Customer service and moving from the enterprise to the flexiprise – Interview with Keith Leimbach

Work at home

Today’s interview is with Keith Leimbach, CEO of Liveops, a leading virtual contact center solutions company for the financial, health care, insurance and retail industries. Keith joins me today to talk about the human and tech balance in customer experience, striking the right balance and maintaining quality standards when you are managing a network of 20,000 virtual agents.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – Understanding a customers context is the key to self-service success – Interview with Bill Colleran – and is number 229 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Highlights from my conversation with Keith:

  • Liveops offers an on-demand skilled workforce of onshore virtual agents for customer service and sales.
  • If people are still furiously pounding the zero button on their phone to try and get through to a call centre then we know that we are doing something wrong and we have missed something.
  • Many companies have used technology not to make their customer experience easier for the customer but less expensive for them.
  • There is an ongoing battle between lowering the cost to serve and improving the customer experience.
  • Some of the current business thinking is flawed.
  • Many companies are in thrall to their metrics.
  • What customers really want is an interaction that is easy and Keith reckons that we will see a lot more focus on easy/effort metrics and initiatives in the coming years.
  • Moving from a traditional approach of follow the script and don’t break any policies or rules to one that says focus on solving customer problems and make it easy for them requires a different set of skills.
  • Companies seem to be in an increasingly fast cycle where they are experimenting with new technologies in their service mix to try and achieve the right mix and level of service. But, these technologies don’t always work as well as we would like and that is having a knock on effect on the customer experience.
  • There is a lack of information in many call queuing systems and that makes the waiting experience feel worse.
  • Companies should employ better music, ticket numbers, estimated wait times etc etc as ways of making the queuing process easier.
  • Going forward, the mix of human touch and technology in service will depend on the industry and the nature of the requirement.
  • Imagine if you are in your car and you break down. When you call your breakdown company, do you want to talk to a ‘bot”? Keith says that he wouldn’t want to talk to a ‘bot’ but rather would want to speak to someone that is empathetic, would help solve the problem and offer reassurance.
  • Similarly, think about 911 calls. Are they likely to be answered by ‘bots’ anytime soon?
  • Whilst there will be areas where technology will play a part, there will be just as many where customers will want to speak to another human being.
  • Liveops operates an interesting model where it has 20,000 agents that all work from home as that allows them to access the right sort of talent and give them the opportunity to work around their lives and other commitments.
  • 81% of their 20,000 agents, the Liveops Nation, have some level of college education and above.
  • To maintain quality standards across their workforce, they operate a customer certification process where their agents are trained in the working processes, systems and standards for different customers and only field calls for those customers that they have been certified for.
  • They certify their agents on two levels: the first is customer specific and the second is related to soft skills (e.g. communication skills, building empathy, resolving conflict, handling complaints etc.).
  • However, one of the things that they are finding is that they are seeing growing demand for their soft skills training/certification: Learning As A Service – Skill Builder Platform. Whilst there is a lot of soft skills training out in the marketplace, clients are telling them that the digestible, bite-sized and flexible way that they deliver their soft skills training is pretty unique and aligned with their customer service needs.
  • When everyone works from home, you have to be very intentional about how you certify and develop people. That’s not always the case when everyone is in-house.
  • However, when taking that approach that forces firms to really think about what they want and what people need to deliver the service they want.
  • After divesting themselves of their Saas technology platform in 2015, Liveops are now focused on what it is going to take to create a great experience for both their customers and their employees.
  • According to a piece of recent research in 2017 by McKinsey, 33% of the firms with over 100,000 employees said that they expected that a third of their workforce would be made up of ‘flex workers’ in the next 5 years, up from 5% today.
  • However, many firms are unaware of this trend and that suitable resources and tools exist to facilitate that.
  • Right now, not many people really know how to identify, onboard and manage the performance of a flex workforce at scale.
  • Liveops believe that they are well positioned to help firms move from the enterprise to the flexi-prise.
  • Wow service/experience for Keith comes about when a firm focuses on making things easy for their customers. Don’t focus on things like satisfaction scores, just focus on making things easy.
  • Keith would like everyone to take a look at Liveops’ new offering to the marketplace: Skill Builder. This is their new learning as a service offer which allows people to learn in the modalities that research and experience has shown works best.

About Keith

Keith LeimbachKeith Leimbach is CEO of Liveops and has a track record of building awesome teams and highly innovative companies. In a market starving for innovation, Liveops is a people business, creating a perfect place for Keith to lead the vision and strategy for growth. He joined as CEO in 2017 and also serves as a board member, mentor, and dad.

Do check out LiveOps at www.liveops.com, say Hi to them on Twitter @Liveops and connect with Keith on LinkedIn here.

Thanks to Viktor Hanacek at picjumbo for the image.

2 comments On Customer service and moving from the enterprise to the flexiprise – Interview with Keith Leimbach

  • Adrian, the interesting points — for me — in this interview were:

    1. Many companies have used technology not to make their customer experience easier for the customer but less expensive for them.
    2. There is an ongoing battle between lowering the cost to serve and improving the customer experience.

    I used to be a development manager for a well known frozen food company. My boss once told me it was very easy to make beef burgers cheaper, you just put 1% sand in them, grind it up really small and nobody will notice. You don’t mess up the quality of the product until you add the second 1% of sand.

    Some people call this the salami slice effect

    I can’t help but think that most organisations are somewhat unaware of this principle…

  • Pingback: Marrying self organising teams and customer obsession | Adrian Swinscoe ()

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