#HRTechChat: Michelle Randall, Chief Marketing Officer at Playvox

This episode of the #HRTechChat video podcast welcomes Playvox Chief Marketing Officer Michelle Randall. The sole focus of Playvox’s cloud software for human capital management for is the call center industry. When it comes to workforce management, especially scheduling, call centers are complex, challenging. Plus, everything we hear about the importance of the employee experiences is magnified at call centers. And everything we know about the impact of a positive employee experience on the customer experience is amplified at call centers. Deploy technology capable of improving agents’ quality of work-life balance, their employee wellbeing, and customers will have those positive experiences when they need it the most: when they get in touch with the call center. Michelle dives into the particulars, and I highly recommend tuning in.

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Brent Skinner 00:00
Well, hello, everybody, and welcome to this latest episode of the #HRTechChat video podcast. I am your host, Brent Skinner, co-founder of 3Sixty Insights. And with me today is a very special guest, Michelle Randall, who is Chief Marketing Officer at Playvox welcome Michelle.

Michelle Randall 00:21
Oh, thank you so much. And I’m so honored that you said I was special. Take that for the whole day?

Brent Skinner 00:27
Well, you are I mean, this is, you know, as viewers of the podcast, no, we typically have conversations with our guests, before we actually do the podcast, we like to get to know them and what they do and, and then you are a very special guest. And Playvox is a very special company. And this is a really, we’ll stay with them with the theme, special topic today. Playvox is a company that you put together sort of workforce management types of type of HCM type of solutions, specifically for call centers. And, and we don’t do enough of that here at 3Sixty Insights is a huge, just a cornucopia long tail of companies out there that specialize in specific industries when it comes to human capital management, workforce management, this sort of thing. So, I’m really looking forward to the conversation today. And, and I’d love to give you just an opportunity here, if you would please just introduce yourself maybe to our audience who, you know, what, what makes you sick? What, what brought you to Playvox, just a little bit of your background, and then we’ll and then we’ll get into the topic, which I think is super interesting.

Michelle Randall 01:46
Well, excellent. So I can wax poetic about Playvox for quite a long time, I’m less comfortable waxing poetic about myself. But in terms of what makes me tick, I am really passionate about delivering on the customer promise and customer experience. I’ve spent most of my life in sales, marketing, and written contact center for a period of time. So, I feel like I come at it in a pretty unique way in that I’ve marketed to folks who have the delight of managing contact centers, along with having one roll up to me as well. So really, I have a real affinity for this space in this industry. And there is nobody in the world more down to earth than someone that’s been in customer experience for most of their career.

Brent Skinner 02:41
That’s, that’s a great statement. I mean, that that that says a lot right there. And any, you know, call centers? Yeah, let’s talk a little bit about them. You know, it takes a special kind of person to work at a call center, not everybody can do it. Super, super quick story. I worked at a call center. Many, many years ago, I won’t tell the audience exactly how many years ago it was, but it was long ago, and that technology was very, very different. But anyway, I worked there one summer when I was going to college, and, and I don’t think I’d ever do it again. But there were people there who were really good at it, and they liked it. But it takes a certain special sort of strategies, it’s very important to help safeguard call center staffs will be like their, you know, work life balance this kind of thing. And there are certain strategies that companies can sort of deploy or avail themselves of, to help do this. Could you maybe talk about this a little bit and how Playvox fits in?

Michelle Randall 03:55
Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, one of the things you always have to remember brand is nobody ever calls a contact center or call center to say I am just so delighted, thank you so very much. So it really does take a unique personality to deal with customer issues and customer challenges day in and day out no matter what. So where Playvox comes in, is we really focus on employee engagement and empowerment. And we do that through our solutions, our workforce engagement solutions, which include workforce management, which you mentioned, and quality management. And really what we’re trying to do is make sure that we optimize on a given agent’s scheduled preferences and things like that. But also, there’s nothing worse than being an agent and not feeling prepared to answer increasingly complex questions whether that is, you know, over text or over social media over email, etc. So our quality management solutions help provide that mentoring and coaching and up provides coaching for the for the agent. So yeah, it’s a very difficult job. The other thing that I would I would say is, most companies approach customer experience, as if we could just get folks to stop contacting us to give more self help, then we improve the customer experience. So they do that by D, listing the number on the website, or only making techspeak contact as an option, we taken a different approach because we think that if you improve the life of an agent, so if you can empower and engage that agent through motivation through like gamma flying, your key goals and things like that, then you’ll and you’ll absolutely improve the customer experience. So, you know, we joke would not even joke, but we talk about, you know, happy agents make happy customers. And that makes so much sense. And if you think of some of the interactions that really the, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly that you’ve probably had in your lifetime, a lot of the difference is who you spoke with, or who you texted with.

Brent Skinner 06:20
Yeah, yeah. You know, you’ve inspired me kind of going through my mind, which of my utility companies should I call the customer service and tell them they’ve done a great job?

Michelle Randall 06:33
I would just fall over if someone just called and said, I just want to thank you. My bill was correct. And I have I have electricity today.

Brent Skinner 06:46
I’m so glad you brought up the electricity one. Yeah, because that’s something we talked about. And HCM all the time I’ve had these conversations with plenty of people, nobody calls to say that, hey, thanks for the power came on today, when I flipped switch, great job is kind of like that with payroll too. You know, nobody calls up the company says, Hey, you paid me correctly today. Thank you, you know, it’s only when things go wrong. And you need these people, these bulwarks there to handle all of this. And it’s really interesting. You mentioned that the customer experience and now it’s just inextricably intertwined with the employee experience.

Michelle Randall 07:30
That makes so much like logical sense. And it’s sort of funny that we’re, we have to say it,

Brent Skinner 07:35
You know, I know it’s so funny, it just doesn’t, I don’t know how we got here, but here we are, you know, try, try to explain to people, yeah, your customers will be happier if your employees are that you’re, but it’s still true. I think Richard Branson said it, the Virgin Atlantic, the, you know, the airline, you know, he said, you know, the, I don’t even have the quote, but it was about keeping your employees happy. And if your employees are happier, your customers will keep coming back. And it’s so true. We talked about, you know, Harvard Business Review, wrote many years ago, about 20 years ago, they had series of articles that came up with this concept of this, this idea concept called the service profit chain, it had to do with retailers, and floor associates, brick and mortar kind of stuff that’s dating myself a little bit by saying brick and mortar, but in any event, you know, the more satisfied employees are in their job, or the more engaged they are, the better of a work experience, it is the bit better work life balance they have, the more, the more apt they are to treat the customers well, and to go the extra mile, and then the customers will keep coming back. And it’s one of these things is very tough to show on a conventional accounting sheet, you know, how to how do you show that in the formula and in an accounting sheet, and I think it’s because whereas we can measure what is, you know, a cost savings, we can’t measure potential revenue windfall, right? Because you don’t know how much it’s going to be. So it’s very, so you can’t just say it’s going to be X amount, because you don’t know how much it’s going to be. And I think that’s one of the things that kind of you know, is a little bit frustrating or difficult or vexes people when they try to actually quantify this stuff. But it’s absolutely true. And maybe you could go into a little bit more about what that looks like in practice because a lot of people they forgive me as I pontificate just a little bit more here, but to set it up a little bit more, right. It’s one thing to understand that the customer experience rely, you know, hinges on the on the employee experience. But how do you how do you actually combine the two How do you treat them as one that to me, is the real key.

Michelle Randall 09:58
So a couple of things. So One I would challenge you on, on your statement about, hey, we don’t really have metrics to manage if one leads to another, because I would say if you have an outstanding customer experience, you’ll see an increase in wall in in share of market or in market share or in share of wallet. So if you spend X amount with a company today, and you have terrific service with them, obviously, you’re going to continue to spend more buy more products, you can also look at, you know, in the agent world, what’s what is what does retreat at the attrition look like or retention look like. So, in the contact center world, I mean, most contact centers are revolving doors, it’s a hard job. And folks are, you know, not easy to retain, because it is such a hard job. And a lot of times they are hiring 40% of their staff every single year. So then when you think about it, like if you’re going through that kind of change, you also have to make sure Well, how am I mentoring folks that are coming on board? How am I getting them up to speed easily? How am I scheduling them to account for one person does social media really well, but one person is much better on the phones. So I would say there are things that you can measure to see if you have indeed happy employees and those lead to better customer experiences. And then in terms of your question of like, how do you link the two? Or what are some of the things that you can do for your agents. So I mentioned, you know, putting quality management in place, a lot of times I had a contact center roll up to me, which I mentioned. And when the contact center gets really busy, the first thing that happens is training goes out the window. And those mentoring and coaching sessions go out the window. And so you have to make that same kerosene Like just absolutely sacred. The end, one of the ways you can do that is by effective scheduling. So if you know, for example, like hey, I want to have so many mentoring sessions, and you know, I have this many multi step interactions and things like that you can forecast more effectively, and then you can schedule more effectively. I have talked to companies and our customers who are scheduling everything on spreadsheets, which blows me away, because in some cases, it’s 1500 agents. I can’t even imagine doing that on many, many spreadsheets. And then they talked about it. And we had they had five global workforce managers, they were all using a slightly different process. No surprise, one of the levers that you have when you have agent happiness, is their schedule, like is their schedule, right? Did you accommodate that Brent needs to leave every Wednesday at three o’clock to see his kids soccer game. And Michelle needs to leave every Friday at one o’clock for a teacher, a parent teacher conference. So you have to think of those and it’s so almost enraging for an agent to put out their schedule preferences and how if they’ve ignored or have mistakes get made. Like that’s a that’s a really big thing. The other thing you can do is you can tie your KPIs to motivation and to the agent metrics, so they can have a part of the bigger picture. So if for example, you want first contact resolution to go up every time that a particular agent or set of agents or team cell, you know has an 90% First Contact resolution, then you celebrate that and you do it through a reward. You can do gift cards, you can do like, hey, just want we have a Karma score. So you can send good karma and points like that. So you can do a lot of things to engage your employee population and making sure that the company goals and objectives also roll down to the agents and they know that they’re part of that bigger picture.

Brent Skinner 13:55
Yeah, yeah. All great points. And the one that that really stuck for me is making sure that that mentoring and that learning happens no matter what, because call centers do get crazy. Yeah, and, and that in and of itself is an engaging thing, right? If you’re, if your own if you’re mired in, you know, customer, you know, queries and everything and, and that’s it. Yeah, I could see somebody burning out very quickly. You think about, you know, we’re not talking about just, you know, you know, just, you know, Flower delivery companies or things like that. I’m not to disparage them at all, they’re important, obviously, but, you know, a lot of call centers might be supporting, you know, a very complex products, you know, there might be you know, software as a service. It HCM technology centers, who have call centers that and these people, you know, imagine the brain drain when you have that huge Oops, you know that that revolving that turnover, right? You want people on the team who understand the product and are going to stay. It’s so important. So, so very important.

Michelle Randall 15:12
Before you move on, I actually have two customers that I can give as an example. So we have one customer called Five, CA, they’re a European company, and they provide tech support inside of games. So think about gamers, they don’t want to leave their game, because they’re having problems. So and they’re super tech savvy audience. So they enable tech support inside the game itself, which is really I find that fascinating. Yeah, another company, Mongo DB, again, super tech audience, and engineers are their, quote, unquote, agents. And so those folks, you know, to your point about brain drain and needing to engage, the agent has really changed from what we used to think about of, you know, lining up first year graduates in a row in a contact center. Because now we’ve been able to, you know, through AI and automation, lead agents and customers self serve wins, when somebody gets a query, it’s usually way more complex than ever before. And it often requires multiple steps. So you might have to go to billing, you might have to go to membership services. It’s not the one and done Hey, tell me what my balance is. Because all of that is automated. So when you take the two examples with actual like engineers, on the other end, to try and help a very tech savvy audience, things dramatically change.

Brent Skinner 16:44
You know, just to add some levity here, I’m probably the, as much as I want to call a call center and tell them thank you, I’m probably one of those guys that they can’t stand because I press keep pressing zero. So I can speak to a person and ask them what my balance is, even though I could have told me.

Michelle Randall 17:02
But anyway, I won’t tell any of our customers that you’re that guy.

Brent Skinner 17:08
Well, this podcast will be viewed by many. So in any of that. We talked about change, you know, and I think this is a nice pivot or segue here, because one of the one of these days we’ll stop talking about the ramifications are the long, you know, long shadow that that the pandemic cast, but right now, we’re very much in that shadow still. And some very interesting things happened in the call center space. So let me sort of set the table here. I know a little bit about it. But you know, way more, I understand that call centers are, you know, had been slow to adopt, maybe that’s the word or they’ve been cautious. Maybe that’s a better word cautious and conservative in terms of adopting the cloud, for instance, and maybe some other, maybe some other technological innovations as well, but certainly the cloud and, but then the pandemic came along, and it kind of precipitated or Accelerated a little bit of a trend toward the cloud, sort of accelerated that. But there’s also this idea that, that the, you know, right in the term call center, there’s a term, that word center, right, and kind of connotes that there’s a place that everybody goes to work at the call center. And then they go home at the end of the day. But that’s one of the other things that pandemic kind of accelerated a trend now, this idea of not being an actual, physical central location, even though it’s a call center. What are some of the things that are going on today, in the call center space, that might not have been the case, say, three, four years ago?

Michelle Randall 18:53
So you nailed it in that the pandemic did hasten the movement to the cloud? Because what people found is when you couldn’t have a whole group of agents, I mean, you remember, we were home for months at a time when the pandemic first hit. And no longer could you send a bunch of agents to a central hub. So you had to enable them working at home, or in another location, and the only way to do that is through the cloud. So that is that is that has shaped the workforce today and just like you and I enjoy work from home and more flexibility, so do agents. And so we did a survey at Playvox about a year, year and a half ago, that actually quantified that 60% of the agents in the survey said they would look for another job if they were forced to go back to the office. And again, go back to the point of, you know, attrition and retention are the biggest challenges in the contact center space, and a lot of times salary is your highest cost next to maybe your real estate. So a couple of things come out of that is you’ve, you’ve spent all this time energy money, training an agent, you don’t want them to take that skill set and go to your competitor or go to another contact center, where they have more flexibility. So that’s been a really big change is you, you see, now there isn’t that concept of Center for many, many contact centers. And in fact, one of the companies that I mentioned, they have been 100% work from home since long before the pandemic, which I thought was really interesting. So I’ve ca has always been work from home since, you know, for a long, long time. So I that’s one trend. But then the other thing is, when you’re in you also then have different challenges. So you’re in a center, and it’s easy for a supervisor to walk around and say, Hey, Brent, you look kind of down, are you okay? You know, Can I help is I know, you just had a tough call or a tough interaction, you know, what could I do to make things better, etc.? Well, now, that’s all gone, as is the training that you inadvertently get when you’re listening to someone who is sitting beside you, or you’re just hearing the chatter of like, Oh, I just emailed this person and really tough inquiry. And here’s what my response was. So you also have to use tools and technology to engage your workforce no matter where they are. And again, go back to you know, API driven scheduling and things like that. So you can accommodate the forecast the schedule and get real time adherence, because if everyone’s working from home, but you don’t actually know what they’re doing, maybe they’re manually logging things, then you don’t know like, Oh, I really needed that person to respond to social media queries, but they’re not why, like what’s going on, whereas our solution will give you that real time. And here’s herons report, and say, okay, Brett was Brent was scheduled for email, but it looks like he’s doing a lot of after interaction work, like what’s going on? And are we not giving him enough time? Or do we need to do some coaching and mentoring? So a lot of things change with the move from to work from home?

Brent Skinner 22:14
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And, and you just kind of touched on how Playvox can help, you know, in terms of tweaking fine tuning the customer experience by paying attention to that employee experience or to, to employee performance. Anyway, right. And maybe, maybe that’s a good segue here to, you know, some of this move to, to the, to the cloud. And it’s, it’s precipitated some flexibility, and scheduling and shifts and these sorts of things. And it’s also sort of helped to bring about better employee satisfaction and improving the customer experience. Maybe you can expound on that a little bit more.

Michelle Randall 23:01
Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s super logical if you give somebody flexibility, so that they can leave at the time that they need to, or pick up kids at two o’clock in the afternoon, and then come back to work later in the day, or whatever it looks like. When you give people that flexibility and that trust and you engage them through, you know, motivational techniques, and making sure that you’re recognizing them on a regular basis. All of that leads to higher satisfaction, and guess what, higher retention. And then that satisfaction spills over to the customer experience. Because you have to be a pretty tough person to take the interactions day after day after day to your to the point we were talking about at the beginning of nobodies, nobody is contacting you because they’re super happy. They’re contacting you because they’re in desperation, and something is really, really wrong. And they’ve, you know, if it’s me, I’ve already gone through all of the self help. I’ve already like, done everything I can. So I don’t actually have to talk or text with a physical person. And it’s only as my absolute last, excuse me last resort.

Brent Skinner 24:13

Michelle Randall 24:15
Last resort – Thank you for that I will actually reach out to a contact center. So the more that you can do to make their lives better, the better customer experience, they are empowered to deliver.

Brent Skinner 24:29
Yeah, absolutely. Where do you think this really going to throw you a little bit of curveball, but Oh, no. Well, I think you’d be fine. What do you think this industry is going in terms of where do you think call centers are going? It’s a big question. You can focus on maybe just a couple of things, but especially, you know, as it relates to what Playvox does,

Michelle Randall 24:55
yeah, so that’s a great question. And you know, thankfully, I am prepared Okay, so I figured you would be around, I’ve been around for a little bit. So I think what, what we’re seeing is when somebody does reach out to a contact center, they are absolutely, it’s much more complex than it ever was before. So agents themselves are much more mature, have a lot more experience are a lot more skilled than agents of the past. The other thing that’s happening is AI is being infused in the contact center, both to help agents better help consumers, but also so that they can better do their work. And in terms of where Playvox is going. So, you know, one way you can do, let’s just take like quality management, one way to do it is you pull two to 3% of the interactions, and you score those, and you spend a fair amount of time identifying issues as opposed to fixing them. So we have something called Auto QA that does a mix of auto scoring, like helping you sort of pinpoint what’s actually going on, on select interactions. But also analyzing sentiment and the sentiment analysis is across all interactions, and then you can filter on, let’s say, a certain software was released by your company, and you want to see like, what what’s the sentiment around the software, you can say, oh, it’s all neutral, or it’s all positive, or it’s all negative. And the only way to get that in the past is would be literally to talk to your agents and say, Hey, are you know, are the phones ringing off the off the hook? Or, you know, what are the emails that you’re getting, etc. And now you can say, okay, out of all of these interactions, this was the sentiment. So I think in the future, you’ll see continuation of an expansion of AI, you’ll see, you know, agents are going to be much more skilled and continue to be much more skilled than they were in the past. And then, you know, personalization, using data insights, there’s a lot of data that contact centers constantly pull, you know, I use forecasting and scheduling as an example. But that will just increase over time. And so feeding them to the folks that are running a contact center so that they can make better decisions. Because data just for data sake, doesn’t help you. It’s, it’s what is the data telling me? And what I shift my business as a result of what this data is telling me

Brent Skinner 27:27
We’re talking about analytics.

Michelle Randall 27:31
Analytics and making sure that you’re making recommendations based on the analytics that you have

Brent Skinner 27:38
prescriptive analytics. Yeah, absolutely. It’s, you know, this is, is this fascinating. I’m looking at the time. And I always wish these podcasts could go so much longer. But you know, that this is a really this particular industry call center. That’s where, you know, a lot of those issues with employee experience and engagement and an employee Well, being all these kinds of things. They’re really just amplified, and they’re right there, like right there. And it’s so it’s really fascinating to hear about a company like Playvox and what you’re doing. That’s really solving these issues. And I think a lot of other industries, and a lot of the other providers honestly could learn a lot from what Playvox does to kind of apply that to other industries. So let’s, let’s hope that they that they listen in here because I think there’s a lot to learn here. Thank you so much. Thank you so much for joining us. Michelle has been an absolute pleasure.

Michelle Randall 28:39
An absolute delight for me as well. Thank you for inviting me.

Brent Skinner 28:43

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