Lessons I Learned at Relate Live NYC

Katherine Mays
VP of Customer Experience, Nutshell
Katherine Mays
VP of Customer Experience, Nutshell

Back in October, I was given the opportunity to attend Relate Live NYC. Many of our customers love integrating Zendesk with Nutshell, so what better way to learn how to up my support game at Nutshell than at a conference hosted by one of the leading support platforms? As they say, relationships are complicated, and as a SaaS company, it’s even more difficult to maintain these relationships with our customers who we rarely interact with in person.

This was my first conference as a customer experience professional. It was really wonderful to be in a space full of people with a passion for providing killer customer experiences. From the moment I arrived I felt that I was among my peers. Individuals who truly empathize with every customer who reaches out are some of the best people to spend time around, since that passion is typically reflective of who they are in real life: Caring, supportive, and interested in solving problems.

Choosing which sessions to attend was tricky! There were so many awesome speakers and topics. My calendar was double-booked for most of the two days, and each session I chose held me captivated.

One of the highlights of Relate Live NYC were the keynote speeches by Starlee Kine (of Mystery Show) and Jon Ronson (author of The Psychopath Test and So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed?). Kine’s talk about connecting to a live person was emotional and inspirational; I loved hearing clips of her hour-long conversation with a Ticketmaster customer service rep about life’s ups and downs.

Since then, I’ve been making an effort to get beyond the small talk in as many of my interactions as possible because, well, I care about people. Being curious and believing that you’re worthy of good conversation can go a long way when it comes to making connections!

Relate Live Napkin Quote

Even bar napkins can be a source of wisdom[/caption]Jon Ronson spoke about holding back judgements about people based on their social media posts. After all, when you think about it, a few snippets of information about a person really isn’t enough to go full vigilante. A few sentences aren’t enough to condemn someone. After hearing about the Justine Sacco scandal (one of the topics of Ronson’s latest book) for the first time, my favorite takeaway from Ronson’s keynote was that the cure for shame is compassion. Even people who aren’t the most likeable people in the world don’t deserve to have their lives ruined.

Applying this lesson to customer service, it’s easy to judge someone who’s being rude to you, when chances are they’re just having a bad day. Learning about the dangers of social media vigilantism made it easier for me to let it go when someone treats me poorly over our customer service channels. A five-minute conversation with someone or a snippy email isn’t enough to condemn them.

Ronson has a fantastic way of communicating, and if you ever get the opportunity to hear him speak, I highly recommend it.

Jon Ronson talks compassion

Jon Ronson talks compassion[/caption]The overarching theme of Relate Live NYC was creating an effortless experience for your customers. By providing a frictionless customer experience, you are making it easy for them to continue to buy your product and use your services. It seems like common sense, but keeping that at the front of your mind and your business practices has proven to have a longer lasting impact than “delighting” your customers.

With this frame of mind, it becomes evident that support is an extension of your product. It even impacts your bottom line, as I learned in Toby Shannon’s session. He began this session with an awesome quote from Marc Andreessen: “Software is eating the world”. Shannon went on to discuss how making direct connections to others through your software/products allows us to be more human; having a person answer the line when you call to get some help is an important component of running your business.

In my day-to-day work, I’ve spent hours on the phone with many of our brilliant customers. It’s great to be able to help them understand Nutshell better, figure out how to get the most value out of their CRM, and troubleshoot & identify bugs to escalate to our engineers. These conversations are at the heart of what I do and they bring me new inspiration and ideas for how we can improve constantly.

Toby Shannon on the intertwining of humans with technology

Toby Shannon on the intertwining of humans with technology[/caption]During meals, breaks, and Day 1’s awesome after-party, I enjoyed great food and conversation with a lot of really interesting people. One of my peers shared a selfie that he took while responding to customer emails with the caption “support never sleeps.” We had a good chuckle and swapped stories about how our customers respond to our accessibility. I had a great chat with another great group of support folks from growing businesses about the difficulties of expanding your team as you grow.

Another great opportunity to connect with my fellow customer support people came in the two-part workshop on Day 2: Customer journey mapping. This workshop, led by Zendesk’s Peter Neels, gave us a great look into what we can do, as companies, to make a customer experience frictionless on the side of the customer. The purpose of mapping customer journeys is to find those important “moments of truth”, the times where a customer needs to take extra steps to get their needs met.

In this workshop, we collaborated with other Relate Live NYC attendees to complete the entire journey mapping process. We engaged one another in discussion of how to make a theoretical customer’s “life cycle” effortless.

One of the most ubiquitous ways to accomplish this was to keep the interactions to the channel of the customer’s preference. Have customers asking for help or complaining to you on Facebook? Send them a private message or respond to their post directly to minimize channel switching and reduce the amount of work they need to do to get their problem resolved. Something so simple can make a big impact and increase loyalty over time.

It’s been a little over a month since I returned home and to the office from Relate Live NYC, but the takeaways and new ideas are still coming to fruition. Actively connecting to and nourishing our customers is important to us, and as a team we work every day towards making their lives easier. Part of these changes involve putting in a lot of work between answering the phone, responding to emails, and customer chats, to get systems in place to allow us to track customer satisfaction with high accuracy. We will be actively monitoring the health of our customers in real time by collecting a CSAT score.

Another goal we hope to reach is a measure of customer effort. Getting back to the whole idea of eliminating friction, collecting a net effort score (NES) can help support teams identify where they can reduce the amount of customer effort expended, whether it is in the interactions with the support teams themselves or issues embedded in the product.

Mikkel Svane, Zendesk CEO, on the importance of making your product convenient for your customer

Mikkel Svane, Zendesk CEO, on the importance of making your product convenient for your customer[/caption]Connecting with my peers was valuable and inspirational in so many ways. In a breakout session featuring Greg Collins (Zendesk), Jennifer Grim (UncommonGoods), Micaela McDonald (Pinterest), Stephanie Dorman (Mediaocean), and Toby Shannon (Shopify) in a panel discussion titled Shiny, Happy People, there was an old story told that really struck a chord with me. I’ll share it:A boy walking down the streets comes across two men laying brick. He says, “Hey there, what are you doing?”

One of the men turns around and retorts, “What does it look like I’m doing, kid? I’m laying brick!”

The other man smiles at the boy and replies grandly, “We’re building a cathedral.”I hadn’t heard this since I was much younger, but it was a rejuvenating reminder that the most magnificent of projects is still built one step at a time.

It was incredible to learn so much from so many talented, passionate people at Relate. Until next time, I’ll be keeping it real by following what the fine people over at Zendesk have to say online.

Obligatory conference selfie

Obligatory conference selfie.

Did you attend this year’s Relate Live NYC? Share your experiences below.

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