Customer Experience expert and influencer, Greg Ortbach, has years of experience in helping companies transform their strategies across technology, marketing, and CX.
Over the years, he has founded webassist.ca, a marketing and tech company that later merged with Arcane in 2015. Plus Greg has co-hosted the weekly Twitter chat #CustServ for nine years.
Held in high regard, Greg has been named as one of the Top 25 CX Influencers to Follow by Panviva, Top 50 Call Center Twitter Accounts to Follow by Playvox, and a Top 100 Most Social Customer Service Pro On Twitter by Huffington Post to name a few.
In this interview, he discusses delivering a consistent and convenient experience, implementing initiatives that help provide efficiency, and the perception of Customer Experience.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your background?
My passion for customer service began at an early age as a newspaper carrier. I learned that customers expected a personalized experience and when their expectations were met or exceeded, their satisfaction translated into tips!
I also realized that having an active customer base that invited me into their homes every two weeks to give me the payment was a fantastic and captive audience for additional products or services.
Growing up I launched several businesses that featured a robust experiential customer service component. After a short stint in a national call center, I was seduced by the world of tech and worked in a couple of agencies before founding webAssist.ca, a marketing and tech firm in 2002.
In 2015, webAssist joined forces with Arcane, a rapidly expanding digital agency with locations in London, Toronto, and Calgary, Canada.
I have been a co-host on the weekly Twitter chat #CustServ since 2010, regularly contribute to CX publications, and currently provide technology, marketing, and CX consulting services
What’s the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
As brand loyalty diminishes and relationships become more transactional, Customer Experience is emerging as a company’s critical market differentiator. I refer to it as the lifeblood of the organization. Customers expect a consistent and convenient experience. This experience is in jeopardy whenever any part of the process fails to live up to the brand promise.
You are co-host the weekly #CustServ Chat on Twitter. Can you explain to us the concept and the main topics covered?
The #CustServ started in 2009 by Marsha Collier and Jeffrey Kingman. Roy Atkinson curates topics & questions, and each week we discuss one topic relating to customer service. I share co-hosting duties with Al Hopper and occasionally Mark Bernhardt.
There are ten questions posed during the tweet chat, and we enjoy a welcoming and engaged community where everyone shares and contributes. Our audience typically includes everyone from startups, well-known brands, vendors, to customer service specialists. The #CustServ chat is not sponsored or affiliated with any brands, so there are never any hidden agendas – something that has always resonated well with our audience.
What’s the most significant change in terms of customer behaviors you’ve observed lately?
I feel that customers have always wanted the same basic things: care, customization, and control.
In essence, don’t fail to stand behind your product or service, and don’t treat new customers better than loyal ones. Let them choose how to receive and consume the product/service, and make no mistake; they are the driver in this relationship. Every interaction is a test of how you treat them.
I believe the abundance of choice, the speed of delivery, and lack of brand loyalty are the most significant changes and disruptors. Not to say that customers aren’t loyal; in fact, there has never been a better time for happy customers to become brand ambassadors and publicly sing your praises, but companies must realize that many customers have become transactional – something that the brands that are growing vulnerable have been doing for years.
According to you, what skills are essential for agents answering on digital channels?
Having empathy and being coachable are vital skills in my opinion for all channels. Having the most powerful knowledge base or predictive response suggestions at your fingertips cannot help interpret how the customer feels, so it is imperative that agents can see through the customer’s lens during their interactions.
Companies must also realize the role they play and be committed to empowering agents as opposed to restricting them with a customer or agent-limiting policies, underwhelming onboarding, and a lack of training.
When choosing new digital channels to implement, which criteria should companies consider?
Companies should strike a balance between where their customers are and how they can best support them. Clear messaging is essential. If you are unable to provide ample support in a specific channel, ensure, that channel is clearly marked.
In an ideal scenario, all channels should be monitored for mentions, comments, and keywords so your digital team can serve or direct the customer to the channel in which they can receive the best support for their situation.
What would be your top advice for a company planning to start an Omni-Digital strategy?
Companies should be realistic and clear about what success and failure look like in each channel. Once established, brands can determine and implement the resources that are required to succeed, develop unified messaging, and begin the process for the availability and optimization of customer data across the organization.
According to you, what will be the key Digital Customer Care trends for the next 12 months?
Initiatives that help provide convenience and efficiency to the customer will dominate. AI will connect customers at scale to rich self-serve options, along with the ability to quickly, and securely, escalate the customer to award-winning customer service.
Successful companies will ensure alignment between how they define and measure success, and how they leverage that data across company systems to provide an intuitive and efficient customer experience.
Is there any other topic you’d like to talk about?
As the perception of Customer Experience continues to shift from a cost center to a core function, I am hopeful we will see frontline staff better compensated, better trained, along with clearly defined career paths within the organization.