Escalation Models w/ Phil Davitt
Speaker 1: Welcome to the Gain Grow Retain podcast.
Jeff: Awesome. Well, welcome back to another episode of Gain Grow Retain. Today, I've got Phil Davitt from Condeco Software, and he's the global director of PMO. So Phil, appreciate you hopping on today. Good to connect.
Phil Davitt: It's great to be here, and thanks for the practice on the pronunciations there.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. You know, I'm going to work on that over... I mean, becoming a podcast host, I'm really going to have to work on my pronunciations. But I always like to start off maybe with a fun question. I'm curious, who's your favorite football team in the world right now?
Phil Davitt: Ah, well, see, I used to say," Oh, I don't have time for football." Now, what I say is," It's never been a priority." Now, I grew up in a household where actually my dad was a very big Liverpool fan, my mum was a very big Everton fan. And I don't know if you know much about football, but that's a big no- no. Those two things don't go together very well. So yeah, I always steered away from football because I couldn't pick a side.
Jeff: I like that. I'm your typical American, so I'm a Manchester United fan. I've been since I was very young. I played soccer growing up, and somehow I was on a team that was called United and then it's somehow stuck, and now, years later, I still watch soccer. My best friend's a Chelsea fan, so we like to have a good time around it and do that. So it's been fun.
Phil Davitt: You did well to call it football, not soccer.
Jeff: Hey. Yeah. I've learned over the years. I've had a lot of practice. Well, Phil, I think the big thing that we wanted to do on these episodes is really just highlight kind of key tools and templates that our leaders are building in the customer success world, and you were one of the first ones to raise your hand, so I wanted to get you on here. And I think the thing we're going to talk about today is this idea just around escalation paths and thinking about a model that you can build. And it sounds like the way you've gone about this is not only thinking about the technology inaudible kind of the right ways that we're going to create some of these kind of feedback loops or mechanisms, but also, you know, are we enabling our frontline teams to identify when there might be an escalation, and what is the right pathing for them? And then also, how do we make sure that they've got the right talking points? And so it sounds very, very big in terms of all the thoughts that you've had to go through, but what's really maybe the impetus for you putting together this idea around kind of an escalation model for your team?
Phil Davitt: Well, so I'm fairly new, I've been with Condeco since September. I joined along with a chief customer officer who I've worked with previously in another role. And we had experienced there, in that other role and company, quite a robust escalation process. We were providing at the time real- time communication tools, which means, if anything is going wrong, even for a fraction of a second, you hear about it very, very quickly. So we had to have a very strong process in place. And joining Condeco, one of the things we noticed was that there wasn't actually a process here, and that's primarily because there wasn't particularly a massive need for it. We were able to deal with the escalations, if any came up, within the kind of local regions and the local areas. So individuals could manage those relationships. But we're preparing to scale up the company and that model of individuals kind of managing that doesn't scale. So we looked actually, rather than specifically just starting with the escalation matrix, it was part of a bigger piece where we were talking about a voice of the customer program, where we wanted to start at the very beginning with customer SAT and kind of getting a bit of feedback from customers on individual interactions. We wanted to end up kind of rolling out a full NPS, but before we got there, we needed to make sure that we had ownership of issues that might come up. So our middle step is to kind of put into place that program that says," If we are getting feedback, either directly to the CSMs or the project managers, or through either CSAT or eventually through NPS, we've got that model in place to handle it correctly." You're right when you say we looked at various different things. So I'm a techie guy and we work within the Salesforce platform, so my immediate reaction is," Great. I can build a Salesforce process for this. I can create an object which will connect and there'll be approvals and you can assign tasks. It's going to be amazing." At the same time, our CCO went out and he said," Well, we're going to need exec sponsorship from every single department in the company." So he's going out and he's aligning all the right execs and getting the people kind of named that are going to be responsible for different things within this process. And then we kind of came up with the fact that we were missing almost the front line support, which is giving a bit of guidance to CSMs, project managers, onboarding managers, even the regional directors, that says," If a customer is coming to you with an escalation, what do you actually do with it?" Rather than just creating a record inside of Salesforce, which according to the process, that's where you start; of course, it's not where you really start. You're starting with the conversation with the customer. So we decided that we needed to put something together, looked around, didn't see anything particularly that covered it. As you and I were talking about a little bit earlier on, sometimes there's a lack of models out there and you can start with a blank piece of paper. We put together this four stage model, and yeah, happy to share it out.
Jeff: Awesome. Yeah. I think, like you had mentioned too, the part that I love, as you were talking, that seems to be at the forefront of your mind too, is also thinking about, you know, again, I think from the PMO perspective of what you're doing is," We need to make sure we've got all the parties aligned, we need to make sure to treat this as a program." And when I think of a program, that's complete with kind of people, process and technology. It's not only one of those things that comes along, it's," Hey, we need to be considerate of all of these things in order for this to really become something that is constructive inside the organization, that's really going to drive change." Because I think some people just treat things like," Hey, we're just going to send out an NPS survey," but like you said, this is part of a larger program that needs to be in place, and rolling out an NPS and kind of doing hand to hand combat for maybe those detractors is kind of the easy thing, right? You can just roll it out and do it, but at the same time, that's not really the most effective if we're going to start scaling these things over time. And so I'm curious, as you've gone through this process, especially when you think about maybe the people involved, the people side of things involved, at least, I guess what's maybe been your approach to try and make sure that people are kind of seeing the bigger picture in aligning this to really objectives maybe that are on their plate? I think sometimes the hard part when you start working in organizations is that each team that you're working with... I mean, fundamentally, we all have the same goal. We need to retain customers and drive revenue. But that kind of breaks down in so many different ways. We've all got kind of day- to- day work that has to get done. So I'm curious, have you been able to find that approach where you're kind of approaching other teams and saying," Hey, this program we're putting together really is going to benefit you?" And how have you kind of gone about that conversation?
Phil Davitt: So you're right in that, you know, if we just rolled out an NPS survey straight away, it'd be easy to get the survey out there. That's the technology. It's out there. And actually, there was a lot of kind of pressure inaudible across the business to say," Great, we want to start doing NPS service. Can we start doing it?" But as probably a lot of people find when you start talking about that immediately, it's seen as a customer success problem, right? The NPS survey and the results are a customer success problem. And of course, those of us in customer success know that's not the case, because sure, some customers will come back and say," I was unhappy with the way my project was delivered," or," I was unhappy with my CSN," but also they're going to come back and say," I'm unhappy with X part of the product,", or," I'm unhappy with inaudible build," or whatever it might be. So it's absolutely vital before we start putting that out there that we've got that support from other areas of the business. That was where having a chief customer officer was absolutely vital, because it means that we have a seat at that top table. We have somebody that has got the ear of the CEO and the support that says," Yeah, we're absolutely going to want the whole exec team to kind of have that sponsorship." So whilst you've got kind of me and the other directors talking to our peers in that exec layer, also the senior execs and the C- Suites are having the same conversations. They're aligning on the same points and saying," If we're going to do this NPS, which everybody wants to do, there are things that we're going to have to do beforehand."
Jeff: Yeah. I was just taking a note down of what you were saying too, trying to think of my next question, so sorry about that. But the other thing that I'm curious is, we've kind of talked about the need for you all to kind of... You're setting up a larger program, you need to scale the business. It's the purpose behind what you created. You kind of mentioned earlier, the four steps, that you thought about four stages of what you're rolling out. How did you come to that conclusion? How did you kind of get to those four stages as being the right things to focus on?
Phil Davitt: So the four stages, and I guess just to cover them; you're having that initial conversation with the customer. It could be called receiving the escalation, kind of taking the kicking from the customer, it might be known as; then I've got bringing that actually to a customer board. So a customer escalation board. That's the internal engine for trying to find the resolution, assign owners out; stage four is communication to the customer. Whilst that is being escalated, make sure you're communicating. And then, I mean, I could have kind of left it at that, but actually wanted to make sure we close things down properly and we're giving guidance on," Okay, you think this escalation is done? Wonderful. What does that look like? Who's signing that off? What are we doing about lessons learned?" So I think it's nice that it fits into four stages. I think anything that fits into four stages is great. It could have been three, could end up being five in the future, but those felt quite natural. So you receive the escalation from the customer, you go internally to deal with it, you feed back to them what you're doing, and you kind of loop between those second two. So you go back to the customer, tell them what you're doing, and you keep doing it internally until you're finished. So you loop around that section. And then when you're finished and you think that you're completed, you still have to go through some steps to close it down.
Jeff: Yeah. And so when you thought about these four stages and kind of this model that you're rolling out, it sounds like obviously technology is a big part of this as well, right? What can we...? I don't want to say automate, but what can we get into a repeatable process that's inside of technology versus what's human led? So how did you try and differentiate those things within the program as you went about it?
Phil Davitt: So actually, interestingly enough, the program here is far more human led than I even initially envisioned it. As I mentioned, I love the idea," I'll go to Salesforce, I'll build this very cool thing, it will automate all these requests out," but actually, the inaudible of an escalation, it is a very human thing. As a CSM or as a customer leader, you've got to come in and explain to the people in the business, actually the pain and frustration that that customer is feeling. So in a lot of cases, I think back to a previous role I was in, you know, we would have maybe some issues with billing. As a business, we knew that we had some issues with billing and it was difficult to get the right numbers out the door. Coming back week after week with customer stories, not just they're really unhappy because the bill was wrong, but actually being able to demonstrate the bill was wrong and that meant that they couldn't make a payment that they wanted to, that just puts everybody out. We're chasing them in one department for the bill, they're speaking to another one in a department because it's wrong, somewhere else, we've got a delivery team that's being told to pull back. And whilst, yeah, we can use Salesforce as a platform to bring all of those things together, that single view of the customer, actually bringing all the people into the room to have that conversation as a group and make a decision that says," Okay, right, you please stop chasing for that payment, you please carry on with that delivery, and over here in the billing department, can we focus on trying to get something resolved?" So as an overall process, actually, you're not particularly dependent on the technology. You can do this with an Excel file, or sometimes, as I enjoy, a room with a whiteboard and lots of post- it notes kind of would be enough, as long as you've got the process around it and the buy- in and the ownership from everybody at senior level that's going to own it.
Jeff: Yeah. I think it's such a great point that sometimes... I mean, I think the natural inclination is for people to start thinking about," How do I put this into a tool?" I think that's sometimes step one, when really, it should be after, like a validation phase, right? You really should be, to your point, developing the entire model, the program, the process, and then trying to go back and figure out," Where does the right technology layer in, and then how do all of these technologies work with one another so that it becomes something that can be repeatable, it doesn't have to be duct- taped over time?" Right? I think, again, when you start really digging into some of these things, oftentimes you join a business or you've just been in the business so long that you've had to adapt things and change it, that now, all of a sudden, you're like," Man, this is all duct taped together. This really isn't as repeatable as we thought. And you know what? We keep changing it so much that now we don't even know what's firing from what system and when it's firing." And so I appreciate that approach too, where it's like," Hey, as long as we can get the people to agree and at least start following a process, then we've got kind of half the battle, or even three quarters of the battle, done because we've got somebody to do something that is repeatable, that we know has consistency and that can drive value." And then the last part is figuring out," Okay, how do we really optimize and alleviate some of maybe the more mundane pieces of that entire process so that we can then say,'Hey, this is optimized. We're ready to scale. We can really turn the fire hose on, so to speak.'" So, yeah, I think that's a big kudos.
Phil Davitt: So we recently rolled out Typeform as our surveying tool, and actually connected it into Salesforce. One of the first, I think, instances of properly connecting Typeform to Salesforce. And so as I've done that from a technical bit, and I'm quite pleased with it, I'm thinking to myself," Great. How can I use that in this process? Wonderful. I could send out a survey to a customer to say,'Hey, here's where your escalation's at. Would you like to give us some feedback, and we can push that in?'" But it's designing a technical solution to... You're almost finding a problem for that technical solution. And do you know what? Do customers want to receive a survey to kind of feed back how they've escalated? No, they want to have a conversation with who owns it that's telling them exactly what's going on. So whilst it's very exciting, especially for me, to look at a technology and say," Here's how we're going to use it," starting with that human first and saying," Okay, it's two people having a conversation," build the process around that, and then yeah, look at the automation to kind of help with the mundane steps and the management of it rather than replacing people out of it.
Jeff: Yeah. Man, that is such a good point. I love that. So as you go forward... We kind of talked about the setup. You needed this model in place; you're really rolling out a larger program, especially around voice of customer; this escalation path is really going to help you, you know, between your CSAT and kind of rolling out NPS, this is really a way for your customers to make sure that they have a voice, that your front- facing teams, whoever's customer facing, you feel like they're enabled, right? They've got Talk Tracks and ways that they can really engage with their customers. And so, what's kind of the next step for you all in this process? Is it to let it run its course a little bit and start to see," Hey, what's working? What's not?", and then kind of optimize over time? Or how are you thinking about the next stage of when you're releasing this?
Phil Davitt: So the top part of the model talks about... I think it's a Benjamin Franklin quote about," An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure," which is, beat the escalation. Don't have the escalation in the first place. And many years ago, I was in a room with the guy that's now our chief customer officer, and we came up with that kind of phrase of," Beat the escalation." Very nearly got it put on t- shirts to start handing it around to our support team and customer success team, to say," Yeah, if you start hearing those noises, which you know are going to drive you to an escalation eventually, if you start seeing those behaviors that you think are going to drive you to an escalation, it might be that we've got the billing wrong once or twice, it might be that the system's had an outage that's actually impacted that customer, don't wait for that escalation." And so, once we've started running the system and running the whole process, and again, that's one of the reasons why having a system like Salesforce does help, because now you can start collating that data of," Okay, what were the underlying causes?" Not just the customer said it was this, but what was the underlying cause? What was the impact? So one of the stages on this is to find out from the customer, you know, it's not just they're unhappy because of an outage. Nobody's just unhappy that it wasn't working, they're unhappy because it wasn't working and that had an impact on them. So what was that impact for them? So we start collecting together all of that data. And the idea is to start using that and arming our teams with a bit more proactive behaviors that say," When you start seeing X, Y, Z, make a proactive reach out. Free up a little bit more time in your calendar to be available for this customer if they start saying these sorts of things. If you suddenly see an account data do this, here's maybe the next thing." So the idea would be to kind of create some more playbooks off it, slightly smaller things that just have a bit more of a," If this, then that" type of attitude.
Jeff: Yeah. Yeah. Again, I think the entire piece that you've wrapped around this is that human element of making sure... I mean, I think, at the end of the day, it's two businesses that have made a transaction and that's why we're here, right? We're in the B2B SaaS world. But when you start thinking of," Who is at the end of the line?", it's a human. It's not an automation, it's not an email that's going to solve the problem. It's a," Hey, this customer has a problem." They just want to talk to somebody who is, like you said, who's accountable for the solution, and saying," Hey, where does this stand? What's happening? How can you give me an update?" That's reassuring, right? When you start to over- communicate and start to really look at this as a relationship and a human driven business. Because again, I think sometimes people get that confused, right? They kind of think," Hey, it's just two businesses interacting and engaging with one another. Is it really that big of a deal?" And at the end of the day, we all have somebody that we have to report to, so to speak, and so, this does matter to somebody.
Phil Davitt: Yeah. So my background is contact centers. And for the last 10, 15 years in contact centers, there's been so much talk about AI and whether AI ends up replacing people sitting in contact centers having conversations. That kind of removal of the human from the interaction. And there's a lot of fear about that. But the general principle is, you're going to remove the human from the interaction for those mundane repeatable interactions. I need to call up and pay my bill; I shouldn't have to speak to a person. I want to call up and change up a mobile tariff or cell phone tariff; I shouldn't have to speak to a person. Those things should be automated. I want to check a parcel and what's going on with it. Now, if I've got a problem, then it has to be easy for me to speak to a person. And if I've got a problem, if I've got an escalation, let's say I've been tracking my parcel online, great, the AI box can tell me where my parcel is, but if I'm unhappy and it's not being delivered on time, I then don't want to try and deal with that escalation through an AI bot. That's where the line has to be drawn, in that, if things are working wonderfully and I'm doing easy, simple, repeatable tasks, great, use your technology and automation to give me a very, very simple experience. And a lot of people want that these days, to kind of use an app, use a inaudible online or whatever it might be. But as soon as it becomes an issue, and obviously the escalation process is exactly that, you need to come full circle and right back to saying," This is where we use our savings. 50% of our calls are now being done by a bot. Wonderful." Keep the staffing the same, but you now have twice as long to spend on the phone with those customers who have got an issue. You've got twice as long to spend empathizing and understanding the impacts.
Jeff: Oh, man, that is... I could sit here and talk for hours about this, because what you just said though is... I think in the customer success world, you hear people say," Hey, that's part of our tech touch segment", or," That's part of our automation," and I've always had a very hard time describing why there is a fine line of what that means, and I think you just hit home for me. And I'm going to try and expand on that now and try to think about how I write about this better. But I think to your point, really, across all of your customers, at the end of the day, what we're trying to do is maximize as much human to human contact as we can while minimizing as much of the administrative things that we can with the tools and technology that we have. So when people say things like," Hey, we have a tech touch segment,", or," We're trying to do one- to- many," really what that means is," We're trying to maximize our human to human interactions, and we're trying to minimize the administration that it takes to do those." And that's where I think people are getting confused with some of these programs and these words, is that some people start thinking, on the exact point you just gave," Oh, I can automate the entire customer journey." And that's just never going to work. I will a hundred percent agree with that. In no business would that work, right? At some point, I'm going to get angry or I'm going to have some reaction that I want to talk to a human, and you just can't protect against that. And so I think, at the end of the day, though, that the ability to maximize the human to human interaction is like the key phrase that just kind of struck home with me. So, man, I can talk about this for hours with you. This is cool.
Phil Davitt: A great example of that is, a lot of the banks, which are maybe going a little bit too far that way, and they're kind of saying," Great, we have our premises, you can come in and you can use the systems, but only if you have one of our higher accounts. If you've got one of our lower accounts, you have to use the banking app." You say," Well, actually, either way, I should be able to use the banking app. But if I need help, I should be able to go to the teller and ask them for help." And they're going to say," Well, no, unfortunately, the tellers are reserved only for the customers that pay for their accounts." That's the wrong way to go about it. Make it so easy that even your paying customers can use the mobile app, can use the self- service and all of that, and so then your humans are saved for when people actually need it, regardless of whether they are your higher paying customers or your lower paying customers.
Jeff: Yeah. Man. I love this. Well, Phil, I appreciate you hopping on and kind of talking about this escalation model you're building. Like I said, we're trying to build out our kind of resource library on Gain Grow Retain, so we're going to stick this resource that you built and throw it up there, and make sure that we can give you credit and make sure that you can get some folks looking at that and hopefully providing some good feedback, or even just asking questions and trying to use it themselves. But if people want to find more of you, are you on Twitter, LinkedIn? Where can folks find and engage with you?
Phil Davitt: So LinkedIn is going to be the best place. So Phil Davitt on LinkedIn. I've also got phildavitt.com, where I keep a couple of these models and try every now and then to do some blogging. But yeah, the best place to find me and kind of share content is on LinkedIn. I'm trying to get as much engagement with different people across the CS community on LinkedIn as possible, because I've been doing that for about the last year and I've found so much great content, conversations; everything from one- to- one conversations with CSMs and other leaders, through to just seeing the newsletters and the infographics that are coming out on a regular basis. And for me, that's transforming kind of how I see CS and how I want to manage my teams. So we'd love to connect with other people on there and keep growing with the CS community there.
Jeff: Awesome. Well, appreciate the time today. And I think you've already solidified, we're going to do this again at some point, and we'll probably have something else to talk about here soon. But appreciate the insight. We'll chat with you here again another time.
Phil Davitt: Wonderful. Thanks for the time, Jeff.
Jeff: Hey, guys. Thanks so much for taking the time to listen to the Gain Grow Retain podcast. If you liked what you heard, please take a moment and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues, and subscribe. We really appreciate it. Talk to you soon.
This week, Phil Davitt of Condeco Software joins us to discuss escalation models and developing a system with the right talking points.
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