What the Subscription Economy Teaches Us About Kick-Ass Customer Experience
Once upon a time, we could count the number of subscriptions we had on one hand (the newspaper, a magazine or two, and that trusty gym membership). These days, we’ve lost count (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Spotify, Stitch Fix, Costco, Blue Apron, Hulu, BarkBox, plus the usual magazines, gym memberships, and more). And that’s not including the business scene, where you can add on subscriptions to Microsoft, Adobe, Salesforce, HubSpot, Docusign, and hundreds more.
It’s a sea of change. And it’s one that undeniably impacts our perception of the customer experience. Let’s dive right in.
Exploring Customer Care in the Subscription Economy
For those of us in the contact center space, the truly fascinating thing (besides the astounding growth itself) is the impact on customer care and the customer experience. It takes a differentiated approach to provide customer service for a one-time or occasional customer versus someone who expects a consistent experience month after month of their subscription or membership.
In fact, many subscription-based services have designed an ease-of-use/self-serve model that benchmarks the customer experience before that subscriber ever picks up the phone, writes an email, connects via live chat, or drops your brand handle into their social media post
That means that once a subscriber or member does connect with a frontline customer service agent, the customer experience is likely already damaged in some way, large or small. So you need empathetic, confident agents who are empowered to make decisions, take control of the conversation, and deliver the best solution fast.
Each contact represents an opportunity for your agents to deliver a differentiated customer experience that leads to loyalty from your subscribers — but it’s a challenging recipe to achieve. Let’s explore.
Engaging Your Frontline Agents
Keeping subscribers engaged (and loyal) requires equally engaged agents. An engaged team is a team that strives to deliver consistently high quality. And consistency is a core pillar of the best customer service. Consistency is also at the heart of a successful subscription experience — so the stakes are doubly high.
So much of employee engagement depends upon the employee’s understanding of how critical their individual role is to the success of the team. And that starts on day one in the onboarding and training process. Our onboarding model goes beyond training on soft and hard skills related to the job: our trainers nurture that agent-to-client brand relationship from the start. They need to know they can directly affect a subscriber’s lifetime customer value through every customer care interaction.
Through the training program, we seek to identify and address any barriers that will hold agents back from delivering kick-ass experiences. We’ve found that the strategic use of role-play exercises and positive reinforcement are essential to overcoming those barriers.
These strategies have a direct impact on agent competence, confidence, and engagement when newbies hit the product floor and start interacting with subscribers.
Communicating with Your Frontline Agents
Hand-in-hand with engagement is communication — and it starts with transparency. Your agents need to know what’s going on and feel empowered to make decisions that drive subscriber loyalty.
That means sharing policy changes, marketing or sales objectives, goals, and metrics, and ensuring the team understands how their roles impact each of these things. For one of our clients in the SaaS space, frontline folks are incented on annual targets related to renewal. They are also incented to contribute to community forums, sharing their expertise in a way that contributes to both the enterprise subscriber self-serve experience, but also the knowledge base of the team at large.
For some of our B2C projects, the pandemic caused volumes to spike at astronomical rates, hundreds of percent higher than previous records or forecasts. In a situation where the pressure on agents is intense and unrelenting, an agent must be able to see the difference they’re making with each call.
In many of these crisis scenarios, it’s about making sure every agent focuses on one call at a time — and supporting them effectively so they know they will get through it. And that’s what every subscriber wants too — they don’t want to be a number in a long line of holds. As a subscriber their monthly spend might be of minimal impact to the bottom line, but their lifetime value is critical, and they know it. And they want every single customer care interaction to reflect that.
It again comes down to communication. Making sure everyone is on the same page — from the agents to the coaches to managers to the client — is key to ensuring we don’t sacrifice quality. Agents need to feel heard to keep morale and engagement high. The prevalence of remote work post-pandemic has certainly challenged established cultural norms but video communication, group chat, one-on-one coaching, and remote focus groups are just some of the tactics that ensure we’re communicating effectively with our frontline agents.
Providing Agent Feedback
Because members and subscribers are more than just one-time customers, delivering a consistent customer experience every single time they interact with a support person is critical to their continued brand loyalty. That’s why regular, real-time agent feedback is key and it is critical to not overlook your tenured or top performers. Creating a sense of striving is essential to engagement whether your agent has been on the job for a week or five years
We operate on a standard of 12 coaching sessions per month — scaling down to no fewer than eight sessions per month for the top performers. Our cadence includes at least one side-by-side coaching session and two remote coaching packages delivered to agent desktops each week. This strategic feedback schedule helps our agents deliver their best performance, leaving subscribers and members feeling confident in the service we’re providing.