which again, as somebody who, myself and Doug and our team, who do a lot of consulting for clients around the country and with a lot of focus on building quality and customer satisfaction for organizations, the idea of customer success being a differentiator or a more of a broader view of our business really intrigued me. So really, Emily, wanted to start out. So customer service versus customer success. Can you talk a little bit about kind of what those two mean to you and kind of what the differences are? And then we’ll kind of dive into a deeper discussion.

 

Emily:
It was very interesting, when I started my journey after being with ADP for 25 years and looking at new opportunities, customer success kept popping up and I thought, oh, this is a fancy word for customer service and we’ve moved away from using that type of word. But when I had the opportunity to move into this role, I realized that very quickly it was very different. I’m going to do this as a very simplified way, in my mind how I can explain it is customer service or contact centers are more when the customer needs a moment in time, a question, a transactional help. So they reach out to someone and what makes sense for them in that point in time. And it could be anyone, it’s not necessarily tied to specifically a person in that moment. It’s a transactional need where customer success is building relationship. It’s the strategic advisor for the customer. There is a goal that they’re working towards, in LinkedIn’s case, it could be more hires or it could be more learners in my space or it could be something in that extent where it’s, we’re working together with a customer to achieve a goal. I think it’s important to call out that we need customer service as much as we need customer success, because in that point in time, that quick question needs to be answered somewhere. And without that team doing customer service, we can’t really necessarily be as successful with our customers on the other side in that space.

 

Doug:

A bit more of a spectrum or the life cycle of the customer versus the point in time. Which obviously, to your point, I have a need today. I call in. I get my problem resolved today, and that may be very static to what’s happening with me today. But over time, what does my experience look like and what ultimately am I trying to drive toward? And that sounds like more of a life cycle on your side.

 

Emily:

And that is true. So we have deep conversations around the renewal times. If there’s a new person coming into the business, we want to make sure we’re level setting what they think they need and what it is that they need to be successful to fully utilize all our suites of products and making sure that it’s still relevant in what they’re doing today. Versus when we think call center, we sometimes think, like for myself when I’m on Amazon and I’m like, “Hey, I didn’t mean to place this order, can you help me?” And that’s a point in time and then helping, but not necessarily the long-term life of my Amazon usage in that space.

 

Brian:

So obviously, we’ve been in this business for a while and I can remember back in the early ’90s when I started working in contact centers, for example, it was all about customer service. Good customer service. That was the term. And that was the phrase and the paradigm that we worked under for a decade. And then, it kind of felt that customer experience started to kind of come into play. And customer experience was “a little bit bigger” than customer service. And again, that was kind of the paradigm in the early 200s until five or so years ago, we were always kind of working under and kind of chasing the good customer experience. Do you think that customer success is kind of a continued evolution of that situation? Meaning that in today’s in today’s environment that customer success and chasing a more holistic view of the satisfaction of a customer is going to be important for companies worldwide kind of a thing. You think we’re kind of evolving to this now?

 

Emily:

When I’ve done some more research on customer success, it is very new to the industry. It’s not something that’s been around. And in my time at ADP, we used to call people executive relationship managers or customer, so things like that. So I think that really customer success is an evolution of that. So even when you think about call center, some call center equipment has gotten so sophisticated to the point that it says like, “Hey, I talked to Brian last week.” I call in, it says, “Oh, you talked to Brian, let me see if I can get Brian first and then I’ll try other people.” And so I think we really are trying to evolve what it is that the customer needs. And I think the business is being smart enough to say, there’s a point when the customer just needs somebody to help them. And that’s when we think of the customer experience moment or chat. We’ve evolved from fancy phone systems to chat now and quick point like, I need help at this moment. To, “Hey, let’s now be strategic in being your business partner in what your goals are.” And that’s what I think customer success is, is we know that you’ve invested lot of money into whatever company and we want to make sure you’re maximizing the value and that we can give you. So I’m going to dedicate time into your business. I’m going to do business reviews with you. I’m going to show you how you’re utilizing our feature and what you could do more with it, or does this even make sense that you purchased X, Y, and Z and maybe there’s something better that suits you. Where when we think about contact centers, it’s more, we talked earlier about, measurements of how long, a customer doesn’t want to be on the phone for 30 minutes. They just want something to be resolved in that moment in time and move on. Where in customer success, they’re dedicating more time. It’s an appointment you’re setting up to spend that time in making sure that they get there. So I think we’ve evolved from how do we get that moment in time, to how do we make sure that your investment is really paying out in what you’re utilizing with our products.

 

Brian:

That’s a very good insight. I’ll tell you, we work with a lot head of customer care, chief customer experience officer folks that our clients, and a lot of senior executives in the customer experience space also listen to our podcast and so forth and do reach out. So I guess my next question would be for of those individuals, if I’m a chief customer experience officer for an organization, regardless of size. What are some of the tactics that I can take, if you will, or strategies that I can leverage to drive a customer success approach within my company? It’s one thing to say, we’re going to deliver good customer service in the call center. It feels like, based on this discussion, certainly, you’ve definitely opened my eyes to this, that when I’m driving customer service or even customer care in many cases that, it’s a pretty… I’m in the contact center. I’m looking at my touch points within that environment. I’m trying to optimize those things. But as an executive kind of pulling up a little bit under a customer success framework, how do I drive that for my company, from my organization?

 

Emily:

I think by no mean am I an expert in really making sure people set it up right. I think what it would have to be is what is the feature and functionality that you’re offering to the customers? Because I made the joke about Amazon, Amazon probably wouldn’t necessarily need a customer success in its marketplace per se, because it’s not necessarily something that you would have long-term relationships with the end user. But it’s more where customers are purchasing something that there is more investment into it. So using something like a LinkedIn where it is recruitment product, so I’ll just kind of stick there. You’re going to be looking at customers that say, “Hey, you have a lot of jobs to post. How are you utilizing our features? How are you making sure that people are seeing your job postings, you’re getting the right talent?” You’re looking at that. So that’s where I would say is like, what is it that you’re trying to get in the marketplace that would require customer success? Because I don’t think every business needs it. I think call center, contact centers, customer experience might be more reasonable for that type of service that you’re providing versus maybe someone who’s maybe long-term into a product feature. But I think what you need to look at is what is it you’re trying to achieve with customer success? What is it that you want to get more value from a customer that’s purchasing something from you? How do you ensure that the customer continues to see the value and wants to continue to purchase features and functions from you? So that’s where I would say that customer success rolls into versus if you’re doing a point in time, then you need a back and beyond their contact center, because it’s like you’re a consumer purchasing something versus the long-term. But they may have customer success on the backend for companies that they’re selling, right. So on the flip side, you could say like, hey, great, go on, I can’t think of that company name, BabiesRUs or whatever. They may want to have a customer success to say, “Hey, how do we make sure we’re utilizing your products and selling your products today?” So it all depends on what side of the business you’re looking at, that would make sense whether or not you want to start customer success.

 

Doug:

Feels like potentially the level of complexity of the product or the product offerings has something to do with it. And if we’re going to use LinkedIn as an example, there’s a lot of different products across the board and that evolve over time that maybe I felt comfortable with a year or two ago, but maybe now there’s been something new that’s going on. Whereas if it’s a less complicated or more transactional widget-based, that that may be a little bit more difficult. But it sounds like this needs to be sort of proactive outreach before I have the questions where I’m calling in and try and figure out what’s going on. So just keeping me up to speed on the learning curve of what’s happening with your company, your product set and keeping me abreast of the different tools and technologies that you guys have that can enable me. So that’s kind of the way I’m thinking about it, but happy to kind of get corrected on that one way or another.

 

Brian:

So it seems like with the proactive nature of a customer success strategy that customer data and analytics would actually drive a lot of the strategy and operational tactics that an organization would employ to impact customer success. Can you talk a little bit about? I mean, what sort of customer data points or metrics and measurements would come into play when driving a customer success strategy?

 

Emily:
I think what we’re looking at is, again, when we talk about what the product is that you use. So when we think about LinkedIn, we think about, like they buy licenses, for example, for different products. Are they utilizing the licenses? Are they maximizing from it? When we think about job postings on recruitment, are they getting the hits that they need? Are they filling the roles quickly in that space? Even if we think about ADP, even though that they were primarily contact center, we look at, are there pays up? Are they purchasing other products and features from us like 401(k) and time and attendance and things like that? So it’s really the utilization of whatever the product is and how to increase that. Or they purchased X, Y, and Z, are they fully utilizing that? Are they using, let’s say it’s a mail system, are they fully utilizing all their mail systems and are they getting the response that they’re expecting in return? Like when we think about LinkedIn, we have InMail. So are you as a recruiter sending enough InMails and are people responding back to you through that? So those are some of the metrics that we look at, renewal rates, that’s usually probably a very top customer success areas. Are they purchasing more in the future? Where in contact centers, we look at metrics more that are customer service associates. Like how are they doing in wrapping through those calls? Or how many times are customers calling and what is it that we could do in that space? When we think about CRMs and call centers, we can see why customers are calling so many times and what could we do to either fix the product or put something out proactively to prevent those from coming in, right? So in contact centers, we’re thinking more, we’re there, but how can we prevent those calls from coming in? In the top of mind is like, we obviously want to reduce our customers. So we use a lot of that data to analyze the overall of the customer where in customer success, we’re focusing more on that specific need because each customer is utilizing our features and functions different. So you can’t measure or how one is doing it versus the other, but it is all the products. But on the backend at LinkedIn, we do have a customer contact center. So they’re looking at that, what we just talked about, that point in time like, “Hey, is there something going on with our features and functionalities?” So that really the power and how to improve the platform or that product does lie more on the contact center because they’re seeing those point in time transactions, those questions, where the customer success is focusing more on the customer in front of them than the bigger, larger platform.

 

Doug:
So do you have various triggers for proactive outreach based on the different products that you have? So sales navigator, if Brian and I are in sales navigator and we’re trying to do business development or we’re trying to staff for some new contractors that we need to bring in for one of our clients and maybe that postings been out there for some period of time. Is there a potential proactive outreach to us sort of in lieu of maybe deflecting a potential call into your contact center? Because obviously, you just said you had contact center. So are there trigger points for, it looks like this person is going with this function or this posting’s been out there for a really long time or that kind of thing. Is that something that you guys have outreach for and is that a part of the customer success that you’re talking about?

 

Emily:
Yeah. We wouldn’t necessarily look at one job posting per se, but we would say, “Hey, in the last four months, you’ve posted 50 jobs. 25% of them got responses very quickly, the others didn’t. So let’s look at the wording.” So we would then be more consultative in that space. Let’s look at the wording. What is it you’re trying to achieve with these jobs? Is it your experience that you have out there? Are you not getting diverse candidates? So we have, DEI is definitely a big, hot topic. So we’re trying to be consultative in that space to say, how do we get more diverse candidates? How do we make sure that you’re posting seem equitable across the board and is enticing the same? So that’s really more where we’re going, it’s not necessarily a specific transaction. If a new contact comes in, it could be that renewals are coming up. Those are things that would trigger reach that’s coming. Again, speaking about LinkedIn, we have targeted times when we should be reaching out to our customers, how often we should be reaching out to talk to them. And as well as the customers can reach out to us and say, “Hey, we know we’re going to be hiring up, staffing up 500 people, and we need you to help us be experts.” So it’s not always proactive. That’s kind of how we want to be strategic partners, but the customer can be the outreacher and say, “Hey, we’re going to be doing this. We need your help to kind of partner with us to lean in.” And that could be for any business, regardless of LinkedIn, it’s a two-way communication that really builds a relationship where the customer and the customer success managers know in order for both to be successful, they have to be open and willing to talk and share what’s happening in each other’s space so that they can help build a plan going forward.

 

Doug:
With the contact center, and may maybe you know this and maybe you don’t, because obviously that’s not your focus in this particular role. But if I do call the contact center, are they looking at sort of traditional metrics like first contact resolution, net promoter score, those kind of things, is it a similar experience? And then they work back with people within LinkedIn to say, “Okay, this person called about this. Maybe we need to put this into place.” I mean, I know that’s not based on one call, it’s based on a number of calls across the board, but do the two play together as far as between your traditional customer service and the customer success sort of team that you’re talking about?

 

Emily:

Yeah. I don’t know if we, in LinkedIn specifically, I don’t know if we necessarily get a lot of the outputs of what we’re seeing in that space. We work very closely together when we have to open a ticket, we share it with them and then we relay it back to the customer and there’s conversation and partnership and that. But as far as the major output of what we’re seeing coming through, I think that’s more filtered up to product and from that space. So I would say it’s more in line with traditional call centers in the sense of someone’s looking at it behind the scene and saying, “Hey, we had 15 calls on the blue pens running out. There might be a problem with our blue pen market that we need to be looking at.” So that’s really more the feeding that’s happening than it is going, but we work very closely and partner internally with our teams and we talk about service levels and what we can expect from our customers when they reach out and how to escalate when we need to escalate as a traditional space. And we encourage our customers to do that instead of reaching out to customer success for us to put a ticket for them, it’s like, “Hey, cut out the middle man, work directly with them so they would work directly with our customer contact center instead of customer success being the middle man.”

 

Brian:

Really the last question I have, and again, kind of going back to our listeners who are primarily contact center folks. So if I’m operating a contact center organization, and it sounds like from kind of some of the stuff you just talked about that the contact center feeding information back into the organization relative to what customers are calling in about, what their pain points are, et cetera. That is obviously, I mean, that’s an important piece of driving customer experience more holistically. But is there anything else that a contact center can do to help a company to develop and, or drive overall customer success more on the front end, perhaps?

 

Emily:

I think contact centers, I’m going to say, have the key of really the pulse of what’s happening. When we think about customer success, we’re focused on a base of customers that’s working there. And unless everyone’s talking to each other across the board, there’s really not really kind of seeing what’s happening. Because if you think about when customers are reaching out, we talked about, usually there’s something happening in that space, in that moment that needs to be resolved versus more the success history. So I think the contact centers, if they have a good CRM or a tracker that can say like, “Hey, product, here’s what we’ve seen have issues. Here’s bugs. Here’s customers are calling like 15 times for this and we’re doing this manually. How can we automate?” I really think that team, if done well, can really move that company forward. If we think about chat, when we hear about, from phone went to email, but customers didn’t want to wait, right? So we moved a chat because customers want it at that point in time. If we take the data that we see and understand and analyze, companies can really move forward in how they are set up, how they could prevent calls from coming in, how they can prevent customer dissatisfaction. But you have to have someone on that backend that’s willing to take that data and say, “Hey, 70% of our calls was about this situation. What can we do to either improve the product?” Maybe put the help, like walk me came through and little popups, how do we prevent so that the… Because the customer doesn’t want to call, like we all as consumers do not want to call in, we’d rather figure it out ourselves. So if people on the backend and contact centers take that time to really listen to why their customers are calling and are proactive with improvement of the product, help notes or FAQ or things like that, they’re not only preventing a call from coming in, they’re making a customer satisfied because they just solved that problem on their own.

 

Doug:

I was just going to kind of follow on to, we all have a background in contact center and I think we all sort of feel like, okay, we know what our KPIs are within the contact center and specific to customer satisfaction. For example, some of the things that we get measured on are we may do CSAT scores and we may do net promoter scores and we may do first contact resolutions and things like that. But on your side of things, for customer success, do you have various KPIs that you guys drive toward and that could be in the form of revenue goals, growth or things that lead to ROI and growth and things like that? So are there key things that you measure that lead to those things? Or is it really strictly the end result of we’ve added more customers or we’ve we had these customers and they were only using these products and now they’re using additional products and we’ve educated them on and now they’re using three or four or five different products that provide. What does that it look like on your side and how do you measure your success?

 

Emily:

Yeah. So in customer success, and I’m going to talk holistically and even peers of mine that I’ve talked in the other companies, first contact resolution is not as important as the increase in usage, right? So if someone bought something, are they fully utilizing it? So it’s not necessarily even in our… I mean, obviously, we’re all in here to make money. So of course, if they increase or buy something or put it on a longer term contract, it’s a big win for everybody, but it’s, have we helped them master the usage of the feature? Are they using, in our cases, all the licenses that they have? Are they purchasing more licenses because they’re growing? Surveys are a little bit hit or miss in customer success as an industry, just because it’s not as transactional. So those auto surveys may not make sense in sending it in that space. But when we do reviews with the customer like, “Hey, here’s how you performed,” it could be a trigger at that point that said, “Hey, you just did a review of your business. Do you feel like that it made a difference for you across the board? Do you see a win in that space?” So it’s a little bit different because it’s not necessarily a point in time, but more of an action, but obviously financial growth is important. Reduction in churn is going to be a huge one. Renewals, are we seeing the renewals happening? Are we touching our customers as often as we should be and reaching out to them? Are we getting the response from our customers? Are they not going quiet on us? Are we being able to make contact? And customer success doesn’t want to rely on email as a relationship. There is moments where we send out mass emails like, “Hey, you just put in a new user. Here’s how to set them up,” which our auto triggered. But it’s more the one-on-one that matter in customer success, not relationships by email or other forms in that sense.

 

 

Doug:

Yeah. That definitely helps. And I was just trying to get my mind around it because obviously, Brian and I are very metrics-driven. I mean, we know that there’s more to it than that, but to try to, you got to be tactical, but you also got to be strategic. And it feels like kind of one thing leads to the next thing and you got to hit those tactical points in order to execute your strategy. And so I think that’s where I was trying to get to.

 

Emily:

I get it. I lived in number world for 25 years and if there was a number I can slice it, dice it, tell you everything about it and how long they waited, how long they were on hold, how long they talked, how long they didn’t, did they put them on mute? You name it, I could tell you all about it. And how many times that customer called in the last 30 days and what they needed. And when I moved here, I was like, wait, what? It was probably the hardest thing for me to get my mind out and say, okay, that doesn’t matter. What matters are these moments? Key customer moments, what matters is how the customer is feeling with us. It’s more that versus “Brian, you put 25% of the calls on hold. What were you thinking? And your average talk time was eight minutes and it should have been five.” So it is definitely, if you move from one area to the other, and you’ve been in, as we called ourselves, seasoned vets, it is a mind shift to understand. And if you are wanting to implement customer success, it is going to be a mind shift even to your customers on what they’re seeing versus we talk about inbound resolution or tier one and tier two, and you may only hear from us when they reached out to us originally. Now you’re changing that dynamic on them. So it’s definitely a big shift both to a company and to a customer, if you implement or move into a customer or add customer success because it’s an add on that’s not necessarily or.

 

Doug:

Yeah. I’m actually glad that you said that because just having this conversation, I feel like hearing you say transitioning from one to the other did kind of take you a little while to wrap your mind around. And I kind of feel like the same thing is happening on this podcast. I’m trying to get out of my day-to-day and get into your day-to-day, but it’s a little bit of a different concept. And because we’re so metrics-driven, numbers-driven, whatever you want to call it, results-driven, just trying to really get to know the difference between customer service and customer success. And I think this really helped as we sort of talked through this, in my mind, kind of get a better understanding of what that looks like for you. And I think that hopefully it’ll broaden my outlook as we talk through to some of our other customers and clients.

 

Brian:

I definitely think it will, and like I said, when Emily kind of introduced the whole customer success versus customer service comparison to me when we were going back and forth through LinkedIn, I actually, I had kind of a aha moment. I’m like, “Wait a minute. Yeah. That’s a good point.” So again, that’s why we wanted to have the discussion. And I agree with Doug, even us, I mean, we’re the experts, we go in and we help our clients and we’ve done some really great work that we’re really proud of, but even folks like us and folks like our client, they just get so HT and John Smith’s quality and that kind of thing. So it’s just, sometimes all of us need a reminder to kind of pull ourselves or head out of the clouds a little bit and kind of think at a bigger level. So I really appreciate you helping us do that, Emily. This is a fascinating discussion. And definitely, it just feels like the relationships that companies have today with their customers has gotten so much more complex from the technology that they used to interface with their clients, the complexity of the products, programs, promotions, the competitive landscape out there. It’s very difficult nowadays to hold onto a customer. It’s very expensive to get a new customer. So formulating and executing a holistic and effective customer success strategy is probably more important than ever. So this is a great discussion, really appreciate you joining us today. And we definitely look forward to a long relationship with you. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get on again for more podcasts in the future.

 

Emily:
Whatever you need. It’s been a pleasure. And I’m happy to chat with you all, if anything else comes up.

 

Doug:

Thanks so much, Emily. Really, really enjoyed it. And it was definitely some eye opening topics for us in this conversation. So I think, to Brian’s point, I think it’ll help us kind of go back, help our clients out. And it’s not just about point in time, it’s about the life cycle experience. It’s about being proactive. So, very helpful.

 

Visit callcenterpower.com/call-center-corner-a-podcast-series to listen to the full podcast episode.

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