Interview with Cédric Blum - Trusting Your Agents
Cédric Blum has racked up years of experience in customer care across many countries and sectors such as telecoms, IT, media, and health. His CV boasts a range of companies including SFR, Webhelp, iflix, and Doctolib. In this interview, Cedric gives his opinion on quality of service in the industry, removing the binding rules for customer care and why customer service is more important than ever.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your professional background?
After working for SFR for a few years, I specialized in Customer Service by moving to the contact center provider side at Webhelp. This experience in Morocco and France then motivated me to manage my own customer service, so I moved to Malaysia where I worked for Lazada, and then for iflix. I came back to France in 2017 to run a service agency for the elderly, then I finally decided to return to customer service by taking over the customer experience management at Doctolib a few months ago.
Through all these experiences, I have developed the conviction that fine-tuned processes represent the safety net for a minimum quality of service, but that ultimately it is the employees who will make the difference and allow outstanding performance and experience.
What's the importance of Customer Experience for companies?
Fewer and fewer companies are relying on their patents or technological advances to dominate a market or simply continue to grow. The world's best known companies are known for their name and brand, more than for any one product. Apple, Virgin, Google and even Amazon may have flagship products, but they are present in many more markets than the market for this product in question.
The attractiveness of a brand and product to users is increasingly based on the personification of the brand and the image it conveys. This image is less and less shaped by advertising and direct marketing, and more on the interactions between customers and the brand. Customer relations are therefore an integral part of marketing in the broadest sense of the term and are therefore becoming increasingly important.
What's the most significant change in terms of customer behaviors you've observed lately?
A few years ago, the less the customers called on customer service, the happier the companies were; this was like setting up the dogma "best support is no support" in absolute religion. That being said, I think that this sentence had been misinterpreted by some and clients were forced to get by, which meant confusing them as much as possible, even if it meant tiring them out.
Today, more and more companies no longer hesitate to promote a multitude of contact channels to prove that they are listening to their customers, the paradigm has changed meaning. And even if I am convinced that "best support is no support"; in cases where the customer cannot do it alone, you must be immediately attentive to his needs to help them.
Can you tell us about the best Customer Experience you've ever had? And the worst one?
The best one is the failure of my Kindle on holiday. The customer service immediately offered to send me a new one before I even sent the old one back and when I said I was on holiday but was leaving in 2 days, they sent it to me by express shipping so that I could receive the tablet the next day. What I have learned from this is that we must avoid putting binding rules for 100% of customers because of 5% of fraudsters, which ultimately penalizes 95% of honest customers. Above all, this leads to a heaviness and a strong loss of autonomy at the level of the agents, who often feel helpless, which makes their work much less interesting.
I wouldn't mention the brand, but my worst experience was when I wanted to unsubscribe from an airline loyalty program point statement. The email naturally proposed an unsubscribe link, but this link referred to a page that offers to unsubscribe by phone or by post...
In addition, you had to click on a new link to get more details (no phone number or address was listed on this page). Without going into detail, this set of links finally ended up nowhere. I had to contact 3 different Twitter accounts to finally realize that the only way to stop receiving this statement of points was to unsubscribe completely from the program, and therefore lose all the points accumulated! Which I did without hesitation at that moment!
According to you, what will be the key Customer Service trends for the next 12 months?
It's probably more of an objective than a trend, but I hope that customer service will come back to the forefront. That each customer service will now be at the center of many more decisions as the customer's ambassador, and therefore the most legitimate entity to evolve the product. Everything we hear about the customer experience is actually what many people - who had been working in customer service for a long time - were saying and were not being listened to enough.
In your opinion, to what extent does agent "empowerment" lead to better customer experience?
As stated in the previous answer, I think that many agents have answers to give to clients but cannot because of a lack of resources and autonomy. The example of the Kindle is not insignificant, it proves that an agent with the right means at his disposal can solve a problem in a few seconds and transform a negative experience like a breakdown into a happy experience: an express replacement. Customers are quite able to understand that not everything always goes perfectly, and if their problems are dealt with effectively, their trust in the brand will even increase!
What would be your top advice to deliver a remarkable Customer Experience?
Trust your customer service agents: if you don't trust them, why did you recruit them?