CXperts Ep 8: Brett Frazer: VP at Sunbasket - Focus On Priority KPIs and Agent Satisfaction for Success
Alex Kvamme and Brett Frazer, VP of Customer Service at Sunbasket discuss prioritizing and focusing on the metrics, making adjustments in realtime, and driving agent satisfaction.
CXperts is a podcast where we dive into the hot topics and trends around customer experience with thought leaders and luminaries from the world’s most recognizable and successful companies and brands.
This week’s episode: Alexander Kvamme meets with Brett Frazer, to discuss prioritizing and focusing on the metrics that matter to agents and the business, making adjustments in realtime, and driving agent satisfaction. Brett is the Vice President of Customer Service at Sunbasket, a meal delivery company on a mission to help people live their healthiest lives, starting with what’s on their fork. Brett is an award-winning CX leader and frequent speaker on the subject. He has spent the past 20+ years helping multi-national organizations and start-ups like Microsoft, Sutherland, Adobe, and more deliver against this customer promise of the best basics. Regardless of role, position, or organization, the focus and passion of his work has been to create experiences that not only keep customers coming back, but that lead them to recommend others to join them.
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Alexander Kvamme 00:20
Welcome everyone to the CXperts Podcast, where we dive into hot topics and trends around customer experience with thought leaders and luminaries from the world's best brands and most successful companies. I'm your host, Alexander Kvamme, co-founder and CEO of Pathlight an end-to-end platform for managing customer-facing teams that combines analytics, insights, performance management, employee engagement, quality, and much more. I'm really excited about today in this episode. My guest is Brett Frazer, an award-winning CX leader and frequent speaker and thought leader on customer support and excellence. He's currently the VP of customer service at Sunbasket, a meal delivery company on a mission to help people live their healthiest lives, starting with what they eat. Brett, welcome to the podcast. It's great to have you.
Brett Frazer 01:09
Absolutely, Alexander. It's actually starting with what's on your fork. Yeah, absolutely Sunbasket, we are not only a meal kit delivery company, we're the premium meal kit delivery company, wonderful organic food. And it's great and one of the reasons why I think I've been successful here, a quick story about myself, I grew up in a farm in New Zealand and so organic farming and connection to the land and good connection to the food and protein has been always important in my life.
And from the age of about 11, my parents had us cook one night a week and my brother had his five or six things he'd rotate through, got to about 10 in the end. My sister cooked the exact same meal every Wednesday night for years. I'll never have a Hungarian goulash again in my life. And I had this obsession of trying to do something new every week. And so when Sunbasket came along and gave me this opportunity to bring this background and this skill set I've growing in customer experience and customer service and combine that with this background and farming and cooking and food and bringing people together around the table, it's just been this great mix in marriage.
Alexander Kvamme 02:19
That's great. That's great to hear. And you're skipping ahead to my questions around your background. We're a minute into the show, I'm already going to go off the rails. Talk to me about customer service and cucumbers, and specifically the challenges with managing those?
Brett Frazer 02:40
Absolutely. I mean, here's one of the things about working with produce and working with perishables. The reality is sometimes it's not if something's going to go wrong, it's when something goes wrong. And so the reality is just to be prepared for all this myriad of things that you never have to think about that are going to come to light when you're dealing with a perishable food.
And so cucumbers were this bane of our existence for a really long period of time. Early on, it was partially because, yeah, our kitchen team, chef Justine and her team are amazing chefs who've got amazing recipes they bring to the table. And they always want to bring these new and interesting items and Persian cucumbers are an amazing small little cucumber. Great if you've never had them, but they're not the best in winter. They need warmth. And we'd be sending out this beautiful food at a time that they just couldn't handle the temperature load that we needed to do in order to bring them to our customer's door. And so for the longest time, cucumber was our number one individual complaint that we had in the company.
And so this also brings a testament to the power of our operations team and listening to that customer feedback and being obsessed with data and how data can help drive where those improvements can come, is week after week that would be the number one issue. We had a very strong reporting process from a quick start that allowed our team to know that out of all the things that could go wrong in a box, was more than one, we needed to know that. And they could see, and they could make different changes.
It was, "Well, let's not schedule those particular types of cucumber at that type of year." And then it was, "Well, okay, other types of cucumbers? Maybe let's put them in a brown paper bag. Let's see if the temperature and being able to take some of the moisture out with paper." So it's this really interesting concept of how to partner through with the data we're getting from our customers back into our operations team, back into our kitchen team and just changing things around that allow you to continue to hone and refine. And that's two of the... I see there's two big things that we have as customer service in front of us. And that's the, how do we help that customer who's in front of us right now with the issue that they have? At that real micro level. And at the macro level, how do we take that data from all of those reasons why customers are contacting us? So we take it back to our business partners, their business data, not customer service data, but their data and help, we either eliminate the reason for that contact or to elevate the contact.
Alexander Kvamme 05:10
I love that. I had to ask, because I remember very clearly before we started working together, when we were introduced to someone on your team, it was at an event that we held for a bunch of CX leaders. And I hear on the other side of the room, just in the corner, not paying attention, something about someone complaining about cucumbers. And so that stuck with me. And it's a great story.
Let's get back on track before we dive into the technical details. We like to keep this podcast super technical, for operators by operators, and we've got a bunch of specific questions on how you build and operate leading CX teams. Before we do that, though, let's do a quick review of your credentials, your background after the farm. After graduating college in New Zealand, and I'm going off LinkedIn here, so feel free to fill in some gaps.
Brett Frazer 06:13
After dropping out of college in New Zealand. I'll correct you right there.
Alexander Kvamme 06:18
I didn't want to read too far into it. After dropping out of college in New Zealand... Your resume is one of the easiest to review because Brett, you were one of the few people who actually stay with their companies for quite some time. So it's super easy. 12 years at Microsoft, six years at Adobe, six years at Sunbasket, maybe a couple things in between. We can quickly go through this. One of the things that jumped out to me is, okay, New Zealand and then once you get into Microsoft, your resume reads Los Colinas, Texas, and then Shanghai and Singapore. And then I think some other things in Asia. And then you wind back into the exotic local of the San Francisco Bay area. Maybe help us think through, or guide us through, review your journey through customer service, working with two or more very leading large successful companies. And then we'll get to Sunbasket.
Brett Frazer 07:18
Yeah, absolutely. I joke that Microsoft was my bachelor's of customer service, that Adobe was my master's of organizational development and customer experience service, and that Sunbasket's now my PhD in customer experience. That was my educational path through. I took a job through a temp agency shortly after Windows 95 had launched. And I took the job to pay my way through massage therapy school. I was going to be a sports massage therapist. And right time, right place, and found this opportunity at Microsoft that turned into full-time customer service. And led through a number of different roles in the customer service world from QA to training, into team management.
And then I think probably to be honest, one of the pinnacle changes was being involved in the COPC certification. And COPC has been around for probably about 20 ish years now, maybe even longer, 25 years, perhaps. And it was really created in the early '90s, I think. Yeah, early to mid '90s for large companies looking at outsourcing their work. And really, how did they do that effectively? And how is there a structure to be able to set up your customer service effectively and know that it was going to be run well by an outsource organization? Microsoft was one of the contributors to that standard, one of the initial companies and would require, for quite some time, their outsource companies to have that experience. And so I was part of the group that helped take Microsoft through that in first certification and then re-certification.
And then led to an opportunity to head out to Asia to start up a customer service organization at that point in time. Every country had its own customer service and was operating independently and all the other regions had a regional office. And so that in some respects was my first opportunity in a startup. So I had this startup type of atmosphere in the middle of this massive organization. And so that was a really great time in being able to learn and expand and start to get into things like remote management and remote working, this suddenly became very relevant today.
And after about 12 years there at Microsoft, I had an opportunity to move across into Adobe and extend out of customer service into customer service and technical support. And took that opportunity and was already starting at that point to think of some things outside and get beyond a little customer service. And opportunity had me the ability to come back into the US and work for Adobe at their headquarters in their Organizational Development Group, within HR. And so it was a really interesting change in building up and helping others lead, learning about leading teams, management, career development, change process, et cetera. And after about four years there, had just a want to get back in with people and moved on to the BPO side for a little while. And yeah, it took me to Sunbasket.
Alexander Kvamme 10:51
Let's get to the first piece of advice for other operators out there. You've clearly chosen in companies well. Just to look at tenure, I would assume you wouldn't stay at a company with that role you didn't enjoy. You've clearly chosen companies well. What is your advice for operators looking for their next role? What should they look for? What do you look for? What did you look for when you were looking at Sunbasket. And I think one of the key things of course, to note is Microsoft, Adobe, Sutherland, I mean, these are big companies. And I don't know what the size of Sunbasket was when you joined, but I'm assuming it was pretty small. It was a big change for you. It's something that we hear a lot from the folks that we interact with is they're excited to jump into startups or earlier stage opportunities, help our audience maybe think through decision criteria in picking the next right step for them.
Brett Frazer 11:50
Absolutely. Microsoft was pure luck to be honest. That wasn't an intentional pick, that just happened to be the right time, right place. A guy on the rugby team I was on worked as a Word engineer, Word for Mac engineer and said, "Hey, they're hiring. You should come down and get a customer service job." So that was purely by luck.
I'm also a photographer and so Adobe's products were something I had a connection to and a passion for, part of the output that they have as an organization and a company. And that same thing with Sunbasket as well. And so I think really that for me, the advice on that is, if you can find something that you have a core passion for, that you really care about the community, rather than just the company and what it does for its consumers, and especially if you're a consumer as well, that's where you're going to be able to get the most out of the work. That's when the days that are tough are going to matter still, because even when they're tough, you can see that there's a value connection that you have to that output. And so, regardless of all the other things, pay, et cetera, cetera, that element of is there something that I have a personal connection that I see between me and the company and what we do, that's always going to be a win, right? That's going to get you through the hard times.
As far as going from these large companies down into Sunbasket? Absolutely. I think really the win in the opportunity for me was I had gone away from customer service for quite some time. I'd been in the people development stage. I'd come back to the BPO stage. And this was an opportunity to start an organization for myself, right? To basically be given the blank slate and say, "Create your blueprint." And to me, that was exciting to be able to take all this experience that had been a build up with all these other companies, with these two other companies, but also in Adobe, being able to work in the organizational development space with other departments and get a broader reach than I would have, had I just stayed in customer service for that period of time. To understanding a little bit more about the mechanics of those groups. And so that had helped me as it came to then really starting to set up relationships with the rest of my organization at Sunbasket, and really enable that framework to work effectively.
Alexander Kvamme 14:05
I love that framing, both pieces of advice. And you're giving them to us in priority order. One is get excited about the mission and the company and the product. Two is get excited about the role and the opportunity, right? And I think very often those are switched. People get very excited about the role and the opportunity, that maybe it's their first time being the ultimate CX leader, opportunity to build a team from scratch. But I think one of the key things with startups, as you and I both know, is what gets you through the hard times? What gets you through those bad days, weeks, months, and sometimes quarters? And that's going to be aligned... being aligned with the mission is so important, especially in the customer-facing team side where those bad weeks, months quarters, the customer service team is the tip of the spear. There they're the ones really encountering that. And so you really have to believe in the mission to get you through that.
Brett Frazer 15:09
Yeah, a couple of years, well, probably about four, five years ago now, we had a two-month really bad weather period that spiraled us into a five-month backlog of catch up. And yeah, things like that, right? I mean, it's your belief in the product and the team and the mission and what you can do once you get it right that pulls you through those times.
Alexander Kvamme 15:33
That's a great overview of your background. Thank you for all that detail. Let's get into the nitty-gritty. Let's get into the stuff that people tune in for,tactical and operational advice and topics. And so I like to structure this as past, present, future. What have you successfully implemented and worked on in the past? What are you currently focused on? And then where are you looking towards over the horizon on a 12, 18, 24-month timeframe to set you up for success in the future? Just going over, starting with the past, if you were speaking to an operator at a similar company, what would you just say, "Hey, these are the things that we've done in the last one to two years, maybe the top two or three things that are, have been transformational for our business and for our organization and something that you, as a fellow operator, should strongly look into?"
Brett Frazer 16:33
Okay. Yeah, I think the first thing, and this isn't going to sound glamorous by any means, but lay the foundation of knowing what your business partners need in order to know where to make effect and change in their business. This is all around data, right? And the reality is, as customer service operators, we believe we hold a huge amount of data, right? There's a huge amount of customer service data. And it kind of is, we can measure just about anything in the customer service space. It doesn't mean we should. Sometimes we get hung up on the measurements and things that really don't matter. But I'm really talking about the big thing is we are there as a voice to listen for the rest of the company. No one calls customer service in the morning because they want to talk to customer service. They call customer service, something went wrong in the company's offering their product, their service, their information. There was a gap. There was a mistake. There was an error.
And so customers don't contact and say, "Hey, here's the customer service data." I made that mistake for a couple of years of trying to represent this as customer service data. It wasn't until I really changed that tune into, "Here's your data," right? "Here's why you're customers. Sit down with me. Let me look at this list. Does this list make sense to you," right? "If I bring you this data, can you do something with it? Will you do something with it?" Right. That was the biggest transformational thing in the last couple of years, that kind of took me out of this frustrating, feeling like it was at the back, screaming, knocking my head against the wall, to actually starting to make true effective change on that second part of what I was talking about of the customer service. We did a lot of work to make sure that we did an amazing job with the customer who was in front of us, but I couldn't quite crack that code to get the effect of changing the things upstream.
And that's really what we should be focused on, right? How can we make those effective changes upstream to either, like I said, eliminate or elevate those contracts.
Alexander Kvamme 18:33
And very often folks get into this trap of thinking that getting the data is the ultimate goal. I think what you're saying is the data's just the means to the end, and the end is action. And the end is better serving your customer, right? And the end is, and is hopefully removing a reason for your customer to have to interact with customer service. That's super insightful. Maybe talk a little bit more about how you leverage data across the organization and your discipline? Because I'm getting a sense that there is a sense of discipline of the data that you do care about and that you give priority to and signal. And then the stuff that, if you're curious, you'll check on, but you're really not going to overwhelm yourself or your team with 20 other metrics.
Brett Frazer 19:31
I think it comes into definitions, right? KPI, key primary indicators. How many KPIs can you have? I have five. Employee satisfaction, customer effort score, resolution, agent satisfaction, and quality assurance. And then CPH, the cases per hour, right? Those are the key things that I look at, in that order, right? The cases of per hour is the last thing, because if you're doing all the other things right, then your time it takes to get there should look after itself. There's so many other things, we've got signals and we've got secondary indicators that are out there. And those things help us to look where we drill down and things like that and double down questions. But you can get so wrapped up in looking at all these things that have little peaks.
Now that's the, how my team does one, the what's in front of me right now. My other indicator that I look at is what's the volume of contacts per active users. That's how I look at over time, am I affecting change in reducing in that portion of eliminating, right? My elevating is how am I doing on the customer effort scores? The next step we're going into is how can I look at elevating of where that customer experience either proactively or reactively can help influence revenue, long term revenue for our customers. But a lot of it's on the experience. That reducing of contacts is another big part that I look at on the back end.
Alexander Kvamme 21:07
I agree, I've got an internal saying here, focus on five. And anything more, it's hard to focus. And I'm sure you would agree, if you could make it three, you would?
Brett Frazer 21:21
Alexander Kvamme 21:21
The fewer the better.
Brett Frazer 21:23
Within that, there is a sub three, it's employee satisfaction, customer effort score and the quality. Within the insurance quality, so agents aligning to it. And that agent align piece, that's not a measurement of agent. That's a measurement of my internal operational efficiencies, my training effective? Is my coaching effective? Is my follow through effective? Have I got my tools in the right way that can work and make it easy for the agents to do their job? I would say that 70% plus of all the reasons of failing in QA and not because of the agent, but cause of the process, because of the structure.
Alexander Kvamme 21:58
One of the challenges that we see all the time, and I think you and I are philosophically aligned here, is once you get beyond the five metrics that matter, and let's say 10 or 15, and at the end of the day, in the executive level, that doesn't feel like that many. But what ends up happening is you end up having, let's say you... and it always balloons, it gets to 40 metrics or something like that. And then it's 40% of your team is aligned on 40 metrics, right? Whereas I think you and I both agree, we would rather have a 100% of the team aligned on five metrics. I'm sure our audience will have recognized how quickly you were able to rail off those five metrics in a specific order. And that's great, but I think the other key thing, and I'd love to get your thoughts on this, is one of the goals should be going to an agent or a team leader, a manager, and they should be able to say that exact same thing. And not only what the priority order of metrics are, but how they're doing at any one point in time, or am... I don't want to put words in your mouth, do you agree with that philosophy?
Brett Frazer 23:12
Absolutely. And there's our difference, I don't want them to think about the total customer effort score because that's far more than the agent, right? That's a lot of us. So I have them focused on their agent satisfaction score, right? Because that's what they have control over. Right? And then their resolution and then their QA score and then their cases per hour and then their adherence. Right? They should, and they will through what we've been able to evolve over years and now have in Pathlight, and have access to that information.
I was actually just down with our team in Belize two weeks ago and we've had this scorecard and we've had this same metric structure for three years. Excel spreadsheet would come out every week at the end of the week, they'd get the retrospective of where they were at. And sitting down and just asking them, getting to know them, because it's been two years since I was down there. And so the first part was getting personal connection, just sharing a little bit about who we are. And the second was getting feedback of what do we do well and what do we need to do better? And unpromotedly, a number of things that came out of what we would do well is the loving the ability of the transparency of being able to get real time data where they sit, so they know where they're at over the week. They want to be able to see and not have to wait retrospectively.
Yeah, that alignment from top through bottom is there. They have one extra that I don't really focus on, but that's for their making sure on the back end, they're hitting upwards. And then I've got mine going down and the top one, I don't make them accountable for because that's me and my team.
Alexander Kvamme 24:48
We've talked about focusing on a select few set of metrics and limiting the metrics, but maximizing adoption, right? Now, one thing you just mentioned that I think is worth digging into, very often, let's say you have followed that advice, you have a set of metrics, you have it in a scorecard. It's very difficult and nearly impossible to get that into any sort of real time format. So you're probably reporting on it weekly, right? I think would be helpful to, from your perspective operationally, is what are the differences in the organization when you're managing seven days in arrears, because you're reporting on something weekly, versus moving to reporting and managing against something daily? Now, obviously there's platforms like Pathlight that could help you do that, but no matter what it's going to be a cost or a lift associated with it. Either an operational lift of moving from weekly to daily or it's a cost because you're going to purchase a platform that does that. I think maybe help the audience understand the ROI of just a few days difference in data delivery time?
Brett Frazer 25:55
I think that the element is there's two things, right? There's the aspect of, I've been in situations where there's been over signaling on data, right? Where it's like I've got a half a day's worth of data and I've got a couple hundred pieces of information and I think I can make a decision or I need to make a switch or change off that. Or I expect to do something today to see a change tomorrow. Right? And so there's an element of hyper over inflating the focus on that daily and realtime data place.
But then there's that element in the middle that allows us to be able to give realtime adjustments where it's been seen and observed by a manager, and/or for the agent, which I think is more important on this and where I've seen actually a little bit more get back is that it's not additional overhead or additional work that I'm doing. It's by having the data available and making it there and having the understanding why it's important, it puts them in the driver's seat to, as them being our agents, in the driver's seat to be able to see where they're at and if they care, right? And that's part of hiring people who care and helping them understand why these things matter. They can see themselves and they can start asking for help. They can start looking for, "Oh, what can I do different? Or what went wrong yesterday?" Right?
I think that's part of the power of this. It's not so much having to oversee, manage from a hierarchical top down perspective, but it's that, in some respects, that democratization of data cliche, right, is that it does give people insight and those people who want and will know why and how can use it. Right? And they don't have to wait for someone else to come back and tell them. And if they want to improve, and if they've got goals that they're going for or performance objectives, right? Now puts them in the position to be able to shoot for it rather than look behind and say, "I missed."
Alexander Kvamme 27:44
Operationally, if you just look at it from a numbers perspective, with every day that it takes you to course correct a behavior, a change, I mean, you are decrementing or incrementing in a negative way, the top line objective or KPI. So obviously fixing something earlier is certainly better?
Brett Frazer 28:07
Alexander Kvamme 28:09
We talked about something maybe you've gotten right over the last couple of years, but maybe what's something, if there is something that you got wrong or you were surprised, you thought would work, but ended up not working? A learning over the last... Help others learn from your mistakes, I guess, is the topic.
Brett Frazer 28:26
Absolutely. Definitely made a number of those over the time and that's, I think where you learn a lot through. Early on, our CEO asked us for, "Hey, let's give me a cancellation process." Right? "Show me how to cancel." Right? And so I went out and did research. I hadn't really had to do too much of it. I had a little bit of at Adobe with the early subscribers that they were testing out in Asia Pacific. And I did a little bit of the research, the Netflix and a bunch of other places and said, "Hey, I think we should come back with this structure." Which was a relatively simple flow and very digital. And he's like, "You know what? I think we could, should put some more friction in there. I think could put more friction in there. Let's give them an offer, try to make them stay." And hyper-growth thing, focus mentality. Right?
And so we did that and we didn't quite go with it. It's like, "Well, let's incent our agents a little bit more. If they can get this save, we'll bonus them." And so we went down this path for this period of time of chasing these saves. And this came back to not having good data at the time, and once we finally were able to connect this data together, we were intently, absolute wrong behavior through this entire process, right? We were paying out a huge amount of money and bounties for saves. And once we actually dug into it, we realized that 50% of those customers never bought a full-time priced box from us before. Right? And so this element of throwing pressure in, we actually were upsetting our customers, doing more harm and good. Those who might have wanted to come back wouldn't because it was like, well, it was too hard to leave. And so it was really taking this mindset, again, digging into the data, looking at the eventual outcome, not the immediate outcome, and trying to look at the success of the program over time.
When we did that, we realized that there were very few situations that it made sense. And so we devised and created an automated flow that put that in place. And we actually find now our overall save percentage is higher than it was when we had that in place. And we get more customers to come back. Used to be our number one complaint in Trustpilot, and our NPS surveys, one of the number one complaints was our cancellation process. Now you rarely ever hear about it in our complaint section. Occasionally you hear it in a, "Hey, it was easy to cancel. I might come back." Right? That was one of the big things of really learning that sometimes you're so eager to keep holding your customer, that you do things that not just chases them away, but falsely tells you they're going to come back and cost you money. Really that big thing is your data is so huge to make sure you've got the right connections in the right places, with the right systems, that allow you to look at short term and long term effects.
Alexander Kvamme 31:13
That's the past. Now moving to the present, what are you currently, today, this week in your leadership meeting, I mean, what are you laser focused on? What are some top initiatives for you?
Brett Frazer 31:26
Absolutely. I think what we are doing right now, I'm going to sound a little bit like a broken record, so I'm going to do two things. I won't go to the data directly first. Going to go to access. Right? One of the first things we're looking at is, we've done a pretty good job, I believe, of adopting a number of different channels and creating a pretty good structural setup for our teams to be able to manage multiple channels out of a single pane of glass, that it creates a better agent experience and also creates a better customer experience. Because you're not having to balance between, "Oh, that agent handles this channel. I don't handle that channel. And I can't see, et cetera." It's all combined.
And we do a pretty good job and we've got some really good things, but it's how do you get the customer to know what's the right channel to use at the right time, based on the situation they're in? Because sometimes we know we get phone calls from customers who really just wanted to take care of something simply and easily, and they could have done that themselves online. Or we get customers trying to engage with us online in what should be a very simple, contained flow for something very complex. And both of those lead into an element of frustration. What we're working on at the moment is how do we create a way of setting up, and this is the what's now and what's coming next, how do we set up a way that takes these great offerings that we've already got out on our webpage? And the first thing was getting help on our main webpage. We got there eventually. Took me five years. But while we got there and we've got those options, how do we make it so it's easy to know what one's there.
And so that bleeds a little bit into what's next. In working with our development team, we've honestly always been a very web forward first company when it comes to our, especially our customer service experience. Where we're like, okay, starting each two and moving forward, we need to move this shift. We've got a lot of our customers who use our app. Right now, we pull them out of the app into our web mobile experience. We've got to build that mobile experience into the app. We've got to meet them where they're at. Then we can start, can get contextual around, in this situation, if they're in the app in this page, then if they need our help, it's more likely for this. In this situation, let's offer them this flow because that's the quickest and easiest way to get to an answer. Or in this situation, we know that this is complex, the best way that they're going to get into an answer is a phone call or an SMS. So let's offer those two channels.
Alexander Kvamme 33:50
That's great. And I think there's a couple of points in there. But at the end of the day, maybe all of this turns back to, there's a headline on your LinkedIn profile. It's the first thing that you read. And it says, "Your customers deserve the best." And so I think everything that you just spoke about links to that mindset, right? From an engineering perspective or from a product perspective, moving from a native mobile app, iOS or Android app, and then popping up a web modal, it's framed within the app, sounds technically... it's pretty close. We all know it's a slightly degraded experience. But if your mindset is your customers deserve the best and you are as customer centric as you are, it makes total sense. It's like, well, we should invest in meeting them where they are and making sure that the experience is as delightful as it is just to use the core app.
Brett Frazer 34:53
And you're absolutely right there. One of the things that prevented us from being able to do that for a long time was having to have an Android app and an iPhone app. Now with React Native and being able to have a standard across, we're actually in the position that our team can build that. Because they're only having to build once. Right? And so now, instead of previously having to build there and there and there and there, it was okay, we can build it here and here, web and react and just have two experiences and have that app experience consistent across the customers.
And the next part of that is also, if you look through the rest of it's, they're not looking for wow experiences, right? Your customers want the best experience that gets them the answer that they were looking for right now. They don't want to be wowed. They don't want to reach for it, I want to get wow by customers. They just want their answer done in the simplest way possible. Our mission is to provide our customers quick and hassle free solutions in a way they feel valued.
Alexander Kvamme 35:48
Love that. A focus on solving problems versus an over focus on the wow or a superfluous experience that actually gets in the way of solving the problem. Let's look at the future. And more specifically, let's not look at the next 12 months, let's look 18, 24 months out, stuff that you haven't kicked off work on yet, but just what are you seeing on the horizon, either an opportunity or a challenge that you're starting to think through, how am I going to address it, or how am I going to seize that opportunity? And something for our other operators to start thinking about as well?
Brett Frazer 36:36
Yeah, absolutely. I think the digital expectation is going to continue to grow, that's no doubt. And in certain products, I believe that the voice component will always need to be there. Especially we work in hierarchy of needs. Food is essential to people and food is very emotive. If a pair of shoes doesn't show up, there's an element to that, right? If your food doesn't show up for dinner, that's a totally different element. Right? And so there are going to be certain times where that comes through. I'm really interested in how that continues to evolve. I personally hold the belief right now that if, with all the other options we put in front of a customer of self-help and service and once we service up well, if they choose to speak with someone, they really want to speak with someone.
What I'm really interested in the industry though, is I think there's some amazing things that are happening in the aspect of AI voice and even artificial personas and things like that. There's a really interesting technology out of New Zealand that evolved out of the Weta Works, the company that did The Lord of the Rings, or the visual effects from that, and have created basically an artificial customer service engine. And the place that's really seen to have effect is in conversations that would normally elicit shame, right? Maybe debt collection, right? Or some kind of medical situation, where you're being asked questions that you think someone may judge you. But a machine doesn't judge. Their intonation of their voice will never change. It'll never give away that I feel sorry for you or I look down on you. There's balances in there where it's like, interestingly enough, some areas, people actually feel more comfortable interacting in that way because of that connection piece. I'm not sure that'll ever come into Sunbasket, but that's something I'm really interested as to how that's going to evolve and where that's going to make sense.
For us, I think, as a company, we see a huge element of food in relation to wellness and food and medicine. And so there's this connection and direction that we'll continue to go as a company down that space that are going to continue to line us with medical insurance and things like that. There's going to be some elements around privacy and HIPAA and components there that I'm still starting to learn about and understand. And how does that work in a human and AI blended environment?
The other part of that is some of the questions that potentially are going to come into our service as we head down that path may start to be more high end health related. And so how do I incorporate a service that balances between the customer service and a nutritionist, right? Or things like that wrap in, and so what does that extension of service look like? And then in those elements, are there ways that you can really tap into your existing workforce to help with that? And that element we talked about earlier around believing in something and working a place, the gig environment I think has raised huge opportunities for companies to tap into talent that they've really never had access to before, or thought about it before, that already have that built in connection to your company. As we continue to evolve in that space, those are things that I'm thinking about there.
There's going to be, at some point, there's diminishing return on investment, right, when you get to your experience piece. And we've done a really good job, not saying that we're there yet, but we've done a really good job, we're bringing that number up. And we're a little ways away from that, but at some point I'm looking forward to the place where it's like, we're here where we know this is the place to be, and how do we just continue to make that effective?
Alexander Kvamme 40:24
I love that. And super helpful insight on some of the technology that's exciting to you in the future and then you're keeping an eye on, just as a practitioner and someone who cares about the space in general. The last topic that I'd like to cover, we've touched on it a couple of different ways, but I think more directly, it's just people. And you talked a little bit about the gig economy, we've talked about a little bit on data and alignment. But as you think about your team and the folks on your team, both today and in the future, what's really important to you, what initiatives and things are you thinking about, both currently, and then where you think you'll go in the future, to achieve your goals and serve your customers, but also empower your frontline employees and make sure that they retain and they up level and they get promoted and they achieve their goals as well?
Brett Frazer 41:25
Absolutely. I mentioned earlier, my number one metric is employee satisfaction. And that's because great customer experiences can't happen when employees don't have great experiences themselves. We know that, right? At least burnout, at least short termness and they're flash in the pan and gone. So investing in the team has been as huge part and I've had internally great partners, the person you mentioned earlier that talked about cucumbers being Shawn Satterfield, Shawn and Tim, they each run our delivery and operations team and our team. They've always had this focus on knowing that their team is what makes them successful, right? And so we've had this culture and this element to begin with.
And so there's two things that I'm going to talk about. One is internally, because we have an internal core team, and then we've got our partner team. Our internal core team, we listen, we put in an employee feedback process before the company put a feedback process in. We started doing annual reviews before the company's put that in. We started doing internal development training plans, created our own plans for that, because we know that our people are our capability to be able to up level and skill in the future. We've promoted from within into nearly every position into our operations team started as an agent, including our salesforce developer. And so really being focused on again, understanding what do they want, what's their passions and being able to do that? And so, knock on wood, I haven't had any negative attrition in my team since September, 2019.
Alexander Kvamme 43:07
I actually just want to press on that because it is a very disciplined and often difficult thing to do, which is really emphasize internal promotions. But it is the long term and downstream effects are so important, so positive. We saw this often at Yelp many years ago, which is when you... And I frame everything as when times are hard, right? Because when times are good, that hides all sins. But when times are hard, that's really where the culture of the company and the decisions you've made during the good times really determine your success or your failure. When times are bad, when you're a manager or the folks that you look to for leadership, when they were in your seat, you trust the process. And you can really trust them when they say, "Hey, I know what it's like, I empathize with you. I understand what you're going through. And here's how I think you can get through it because I've been there too."
Now, as I said, it is a really important operational choice to make and an investment to make early. And you do need to make an investment in manager training and tooling and upskilling your folks, so that you can set them up for success as a manager, versus hiring them externally, someone who already has that experience, but the downstream effects of that decision, and I don't know if you've seen this, but I've certainly seen this in my experience. It's an investment worth making and it'll just compound over time because those managers will then become directors. And then that directors will become senior directors and they'll be in ops and everyone will understand agent satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and that experience, and be able to empathize with the frontline. Is that what you're seeing?
Brett Frazer 44:56
Absolutely. I mean, I've got the longest tenure team, one of the longest tenured teams in the organization. I think I've about eight people who are going to hit their five year anniversary this year. There's a couple of us who've hit our six year anniversary. There's no one on my team who has less than four years experience. And that's because we've invested in them. I know they could probably go elsewhere and make more money. Right? But the experience and the connection and the culture and the environment that we create, as well as that connection to the product that we do and what our mission is what helps to keep them. I said, we've had no negative attrition, we've had people leave and get promoted into the other parts of the organization. And that's great for customer service as well. Using us as a breeding ground for people to move into other parts of the organization helps also spread that connectedness to customer. And you can get that customer mindset spread throughout the rest of the group and the organization, and help make bridges stronger that way as well.
On the frontline, the element of how do you help with attrition and things like that? It's obviously, while I've had no attrition in my team that period of time, it's different on the front end. But we're starting to really change and look at a number of things around that. A couple is hiring to begin with, right? There's a lot of things we need to take into hire, but there's three really key qualities that I look at that I've observed over the years that make people successful in the long run in the frontline that gets them that opportunity to move up and beyond that. The first one is empathy. There are certain people who have a higher natural tendency towards being empathetic. It's just reality, right? The second one is resilience. And the third one is curiosity.
And you need those three. Because if you've got curiosity and empathy, but no resilience, you'll burn out. You'll get spit up and chewed out and you won't last. If you've got empathy and resilience, but no curiosity, you're effectiveless, right? You're useless. You don't get to the edge of the bottom line of it. If you've got resilience and you've got curiosity, but no empathy, you come off as a jerk and you don't last. Those three things, along with communications and technical skills, but those three embedded elements, that's what we are getting our partner to hire towards and try to look for as much as possible.
Alexander Kvamme 47:13
What we're seeing is you're taking the same approach to how you think about your metrics, how you're thinking about interviewing. You have three things that you're looking for. Not 20 things on the checklist that you're checking off and therefore you've got zero confidence on 20 things versus high confidence on three. It's all consistent, which is great. I think we've got some incredible tips for our audience here. This has been a great conversation. Let's maybe just wrap up, Brett, if the folks are interested in becoming a Sunbasket customer, what should they do? And then maybe more specific, what's your favorite thing on the menu right now?
Brett Frazer 47:56
Absolutely, Alex. The first thing, if you're interested in becoming a Sunbasket customer, just go to Sunbasket.com. You're going to get the best deal there. On my LinkedIn, there is there is a reference, but just go straight there. I don't need the credit for that. One of my favorite meals, I actually had last night that circled back around on the menu and it is our black bean lentil mushroom apricot burger. It's phenomenal. It's a vegan meal and I grew up on a beef farm. I'm not vegan by any means, but it is one of my favorite favorite. I'll get it every time it's on the menu.
Alexander Kvamme 48:35
I love that. Well, thank you again, Brett, for your time and your insight. It's been great chatting with you. Wrapping up this episode of the CXperts Podcast, I'm Alex Kvamme, co-founder and CEO of Pathlight. If you're interested in Pathlight, go to Pathlight.com. If you're interested in Sunbasket, go to Sunbasket.com. I'm sure Brett and I spend way more time than we need to on LinkedIn, so you can ping us there too. But thank you again, Brett, and see everyone next time
Brett Frazer 49:05
Alex, thanks very much. Bye.
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