Beth Held – Customer Experience Leader [Customer Service]
Beth is a Customer Experience and Customer Service Leader. She is an effective, respected leader who has been recognized for creating a positive experience for both customers and associates. Beth discusses ways to build a successful contact center, and how to provide customers with peace of mind, and also create a great experience.
Nick Glimsdahl 0:05
I’m excited today to be joined by Beth held. Beth is a service delivery director at facility source. Her LinkedIn page describes her as an energetic operations leader. And I would completely agree with that title. And welcome to the podcast. Hi, thanks
Beth Held 0:22
for having me.
Nick Glimsdahl 0:24
Yeah, absolutely. So right at the beginning, how did you get started in customer service?
Beth Held 0:32
You know, I have been in customer service, I think since my very first job, it’s as long as I can remember, I’ve been in a role where I was working with customers, I started as a grocery store cashier. And you know, back in the days where you actually had to key in the price, not just scan things, and work, a fast food job in high school. And then I started as a bank teller, as what I thought was just a job and, you know, turned into a career. So yeah, I’ve been in customer service, as long as I can remember.
Nick Glimsdahl 1:06
That’s awesome. See, you are back in the day when they asked you if you wanted paper or plastic, right.
Beth Held 1:12
Yes, exactly. And even further back? Absolutely.
Nick Glimsdahl 1:17
That’s awesome. So obviously, a lot has changed. You know, maybe take me back throughout those years, what’s changed specifically, since you first started?
Beth Held 1:29
You know, I think, you know, even just the the technology of like I said, I used to key in prices on, you know, on every item, when somebody was checking out of the grocery store versus now, you know, not only is everything scanned, but you can scan it yourself when you walk in the door, if you don’t even want a cashier to have to do it for you. But I think you know, bigger than that, obviously, the the pace is so much faster. And customers have much higher expectations than they used to, I think, you know, with that technology has come that customers expect you to know them and understand them, and how they’ve interacted with you before. Or you know, what they’ve, what they’ve purchased before. They, you know, if they’ve bought something and want to do a return, you should know everything that they already purchased online. And then I think that it’s really important that businesses have to make it easy for customers to do business with them. Again, back to those high expectations. And thinking about, you know, customers, I think that customers get very easily frustrated when they feel like they’ve provided this information, and then they have to provide it again. So it’s important that we look at how to make it easy to do business with us.
Nick Glimsdahl 2:53
Yeah, I think that’s what it’s all about is making it easy to do business with. Yes. So it’s actually a great transition. The main topic today is building a successful contact center. And the reason why I was excited to talk with you, obviously, you’re, you’re you’re awesome. And I would talk to you about pretty much any topic. But since you’re a veteran in the contact center space, I kind of wanted to ask you about ways context that center leaders should approach refreshing their contact center.
Beth Held 3:24
You know, the, what I think this comes down to is listening to frontline employees. And, you know, that can be formal, it can be informal, it can be, you know, just being out on the floor, talking to your frontline folks and understanding what their pain points are. You know, what, again, what makes it hard for them to do business? What policies or procedures get in their way? What, you know what technology would make their lives easier? So I think that understanding what’s happening, because they also know what customers are saying, you know, something I’ve always said to my frontline employees as they talk to more customers in an hour sometimes then I talked to in a month. So they know what customers are saying, and we can’t, you know, I think years ago, it used to be Oh, they’re just, you know, answering the phones or they’re just, you know, a call center agent. But, you know, I’m really trying to help people understand that those frontline employees are far more important than the more senior people because they know what’s going on. And if you just sit with those agents, and listen to calls, then you know, you can hear hear, you know exactly what customers are saying. And you know, really to take that to the next level even if you can take calls yourself or do chats yourself Whatever those different contact points are, you will have such a better understanding of what’s going on and what makes life difficult for your team. And for you know, and for your customers, I think, you know, something that one of the first call centers that I managed, I can remember, the director at the time putting me through training, to take calls. And I just remember thinking at the time, man, this is a waste of time, I want to be out there managing and leading and, but in hindsight, that was one of the smartest things that ever happened, because then my team knew I could pull up a chair next to them, and I could take calls and they could listen to me, and they could coach me. So you know, that, to me, is what’s most important to if people are doing that, you can get a ton of value from a lot of different perspectives doing that.
Nick Glimsdahl 5:54
Yeah, for sure. You know, I think it’s, it’s, it’s great to lead by example, too, because if you’re not in there, listening to the conversations that the employees your employees are having, and you’re not providing them the value of saying, Hey, here’s what I heard. I mean, even Amazon’s the their executive team, once a year, I think for a day has to sit inside the contact center and actually listen to the conversations and participate inside the contact center. Because the your frontline are literally the voice of the customer. And if you’re not paying attention to them, and giving them the right tools, because that that they’re not actually going to find the right ways to to make your experience for the customer better. So I love that advice. You know, I? I, I was I almost believe that. You know, I think that organizations really need to focus on spending that time. So even kind of like what you mentioned at the very beginning. You didn’t want to you just want to manage, like, let me at it. Let me look at the data. And I’ll try to find a way to make them as efficient as possible. But I would I would say that more organizations would have a better experience that they actually do what you’re doing today and listening to those frontline employees.
Beth Held 7:17
Absolutely. I think too, if you start you have to do that at the beginning, like you said, because if you don’t, then it’ll always be I don’t have time. I don’t have time. So yeah, I think that’s that’s how you set a leader up to be successful.
Nick Glimsdahl 7:31
Yeah, sure. Another question I had for you. And it’s kind of more relevant today’s climate. But customers have bombarded the contact center with phone calls right now, sometimes 234 times the amount of prior. So how do you provide customers with a peace of mind and still create a better the right experience for the customer?
Beth Held 7:57
You know, I think one of the biggest things is for the team, you know, we need to be listening. And we need to be staying calm and understanding. People are so stressed right now. And, you know, in a lot of cases, if you know, where handle time has been a priority in the past, for some that, in some cases now needs to go out the window, and we need to take the time to listen to people. And you know, we might be the only person they have to talk to sometimes. So even if we can’t change the situation, we can at least listen to them. And don’t create any more stress for them. Again, don’t make things difficult. If there’s, you know, I think it’s good to have be proactive with whether it’s messaging on the IVR or met information online have questions, you know, you know, you’re getting the same questions over and over. So what resources can you make available, you know, making sure that there’s different channels that customers can reach you. Because and different people are going to have different ways of wanting to interact. And I think that even more so right now as that stress level increases, where maybe I wasn’t willing to I didn’t care about waiting on the line to talk to somebody now I’m more willing to wait. And just helping people once they get through, listen to them, and help them through it. You know, the the example that I like to give is, you know, there’s if there’s you know, when I was managing a banking call center that, you know, a customer would call in and lose their debit card and be really upset and really stressed. And that call center agent had taken that call 1000 times and could be really wrote in their response and really, you know, kind of short with a customer like This isn’t that big a deal. But I would try and help them understand. This is the first time this has happened for this customer, and they are really, you know, freaking out. That’s their money. As opposed to you, you’ve heard this call 1000 times, but you need to handle it. Like it’s the first time you did. And I think that applies now as well. Yes, everybody’s stress. Yes, you’re hearing the same thing over and over. But how do you personalize that conversation to that customer, and make them the priority in that moment?
Nick Glimsdahl 10:31
Yeah, that’s awesome. There’s, there’s another company that works with health care companies, in Columbus, Ohio. And they actually have a hub where if something, something bad happens there first, the first line of defense is to this team. And they don’t have average handle time, they don’t have like the calls, they don’t have, their goal is to be empathetic, and listen, and to be there and understand their pain points and push them in the right direction. and say, Hey, here’s my phone number, if you need me, here’s my way to get ahold of me. And, and I love that because that’s first line of defense, providing that peace of mind to that, or that company, or that customer, and then transitioning to that next group for the next bit. And they kind of have these these pods. And I love it. And the one thing the LC mentioned was around older generations, and I’ve seen that across all industries right now and the contact center of older generations are calling in, even before but now, now, as this is coming through these these calls, older generations are come calling in because they just want somebody to talk to their board. And sometimes I’ve heard a story of an insurance company where this old lady would call this this guy once a week and try to, you know, say that she had problems or issues, and she just wanted to talk to him. And so it’s a little bit sad, but you know, I appreciate the what the guy did where he was just like his boss said, Hey, just just take care of her. Right? Like, don’t don’t worry about your, your, your metrics that you’re trying to hit, like, just take care of her. And I love that. Love that story.
Beth Held 12:13
Right. And I think to start, I think to that with them, you know, we need to the other part of that is we need to be taken care of our employees too, because they’re stressed. So we need to be patient with them as well. And make sure that we’re supporting them like we’re supporting our customers.
Nick Glimsdahl 12:31
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. They employees are such that the story is the employees are always always right. At least that’s the old saying. And I would say that, you know, you need to focus on your employees first and then focus on your customers. So, you know, when it comes down to technology is kind of one thing you added when when it shows says making sure you have different channels. Now, what technology, innovation? Are you kind of most excited about in the coming years around customer service customer experience?
Beth Held 13:05
Oh, you know, I think that, you know, we need to sorry, the, I think that, you know, there’s going to be a lot of new innovation, obviously, that comes out of this time and things like how do we help customers do business with us differently? For example, delivery options, like, you know, there are prescription delivery services now, or curbside pickup or in store pickup. So how do we increase the ways that customers can do business with us, in order to make their lives easier, make them feel safe, and you know, but still be able to do business with us? And, you know, places that what even if it’s, you know, carry out and restaurants that didn’t used to do it before, this time has forced companies to look at things differently. And as hard as this time has been, that’s one of the things that’s most fascinating to me, and, you know, what are the things that could be delivered now? So that creates this whole other, you know, channel, and what are the places where you could just pick things up curbside, or reserve them online and have them ready for you where that wasn’t possible before? Or people wouldn’t have even considered it before?
Nick Glimsdahl 14:31
Yeah, yeah. There’s there’s a lot of you know, another insurance company I just thought of was and is around technology, I guess, but didn’t feel comfortable with their employees working from home. Out of 25 30,000 employees, I think only 5000 employees of theirs, had that ability to work from home and the CEO came out in the last couple weeks and said hey, we’re gonna This is actually working We’re pretty efficient, if not maybe more efficient. And we’re giving more time back to our, our employees so they can go to go hang out with their families and have dinner at the end of the day. And, you know, but it’s it’s technology, but it’s ways to listening to your employees listening to your customers adapting in that moment and being able to change. And that that company is going from 22 physical locations across the nation to four, obviously, not overnight. But it’s amazing on how you’re willing to change when, when you’re kind of forced to in the moment, but you’re like, Hey, this is kind of work. And let’s change for good because the brick and mortar is kind of expensive. So let’s find ways to adapt in the moment.
Beth Held 15:49
I think what commercial real estate even sorry, commercial real estate changes what it’s going to what’s going to happen there. And I know open workspaces where there’s a kiosk that you go, and you choose your seat for the day, you know, that those kinds of things people just aren’t going to be comfortable with anymore. So, yeah, it’s gonna be interesting.
Nick Glimsdahl 16:14
Yeah, no, great point. So two questions I asked all of my guests. And the first question is, what book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
Beth Held 16:29
And I love this question. The, you know, I am all about, you know, mentorship and helping people be successful. And some of the best advice that I was ever given, was very early on, in my career from my stepmother, who is a, she’s been very successful and owns her own business. But she gave me the advice that I should have my own personal board of directors. So instead of a person, I would say, people, and that concept of a personal Board of Directors is something that I’ve carried through for many years, you know, I have a senior executive who is a mentor to me, she’s younger than I am, she’s a customer service executive here in Columbus. And I met her at a conference when I was speaking at a conference in Florida, and she was also one of the speakers and I just went up and introduced her, because I knew that, you know, she would be a great person to learn from. And, you know, she and I have had some great conversations, I have my first boss that, you know, when I started in banking, she, you know, just kind of took me under her wing, and promoted me and taught me so many things. And, again, back to my old school ways, I still have a Franklin planner that I write in, and make a list and check things off. And I know that that’s very old school. And people look at that sometimes. And I might get, you know, harassed about it once in a while. But that’s something like, I can remember her writing things down and, you know, making that list and that has carried through with me and one of my girlfriends that we have very different political views, and you know, just view different views about a lot of things, but she’s truly one of my closest friends. And I refer to her as my truth teller, she is going to tell me like it is and if I’m, you know, making poor decisions, whether they’re in business or personally, or making great decisions, she is going to be right there, you know, right there with me. And I know that while what she says may be hard to hear, she is saying it out of love, and, and I need to hear it. And then, you know, I also have my best friend and also my fiance’s daughter in law, who are very spiritual, and I can go to them for you know, that kind of guidance spiritually, or, you know, just that perspective. So I feel like I have this very well rounded group of people that different backgrounds, different experiences, but they all add value to me personally and professionally, in one way or another. And it just, I really encourage people if they haven’t heard that concept before, that personal Board of Directors has been just one of the best things that I’ve ever, you know, ever maintained. So,
Nick Glimsdahl 19:50
so cool. A personal Board of Directors, I have to start thinking about that. So the second question is, if you could leave a note to all the Customer Service or customer experience professionals, what would it say?
Beth Held 20:07
I would go back to my comments about understanding the importance of your frontline staff. Don’t look at them as they are just entry level, they are just those 15, you know, dollar an hour college students who they’re not going to be here very long. Pay attention to them pay attention to the insights that they provide to the value that they provide. And create a culture where they are comfortable sharing, whether it’s good things that are happening, or, you know, really bad things that are happening, create an environment where they’ll stop you in the hall and talk to you and give you an opinion. Or, you know, they’ll just stop in your office and talk to you or Hey, this just happened, how would you handle it? So, again, I just go back to focusing on those those frontline folks and how do you set them up to be successful?
Nick Glimsdahl 21:10
That is some great advice. I appreciate that. So Beth, how do people get ahold of you if they want to connect with you online or reach out and say, I love what you’re doing? Or I have a question around a specific question around on the podcast.
Beth Held 21:27
And anyone is more than welcome to reach out to me on LinkedIn, my name could not be a whole lot easier than elde just just like it sounds. So yeah, absolutely reach out. I would love to connect.
Nick Glimsdahl 21:40
That’s awesome. That I truly appreciate your time today. Excited to actually reconnect with you in the near future and hope you have a great day.
Beth Held 21:51
The Press 1 For Nick podcast is both educational and engaging, and each episode offers listeners a dynamic blend of insightful stories, best practices, and invaluable lessons.
Nick’s guests – each with a unique wealth of knowledge – include leaders from a variety of backgrounds and industries. Some of his guests include:
- Customer service & customer experience leaders
- A hostage negotiator
- Award-winning authors
- Home Depot’s Senior Director of Customer Care
- Former VP of Disney’s Magic Kingdom
- Lyft’s Head of Partner and Customer Engagement
- Deputy Chief Veteran Experience Officer from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs
On every episode Nick asks his guest two questions:
- What book or person has influenced you the most in the past year?
- If you could leave a note to all the Customer Service and CX professionals, what would it say?
You can find all the podcast guests’ answers under their episodes below.
If all you want is the guests’ book recommendations, you can go here.
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