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Ryan Steinberg Podcast Transcript

October 21, 2020
To listen to the full episode, click here

Joe: (00:00)
Welcome to the DNA and experience podcast from cloud app, where we discuss how and why creating an experience is so important and the psychology behind what makes an experience. So great. Thanks for joining us. Hey, everyone, I’m thrilled to have Ryan Steinberg with me. Ryan is the head of global customer support operations at Intercom. Um, and I’m really excited to talk to him. Intercom is doing some really cool things, uh, with a lot of ways to connect with customers and also provides a little bit of automation. So I think Ryan will be able to give us some good insight into how they’re providing an experience for their customers, and also really just how they’re leading kind of a piece of customer experience business. So Ryan, if you wouldn’t mind giving us a little bit of Intel about yourself and talk about Intercom and how you ended up there and what you’re doing over there.

Ryan: (00:58)
Sure. Thanks for having me, Joe. Um, so it’s Joe said work at Intercom. I lead our support operations team, a small but mighty team that handles, uh, you know, our customer support org of around 60, 70 people around the world, uh, supporting our global 30,000 customers. So a lot of complexity there that we might get into, uh, in terms of how I started out, um, joined Intercom about five years ago, started out doing just frontline support. It was a small team then, and then eventually just worked my way up into the operation space and to where I am now. So for those who are not familiar, Intercom is a customer communication platform. Basically one of those little, uh, chat messengers on bottom right hand corner of a site that allows support teams to talk to you, marketing teams, to talk to sales teams, whatever it might be. It’s a two wave way, a two way platform for you and your customers to get to know each other, get in contact with each other.

Joe: (01:56)
That’s awesome. You know, it’s, it’s definitely unique time. Um, there’s lots going on and obviously in the tech space and a lot of other areas, it’s all about customer experience, really finding ways to connect with your customers. So they aren’t churning. So they’re staying with you during, uh, times where they may need to cut back on budgets. What do you think is really the DNA or the root of a good customer experience?

Ryan: (02:24)
Yeah. Um, well, let’s see, uh, probably the, the foundational thing, everything from, you know, your marketing side to your sales team interactions, your support interaction comes with the foundation of respecting their time and respecting them as individuals. And that comes in a bunch of different forms. So specifically thinking about the support side of things, a lot of that is just around setting proper expectations, making sure that people, uh, aren’t basically expecting one thing and getting something completely different. So managing that from the second day, get to your site or the second day right into, I think that’s really important for support teams, but overall it’s, it’s giving people options. It’s giving people the ability to do things the way that they want to do it to a certain, you know, to a certain level that, you know, we can’t have people running wild, then, you know, sales teams need to sell.

So at some point they’re going to step in, but it’s giving people, uh, the ability to self serve. If they want to self serve, it’s giving people the ability to talk to a human and really go deep that way. Um, a lot of it is just about respecting that we’re all individuals that we all are likely not going to be spending our weekends going on SAS sites, trying to buy new products. You know, some people might be sometimes it’s a full time job. Uh, but most people are not really interested in doing that for many hours in the day. So respecting their time in the way that they want to approach that problem.

Joe: (03:48)
So Intercom provides a great way to quickly get questions answered. Self-serve like you mentioned, or connect with the knowledge base that you may have as a company or also, uh, you know, chat with a live person. How, how is inter Intercom using Intercom? We always called it Adobe on Adobe internally when I was there. And we definitely dog food a lot here at cloud app. A what are you guys using Intercom for yourselves and how has that been helpful?

Ryan: (04:19)
Yeah, we call it, I fry. And so there’s some consistency there, um, in terms of how we’re using it, we’re using it across all of our different products. So, uh, obviously our support team is in there pretty much, you know, 95 plus percent of their day. They’re talking to customers almost exclusively through Intercom. Occasionally we’ll hop on a call. Um, but almost all of it is happening through the messenger through Intercom, uh, when it comes to our marketing and sales teams, a lot of that stuff is also happening through Intercom. So our sales team is going to be talking to customers in a mixed between email their own, you know, private work email as well as Intercom and the messenger. So all of our, like top of funnel SDR work goes through Intercom. Um, and then on the marketing side of things, uh, we use a blend between Intercom and Marquetto is probably the other major tool that we use, I’d say, uh, are, you know, proactive kind of outreach campaigns to leads cold or hot is probably going through Marchetto. Uh, but when somebody has an actual customer and they’re in our product and we’re trying to reach out to them about, you know, a world tour event that we are doing and we want to get them tickets, or we released a new product or they just added a new product and they need to figure out how to use that. All of that is happening through Intercom.

Joe: (05:40)
That’s really cool. Yeah. It’s I love, I always love to hear how, uh, you know, businesses, it’s easy. Sometimes it’s easier to sell than it is to use. Um, so I love to hear how people are trying to find ways unique ways to use their product and make it better and really be customer zero.

Ryan: (05:59)
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, we’re always trying to, to basically remove those hacks or move those other products and, and use our own, uh, you know, use Intercom. Uh, but at the end of the day, we’re realistic. We’re adding people who have come from other companies and done really, really well at other companies using tool X, Y, or Z. And they’re going to come in and be like, okay, we can use Intercom and this and get this thing, which is greater than the sum of those parts. Awesome. Yeah. We’re, we’re, we’re we try to be realistic, you know,

Joe: (06:29)
So in a, in a digital age with customer support, uh, now in tools like Intercom, great knowledge bases on customer support tools, uh, Google videos on YouTube, lots of opportunities for people to troubleshoot on their own before they finally get to someone on a, you know, the customer support team. Um, how is, how does Intercom and, and how does your team help support the customer support team? When, you know, you have someone who’s probably spent an hour searching for step ways to not have to contact you, uh, before they actually contact you.

Ryan: (07:10)
Yeah. Uh, so before they actually get to the realization that they do need to contact you, we’re doing a couple of things. So we have that knowledge base, like you spoke about, uh, which is an Intercom product that, you know, we have a team of a couple of people that are curating that and managing that and adding new things and old things. So, uh, it’s, it’s pretty damn UpToDate and pretty good. You can get a lot of information there. Uh we’re we already have a, a community that we, uh, have invested a little bit in, but we are really excited that in the next, uh, what was the day, a couple of weeks, actually, we are going to be launching a bigger community. I actually might be breaking news here. So anybody who’s watching, uh, not sure if I’m supposed to be talking about it, but you know, we’re here.

Uh, so yeah, we’re going to be revamping and relaunching our community, which is launching in a couple of weeks. And it is really, really, really damn good. Uh, the team that, you know, that’s adjacent to my team, but I’m the sales and support operations group that’s been working on. This is top notch in this thing. It looks, it looks really great. It looks just like an extension of our site, which is really, really cool. Um, so that’s before people actually realized that they needed to talk to us, hopefully those two things can knock out a lot of different individuals, but when they do realize that they needed to talk to us, we give them a, a bunch of different platforms by which they can write into us. So on the knowledge base, there’s that message, or there you can write in barely easily there, if you’re just on our site and our app, obviously the Intercom messengers, they’re really easy for them to talk in.

And then from there, conversation comes in and, uh, you know, gets routed accordingly within the support org in terms of what my crew is doing there. I think I’ve answered the question exactly. I have. My crew is doing there. Uh, we have on my team who specifically focuses on automation. So this is everything from, uh, working with the team that is managing our knowledge base to automatically suggest articles out to people based on what they’re writing in, about what URL they’re writing and about as well as, uh, managing the suite of basically like pre-canned answers, uh, tiny little like replies that you can send to people based on a machine learning model, uh, within EUROCOM that looks at the text, looks through other conversations and sends out something that we think might be helpful there.

Joe: (09:24)
That’s awesome. So, so as far as, uh, let’s, let’s look at the journey a little bit and you know, what it, what does it look like if I’m having an issue with Intercom? Um, and I, you know, finally get to someone on the customer support team and you’re able to close the issue. What’s kind of like the followup process, um, to make sure that, you know, they don’t have an issue in the future or everything was, uh, you know, fixed, I guess, um, kind of that extra level of customer experience. What are you guys doing?

Ryan: (09:59)
Yeah. Yeah. So on the micro, just within that conversation level, um, we have a workflow that basically we will, when we get to a point in which we think the conversation is actually resolved, that we’ve answered the customer’s question. We’re not going to just immediately close it out. It creates a little bit of issues with our stats and something that my team has to work on to adapt those and learn from those. But what we’ll do is we’ll basically just snooze that conversation for a day and then another day follow up, uh, throughout that process being like, Hey, I think this conversation think this issue is resolved. Let me know if otherwise I’ll be here. And then at that point, we actually closed the conversation. So we’re giving people opportunities, you know, again, like once you’ve gotten your issue solved with the customer support person, most people aren’t like this, but there’s a, a, you know, a decent chunk of people who are just gonna walk away and not say anything else and like, not give the thumbs up.

Yes. That would tell us that was helpful. It’s like, you know, again, their job is not to talk to customers. More people, their job is to use Intercom to talk to their customers, whatever it might be. So once they’ve gotten their answer, they’re moving on. Uh, so we’re just following up to make sure that, that people are actually getting the answers that they were looking for. Um, on a, on a, on a bigger level, uh, we’re doing like pretty, uh, sophisticated sort of tagging of all of our conversations at which point that information is going all throughout the company. So my team is looking at it. Uh, our product team is looking at our marketing team, the team that’s handling those knowledge base articles is looking at it. This information is spreading throughout the company, uh, taking that voice of the customer, uh, aggregated it up, uh, and sending that out to a bunch of different teams so they can act accordingly.

Joe: (11:43)
Awesome. Yeah, that’s really cool to see, uh, you know, results democratized across different groups and help them really understand so that everyone kind of has that customer feedback loop. Um, one thing we kind of do here at cloud app, that’s kind of fun. Uh, and it definitely interesting is taking a turn at customer support, uh, once a month. And so it really gets us really close to, you know, complaints people might have or struggles people are having. Um, and also like we get really good feedback. That’s actually really valuable for marketing like content. I mean, when people have good things to say, it’s like, Hey, that tagline that you just mentioned is actually really cool. I’m going to use that for some, for some in the future. So that’s really interesting.

Ryan: (12:33)
Yeah. Yeah. I mean, no better way to learn how your customers talk about your product than talking to them.

Joe: (12:40)
So, you know, we’re, we’re streaming live right now. Uh, everyone is using video conferencing tools and maybe fatigued by this point. Um, but how, how can video visuals, uh, screenshots gifts, other things be helpful, both in a knowledge base and also with reps, uh, closing tickets.

Ryan: (13:02)
Yeah, definitely. Um, a bunch of different people on our team. We have like a somewhat central gift repository of our most common kind of questions. So that’s a super efficient way to get that information out, uh, based on whatever the conversation is, a support rep on our support team will create a custom gift annotated, so on and so forth and send that along. So I think it’s a really great way when you’re in that conversation to, uh, you know, give it an extra little, uh, boost of confidence in the answer and boost that, you know, this person’s gonna understand what you’re actually talking about. So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s more effective than just the picture or just words. So, uh, when you have the time to do that, I think it’s, it’s definitely a good thing to do. Um, on the broader sort of like video and visually indicating things, we have a product that actually does this really well, just called product tours, which basically just allows you to send pointer messages and walk people through your product when they either first get to, uh, you know, first start paying you or add a new product a couple of months later, uh, this is a really great way to just walk through a feature set and lead people through the clicks necessary to do whatever it is they might be doing.

So that’s been really helpful for getting customers onboarded onto new products, adding old products, whatever it might be to get them understanding like the motions of how this actually will work in the day to day.

Joe: (14:31)
That’s really great. Yeah. They’re all repeatable tasks. I like that you said that I think it’s, um, helps automate speed up. I’m sure that improves satisfaction, uh, and also just fatigue on the rep, uh, to be able to get through now, everything that’s asked of them to get to zero tickets. Yeah, definitely. What is, you know, this is a kind of the point of the conversation where I flip it on its head a little bit and take you as a consumer. What is the recent experience you had, um, that made you more a loyal customer, uh, take us through kind of that journey and maybe, uh, you know, things you, you learned and things you enjoyed that a brand or a tech tool or whatever, uh, provided for you.

Ryan: (15:18)
Yeah, that’s a good question. Um, the first one that comes to mind is around just the travel industry right now. Uh, obviously there’s a little bit of chaos and in that world right now, but I think that, you know, I, I, with our global support team and, you know, five different offices around the world, I am lucky enough to travel a decent amount with our jobs. So with that, you know, I’m playing the loyalty game with United and Marriott. So I’m very, very much impressed by how they’ve communicated out, how they’re going to be treating their, you know, their customers that spend a lot of time with them throughout the year. Um, in this case specifically, uh, extending the whatever benefits or tier level you’re at this year through next year. Um, I think that’s just like a very simple thing that they did. I’m not going to be traveling for business for the rest of this year and probably for the foreseeable future.

Um, but just thinking about that and the way that they proactively messaged, uh, the people that, you know, spend the most money with them, but most valuable customers to them. I’ve been very happy with that on a, on a smaller scale. I think funny enough, it’s the grocery store down the street from me just like three blocks away that, uh, basically I’ve been, I’ve been going to once a week to get all of our stuff. And when all of this started, you know, when shit started hitting the fan back in, in March and April, um, I was very much impressed by how they, they took their employee safety really, really seriously, but the way that they were actually communicating to that customer to their customers was what impressed me. So they had, you know, the, the, the face shields, the like the glass between the customer where you’re checking out at like the cashier or the person checking it.

You had somebody at the, at the front of the store, basically making sure that every single person that came in was wearing masks. There’s somebody like wiping down all the cards, 24 seven, like all of those little things, they did it from such a early stage of all of this and active with such confidence there to protect their employees and protect their customers at the end of the day, that, that, you know, when that was the playbook that everybody started using a couple of weeks later, it was like, Oh, crap, luckiest, lucky, like old school Lucky’s groceries was the thing that started all this in my mind.

Joe: (17:44)
Yeah. That’s really cool. It’s been really fascinating to see innovation for sure. And, and kind of, especially at that small business level, uh, just trying to figure out how to keep people safe, how to provide a good, uh, good, uh, experience and make sure people come back. And it definitely creates some of that loyalty. I want to, you know, I’m, I’m, I’m sure. Uh, well, I’m, I’m not sure, but maybe your support team is a lot of them is remote or spread across a us or the world. Um, how has it been kind of like onboarding new talent, uh, during, you know, remote work shift, um, what are some tips and tricks that you guys have, uh, for, you know, bringing new people on and interviewing virtually and hiring remotely, um, and just making that, you know, a good experience for your employees.

Ryan: (18:37)
Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good question. Um, so we are lucky enough that what was it probably nine months ago now? Uh, our sales and support operations enablement team, uh, basically took a giant ax to all of our onboarding materials and, uh, let’s call it modernized. It there’s a whole bunch of, you know, video added and gifts and made it a lot more like our knowledge base with ton of self-served materials. So, uh, we actually had a dedicated stream of work. That was, that was last year, basically thinking about when we were adding a bunch of support people, uh, that onboarding all those support people is a really, really expensive task. It takes a lot of your best people, uh, best Tibor people out of the inbox, out of away from talking to customers and has them dedicated to onboarding these new people. So we wanted to basically move the shift from real life one-on-one in person kind of trainings to, uh, the more asynchronous, uh, do it yourself kind of training. So we were lucky in that when everything sort of went fully remote, uh, we were well prepared when it comes to bringing on new employees, uh, in a way that doesn’t rely entirely on those one on one interactions.

Yeah. Um, on the hiring front, I think, you know, just maintaining the same sort of as best we can maintain the same sort of experience, which is, you know, making sure that people have enough breaks throughout the day, making sure people are, uh, sort of taken care of that. They know that, you know, despite the fact that you’re doing it from your living room, maybe with four roommates, uh, that, you know, we still care about the experience that you have, that you have the time to think and process throughout the entire, uh, interview, uh, experience.

Joe: (20:26)
Awesome. I appreciate you kind of diving into that a lot. Um, you know, it’s, it’s definitely unique. I have a couple of interns this summer on my team and I haven’t met them. Uh, everything was done virtually. I definitely relied a lot on referrals for those, a little heavier. I, um, but it was, it’s been definitely interesting and kind of like figuring out how to lead in that situation and, uh, you know, a very junior person, uh, making sure they’re having a good experience.

Ryan: (21:00)
Yeah. On that note, have you, have you realized or recognized that your ability to pick up on all of like the key body language and in person interaction, things that we rely so heavily on in social situations, have you, have you realized that you’ve made progress there since this whole thing started back in March, April?

Joe: (21:20)
It was a great question. I think a little bit, um, I do appreciate, uh, that no, a cloud app, obviously a lot of, you know, most of what we do is, is video based, uh, or visual base. Um, but I feel like you definitely have that added layer of context and tone, which is helpful versus just like an email. Um, so it’s nice to be able to connect with people. It, I do see the future being more of a hybrid, not like fully a hundred percent remote because there is such a value to getting people together and an energy that it’s really fun to do, like a virtual scavenger hunt, like we’ve done on zoom. Um, but you know, we, we had an offsite in January right before, you know, everything came down and we built these bikes for like this service project and we all went skiing together in Utah and it was just, it’s just different. So you can find ways to try and replicate it, but I definitely see it being like a, you know, a new hybrid. Uh, but I do appreciate the skills work. We’re all building.

Ryan: (22:32)
Definitely, definitely. Uh, the thing I miss the most by far is white boarding with people. And because of that, uh, thankfully my girlfriend that this happened, I don’t know how she did, but she let me, uh, put up a whiteboard in our bedroom. So I have a four by three foot whiteboard just right next to where she sleeps that I gotta get real or yeah, yeah, yeah. We’ll see. There’s only three misplaced holes in the wall. So I think I did a pretty good job. Uh, all things considered,

Joe: (23:06)
You know, Ryan, I want to, this has been a great conversation, a lot of fun talking with you, getting your tips and tricks on things going on. I’d love to kind of have you look into your crystal ball and see, you know, what you think the future of experience businesses, or we could talk about the modern workplace, you know, really just where, where do you see things kind of moving on?

Ryan: (23:29)
Yeah. Um, I think, I think the thing that most companies are going to move towards is creating more of that in person kind of interaction that we have online. So what I mean specifically by that, you know, thinking about customer experience is that let’s say you have like a regular that comes into your shop. Um, and you know, let’s say you’re a small grocery shop to, to stay on that example. And they come in and, you know, every single week that they, they go and pick out gala apples, cause then their wife just loves gala apples. Uh, one week, like the gala apples just look like crap or maybe there’s none. So they talked to like the managers, like, Hey, come here every week, get five gal apples for the week. Like what’s going on here. Um, and the manager talks to them and get some information.

: (24:20)
They there’s like, okay, well we’ll, we’ll figure it out next week. And then the next week they come the next week they come in and the same managers there and they know that have the gala apples. And at that point, like the manager walks over. It’s like, Hey, look at these, like these, these look really great. Just like, you know, obviously that’s not a super-low of example, but, um, it’s stuff like that, which is that knowing the context of previous interactions and allowing that to inform how you’re going to service or talk with somebody in that particular interaction that’s about to happen. So on the customer support side of things, like sometimes, you know, we have like every single business has their own sort of like second patient and how they want to cut up their customers, whether it’s by spend some other metric product suite to that determines what kind of customer experience they’re actually going to get, uh, whether it’s, you know, just based on the topic that they’re writing and about, but bringing all those things together, getting a holistic picture of where they’re at, where they’ve been, the experience that they’ve had in the past, and then adjusting, potentially breaking the rule of your, your sort of constant segmentation to account for the fact that maybe the last time they talked to your team, they talked to somebody who, you know, gave them a crap experience.

You need to want to really like show them that you’ve improved this time around, or maybe they’d been with you for five years. And you want to, you know, despite the fact that they’re not paying you all that much, you want to sort of bump them up into the next year of service. It’s knowing the history, knowing the past, uh, knowing where this person has been with respect to your cuts, your company, and the people that work for your company and allowing that to affect what you’re doing today.

Joe: (25:58)
Yeah. I think that was a great analogy. It’s kind of like the, trying to create that one to one experience, um, without being creepy in the digital space. Um, it’s, it’s a fine line for sure to provide that personalized experience. Um, especially when you’re not like talking to someone it’s like, uh, you know, I, I searched for shoes and now I’m getting a display ad everywhere. I look for the same shoes. Right. Can be annoying. Um, it can seem disingenuous, uh, but it’s kind of like [inaudible] of personalization. It’s like finding someone when they’re in the moment of wanting to, uh, engage with your product or purchase your widget or whatever. Um, yeah, I think that’s really, really great. Yeah. On that note, like I think most people consider, you know, if last night I was talking about Cheerios and didn’t look it up on my phone and then today I log into Facebook or Instagram or Google and all I’m seeing are these damn Sherry I was at.

Ryan: (27:03)
I don’t, I don’t really think that people are necessarily blaming Cheerios for that. I’d say most people lean towards like, damn Facebook damn Google, whatever ad network it might be. So thinking about the creepy side of things, like how do you kind of manage the balance between leveraging that information that, you know, one person might be like cloud, I have to say, how did they figure this out? Like that’s still creepy and also like needing to generate leads. Yeah. I mean, I like, I like to take people on a journey. So, um, if, if people read a blog post, they will maybe, you know, we’re, we’re not necessarily spending much right now on advertising, but if you came to our blog, you may get served up an ebook or webinar invitation. So it’s kinda like, um, less so direct, Hey, unless it was like a cloud app, you know, learn how to use cloud app blog, then it’d be different, but it’s the thought leadership blog you’re going to be served a different piece of content, um, to engage with. And then we kind of, you know, take people along a journey, um, with the content versus just like sign up, sign up, sign up, um, for the product, uh, you know, I like to provide people different opportunities. And obviously we look at the data to ensure that, um, those, we kind of, you know, find the right levers for the right, uh, offer depending on how they came in. Um, so that’s kinda how I look at it is more, um, customer journey type stuff. Yeah. Yeah. I guess we’re, we’re sort of lucky in that we’re, we’re bounded by the fact that we’re doing B2B, you know, most of the time like B a C like the whole world is your oyster. Everything can serve an ad. So, uh, or a little bit more restraint there where you’re very true.

Joe: (28:08)
Well, Ryan, thank you so much for your time. Lots of great stuff. Um, I’m a big fan of Intercom. Keep up the good work over there and we’ll talk again soon. Thanks, John. Thanks for having me. Thanks for joining the DNA of an experience podcast. We hope you learn something that will help improve your collaboration and enhance the experience you create for your customer. Join the collaboration 2.0 movement today by getting cloud app, the instant business communication tool use to create instantly shareable videos, screenshots, and GiFs. Perfect. For both internal and external communication. Get started for Thank you. We look forward to seeing you next time.