Building and leading CX teams - Newsie #2 🚀

It's not all that difficult to keep your team engaged...

Hey readers,I can’t start this newsletter without mentioning the overwhelming amount of grief, heartbreak, and despair I've felt this week. As a new father of a one-year-old, I felt this so deeply, and can’t even imagine how gutted the families of the victims are.   

"To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped away.  

There’s a hollowness in your chest, and you feel like you’re being sucked into it and never going to be able to get out.  

It’s suffocating.  

And it’s never quite the same."

I wanted to take a moment for these victims and their families. I hope and pray we—as a society, but in particular our political leaders—end these senseless acts of violence so that our kids can go to school safely. 

Last week I shared all about my journey and what brought me into the world of CX. If you missed that, feel free to check it out here

I was nervous as hell to push out newsie #1, but the feedback I’ve received from you all made it worth it. Grateful to each and every one of you for following along and subscribing, it really means the world! ❤️

Once again, this week’s newsie is sponsored by Wonderment, the tool we use at Jones Road Beauty to automatically let customers know if their order is delayed in transit and increase retention. You can set up automatic updates via sms and email to let customers know when their order was actually picked up (as opposed to when the label was printed) as well, and so much more.

Check them out here and tell them Eli sent ya. 

In this week’s newsie, here’s what we’ll hop into:

  • How to build CX teams at small and medium businesses

  • How to keep CX teams motivated and engaged 

With topics like these, I know there’ll be questions you have while reading, so please don’t hesitate to reply to this email with any q’s!

Now, let’s get into it. 

Part I: How to build CX teams at small/medium businesses

Imagine this: It’s day one. You are starting a DTC company selling healthy Nutella.

Brand name is bougie, it’s ~ FLAVORELLA ~

You pick up a seed round led by Collaborative Fund with a big old check from Nik Sharma at Masala Capital. 

You want to keep it lean and clean.

You hire an ops person and find a 3PL.

You outsource design.

You find a fantastic growth agency to run ads.

Your healthy Nutella alternative starts shipping.

Then the emails start coming in.

“Where is my order?” “How many net carbs?” “Why does the label not say where it was made?” “My container tastes a bit weird, and the color is off, can you help?”

So many founders get reeled in by an outsourced CX provider and quickly sign up with an overseas team to stay afloat and “FoCuS oN bUiLdiNg”, but they forget that talking to customers on day one is actually the best use of your time to be able to know what’s going well and what isn’t.

As an early-stage founder, you definitely want to dedicate 30–60 minutes a day to talk to customers (at the very least). If I have one message for early-stage startups, it’s this:

Don’t outsource your conversations with the people that are actually buying your product.

“Ok, Eli, but as I scale, it’ll take much more than 30–60 minutes a day; who should I be looking to hire as my first CX person?”

Well, here goes. Here’s what you should be looking for in a first CX employee:

  1. To start, you might not need 40 hours a week on CX, so look for someone that can help with other things outside of CX. Look for a generalist that is passionate about CX. They might be able to help with ops, marketing, etc. Early-stage is hectic!

  2. As the first person on your team, culture is so important as they will set the standard of CX at your brand. Choose someone that personifies what you stand for as a brand.

  3. You’ll need a self-starter, someone that can create macros and processes, and be the person that can help onboard future hires.

“Okay, I like it, Picasso. How do I find this person?”

Here is how to find great CX folks:

  1. Put effort into the job description. Make it compelling, you need to sell your company, it’s a job-seekers market rn 😏

  2. Where to look:

    1. LinkedIn is an underrated resource to find great employees. If you put a few dollars behind the job listing and ask some industry folks to share as well, I find that usually nets good results. 

    2. The other solid option is asking folks within CX to share in their network. CX folks are highly likely to know other CX folks who might be looking. 

    3. Finally, the best folks are usually working at a different brand. Go poach them. 🤣

  3. When interviewing, make sure they are passionate about CX, not just looking for a job that will lead them into a marketing or sales role in 6 months. Ask them how they would handle a disappointed customer, and how they have handled frustrating incidents in the past. Don’t ask typical interview questions, break the script.

Once you’ve secured a great CX person on your team, I think it’s super important to talk about building great teams and great team culture, and how to keep your team motivated and engaged. 

When I started at OLIPOP, so much of the focus across the company was growth. The product was great, we were launching great new flavors, and the energy was high. CX, on the other hand, was busting at the seams. 

We were expanding rapidly, and my team doubled subscriptions in the first few weeks. DTC was popping off, and we needed to strategize about the growth of the team. I’ve always hated working on large teams, and my priority was finding efficiency before hiring extra hands.

I vividly remember the “oh, shit” moment when I realized we were doing quite well but had no depth or mission to what we were doing. We were bending towards reactive instead of mission-driven proactive. I spent a few hours putting together a deck, and here is one of my favorite slides. It’s something I think most CX teams can riff off of.

Before growing a team, it is imperative to draw up your own core values—a foundation to build a team on, rather than just adding headcount and staying powered by vibes. 

Aside from core values, here are the other things I believe it takes to build magical CX teams:

Hiring—The Who 

It’s really hard to instill a passion for CX within someone that does not care for it. Have you ever had an impatient and kind waiter/waitress? Have you ever gone back and forth with a company and gotten the same response, copied and pasted?

Hire folks that LOVE CX. Hire folks that will read between the lines and deliver customer moments, even if it’s just with the kindness of their tone and their willingness to help. When someone loves service and loves making things right, customers feel that. 

Empowering—Tear Down Walls, Not Creativity

One of the most common questions I ask is “how do you create customer moments?”. Ironically, it’s almost always leaders asking this, and never the folks on the CX team. 🙃

I find that corporate structure and BS are usually the barrier to creating and cultivating great customer experiences, not your CX team or their creativity. 

Give them the budget to buy a loyal customer flowers or dinner. It’s those moments that create magical moments for not just your customer, but your team as well. 

Scaling—Focus on Unscalable Moments

When teams scale rapidly, process comes flying into every open window. Terms like SLA, KPI, and a slew of other three-letter expletives come at you faster than you can imagine. Often, that’s when the magic dies.

Focus on creating moments. One of my fav books around creating customers is “The Power of Moments” by Dan & Chip Heath - a MUST read for anyone building a business intent on putting the customer first. Lastly, I do think it's worth creating a best practices doc with some more practical guiding principles for your team. Here is the one I made at OLIPOP - I encourage making one that fits your brand. 

Now that we’ve covered how to build fantastic teams, let’s hop into Part II.

Part II: How to keep CX teams motivated and engaged 

When I started in CX in 2016, CX was at the bottom of the barrel in terms of salary, cool factor, and any other metric you can think of. Yes, we still have a long way to go, but I do love to see that CX is back in the conversation.

What started as a corner-of-the-office-fire-extinguisher role is now making its way to the upper echelons of the corporate structure with roles such as Chief Customer Officer. CX associate roles, on the other hand, still have higher turnover than any other role at a startup, by a long shot. 

The average customer-service representative between ages 20 and 34 stays on the job for just over one year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average call center turnover rate is as high as 45%—at least twice the average turnover in other departments.

Why do you think that is?

In talking to hundreds of CX’ers over the years, and being there myself, what I learned is quite simple. If you are “good at” CX, it’s because you have an extra dose of empathy. The catch-22 is that you feel things deeply and get burned out somewhat quickly when your 9–5 is defusing overly annoyed customers.

Given the selection dynamics of customers taking the time to reach out to companies, the bulk of customer emails are not thanking you for your service in creating the best product in the world, even if your product is top tier. Most of the folks reaching out are annoyed and want a refund, and tackling hundreds of those tickets leads to burnout.

In all my years leading CX teams, I have never had one person quit my team (*knocking furiously on all the wood in my house as I write this*). Yup, I’ve had people level up into different roles in the org, but never had anyone quit my team.

How do I do this?

Here’s my simple framework:

  1. Appreciation: As a CX leader, my #1 role is being the Kris to the Kardash’s, the biggest cheerleader they have. 

    1. I post the biggest wins to the rest of the org on the general channel in slack. If my team wins big, everyone will know. 🤣

    2. I share the most amazing CSAT customer responses with the team weekly. Nothing boosts team morale like sharing wins constantly. Share wins publicly, lament losses privately.

    3. I push for them to get more learning opportunities across the company (social, ops, etc). Doing the same thing all day is great for some, but some folks get bored and I give them the ability to switch things up.

  2. Dedication: CX teams often don’t feel appreciated or heard. My goal is to be here for the team and they are priority number 1.

    1. I’ll cancel a meeting with the CEO for a team member. I’ll make time at any time of day to talk to my team. It can be about work, but it can also be about something personal if they wish. I support them and care about them as a human, not just about the work they do.

    2. I never expect my team to do anything I wouldn’t do myself. When sh*t hits the fan and we need extra help, I’m the first one in the inbox. I help on weekends, I help on holidays. Guess hustle culture lives on (jokes, jokes).

  3. Vacation: So many junior employees feel the need to prove themselves as someone that will work 365 days a year. Hell, I spent the first few years of my career never taking a day off. I worked on my honeymoon in Bali (pro tip: do not do this).

    1. At OLIPOP, we instituted “MHF,” aka Mental Health Fridays, where CX team members took off one Friday a month. That was mandatory, aside from the unlimited PTO we had. Hire A-players and give them the ability to take time off, don’t hire C-players and then be stressed that they want to take off. 

    2. PTO culture starts with the leaders on the team. If leadership works while on vacation or never takes time off, what sort of example do you think that sets for the team?Take time off. Encourage your team to as well. No slack when you’re off. No meetings. For CX teams, down-time is rest time, and so damn important.

If you made it until here, I am so thankful you took the time to read newsie #2.

I was hoping to tackle my favorite tools in this one, but I’m already well over 2,000 words and don’t want this to feel like a full evening reading assignment, so I’ll save that for next week!Thoughts? Comments? Q's?P.S. If you liked this, please drop me a note + share it with a friend 😃