Episode 1: How to lead through explosive growth (Five Minutes on the Front Line)

This week's episode: Companies from Robinhood to Reddit to Clubhouse are seeing massive spikes in growth. Alex spoke with Ramon about what it's like to lead a CX org that's signing up hundreds of thousands of customers a day and ways to weather the storm.

Last updated on: 
August 11, 2023
Alexander Kvamme
Alexander Kvamme
February 26, 2021
5 min read

Five Minutes on the Front Line is a weekly segment hosted by Pathlight CEO Alexander Kvamme and Chief Customer Officer Ramon Icasiano, who is a former CX leader at Earnin, Netflix, Zynga, and Verizon.

This week's episode: Companies from Robinhood to Reddit to Clubhouse are seeing massive spikes in growth. Alex spoke with Ramon about what it's like to lead a CX org that's signing up hundreds of thousands of customers a day and ways to weather the storm.


Alex: Hello, everyone. Welcome to a new weekly segment that we're doing, tentatively titled  "Five Minutes on the Front Lines", with our Chief Customer Officer, Ramon Icasiano, former CX leader at Earnin, Netflix, Zynga, Verizon, and other household brands.

We're going to put him in the the hot seat and put him in front of problems that all of you are facing every day, every week, every month, and see if we can get some useful tidbits on how to maintain an excellent customer experience and ultimately hit our goals. So, Ramon, thank you for doing this. This is going to be fun.

Ramon: Thank you.

Alex: So, the topic today, the topic of the week, you know, this is a very timely one. If you've been  following the news, there are quite a few technology companies from Robinhood to Reddit as well as more traditional companies, you know, like E-Trade, TD Ameritrade, that are just  exploding in usage. They're the most downloaded apps in the app store. I'm sure hundreds of thousands of folks are signing up, every day and every week. And of course, you know, their customer support and customer experience teams are completely flooded.

These are the times that either you live up to your brand promise or you don't. You know, you've spent five or ten years building up a great brand, a trustworthy brand, and these are the moments that really test it. So if I were to plop you into one of these organizations, any organization going through such a volatile time of change, what are the first couple of things you're going to do day one to, to right the ship, or at least maximize your chance of weathering the storm?

Ramon: That's a great scenario and it really does takes me home, back to my Verizon days, when we had set up a massive amount of capacity through our 22 call centers. And one of their programs actually just struck a huge cord with the consumers and we were signing up 300,000 new subscribers a day. And I remember sitting there with one of our senior management folks, looking at the message display unit MDUs, and at first it was like 50 calls on hold, 75 calls, 200 calls, 800 calls on hold. We knew that we had a crisis on our hands and that story is replicated, really, in all of my roles.

And, you know, I feel for all the customers feeling the pain through this situation, but also have an emotional link with all of the support people I've worked with and the ones that are going through it right now, but here are some tips. First and foremost, the three things I want to talk about is:

1)  You need to set up a war room to make sure communication from the headquarters all the way to the frontline staff is tight.

2) I would immediately increase capacity of your ability to handle more work.

3) And the third thing I would do is change what good looks like.

So in terms of the war room, right in this virtual world, it's probably a lot easier than having a conference room, but now you can set up one virtually on zoom, where the CEO, any, senior leadership, any of the operations leaders are on one page.

There are hourly updates. There's someone who mans that war room and provides the structure for what's going to be talked about any open issues are put top of mind. There's a clear kind of dashboard that's presented. So everyone is clear on what progress is as being made.

The second thing I would do is increase the capacity of your frontline teams, meaning for any folks that are in training. Leads, supervisors, managers, trainers, anyone that has the capacity to be able to log in the system and speak generally to the issue. Those folks need to be on the phone and responding to messages. If you're accepting emails, I would sort the email and try to clump ones that have the exact same issue so that you can respond with one template back to many. And if you've deployed a chat bot or some sort of AI technology, make sure that that is addressing what the crisis at hand is really kind of driving and update that kind of content.

And in terms of changing what good looks like, you know, every support team has an extensive and thorough QA form that needs to be more during the crisis time, meaning it needs to focus on resolution only, not an upsell, not some other peripheral things that extend the duration of that contact. It should focus on call control. It should focus on direct resolution of the issue. And it should focus on a transition statement that says, "Thanks for allowing me to help you. I'm going to go ahead and let you go so I can help another customer during this crisis period," or during this very hard, high volume, peak period.

People will appreciate the transparency. Your teams will love the fact that they're being measured in a different way, and that they won't be penalized for doing something that they thought was right, but was actually going to hurt the business during this period.

Alex: Great! So to sum up:

1) Set up a war room or an online equivalent so that leadership and all the way down to the front line across all of your sites have this real-time communication connection.

2) Maximize the capacity of your team, and get everyone who can talking to customers and solving customer problems.

3) And then three, change what good looks like for this this time of crisis, so you are focusing on the things that matter and making sure that the frontline is as productive as possible. At the end of the day, what you're describing is a large group of folks really moving in lock step, and having lightening fast real-time communication, with everyone knowing how they're doing and what they need to do to improve, which makes tons of sense, and of course is exactly what we're doing at Pathlight with our customers.

So thanks Ramon, that was super insightful. This has been our focus on the front line, and hopefully many more to come.

Ramon: To my peers out there, email me. I'm ramon@pathlight.com and we can talk shop and share tips. Looking forward to it.

Alex: Great, okay. Good luck everyone. See ya— bye!

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