The Customer Experience Podcast
The Customer Experience Podcast

Episode 135 · 1 year ago

135. Creating Conversational Relationships With Thousands of Customers w/ Ali Biggs

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The best conversation that you can have with a customer is one in which they don’t walk away without answers. That might sound obvious, but the path to arriving there requires you to know exactly how to balance bot and human — and how to transition seamlessly between them.

In this episode, I interview Ali Biggs, Senior Director of Product Marketing at Intercom, about marketing for a conversational relationship platform (CRP).

Ali also talked with me about:

- The relationship between EX and CX

- The conviction that relationships with customers are paramount

- Utilizing bots to converse at volume

- Where to position product marketing for greatest effect

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

- Lauren Vaccarello

- Nybll

Subscribe, listen, and rate/review the Customer Experience Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Google Podcasts, and find more episodes on our blog. Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for The Customer Experience Podcast in your favorite podcast player.

Ultimately, we just keep kept coming back to this central conviction that building relationships with your customers is the most important thing. The single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Learn how sales, marketing and customer success experts create internal alignment, achieved desired outcomes and exceed customer expectations in a personal and human way. This is the customer experience podcast. Here's your host, Ethan Butte. Conversations connect people, they engage people. There how we build relationships, especially when they're honest, authentic and reciprocal. Today we're talking about conversational relationships in a business context. will also be talking a little product marketing to today's guest. been a couple years of the marketing agency that humanizes brands and connects them to people. She spent a half dozen years in marketing leadership roles at add roll. Now next roll, a marketing and data technology company. Today she serves as senior director of product marketing at Intercom, a conversational relationship platform, the Business Messenger your customers will love. Allie Biggs, welcome to the customer experience podcast. Thank you, Ethan. I'm really excited to be here and that was a pretty solid intro. I wrote one myself, but touched on all the hot that top notes. Good. Anything I missed there? No, not really, unless you were going to dive into my personal interests, which would have been strange given this is the first time we're meeting. So you know what's so funny, I'm actually kind of going to go there. So early on in we're this is going to be, I think, episode one hundred and thirty seven or somewhere in that range, and early on it became obvious the relationship between employee experience and customer experience. And there's something I noticed in preparing for this interview that I just think is super awesome and I think it speaks to the employee experience side is so I love your take on it. It's your intercomic. So yeah, for for people who are listening and not watching,...

...you can go see this at bombombcom slash podcast. I'll drop it into the blog post for this episode. It's essentially like a trading card with an illustration of you. You know, you're titled. It's got some of your personal interest there. So like kind of like two layer question here. What is the intercomic like? How long have you has the team been doing it? What is its purpose or function? And then what on that card, whether it's having the neatest refrigerator, being a cat lover or wearing a beat be beard, what's maybe one of your favorite details on your intercomic? Yeah, so intercomics, as far as I understand, have been around for as long as intercom has and essentially what they are as every year on your interversary, your team and your manager helped to put together a brief that turns into this comic, this character of yourself, and includes things like a quote, specific outfit, etcter, etc. In years past they were a bit more free form. Each one was really, really unique, and with that you can you know, you lead to the output that like that took a lot of resources in order to produce. So about a year ago actually, they transition to this intercard approach, which is slightly more attemplated, but we've all been delighted to see that it still leaves a lot of room for creativity. And so, as the recipient of the inner comic every year, you're completely in the dark until the day that it shared in the moment it shared with the whole company as to like what impression you left with the people around you. And so I just I had hit my one year introversary in November and I was pretty delighted to see, you know the elements of my personal brand that had come to life in the first year. And Yeah, you touched on some of them. So my dog and my cat both made it. My obsessively Neat Fridge. That was, quite frankly, just the result of not a lot to do during early covid days. And then I actually the bee beard one is definitely the strangest. There's just reference to that. My husband's...

...family runs a honey business and so a few years ago to when I was still like trying to get in with the family, I agreed to wear a be beard at the West Virginia State Honey Festival because his dad was doing one two and, if you believe it, I didn't get stung a single time, although it did require two beers in advance to make sure I was calm enough to actually be able to do it. But so anyway, those were some of the kind of fun things that came to life in my inner comic and Yeah, they're pretty beloved element of our culture. Yeah, that's nothing says love like putting on a be beard again right and against your natural and sticks. I love it. I really like so. So they're shared internally and people talk about them and you probably learn about your team members through them and all of that exactly. Back when we were in the physical space, they were on rotation on monitors throughout all of the offices. They were also printed out and on a big wall and each of the offices as well. So now it's more obviously digital distribution. We utilize facebook workplace, so it's typically shared there and then cross posted in slack and then, of course we celebrate them, like within our individual team meetings as well. Within the marketing org we have a bit of a tradition where what at our once a month all hands, they'll flash it and you have to say your three favorite things about it, similar to what you just did, and so it's just a really cool way to it to actually get to know folks that you probably don't interact with that often daytoday you get to see what's on their innercomic and it can be sort of like a look into their soul in a way. I love it. I did just just little glimpse into the Intercom Culture that you've already offered, just so try I could. I could actually hijack this whole episode and go down that road, but will will get into conversational relationships instead. But we'll start where we always start, alley, which is customer experience. When I say that, what does it mean to you? Yeah, to me it encompasses a lot of things, but I think about just the...

...specific interactions between a company and a customer or a consumer, and so all of those touch points along the way from when your first hearing about them to you know, ideally, when you're a paying customer that they want to retain. It's all of those moments and different formats, different channels that you're actually interacting and that experience a sort of an aggregate of all of those touch points and ideally it's positive. Oftentimes it is, but we all know that there's there's a dark side as well. Yeah, do you have any feelings about whether it should be a role or a function or a team or whether it should just be this kind of holistic, attitudinal philosophical thing that is kind of just baked into the company in the way that operates. Yeah, I feel pretty strongly that it should be the latter. It just needs to be part of your shared goal across the entire org right is to create a positive customer experience. If you had one team, I think there's just the potential that a lot of those efforts end up living in a silo and you kind of, you know what I say, that we're whispering into the wind in a way. But when it becomes central to the marketing team, the RD team, the sales team, the support team, you know, the solutions team, all of those teams, central remit is to create this positive experience and you're embracing the fact that you're starting a conversation with these customers really early on and you want to keep that conversation going over time. I think that when everyone embraces that, it's going to result in the best experience for your customers and then ultimately has payoffs for your business as well. Really good for people who aren't familiar, tell us a little bit about Intercom, like who's your ideal customer? What problem do you solve for them? Yeah, great question. So intercom is we call ourselves a conversational relationship platform and we exist to help better connect customers. Are Companies to their customers, and we are our...

...ideal customer. Our traditional customer has been sort of software companies. Typically we skewed into be to be. But one trend that we've actually seen in the last year, largely due to covid and shifts due to the pandemic, as we actually have more more be to be companies who are coming to us to take a messenger first approach to how they support their customers, and so our ICP has expanded over the last year as a result. But we have a presence in a number of different regions, Ama a pack and in the US as well, but in Lat am as well, and so our ICPS is, like decently broad. But we have also in the last year really found, also due two shifts due to the pandemic, that there is a greater need for stronger support tools in this time due to a number of different reasons I think we may or may not touch on today, and so ultimately we've really been leaning into that space to make sure that we're actually answering the call of our support customers and have what they need in order to be efficient and provide positive experiences. For their customers. Awesome. Happy to go a little bit into tools, a little bit at least. Conversational relationships, like, what does that mean in this context? And you think you know. The simple way to think about it is chat, and this is kind of where the tool piece comes in, where you're, you know, communicating back and forth directly with customers through a website or an APP. But it's more than that. Little color on conversational relationships. Yeah, so we call ourselves a conversational relationship platform, or CRP, which is a bit of a mouthful and, if I'm being really honest, it took us like a long time to land on that term. We explored customer experience platform, Customer Messaging Platform. They're probably about twenty more that we rifle through and really liked and then, you know, had struck down and ultimately we just keep kept coming back to...

...this central conviction that building relationships with your customers is the most important thing. So timely messaging, a great experience, they're really important as well when those but those are specific ways to build a relationship. They're not the end goal, and so we believe that the best way to build that relationship is by being constantly in conversation with your customers. So so that's sort of the the basis of like the name or the term conversational relationships and, more specifically, conversational relationship platform allows businesses to build those relationships through Messenger based experiences, least primarily, everything from when a prospect first lands on your website for the first time to when they're paying customer and a question arises and they need your teams, your support team selp. So, getting into your the element of your question around the tools, we do believe that, in order to deliver on that claim that we build these stronger relationships through these messenger based experiences, that the platform also has to do more than just live chat. That alone is not enough to deliver around that. Ultimately there needs to be a powerful underlying data layer. There needs to be tools and automation that ultimately improved teammate efficiency over time, and we also want to enable teams to manage interactions from channels outside of the Messenger as well. Right. So we know that and we acknowledge that things like email and SMS and beyond have a place in sort of the customer experiences and we think that you shouldn't have to manage a whole bunch of different desperate tools side by side. You should be able to do that all in one central platform. That's awesome. So my understanding now is that it's obviously there's a messenger layer that is unique to the platform and it's probably installed in different places, but that you can also ingest communication from other channels, but on, let's say, the the customer care associates screen, it's all kind of in one dashboard, nice and tidy, probably with the history...

...there. I really like what you offered to about the data layer. Let's go into that for just a minute. My impression is that, just as a customer, not even someone who hosts conversations like these, but just as a customer, I feel like too many companies are releasing kind of chat bots without having done the hard work of the live chat to figure out who's talking to us in this channel. What are they asking about? What are they asking about sixty percent of the time, what are they asking about six percent of the time? What responses tend to produce, you know, the most satisfied people and get people to where they need to go the quickest, etc. Talk about this combination of the data layer, being able to take what I think is the nest and out of your own opinions as you wish. That takes the necessary live, human hard work, unscalable conversations. They all have to happen kind of in real time. You turn that into data at some layer and help that be kind of a selfserve component or that's worthy the automation starts. Yeah, so the data layers can be it's important from from visit one on your website, right. So there are tools that you can utilize, really the absent integrations that you can utilize so that you know a decent amount about a website visitor the moment that they show up, right, in terms of and sometimes it's pretty broad in terms of like company size, but sometimes you can actually kind of reverse engineer like your target account list, for example. And I bring that up just to say that, like we no longer have to take this like kind of spray and pray approach, right, or one term that we talked about quite a bit as like the floodgates, right, and that applies both to kind of what we call conversational marketing, which is when you're trying to convert more traffic on your website. But at this definitely applies on the support side as well. Right a lot of teams are pretty scared to just like turn live chat on to all of their customers, and rightfully so, like that would be in some cases. You know, if you have tens of thousands of customers and you don't have some...

...of those self serve tools that you've touched on set up, I could be disastrous for inbound volume. Right. So there's the element of just utilizing all of the data that you have at your disposal to ensure that targeting of specific messages, specific bought experiences, specific like Messenger modes, for example, are are all being utilized as robustly as possible. So you should never be just opening those floodgates and like expecting your support team or even your sales team to to manage that on their own because, quite frankly, the bots, which you touched on for a second there, have advanced in some pretty incredible ways in recent years, and I'll touch on the specifics of like two ways that you could utilize bots to kind of address that that volume. The first is in what you sort of alluded to there around like if you generally have an idea of the types of questions that are being asked and you understand what that typical path is. You understand what pieces of content are most relevant based on where that individual, that company is and their sales cycle, etc. You can create like kind of preset paths that you know, sort of spider out in terms of, you know, they answer this to this question, that you send them here. If the answer this this question, you send them here and there should know that custom bought path that you can produce, and those can be incredibly effective, especially if you're trying to qualify that individual if you actually have a bit of a gap in the data that you know about them, you can use sort of that to collect more insight to make sure that you're then sending them to the right individuals with the right team internally. But then there's this concept of more of a dynamic like automation based bought, and ours is called resolution bought, and in that case what you're doing is is it's much more like free form based on the question that's being asked for the topic that's being raised, and so things like the person can start typing and it can have type of head suggestions of you know, you may be looking for this, for example. Like that can be really powerful. We all love that aspect of Google, except for when it, like defaults do...

...something very strange. You're like no, but we like to think that doesn't happen with our BOB. But in that case it also has the ability to really utilize or to truly deliver like a selfserve experience by, for example, tapping into your existing help center documentation that already exists and like dynamically serving that up, based on the intent that they've displayed or the topics that they've entered into the chat and that or into the you know, the Messenger Window. And that can be incredibly powerful because a lot of times the questions that customers have don't need to be answered by a live human they can absolutely I mean most of my questions can be answered by a simple Google search, and so the same applies oftentimes to kind of your approach to support. You don't have to ensure that you're sending every single person to a live human being. There is definitely a time and a place for that, but you can do your team a heck of a lot of favors by utilizing some of these pathing options, the more dynamic automation options to just ensure that folks are getting answers to their questions as quickly as possible. And then you're saving your people for only the most complex or maybe it's your VIPs and they're you're able to tag who those folks are and as soon as they show up in your product and send a message, there automatically in the hands of, you know, your top tier support reps instead of having to wade through the selfserve experience. So it's all to say that it's pretty advanced at this point. Yeah, the into your point. Not every like I don't have the expectation or the need to talk to a human that only can a can a bot get me where I need to go, but in a lot of cases that's would be my preference. Maybe as a customer. Talk really quickly. We don't have to stay on it very long, but talk about that off ramp, like where are the outs, like when your customers are setting up, like what are the off ramps to say, okay, we've got I'm thinking my mind and like a picturing like a rage click or something like. What is the off ramp to divert a conversation from. Okay, this is obviously not productive for you or your confused, your frustrate. Let's get you to a human and get...

...you what you need faster. Like, how do you manage that tension? Yeah, I think that it's going to depend on your business, right and and of course again that that's scale challenge that a lot of companies have. They may not be looking to send anyone to a live human being and if that's a decision that they've made for their business, then so you know, that is okay. I can speak a bit to like what intercom what we do for our own a customers is it tends to be a self serve first approach. Right. So we want folks to have an opportunity to find the content themselves, etc. Center, but then we pretty quickly give them an opportunity to speak to a human right. So it's a matter of did that answer your question? No, and then they're sent into a completely different que and then you can still kind of tear or triage questions from there. Right. That's actually they could be interacting with like Resolution Bot, just saying hey, here's an article. Did that answer your question? They say no, you can then say, okay, let me collect a little bit more information from you before I send you to a person, right, and you can still then qualify that question a bit more. So then you can kind of treash it on the back end in terms of priority based on a number of different factors. So I would say, you know, I think the best experiences don't allow anyone, this is rather obvious, but they don't allow anyone to walk away like without some sort of resolution. And sometimes that's going to mean that you are kicking them to a human relatively quickly, and sometimes that's going to mean that you take a second swing at sending them, you know, serving them up an answer of you automation. So just depends. Yeah, and on the human handoff. I this is probably stating the obvious two, but I would assume that one of the goals for your customers is never to ask the customer for information that they've already given once they get to a human. Yes, that's a great that's absolutely true. Like if, and that's where, that day, the layer that we talked about comes into play, right, if you have that, you know, we call it the CDP customer data platform. If you already have that information. You should never...

...be asking for it. It's a pain in the butt as a customer. It's not efficient for the teammates either. Right, if it's all an and sometimes it's just a matter of making sure that the tool that you're utilizing for that central place where the communication come you know, it is being managed by the by the team that it's there's just a dedicated window for like, who is this person? What's their conversation history, like, how much are they spending with you? What if they purchased in the past? Like all of that should be readily available to your Reps. yeah, totally, this is it's especially in those human to human experience as we have so much ability now to make them tech enabled. I mean, they're still human to human, but we can help our people help other people so much more effectively. Let's spend a minute on product marketing. HMM. Yes, senior director of Product Marketing, you know one of the goals of this show is to kind of bring some of the walls down between teams, in this case even sub teams. I'd love for you to share any insights you have for you know, assuming that most listeners are not product marketers, but no, AH product market and perhaps need to have a better functional working relationship with them, like in your view. These aren't all like a direct question, but speak to this the spirit of this. You know, what's the ideal relationship between product marketing and the rest of the marketing team or with product and Dev? I think you referred to it as Rd. I don't know if that's the same thing, like you know product owners and product managers. What's the interface with a product marketer? How do you work with and maybe what are your deliverables or what do you expect to get from Your Customer Success Team? Like weird it's product marketing in your experience and opinion. How do you plug into the organization overall? Yeah, I will say this is one area that I was really delightfully impressed with when I started at Intercom, was how valued and how central product marketing is to the entire organization. So, you know, it's speaking really directly. I spend a lot of my time partnering with those Rd leaders,...

...really the the product management leaders, but I also spend a decent amount of my time liaising with sales leaders and with finance leaders as it relates to like pricing and packaging, for example, and then support plays that plays a role here in in a lot of ways we're actually kind of partnered up with our support team, especially since we sell to other support leaders right there and invaluable to more kids like yes, yeah, exactly. So not only are we as a marketing team, specifically as a product marketing team, trying to take the insights that they are fielding from their interactions with customers and figuring out, should we be q you know, should we be working with our help center content writers to be addressing some of these consistent questions? Should we be working with product to actually address some of these product gaps that seem to be surfacing? And we get some of those insights in terms of product gaps road map needs also from our solutions team, because we have sort of a scaled support model across our business. Relationship Managers are working with sort of managed customers and then our support team that's working more with kind of the well, a very long tail of folks, and so ultimately product marketing sits at the middle of it all, and the same goes for within marketing. Product Marketing, when leveraged to its full potential and when fully staffed, and all those caveats really should be like setting the tone for what you're saying in the market. We should be in front, getting in front of customers and understood, directly, hearing what they're asking for, how they're you know, what they're finding with new products. Be Great. We're just about to Tef our first customer advisory board. Product Marketing team is leading the charge on that. Should really start to create more of this, like to a dialog with some of our top customers. We're working directly with the brand team on like hey, here's...

...what we think we should be saying. How do you think that translates into, you know, your your big, bigger branding initiatives for the year? Where is there a comms play? What are the AAR needs, etc. Etc. We obviously partner with our studio team to actually create assets for specific releases, working with our content team to make sure that these topics that we want to own and that we're building towards between and as agreed between product marketing and product act you know that we are actually talking about them and the assets that we create. We're supplying the demand Gen team with some of the like the INS and outs, like what, again, like what are the topics we want to own? How would we talk about certain things? And it just kind of keeps going from there. On the sales side, you know, we are making sure that we understand what the customer journey looks like, the sales cycles look like, and are kind of fielding, oftentimes, at least our current position is we're fielding requests for specific slides, assets, etc. That they need in order to sell more larger deals. And so, anyway, all that's that's a little bit of a ramble, just to say that, like product marketing is incredibly central to the ORG and it's in that's reflected within marketing and intercom as well. I can reflect on a previous experience that that wasn't always the case right. I think there there can be a tendency to keep product marketing and a little bit of a box where they end up just being the messaging arm. Sort of it the lat you know, the last push to to market. But but when it's really done well, product marketing is ideally a group of individuals who know exactly what your customer, current customers, are looking for, understand the prospect landscape. If that's different from your current customers and who can really help to shape product decisions much earlier on in the process, who are involved in like crafting potential stories that you want to be able to tell based on what you develop over time and that ultimately are kind of more of this end to end approach versus just sort of that last leg of like, okay, we built this. I've been in this position literally were it's like, yeah, we built this over yeah,...

...we want to launch it in a month. What do you need? Right and there's just so many better ways to partner and in to run things really good. How much of even in that unhealthy situation, how much of your communication is to inform internally about what's going on with product versus externally? Yeah, it's a bit of a mix, I would say. I personally spend most of my time internally, but we also have our product marketers are central to our external pushes as well. So, like, here's an example. Actually, our product education team last year spun up what we call built for you, which is sort of the externalization of our product road map as it's shipped, and so our product marketers partner with that team every quarter to come up with a whole bunch of assets that basically articulate some of the kind of aggregate benefits of some of those smaller releases that maybe didn't get like the full, you know, shiny tier one launch in quarter, but are still really valuable, especially to our current customers, and so they're leading on those webinars alongside the folks from product education. They are helping to craft, you know, the blog post that supports it, etc. Etc. And so it's a bit of both. Like I spend a lot of my time just sort of internally educating on what it is like, we feel we need to do. What are the narratives that we've selected? How are we going to be consistent in those over time? How is what we're going to ship going to support those stories? But my team does spend a decent amount of their time also just actually evangelizing that message onto the world. Awesome Product Marketing obviously central to the customer experience, in part because of its effect on the employee experience and every like that. I love this integrated I'm glad that that we took that pass through product marketing because I think it brings people together in a way that will allow multiple different teams to deliver a consistent experience, which is, yeah, what we should all try to do now. I did mention that not everyone listening is a product marketing person, but we have had to product...

...marketers, probably more, but to that came to mind. One was on episode seventy two Shanni Benz or from crunch base, head of marketing, media and Growth. There is a product marketer by background. We called that better marketing through product sales and customer conversations. You've already said that you do a bunch of those conversations yourself, so that's key. That was episode seventy two, and then on episode one hundred and sixteen with Lauren Culbertson. She is founder and CEO at loop VOC but prior to found cofounding that company, she was an eight year product marketer at Black Bawd and founded that company in part to solve one of her problems as a product marketers. That was episode one hundred and sixteen, closing both loops with Voice of the customer. Before I let you go, Alley, I would love for you to do two things, actually three, but you right now think or mentioned someone who's had a positive impact on your life, for your career, and to give an out or shout out to a brand or a company you appreciate for the experience that they deliver for you as a customer. Yeah, so the individual who's had a really big impact on my career is Lauren Baccarello. She's the CMO at talent and she actually hired me at add roll seven years ago now, six and a half years. You seven and a half and and the reason why I cite Lauren is we actually didn't work together for that long. We're working together for, I believe, about eight months, but she's really proved to be a pretty invaluable mentor and just answer of questions, and both reactively and also just she's proactically shared information with me over the years as it relates to not just great marketing and the things that she's thinking about in the pro trap, you know, problems she's trying to solve, but like how much should I be getting paid at and they given time right and just helping to sort of peel the like mystique back around career progression because actually, I mentioned she hired me at out roll because that was my first foray into tech and I didn't have the historical reference of career ladders and as salary expectations, etc.

And she's always been pretty transparent with me and I've just really appreciated that. And she's like very funny and just a generally kick ass, impressive marketer, and so you've just been sort of like soaking in information from her just by being in her general proximity over the last seven and a half years. And then a company that I really enjoyed a little bit obscure. So when the pandemic sat at said in last spring, my husband and I found that we were trying to cook for ourselves all the time. And you know, my free meals at work we're no longer available to me and we were just like over cooking and we were spending way too much money on lunches out, and so we actually started using this company called Nibble. It's NYBL and they do weekly meal deliveries. And one of the reasons so kind some of the reason why I like them is the really proactive in communication and they're really flexible on like the plan. So they've got their baseline plans, but we've sent a few like kind of obscure recommend er requests over the last year, like hey, I don't really like Jack Fruit and you're giving it to me once a week, and they're always willing to accommodate. We reached out about their packaging at one point and they actually were willing to change it for us like so there was less plastic waste. And then they're you know, we know exactly when their drivers going to be there to deliver to us by hand every week. So just a really positive customer experience overall. I love it. It sounds like they're listening in adapting to customers needs. That's what all of us should be doing every day. You gave us some really good insights in how to do that. I appreciate your time so much. Alley off, people want to follow up with you or learn more about intercom, where would you send them? I would say I'm pretty easy to find on Linkedin, since just a lie, Ali Biggs, you can find me. Send me a note on there. That's probably the easiest way. Awesome, and it's intercomcom, intercom, dot Io, intercom, dot ioh there it is, and of course we link all this stuff up at bombombcom slash podcast. Alie,...

...thank you so much for your time today. Really enjoyed it. Thank you. I did as well. Thanks. You have clear communication, human connection, higher conversion. These are just some of the benefits of adding video to the messages you're sending every day. It's easy to do with just a little guidance, so pick up the official book rehumanize Your Business. How personal videos accelerate sales and improve customer experience. Learn more in order today at Bombombcom Book. That's bomb bombcom book. Thanks for listening to the customer experience podcast. Remember, the single most important thing you can do today is to create and deliver a better experience for your customers. Continue Learning the latest strategies and tactics by subscribing right now in your favorite podcast player, or visit Bombombcom podcast.

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