Training Talks—Why Onboarding is Like Fondue: A Chat with Nate Brown

At Lessonly, we’ve helped hundreds of teams across the globe learn, practice, and Do Better Work. We found that the best teams examine their training efforts through six key phases: Assess, Plan, Build, Learn, Practice, and Perform. That’s why we decided to create Lessonly’s Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training.

In the process of putting together the Better Work Guide, Lessonly’s VP of Marketing, Kyle Lacy also talked with numerous industry experts. We were so blown away with their advice and insights that including them in the guide wasn’t enough. So, we decided to feature each conversation in a new Training Talks blog series. The first post features our chat with Nate Brown, Co-Founder of CX Accelerator. See what he has to say about the challenges facing customer service reps, the importance of understanding the customer journey, and why onboarding is like fondue.

Kyle: From the customer journey standpoint, what’s your view on who needs to understand it, and how important is it for the customer service and call center teams to understand?

Nate: It’s essential that everybody within the organization understands who they are serving. It’s such a primary intrinsic motivator for what we’re doing, And if you lose sight of who it is that you are enabling in terms of that customer experience viewpoint, the work is going to become very shallow and very empty. And it will lead to burn out very quickly. So the more we can inject this idea of the journey and keep that in the forefront of everyone’s minds and make it very personal to them as well, the better the outcome will be.

See more tips from Nate and 15 more industry experts in our new guide. Read the full Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training now!

Kyle: What’s the most important thing to remember when onboarding new customer experience reps?

Nate: In my mind, it is the “Why?” It’s a combination of a couple “why’s” that need to culminate into something very simple that a new employee can sink their teeth into. You have the organizational why with some kinda vision, mission statement, or something that makes your organization unique and special. That needs to be at the forefront of the employee’s mind in terms of, “Here’s how we do something incredible for customers, that nobody else can do.” So, it’s important to get that excitement and energy around it. From there, once you can answer that question of, “Why we serve, and why we are special as an organization,” then you start to flip it and talk about who your customers are and why they are so special.

It’s kind of a two-fold process. So, the spotlight starts on you as the employee entering this really special organization. But then, the curtain kinds shifts, and you have a stage right movement, and a new spotlight comes down. Suddenly, the customer is at the center of the journey. You get to really focus on who that customer is, what drives them, and how your organization can equip them to be successful in whatever it is that they’re looking to accomplish.

Kyle: How do you maintain that over the lifetime or full career of the rep?

Nate: If you look at traditional motivators, you have the carrot and the stick. And I feel like organizations fall into a pitfall using both of those way too much. You have the stick, which is, “Man, we’re not best serving our customers. We’re not doing this because we should, here are all the areas that we’re failing.” And they’re trying to motivate people through that fear motivator, that failure motivator.

In some cases that can be relevant, but then you flip the switch have organizations that only celebrate the good things. They only reveal, “Here’s the customer wins that are going on and here are all of the great things we’re doing.” Then, they hide the rest and sweep it under the carpet.

When motivating people to enhance the customer journey, there has to be a combination of both of those elements. Not only are you being transparent about the areas of improvement but also celebrating the wins. It’s also about moving beyond both of those traditional motivators, the carrot and the stick. And it becomes about keeping those intrinsic motivators at the forefront. In other words, how can we continue to create meaningful work that really allows people to have an excitement about the things that they’re doing?

Kyle: I think the customer service world is starting to transition from metrics that aren’t human to ones that are based on this revolution around the customer experience, right? If you’re a customer service leader that has to deal with the non-human metrics but wants to transition to the more humane ones, how do you balance that?

Nate: That is an outstanding question. There’s a tough choice that has to be made as you work towards that. I’ll give an example of next issue avoidance. If you want your analysts or your customer service representatives to be consulted, helpful, and to really take their time and dig in to maximize the quality of the support experience, you can’t do that while rushing people off the phone. It’s impossible.

So, a decision has to be made. Are you going to focus on the quality of support delivered? Or, are you going to continue to micromanage the quantity and really focus on the volume and the efficiency metrics and the average handle time?

But what I can say, at least in my experience, is that we need to focus on the quality and build things that improve customers’ knowledge capabilities like improved self-service channels. By really equipping customers with the tools they need to be successful, they don’t call as much because you’ve equipped them.

Now, the calls are longer and harder, but they’re so much better and they reduce the volume of calls overall. That’s when you’ll find yourself in a position where you get to become more proactive, and actually reaching out to your customers and introducing them to features of new releases, and just doing courtesy calls, asking them, “How can we serve you better?” In the end, if you take the time to focus on quality, the quantity and efficiency metrics take care of themselves.

There’s a better way to measure rep performance. Read Lessonly’s Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training to see how to connect the dots between training and performance.

Kyle: Great. Now, let’s talk about the future. Where are we headed when it comes to customer support and the customer experience over the next 5 to 10 years?

Nate: It’s going to be wild. The promises of omnichannel are finally coming true. The automated channels are becoming better and more helpful. We’re seeing all types of great technologies that are finally enhancing customer journeys. For the companies that have done it right, they haven’t just pulled the trigger prematurely by trying to over-automate or solve a problem with just spending money on a new piece of technology.

It’s very good and it’s very exciting. Some of this new technology is really going to enhance our ability to reach into the minds and the hearts of our people and customers to better understand their thoughts and perceptions towards us as an organization in ways that we’ve never dreamed of before.

Traditional surveys are still going to have some kind of role, but it’s going to be minuscule in terms of the customer sentiment that we’re going to be able to pick up. There’s real stuff here that’s going to allow us to understand our customers better than ever before.

In all, we’re going to have more information about who our customers are and what they want. We’re also going to be almost drowning in that voice of customer data. While we’ll be armed with better data and stronger priorities than ever before, the burden to execute on the changes that need to be made and manage the customer experience the right way will still fall on us.

Today, a huge percentage of CX initiatives are failing and not for a lack of data. They’re failing due to poor execution. So we’re going to have better data than ever before, but that’s not even our weak point. Our weak point as a customer experience function today is our ability to execute and embed in the culture long term. And I don’t think the machines will save us from that.

“We still need to evolve and change our approach on how we’re taking data and applying it into the organization.”

— Nate Brown

Kyle: What are the top challenges facing reps, and then what are the top challenges facing leaders in the next year?

Nate: Most of us in the customer service realm have eliminated or have shifted left to some degree. So we probably don’t have the tiered support models of the past. Now, we’re in this infinity tier environment, where our reps are expected to be able to do everything. They’re having to take volume on all types of channels, they are having to create knowledge in real time, using something like a knowledge-centered support methodology, as well as having the ability to make magic on the phone.

Due to the difficulty of the traditional CSR job, none of the requirements have gone away in terms of the difficulty of the support role. But, so many expectations have been added on.

From the rep view, it’s, “How can I navigate this job, and be skilled at all the things that are required of me?” There’s just so many skills involved with that role.

We’ve eliminated the transactional calls. Those are now automated. But, the volume is still there and it can be crippling and so overwhelming for these agents that are not really equipped with the skills required to be able to handle that. I see the modern support center as being very much like, as Matt Dixon described it in his article, Reinventing Customer Service. We’ll have these tribes or families that are optimized to really support each other and the customer because you can’t just do your job alone anymore. That day is gone. It’s past. Now we have these collaborative tribes that work together to deliver personalized support to a segment of customers.

Kyle: Most of the people who will be reading this are customer service leaders in retail, telecom, e-commerce, or hospitality. Do you have any like quick points you would wanna throw in there about the onboarding process?

Nate: I almost think of onboarding as a little bit of a fondue fountain. You have all these different elements that are there, and the knowledge fountain is always flowing. Then there is always chocolate or cheese coming out of it, and you have all these pieces of the puzzle on a plate in front of you.

The challenge of onboarding reps is to know what elements to dip into what type of knowledge so they’ll be successful in their job. And a lot of times, we just put all the pieces of desserts or fruit out in front of them. It’s incredibly overwhelming. Instead, we really need to guide them and not just lay out the buffet.

“We really need to reveal more over time and think about the onboarding journey like we would a customer journey.”

— Nate Brown

There are different phases, different touch points inside of that, and different capabilities that we should awaken over time in a phased approach. It’s going to be incredibly difficult for those who just put all the tools or knowledge out there and expect the employee to be able to self-service and figure it out. It’s even a little bit of a lazy approach. We need to design the experience for our new hires in the same way that we intentionally design the experience for our customers.

Do Better Work with Lessonly’s Customer Service Training Guide

Customer service matters more than ever. Don’t miss your chance to get insights, best practices, and tangible steps to Do Better Work. Read the Better Work Guide to Customer Service Training and get started today.

Relating learning to our own experiences
Choose processing