Ethan Pick, Vice President of Customer Service at Lumen joins us in this episode of Support Ops Simplified to discuss call centre operations.
Sid: Recording is on. Welcome everyone to another episode of Support Operations Simplified. We have item Eitan Pick with us here today, who was the VP of customer service at Lumen and has, I want to say a couple of decades of experience under his belt when it comes to working in and running technical support teams all over the world. He’s based in Israel right now. Welcome, Eitan.
Eitan: Hi, Sid. Thanks and thanks for inviting me.
Sid: It’s great to have you on the show. Can you introduce yourself? I know you’re at Lumen now but you have a rich history of working in customer service in a number of companies. Maybe you can walk us through that a little bit?
Eitan: Yes, sure. I would be happy to do that. My name is Eitan Pick. I’ve been in the support world, I would call it, because it is a whole rich world for exactly 20 years now. I started my support career in ISPs back in the end of the ’90s, beginning of 2000, where there were still modems doing these funny noises. We went a long way since then, I’ve been working in various companies and ISPs in various roles as a support engineer, Tier 3 engineer that was introduced back in the middle of the 2003 or 2004 customer services roles.
From there I actually started going into various managerial positions, managing global groups in various companies like LivePerson, Trusteer more in the security B2B, financial area that was then acquired by IBM, and then we were actually part of the IBM Security Team. From there, I continued to Taboola. That is in the content and personalized content area, then to Namogoo, and currently now in a company called Lumen.
A very cool startup that is starting to be very, very successful around the world, basically, in the B2C area, where we have actually it’s a combination of hardware, software and science. It’s a device that you inhale and exhale into it and it reads your CO2 and based on that gives nutrition recommendations on daily basis that are very personalized to each person.
Sid: That’s awesome.
Eitan: This is basically a little bit about my background, being as to B2B and to B2C companies and I love everything about it.
Sid: Yes, it sounds like a really rich journey, covers a little bit of everything like you said with the support world. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m personally very happy when you mentioned those modems, that don’t make those sounds anymore. The fact that when I get a call, I don’t get disconnected from the internet, because it used to be a big issue back in the day too, right?
Eitan: Exactly, exactly.
Sid: Tell us a little bit about Lumen you mentioned it’s a breathalyzer almost for your metabolism. That’s pretty cool. How many customers do you have? What are you doing with it? What are your customers calling in about?
Eitan: Yes it is, and we’re in a fascinating journey currently. We started actually five and a half years ago, and we were in the research and development phase for almost four and a half years. Then we actually started though we did a campaign in Indiegogo and there we were very successful and actually over 12,000 backers purchased the device and now we are also continuing to send the device worldwide.
The fascinating thing about it is that elite sport people or anybody that wanted to know about their metabolism more could go to private clinics or to hospitals and do this few hour test of their metabolism and RQ RMR test. Actually, what we’re doing is we’re bringing this device into every consumer, every house in the world with a small device that every morning, basically inhale and exhale into it.
It reads your CO2 as I mentioned before, and based on that it knows if your metabolism and if your body is burning more fuel on carbs or fat, and by that we actually give you the recommendations of the nutrition for that day and every day. People actually see results of better and healthy metabolism or flexible metabolism and of course, also weight loss. That is only one of the goals that we provide our customers.
Sid: That is really cool. The cool part about this as I’m thinking through this is fascinating device. Even more fascinating when it comes to customer support of a device like this. How big is your team? What kind of day to day operations are you guys running around this product?
Eitan: It’s really interesting because we started actually sending the devices a few months ago. This is a pretty new team. We are now four people on the team. Me leading the team and we are expected to have a huge growth in the next few months so we’re going to double and triple our team and have more presence more globally around the world. We are actually dealing here with a variety of questions, issues, everything you can think about in the customer services world.
From pre-sale questions before a person thinks if to purchase the device, to delivery questions, to VAT or custom questions. From there to the post-sale to actually after they pair the device with their mobile app for the first time and start actually doing their- we call it calibration, the device starting to know your personalized capacity of lungs and your metabolism. Then we have a huge variety of questions and things that can come from customers including hardware, software, and a lot of science and nutrition questions.
We have a very interesting team consisting of a combination, I would say a hybrid between the pre-sale world, the post-sale, customer success, and also deep understanding of technical support, including also hardware aspects of it. Very interesting and fascinating. We deal with a lot of things. You can have an engineer find himself one-minute answering nutrition questions and then the other minute going into databases, querying the databases, and going into doing code analysis on a very deep technical level.
Sid: That is really interesting. What’s even more interesting item is the fact that given your size and the fact that you’re launched in the market now. It almost feels like you have a lot of leeway in how you want to build up the support organization, and with someone who’s gone through the industry experience of running various teams across various businesses, I guess my question is more along, what is your ideal state for this environment? What are some of the things you’re doing right now, to build this customer service and support department into a way you want to see it mold into the future?
Eitan: I think that’s a great question. There’s a few aspects of this. The first aspect is, of course, looking at all our systems and how we prepare ourselves to scale. That’s one aspect that I’ll talk about. Then the other aspect is actually the teams and the structure of the teams. First of all, I’ll start with the systems. From my previous roles in various companies, as we have also a web solution and in-app solution for our customers.
What we have is a combination between Salesforce as our CRM system that we actually implemented not long ago, to have a full 360 view of a customer, from the minute they purchase the device until all the stages of the life cycle, until the post-sale. From the device ID, for example, until there’re maneuvers within the device and what they’re doing there. Then basically other previous cases, from the other hand, we have the world of chat and messaging.
That is, a lot of organizations are going out from the traditional email, offline support into really more dynamic chats/messaging environment. We’re using also a platform, currently, it’s Intercom that have an integration between Salesforce and Intercom.
Eitan: We can have the customers come with various channels to us if it’s through the app and come and chat with us. If it’s through the website, if it’s through just sending us an email, we want to be here for the customer in any way that is convenient for them to contact us. This is one aspect of the system. Of course, we have a lot of various integrations with other systems.
If it’s GOA for bugs and if it’s other mechanisms there but just for the customer to have a really perfect and outstanding experience with us and with the Lumen experts that will help them when they come and ask questions. That’s from the system perspective. From the building the teams, I used to have various teams located in also geographically and there’s always the consideration if you want to build a team of centralized location team that provides 24/7 support or do you want to follow the sun model? Where you put basically in three time zones, three main time zones, people.
This is also some of the challenges that I’m looking forward as we grow very fast to see what will be more suitable for us. If it’s more putting people on the ground in the US, for example, as a lot of our customers are US-based and if to do a 24/7 organization. From the other hand, there is always the question of, that I’m sure a lot of our support managers they tackle them and have these debates as they grow, if to separate the teams and have a more Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, structure within the team.
Sid: Like an escalation model, yes?
Eitan: Exactly, an escalation model. Or is it more right to do it through business model of B2C and then B2B. A lot of these questions that I’m now actually tackling now having a lot of fun doing that. Very shortly we’re going to get more to what is more suitable to our product fit and for our customers and basically do this plan in the next Q1 2020 will be a very interesting and enriching quarter next year.
Sid: Interesting. That is really interesting. In fact, we were speaking in our last show to Ryan Steinberg from Intercom and he was explaining some of the similar challenges as well in terms of scaling a support organization and baking customer experience into it right from the get-go. Customer support is evolving to not just being a break-fix solution like you mentioned but more of being able to tell what the customer’s journey has been right from the get-go till when they call you.
One of the things he was suggesting was this book called The Effortless Experience which gave him a lot of insight into how you would go about building something like this. It’s been a couple of times people on our show have mentioned that so I thought I would throw that out there. Also, as you build this out and as you have customer experience at such a core part what are some of the metrics that you’re tracking that speak directly to that?
Eitan: First of all really I fully agree with you, things are evolving and changing in the support organizations worldwide as we grow and as things change in the world. Really the thing of going out of just a great fix into more and from the reactive side of things more to proactive. This is I think really is the emphasize and we’re doing a lot of things here also from on the practice side but specifically on your question I think it’s a combination from a lot of things that at the end of the day provide customers satisfaction.
I’m a KPI person. I love KPIs, love SLAs, but as the years go and I get more and more experience you see things a little differently. If ten years ago I would just look at things like TTR, Time To Resolution, TTFR, Time To First Response, et cetera, et cetera. Today I think it’s a combination of all of them together. Some of the metrics that I look is, of course, the volumes, the open versus closed pay staff per month, per week and that way you know what’s your backlog and your hiring model plan is based on that.
TTFR really as I said Time To First Response, the Time To Resolution follow up. The follow up between the interactions with every customer. So, if a case is open for four days it’s not important only to react fast to that case or to close it fast but it’s also how fast and how professional you had the engagement within these two or three days or 30 minutes depends on the issue or the question and then you have more metrics that I measure like we open the percentage of re-opens.
If you have a high percentage of re-opened cases it means that maybe you’re doing something wrong and you didn’t resolve the customer issue. A number of issues that are escalated too are within percentage, that you know the maturity of your product, you know if you’re in the right direction, and as the product becomes more mature you would see this percentage going down and decreasing.
Looking at all these metrics together with, of course, the service catalog and categorizing all the types of issues and questions that you get and analyzing them and of course, one of the most important metrics is the CSAT, the customer satisfaction, where we send after each conversation we have with a customer to see if they were satisfied both from the professionalism of the support experts, if the issue was resolved fast, and of course, about the product itself.
Sid: How has your experience been with the responses to the CSATs? I know some of the companies struggle with getting response rates on those has that been an issue for you as you’ve experienced the growth?
Eitan: Yes, definitely. I think that it’s always challenging. Always you look at the return rates there. I think that in the B2C world I think the benchmark is a little higher for example of return rate that are within the B2B world, but also in the B2C if you get to a 25%, 30% return rate that’s good. You know that not every customer will react on every ticket case or conversation that if they had with you, but it does give you some overall holistic view of what your customers are experiencing and how you’re doing and by that to basically improve as you go and try to have as much more contact with the customers when you get this data.
Said: Absolutely, yes. One of the other things that has come up quite a bit in our conversations specifically in the B2C space is sometimes the CSATs they’re two-pronged and you mention this too where they’re not just talking about the quality of service, but also maybe about the quality of a feature or the quality of the product. How are you guys distinguishing or what thoughts do you have? What have you seen in the past where you distinguish between one aspect and the other and use that feedback you’re getting about the product to feed it into the organization?
Eitan: I think it’s really a combination of efforts here when you look at the satisfaction of our customers. From one hand you have the day to day satisfaction surveys I would call it. Where they get a few questions three or four or five questions depending on your product and company and one of them is really related to the actual product but there I think it will be more challenging to get there. The way that they appreciate or not appreciate the actual product or certain features there. I think that’s only one aspect. Then there’s the NPS that also helps more for services and product perspective.
One of the things that I actually started to do, we started as a company to do now, and that’s really interesting, is to actually ask the customer a question of, “How disappointed would you be if you wouldn’t have the product?” “If you wouldn’t have Lumen how disappointed?” When you look at the three answers is, highly disappointed, somewhat disappointed, or not disappointed.
I think that if looking at what you strive and what you would want to see is more people being on, of course, under very disappointed if they didn’t have the product and if you get there to a high percentage then you know you’re in the right track. I think the combination between NPS and customer service satisfaction that are on ongoing bases on every conversation gives you some kind of view to understand the customer and where they’re happy and where they need some more guidance or if they want to see other features being added to the product.
Said: Nice. That actually is a very interesting way of going about collecting that NPS. You’re basically using it as a gauge to say, “There’s always going to be, presumably, some issues with the product or the experience. Are they big enough for you to actually be a deterrent in not using the product?” Did I get that right?
Eitan: Yes, exactly because at the end of the day, a person would be happy or not happy about a certain issue they had. They still can get a very high value from the product. They can say, “This product is good in this sense and I would want to add that in it from the other hand,” but at the end of the day, if you ask somebody, “How disappointed will you be if you will not have the product,” and he says, “Highly disappointed,” you know that this customer is a happy customer.
You know that this customer gets value from your product, and he’s happy using it and he would be very unhappy if he wouldn’t have the product now. That gives you the confidence that you’re on the right track with the customers.
Sid: That is really cool. I really like that idea. I think that resonates really well in the B2C space. In fact, even in the enterprise space, I would say, because a lot of times in the enterprise space, what we end up seeing is that the users, when they provide the feedback, that voice is lost in the whole support channel. This really helps to bubble to the top. That’s really cool.
What is the one thing that you see as a big challenge other than scale, but in terms of being able to either drive culture or some of these processes, as you guys grow? You mentioned a couple of options and where you have to follow the sun model or perhaps adding additional headcount in a certain space. What are some of the challenges that you’re seeing coming up that are keeping you up at night?
Eitan: First of all, as a support manager, everything keeps me up at night 🙂
Sid: You’ve been trained not to sleep at night, right?
Eitan: Exactly this is my life for the last– I don’t know how many years, getting up at 2:00 AM with a critical customer issue is something very familiar to me and I’m sure also to you.
Eitan: When I’m looking at the challenges and coming from also companies that did a very, very large scale-up in a very short time, and this is exactly what will happen now also here at Lumen is, how do you scale fast, but still maintain very high satisfaction, professionalism, and knowledge transfer? Why do I say knowledge transfer? Because once you decide for the first time to put your customer services teams in a remote location and it doesn’t matter where it is.
You have to do it in a very– I would say careful and process-oriented way because at the beginning, everybody sits together in a small startup with a product and R&D teams. There’s a very close relationship there. Once you start scaling up, you need to make sure that even if you have a remote team located, for example, in the US or in Europe or in Asia, you need to make sure that these guys have everything they need. They’re able to help the customers.
It’s a lot about knowledge transfer, doing it right. To them understanding the culture also in that area of the world. That was at least looking at also the previous company I worked there that was always something challenging. A lot of fun doing that and seeing also the fruitful results afterwards, when you see it up and running and actually working well.
Sid: Absolutely. I can tell you speak from a lot of experience. When you point out cloning culture or not having it watered down as part of a scaling-up operation has been one of the top challenges because I think everyone can resonate with that. That’s really interesting. Eitan, who have been some of the people in your career and in your journey who’ve influenced and taught you about the way to look at support in the way that you look at it now, which is very insightful?
Eitan: One of my first managers in support was in the– when I was at LivePerson. He was running [unintellgible 00:24:35] as he was heading up the customer support team. I really learned from him a lot. The way that he looked at things out of the box. Try to improve all the time, the organization, looking at customers in a little different way than the classic technical support, I would say. Very engaged and looking at the customer as the center of the company. I got a lot and until now and since then, things like– Talking about 12, 13 years ago and still now I see a lot of my methods are taken from the advice and the way that he used to do things.
Sid: Very cool. It’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you, Eitan. I can’t believe we’ve come to the end of it so quickly. Thank you again for your time and for sharing such great insights. All the best to you and your team at Lumen. I’m sure you guys are going to crush it.
Eitan: Thank you very much. Again, thanks for inviting me. I enjoyed it a lot.
Sid: All right.