Employees as brand ambassadors: The Melio approach
People and Culture
Customer experience (CX) is no longer an afterthought — at least, not for brands who want to remain competitive. More and more, companies are incorporating robust, high-touch CX as a must-have factor in their overall go-to-market strategy, rather than a nice-to-have component. So, with a CX strategy now the standard, how can brands further differentiate themselves?
As part of the TELUS International Studios podcast, we sat down with Ingrid Olson, director of customer experience at Melio, a fintech company designed to give small businesses a digital way to manage their B2B payments and receivables. Olson shared a key tip for standing out from the rest: View your support team members as brand ambassadors.
Providing empathetic customer support
Money can be emotional. Whether it's saving to buy a new car, merging finances with a partner or establishing a budget, when monetary transactions are involved, there is often an emotional element. For the small-to-medium enterprises that make up Melio's customer base, this has been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic — timely payments were quite literally keeping the lights on for some. Olson ensures that the Melio team continually provides top-notch, human support to small businesses who may be stretched thin financially from recent economic circumstances.
Preventing payment disruptions from happening in the first place, and resolving issues that do arise in a timely fashion, requires the Melio support team to be highly trained to de-escalate situations with an empathetic approach. Fostering a high-level of emotional intelligence in support agents requires training and investment in ongoing development. For CX leaders, the value of offering this type of built-out CX model is obvious, but what's the trick to getting the rest of the C-suite on board?
How to use CX as a brand-defining moment
According to Olson, the first step to align a CX strategy with the other legs of an organization — as well as getting the rest of the C-suite to see the value in investing money and resources — is to ask the following questions: “What do we want to be known for? Why do we exist as part of an organization, and how can we make a direct impact on the mission and vision of the company?" Olson also suggests asking, “What does support mean for your organization, and knowing that, how can we [CX] be the brand defining moment for the organization?"
Answering these questions often reveals the significant impact customer support teams play in creating a lasting brand impression. “We know more than almost everybody in the company about the products and the issues with the products. We are the frontlines to the customer. They're not talking to the engineers, they're not talking to the product owners. Actually, they're talking to us," Olson explains. “We have a huge weight on our shoulders to really exemplify us as a brand for our company, while also shepherding people through issues that maybe they did not think would occur."
The level of support provided at Melio is an impactful customer-facing aspect of the company's brand that is often much more memorable than a logo. For some of the most successful companies, CX delivered through a high-touch human support model serves as a brand ambassador program and a real differentiator.
The way forward
As new technology has emerged, the companies getting CX right are the ones that understand that the human element in the customer experience is not meant to be replaced, but fine-tuned and moved further up the value chain. For Olson, the blending of next-generation technology with the human-touch is a key differentiator for the brand:
“It's a matter of being very fast and efficient on one hand, but it's also getting to a human. Having dealt with a lot of support issues myself with other companies [as a customer] and never actually speaking to someone, or feeling like I'm actually getting some robotic answer on the other side, is very frustrating for me when it's something that's very important to me [at Melio]. So, I think there's got to be that, sort of, mix between those areas of high technology and fast efficient service, but also that level of care that will always set us apart."
Beyond offering premium, human customer care to de-escalate potentially emotional situations involving payments, the team is also a funnel for live feedback from customers.
Olson explains, “People are seeing more and more the value that customer support brings, and also the feedback that we get from customers that no one else is going to hear or see — that we can offer that will improve our brand, our products and our services."
CX leaders, especially in companies who have historically viewed support models as cost centers, can prove value to C-suites by connecting the dots for them: Support teams are the frontline brand ambassadors and a valuable source for customer feedback. Preserving and nurturing the all-important human connection as new technologies are adopted will continue to be the ultimate balancing act for companies.
Listen to the full TELUS International Studios podcast with Ingrid Olson, director of customer experience at Melio, here.