How David From xFusion Helps Startups Scale By Growing and Leading Their Support (Customer Story)

Nick Kozmin and David Tran

Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:02):
All right guys. So today we have David from xFusion.io and he's calling him from Texas, from Houston, Texas. And he has built a solution that helps customer support customer success and back end support teams for startups. I'm correct. And yeah, so in this interview, we're going to be listening to a story how we got here, and we're going to be learning more about his solution, and he's also going to share some of his expertise about how to build the right teams for the ideal customer experience. So David welcome. Great to have you here. And yeah, and let's let's start off with the story. So give us a quick background on on yourself and, and how you arrived to to this problem.

Speaker 2 (00:51):
Sure. So I used to be a software engineer at Uber. I love software engineering. I love viewing the world through a digital lens. I think computer science was the perfect match for me in school. And I've been interested in computer science and programming since hours. I dunno like a early to mid teenager. I think it's one of those things that really challenge my mind. And I think every human being can relate to the fact that you just always wanted to be challenged. I think he came to a point when my Uber career that I realized that a lot of times within these larger engineering organizations is spent on things are considered in the category of either maintenance or relatively predictable projects that are like incredibly profitable for the businesses, but not necessarily the most exciting things to do as an engineer. And I think that's when I realized that the power of engineering is the ability to tackle problems at scale through code.

Speaker 2 (01:42):
And there's other means to do this the most common two skills that people generally try to encourage within Silicon Valley are one Tyler built, learn how to build or to learn how to sell. And I think the ideal combination is you get both. Once you have both, you have to kill our skillset to do effectively anything. And I guess throwing a bit of team team building in there as well. And you have the ability to scale out something that can tackle something a lot larger than one person could. So, I mean, that's the, the challenge that was before me is what really pulled me forward into the world of entrepreneurship. And even though I don't have necessarily a background in consulting or have a background in necessarily even like talking to clients one-on-one and trying to sell things, I think the process of simply putting myself out there helped me realize that it's the learning is actually in the doing you, you don't, you can't read a book on sales, you can't, you can't go to school and just graduate and then magically become a master salesperson. You, you just have to put yourself on the field and do it. So that's been my journey this past caught a little, a little about a year at this point, and it's been, it's been great. It's been fun. It's been pushing you into area,

Speaker 1 (02:46):
A background in computer science at Berkeley. That was your formal training. That's right. That's right. And when did you start coding? Was it as a teenager younger when you were at Berkeley? When did, when did you when did you start? So in the world of pre-Facebook,

Speaker 2 (03:01):
There was this constant of learning HTML. So you can build your own fancy websites and buy fancy. I mean, literally like tape, like very basic tables and text and formatting of text. But back then that was like considered like cutting-edge, that was the fanciest thing on the internet. Now it was around the time I think I was probably around 12, 13 at that time. I don't really call it coding. I don't, I don't consider HTML and CSS on them by themselves inherently like software engineering. But I think it's the, it's the building blocks and the stepping stones that encourages more, I don't know, object oriented thinking.

Speaker 1 (03:32):
Yep. Awesome. And so let's talk about the problem and who you're helping. So who are you helping right now? And who's the, who's the target customer?

Speaker 2 (03:43):
So right now our target customer or company like startups from the range of pre-seed all the way up to call it like Anna series, BC ish. Okay. Who wants to scale their teams and have their teams be more focused on their problems? For example, we've seen a lot of companies, especially in the early days when there isn't clearly defined roles between who does what for everyone to do everything, but there comes a time where you realize everyone's best at one specific thing. For example, the data engineers best at data engineering, the product manager is best at planning the roadmap for the product and working with appropriate teams. It's not necessarily the best use of everyone's time to be that hybrid, Jack of all trades person. In spite, that being the way it starts all form, we see that large starts hold that philosophy probably longer than they need to.

Speaker 2 (04:27):
And we think that's holding them back. We think that if you have your engineers trying to also handle customer support or your product managers also trying to tackle customer support, they're distracted. And I think distractions are the number one thing that is disruptive to these like highly creative, highly leveraged roles. I think it was Paul Graham who wrote the Oblon really famous blog posts about the type, the idea of a maker's schedule and a manager's schedule. And the idea is that managers really do well when they're given a bunch of small, tiny tasks where they need to switch their brain from one task to the next almost a hundred percent, whereas people in the maker category call it, I don't know doctors, lawyers, writers the book of professional roles do well when they're able to think for hours on end, without anyone breaking their focus.

Speaker 2 (05:11):
And I think that's the value of, if you want high leverage engineers, you need to give them the space to do so. And you want highly leveraged product managers. I imagine it's the same thing in Silicon Valley. This is idea of like a five X, 10 X engineer. And I think many engineers can get there as in, they can produce the work of five to 10 other engineers that they should have the right environment. And we think that a lot of times these startups can be the right environment, but sometimes they're holding themselves back through this weird distribution of labor.

Speaker 1 (05:40):
I can relate to that for sure. I agree a hundred percent is that when I was doing, I have a technical background and in the physics. And so there's only one, like you couldn't do complex physics problems. If your task switching, there was zero chance. Like you have to be in the dark for hours to like figure them out. So I agree. And so I guess that leads us into like how, what are the, what are the underlying concepts to the, to your solution? Like how would one build a, a more effective team? What sorts of active new activities would one want to do to get the most out of their team?

Speaker 2 (06:17):
So that's something we've discovered is the fact that what you really want as a company is that the benefits of having a larger team without having the overhead of the larger team, it's incredible how much overhead goes into staff. You had to deal with HR to deal with legal. You have to deal with taxes. You have to deal with all sorts of like financial and human based interactions that just add up a lot of time into your day and the evening people's schedules. And with something that we've discovered is that, what, what makes the most sense is for people to actually partner with agencies? I think that's the appropriate play. I used to be a anti agency myself in the past. I usually think like, I just want everything that in-house, but then it came a point where I realized, Oh, it actually costs me more in-house or it's, I'm losing the ability to do it well, versus is trusting someone else to handle their domain.

Speaker 2 (07:02):
Well, I think there's this idea from the really old concept from the wealth of nations, that specialization is actually what leads nations to really, really flourish. And I think the same things apply to startups where specialization is what leads people to produce their most creative ideas. So if you can have one person hat of each individual, major component of your business, be it a service or a technical, like a tech product or an app or whatever they can dive really deep on that and you can type your team outsource parts of the leadership, but not necessarily all of the leadership to specific sub. And we saw that there are specific sub domains that made a lot of sense to outsource versus others. I don't think it really makes sense to outsource the CTO role. I think that's generally a recipe for disaster just because it's generally really core to a lot of businesses, but we're starting to see it. A lot of times companies generally do choose to outsource parts of their customer experience. Be it both the customer success company or a customer support component by itself, or customer support with customer success.

Speaker 1 (08:00):
Got it. And what other, what other functions could they outsource? So,

Speaker 2 (08:06):
Yeah, that's a good question. I think a lot of times they actually don't know what they can outsource that can not, we start our business purely as a customer support agency because I, myself w when I was an engineer at Uber, I was working a couple of side projects and I simply just had to have someone to manage my customer support all around the clock either when I'm asleep or when I'm at work. And I, I feel like I don't want customers to have a poor experience, nor does anyone want to have a poor experience. Right. And I had to rotate through many, many freelancers and agencies until I came back. I came to the realization that the real problem behind this industry is it's a, it's a lack of align incentives. People don't have the appropriate incentive incentives to treat customers well. Cause when you go to most agencies and interview, some of these agents on the front line, they're usually paid by the, like the number of tickets they handle.

Speaker 2 (08:54):
And or the number of like whatever their C-SAT ratings are and whatever you pay them to a game for people are smart. They're going to gain for it. Cause they have needs. They have to feed their families. They want to have the opportunity to like invest in futures, like accumulate wealth. So they're going to always gain for whatever metric you give them. And I think that just isn't the appropriate strategy, right? So we've also seen is that there's these like rotational type of support agencies where you don't get a full-time support member, but you get some fraction, undefined fraction of someone's time. And it gets really messy with these companies because if someone realizes, Oh, I can work on your account for $5 a ticket or work on someone else's account for $5, a ticket as well. But the tickets are substantially easier to handle using it, less of the rotational shared time with that resource. And that's kind of awkward. That's like, there's weird misalignment of incentives that we always try to avoid in our business because we realize it's, it gets messy really fast. Right. Especially as you scale till I call it 10 plus people.

Speaker 1 (09:53):
Got it. And so I guess that leads us to your solution. Right. Is that right? That's right. So how so, how did you solve that? Or what's the, what's the promise to to your customers?

Speaker 2 (10:08):
Yeah, go ahead. And number one, promises. Peace of mind. I think everyone out there understands inherently. We're all consumers. We love, we love buying things that we love buying. I love shopping on Amazon. I love window shopping on Redfin. I love window shopping on the Tesla website. We love the experience of being a consumer and we love it when we're treated well. I think it's inherent with every human being yet, for whatever reason, a lot of these, a lot of companies aren't providing a similar experience that they themselves want to experience. So there's a couple of things we try to bring to the table. One is peace of mind, such that everyone who ever respond, who asks me for it, like reaches out to them either through live chat, phone, or email or any variants of those, how we handle it for them. And the other thing is we bring our expertise to the table where we try to not just handle customer support, but give them consultant native levels like ideas in terms of how they can make the product more interaction friendly.

Speaker 2 (10:58):
I think we've done a good amount of research into like the, the statistics behind customer support. And the unfortunate truth is that most people who aren't satisfied with their experience they'll turn without ever mentioning anything. And the more streamlined you can make the process, the easier it is, you can make it for someone to communicate either their dissatisfaction or their satisfaction, the better it is for every party. Because I think it's an information game. And the more information you have as a business, the better you can operate. And I'm not sure if you've ever experienced this yourself, but there's so many times where I'm in an app. And if you want to leave a five-star rating, it's like one tap done. But if you want to leave a one-star rating, you have to fill out multiple required fields. I feel like that just limiting their they're biasing themselves, they're shooting themselves in the foot where they're not getting honest feedback.

Speaker 1 (11:43):
I, yeah, I seen that. And the honest feedback is so key.

Speaker 2 (11:46):
We actually built a better product because they're going to continue to pay. It's, it's actually the unhappy ones. And generally the ones who know what they want better than, you know it. And you're choosing not to listen. We just think that's kind of full.

Speaker 1 (12:00):
Yep. And so with your solution, like how do you handle the complexity of the support tickets? Like I could have met with different types of customers, they have different needs. How is that, how is that handled within the within your service and products?

Speaker 2 (12:16):
So I'm actually thankful. We decided to tackle the harder. And first I think once you tackle the hardest and everything below is like somewhat trivial. We started with technical companies that had very technical products. We're talking people who need to know their details for their website, hosting people who need to understand their panels for domain names and how they route different types of requests on different sub-domains to different parts of their business, like their technical backend. And these are the sorts of things that it can get easily go wrong pretty fast. And we discovered that it's actually, so we discovered that a lot of people out there in the world are looking for jobs and they have computer science backgrounds, they have technical backgrounds and they have people experience as well. And we feel like those are the best people to hire.

Speaker 2 (13:00):
And once we hired some of them and we started working with some of our clients, we started off with something with very strict and definition. So given, given a ticket answer in one of like X ways based on their, like their SOP. And then over time we realized, Hey, there's actually room for opportunity. And here's how much more we can do. Cause I think a lot of times people underestimate the intelligence of others out there, especially when we're dealing with the outsourced world. I think the, and this isn't, I think it's not so much a judge. I don't want to make a subtle, so much a judgment as it is a observation that I think people generally like to work with people who are like themselves. So when they're interacting with someone who is from a different country from a different primary language, et cetera, there's this like natural, natural bias. But I think over time, people haven't realized that technical education beyond the walls of the North America area, as well as English education has gotten substantially better. And I think the talent out there is actually getting is improving at a faster rate and the talent within North America region.

Speaker 1 (14:02):
Got it. So hiring technical people with some social skills yes. Is a good play.

Speaker 2 (14:08):
Yes. And then we discovered that over time, the biggest we wins, we bring our client actually aren't even directly related to customer support. It's almost always that once we're inside the company, we get to see how they do things that I realize, Hey, you're having your engineers do X, Y, and Z. And you're paying them call it when I was an engineer. I think it's relatively typical to pay an engineer in Silicon Valley is somewhere in the range of 200 or 300 and Tash and some level of bonus and equity on top of that throw on taxes. And you're, you're, you're getting close to half a million plus, and these are tasks that could have been done by someone for 90% less. And you've got the same job done and you can probably, haven't done more of it because if you can hire more people at that rate at scale.

Speaker 1 (14:48):
Got it. So let's talk about the mechanism that using, is it, is it a service right now, product? Like how, how how are you tackling this? How are you capturing this opportunity?

Speaker 2 (15:00):
I think it's, it's, I'm trying to figure how to systematize it better, but right now it's just very high touch and high, highly manual. I think, I think at some level of people, especially companies with lots of money really prefer something more concierge because the founders are usually the ones who are very passionate about their product. They themselves want to be very involved from day one to day thousand plus. And they're usually a lot, a lot of times they're the gatekeepers who are like, no, the customer experience needs to be done this this way. We need to do these things at this level. And it's only when you earn their trust over time that you can demonstrate the fact like, Hey, we, we, we we've done this for others. We've done this for not just others in the broad spectrum of all businesses, but we've done this for others.

Speaker 2 (15:42):
Aren't that different from your own? And they're, they're flourishing. You can show them our examples of the peer reviews that we get our clients. And we also even make ourselves, make our current clients available for interviews from prospective clients to show that we're serious about what we do when we put our reputation on the line. We're not, you know, we don't try to hide behind like closed, closed doors or anything. So we try to put ourselves out there in the public as much as possible. And we just think that reputations, when those things, that compounds over time. Yep.

Speaker 1 (16:08):
I agree. Do you also give the customers ideas on how to improve? Like it's not at the, at the end of the month or something like that, do you give them areas where they can optimize or new feature ideas since you do have that background? Like, is that something, yeah. So maybe describe a situation or an instance where that has led to benefit to to a customer.

Speaker 2 (16:31):
I think something that people don't, they see it so rarely that they're almost skeptical or maybe they are skeptical is when someone is willing to tell them the truth in a way that's, self-sabotaging in the short-term, but highly constructive in the long-term. For example, there's a couple of customers that we have though. We just legitimately think they're overpaying. They're overpaying, not like some other agencies, but they're overpaying us. And since that they're paying for more resources than they need. And I think it it's important for us, for our incentives to be perfectly aligned. And I think it means that when I think when that arises and we do generally twice a month or three times a month, check-in for the ones who want it, we'll let them know like, Hey, I think there's a better way to be doing this. Instead of having two agents on the front line, what you really could do is you can have spend one month when you take one of those persons off of the frontline, have them write documentation because a lot of times the questions recur, and if you have a better FAQ or it's better, there's a better self-serve option.

Speaker 2 (17:32):
You can reduce your support needs. And we give that advice to someone and they were able to implement it. And then about a couple of months later, they were down to able to reduce their costs with us. And they were thankful that even though technically we don't get anything from that, other than just, I guess, brownie points and Goodwill. Good word of mouth. I think, I think Goodwill goes further than any other form of, of marketing.

Speaker 1 (17:54):
Oh, absolutely. And no, no, that's, that's awesome. We've done that at sales processes, like we're constantly improving the FAQ. So I agree with a lot of what you're saying. What's so who's like the best, like you mentioned startups what type of industry, like, and you mentioned at the con like more complex solutions, maybe give some examples of types of customers that you're working with. Are they working where they're in industries? That they're in? What, so yeah. What type of customers are you working with right now?

Speaker 2 (18:23):
I think on the top end, there's two or there's two or three that come to mind. One of which is a WordPress hosting site. That's trying to do WordPress hosting in a relatively novel way to maximize our, to, to absolutely reduce the amount of time it takes to load the website by just having a bunch of Tasha's around the world and choosing the appropriate Tash throughout requests to, yeah. So a part of their Meccano methodology to acquiring customers. It's one of those things where it's really hard to convince people to change WordPress hosts. Some of those things that people usually just buy and forget, but the, their way of winning businesses, it's just go into their prospects and say like, Hey, we'll migrate your website for you. And not just that, we'll do it for free. And we'll do a speed comparison between your former host and our host.

Speaker 2 (19:03):
And you know what you're currently paying, we'll show you our prices. And then I think that's their number one way of winning business. This is how they you're just objectively better and not just by like a small margin, but substantiation substantially. So, and to do that, it's just very people heavy. They need to constantly have they previously had their engineers just flooded with having these migration requests of moving data from one source to another source, as well as like doing a bunch of configuration all over the place. And when they realized they can scale that substantially faster with someone from our, like having multiple people from our team helped them out. That was a major win for them. Another platform is kind of one of those it's kind of a competitor to if then if this, then that, and a lot of times was just so much benefits you can reap out of these like Zapier like platforms.

Speaker 2 (19:49):
The unfortunate thing is when you have a customer base, that's, non-technical by default on average, a lot of people, all of your clients can't maximize the value of the Jagger platform. But a lot of times people are pretty like intuitive, especially business owners. So they themselves, and these sorts of business to business environments, they know what they want, but they don't want to hire an engineer to do it for them. So usually they'll make the request to support saying like, Hey, this is what I want. Can you do it for me? And then we realized, Hey, there's a whole subset of people who want a premium experience. And for them it's a major savings that we can do even a higher hourly rate. And for them to go out into the field, try to find some engineer, hire them, train them, and then have them implement a short th this one thing, and then just go off on their way again. And even though you can turn to freelancers, it's, it just takes a lot of onboarding time. Whereas we're already on the field, we know exactly what most customers want. And we're just able to provide these, like these upscale upsell sort of services. Yep. And that's been a win for them. So where we would go in and implement these automations for them.

Speaker 1 (20:52):
Got it. And what about onboarding time for you guys? Like how long does it take to onboard a customer? How, how have you guys handled that? Because it seems like it could be a pretty complex process to get people ramped up to speed.

Speaker 2 (21:05):
We try to pre optimize as much as we can, but at some level you really can't pre optimize. We, we try to keep a list of people we've interviewed in the past. And we feel like these people are generalists, can technical field, they've done work like they've done like WordPress, they've done Shopify, they've done web development. They've built back in systems. They've done a little bit of everything. So we feel like these people and they've all, we also interviewed them. So we know that they're fairly personable people. We realize it's pretty important. So we keep those on your short list. And a lot of times when we, when we talk to a client, people from that list are perfectly fine as a good fit for their business. Sometimes people want a very specific niche skillset. For example, our WordPress cannot client wanted us to find people who hadn't experienced working in WordPress development, so that we'd have to go out into the open world, set up a couple of job listings internationally and go through a lot of interviews.

Speaker 2 (21:57):
I think one of the value props we bring to our clients is the fact that it's just a strenuous process. It's a major distraction. If you had to put your business on pause up a lot of job listings review all the job listings, choose your favorite wines. You interviewed them, put them through a couple of rounds of internal tasks and then see if then if they're a good fit. And we've roughly found that it's about if you takes about 200 applications to find one good employee. Wow. In terms of the combination of competence, as well as integrity, as well as someone you think would be a good fit for staying long-term.

Speaker 1 (22:32):
Gotcha. And so have you guys measured the bad, like the benefit relative to the customer, like what they were spending before they were working with you, what they were spending after then the increase in the efficiency of their business? Like what type of how much value are you guys producing for your customers?

Speaker 2 (22:54):
So that's kind of funny that you asked me that question as, as an engineer, I'm a very data oriented by nature. And the unfortunate thing is sometimes you actually can't measure the data. And it's one of the most frustrating things for me. My co-founder tells me that all the time, like I'm just very left brain. And if I can't view the world or a problem with the left, with the benefits of a left brain, mine frustrates me. For example when we work with our clients, it's used, sometimes they go for cost savings. Usually not more often than not, they didn't have something in-house. So us, them working with us has actually increased in their monthly burn in the, in the very beginning, but it frees up their engineers to be more productive towards engineering development or freeze up their marketing team to be more on the frontline of marketing. And there's just too much noise, unfortunately, like it's really hard to discern what was brought as a benefit of them doing a very successful marketing campaign or a very successful feature released after we worked with them because we gave them that free time back, or if they're already going to achieve that. But I think in terms of peace of mind, I think the satisfaction rating amongst our clients is very high.

Speaker 1 (23:57):
Yep. That makes sense. Unfortunately. Yeah,

Speaker 2 (23:59):
I would, I wish I can translate to that a dollar to a dollar amount. I just don't think we have enough data right now.

Speaker 1 (24:04):
Got it. It's probably soon that you'll be able to, to, to calculate that once, once the, the case studies flash out, right? Like if if you do, I could see it being a, I could see you getting to that number maybe in a year or so, like after everything. So yeah. I, if I'm just thinking of our backend, like the time it took me to optimize it was substantial and I'm going through that process right now of finding the right blend. I think I arrived at the same place, technical plus. So us social, like they have to have the social skills because people are people. That, that, that makes sense. Yeah. So what else, what other things can we, can we teach the, the audience about yeah, building that right team? Let's say, if somebody is not ready to outsource right now, what can they do? In the meantime, before they might, they might be ready to, to work with you guys or what can they do in the meantime to optimize their to optimize their customer support experience. So

Speaker 2 (25:13):
Sometimes we'll talk with our prospects and they're just that type that has a very strong inclination to do things in-house, and I'm not going to try to twist anyone's arm to buy or sell anything. I just want to give general recommendations to all people. And I think some general recommendations that I've seen that our prospects find valuable, even if they know that we're not, they're not going to buy from us is the fact that there's a couple of pillars I think are universal across all business types and all types of roles. I think there's a general nature human nature that you want to appeal towards and take advantage of, because I think people have immense potential. And I think it's on the role of the leader to pull out that potential and bring everyone to the best that they can be. For example, I think those pillars are mastery.

Speaker 2 (25:54):
You have to give someone the opportunity to master something like that. They consider important. What's important to different people. It's going to absolutely vary. If you told my marketing friends to become a master at software engineering, it just absolutely frightens them. Like they just don't want to pick it up. And if you told my engineering friends like, Hey, learn to sell, it's a really great for your career. I'd say probably less than 5% of engineers have that desire to want to learn how to sell as well as be an engineer. So I think you have to choose what's appropriate for them appropriate for each person. And then there's the sense of autonomy. You have to give people lots of autonomy. I think the more time you can give, especially in the front line, the less friction it gives you as the leader, especially if you're leading on a regular basis or actively involved with each of your frontline members, it doesn't necessarily mean every interaction will be perfect, but I think the ability for them to learn at a faster rate and they are able to exercise judgment in a way that isn't according to something like robotic algorithm, for example, they're just real scenarios in this past year due to COVID where a lot of businesses got really strapped for cash, and some of them suffered personal loss as a result of the disease.

Speaker 2 (27:00):
And the, the, I think it's appropriate for people, especially those in more social roles, like customer support to be highly empathetic. And if that means giving someone free service for some duration of time, you wouldn't otherwise give, but if they thought that was in the best, the best interest of both parties, then do it. I, we generally try to empower people to make decisions with autonomy up to the range of it, like $250. If it's below that, like don't even ask me, just do it and tell me after the fact, and we can pivot over time. But you discover what I've discovered is that people learn pretty quickly and people generally understand what the consumer experience is like. So they would generally really try to operate by the golden rule. I think I tried to stop the roles as much as possible and figure out what would I want if I were in this person's shoes or what would this person want if they were in my shoes, et cetera.

Speaker 1 (27:47):
Got it. So mastery autonomy,

Speaker 2 (27:50):
No, there is purpose. I think purpose is really, it drives a lot of people forward. I think a lot of the reason that people like working with our business versus other ones is we just have certain pillars in our culture. I don't know if it's necessarily, I don't even know if it's good for business or not. Like from an objective, a profit maximizing perspective. I don't know if it's good, but I think it makes me feel like I'm living out my purpose as a human being. And those include above average wages to all staff. We've talked to some people who work for Amazon customer support and some of our members, I think almost make quadruple what Amazon is paying some of their customer support staff. And I think a purpose is also, we try to invest in, we have the intent to invest a lot of our profits into developing these communities where we're involved and try to hire from, in terms of trying to elevate their levels of education, access to opportunities and so on. And I think even if the frontline cause customer support customer success members, aren't actively able to take their time out of their day to like either volunteer for these causes or donate actively. I think when they know that they're working with a business that is aligned with what they themselves want, they're more motivated to put their best work forward.

Speaker 1 (29:03):
Got it. And how would one determine what they find like what their purpose is or what, what they would want to do? Like what are some, some strategies that one could use to, to help align to the employees and figure out what the purpose is?

Speaker 2 (29:18):
I think it's, so I think it's appropriate for the business to not tell people what their purpose is. I think, yeah.

Speaker 1 (29:23):
That's what I'm saying. Like how, how do you discover how do you have that conversation with the, with your employees, your staff members?

Speaker 2 (29:31):
I think thankfully it's been so far a self selecting process where, when someone sees how you treat people when you treat your staff, well, they'll talk well with their friends. And it's almost always a referral of a friend of a friend or a friend of a friend of a friend who's applying because they heard about what it was like to work with us. And I think it's one of those things where if someone sees what you're trying to go after, even if it's from a distance and they are themselves value, the same thing, you already have the area of common ground and that's way better. And you don't necessarily need to offer. You don't need to, you don't need to go crazy and other benefits to attract talent. If you can attract with very specific things that you know, are interesting to specific people.

Speaker 1 (30:11):
Got it. And so what are some examples that are like, yeah, what are some examples of that besides not, not the traditional benefits, but some intangible benefit or some other benefit that would provide that level of motivation?

Speaker 2 (30:28):
So we're very pro entrepreneurship. I think some of our current staff members want to eventually become entrepreneurs someday and that's a journey wants to encourage them in. So a part of our business is trying to be transparent with each other. So even at the call, it like the ownership level, we, we try to document everything we do and take notes of it and to make it publicly available to everyone within the company. So they themselves understand what the role of call a founder of a business looks like. And then when, so that when they go about and start their own business, they have at least some of the tools, some of the knowledge, some of the bits of experience to do that. Right. And a lot of my one-on-ones with the staff revolve around their future and what they want from the future and how they can best prepare for that. And I think, I don't think a conventional customer support agency, customer success agency back office agency would provide that level of, I guess, consulting, if you would call it that for people to reach that level of goal.

Speaker 1 (31:22):
That makes a lot of sense. So instead of fighting it, you kind of encourage it is that it's likely that they're going to do that anyway or there's. Yeah. Okay. And how have you found that strategy? Is that, is there a time frame, a window where they're willing to work? Is it, does it look like two years, three years, and then they're off to do their own entrepreneurial activity? Like what, what, what size of the window have you found to be most common?

Speaker 2 (31:52):
We haven't made any defined commitments on time in terms of like where we're actually going to ask anyone to stay in the duration of time. If any, one of my company wants to leave next month, then that's their, that's their choice, right? Like that's, that's kind of how the freedom of choice goes. I just hope that we make the environment as attractive as possible for them to stay for as long as they like for as long as they consider appropriate. Like when I was at Uber, I knew probably about in my second year of Uber, I wanted to be an entrepreneur someday, but I stay the extra three years from that point because I was still trying to learn from people around me and corporate environments are great in the sense that you can learn things, you, you have access to people you otherwise wouldn't have access to. Right. And I think that gives you the opportunity to learn things something that Naval Ravikant calls specific knowledge in a more tangible hands-on way versus trying to learn it from books. Because usually if you're learning something from books, either by the time you read it, it's outdated or it's, it's vague enough that it doesn't give you the tangible what to do on a day-to-day basis.

Speaker 1 (32:48):
Yep. I agree. Okay. That's been, that's been really helpful. What other motivation techniques or strategies could you use to, cause you mentioned that some incentive programs or incentive structures are misaligned to the customer. So which, which ones or which one have you found to be the most effective?

Speaker 2 (33:09):
It it's, I can't say with a hundred percent certainty, but I do believe that simply just treating people well is unfortunately missing from the industry as a whole, as a whole. I think a lot of times people, when they look for outsourced resources, they try to pay at the bottom of the bail rates. And I think the unfortunate thing about those businesses that if you want to pay bottom of the bail rates, there's just not a lot of profit margin to reinvest into back into employee benefits. For example, we actually over-hire with the intention of trying to, we were loosely in and trying to figure out how to, we can give each person unlimited PTO because I think that's something I really enjoyed at Uber and I want to bring it to my business and we've loosely. We don't, we don't track PTO. We don't have any defined levels of PTL and we pay people whether they're there or not just for the sake of simplicity at this point, but we want to make it more of a thing. We want to encourage people to take time off because we think being in a relaxed state of mind, generally, as far as past research papers, I've read at least up to a certain point, dramatically increased creativity. And when you're in a leader role, I think creativity is the leverage factor that changes everything. If you're not creative, if you're not well rested, if you're not if you're overly stressed, your ability to produce high quality work is severely hampered.

Speaker 1 (34:26):
Yep. And what does that ratio look like? Is it how many days out of the month or what is this? What is the sweet spot?

Speaker 2 (34:34):
I wish I knew I think I, I'm trying to ballpark four to five weeks per year. I think that's what I'm trying to loosely target.

Speaker 1 (34:47):
Got it, got it. Well, that's been very helpful. And then as far as the compensation structure, like, do you align with the result of the customer? Like, do you align with a case study? Like how, how are you defining the metrics of a, of a customer success person?

Speaker 2 (35:08):
Yeah. So something we've noticed is that when you try to, I think most forms of gamification only worked in the short term. I think some things do require a longer term investments. And I think people as resources of your business as extensions of your own team or one of those resources, I think it makes more sense to have a steady rate versus something highly variable or like call it commission-based. I think it's perfectly fine for our clients. Some of our clients do incentivize our agents with bonuses in terms of like, you could get X for every X, for every five star rating that you get, the business will give you extra like X bonus. And we were perfectly fine with that model. If they want to pay extra to their, the people who work on their front line, that's perfectly fine. But for the most part, we think it makes more sense for the business of exclusion to carry that weight.

Speaker 2 (35:57):
And what I use for line incentives there is that if we don't produce results, if we don't, if they aren't satisfied with our level of service, they're free to turn at any point. One of the things I find kind of distasteful in industry is when companies have these sometimes as long as like multi-year contracts for customer, like for their, their outsource providers. And it's just one of the friction points where I feel like, Oh, if you sign a two to four year contract and you're not satisfied, like three months in, you're stuck, you have to have to deal with like the huge hassle of breaking that contract, or you're just going to commit to it. And your customers are indirectly going to suffer, which means your business suffers. Right? Whereas we try to revolve our business around, Hey, if you don't like our service, you're free to churn. We don't have any defined levels of agreement one month from now. If you decide, Hey, we're just, we just don't wanna work with exclusion anymore. That's perfectly fine for us. And we think one of the business carries on that wrist. One, it helps us build reputation through accountability. And two, I think it makes people more at use to work with us in the first place.

Speaker 1 (36:54):
Yup, absolutely. And is, as far as like, would you as being an expert in this area, would you recommend bonusing out for five star reviews? Like what, what percentage of like, how high does the bonus need to be? Does it need to be like X percent of the salary too?

Speaker 2 (37:16):
People inherently want to do a good job, especially when you're not one of my fears about the typical customer support agency is that when the frontline people aren't paying not to make ends meet, they'll take on multiple jobs with, we've seen a lot of people in industry and that's one of the things we commonly see. We're not just talking to like two, we're talking about two and a half to three jobs to make ends meet. And especially for those who are early stage parents early in their career, where there's not a lot of opportunities except for the early, like the entry level jobs two and a half to three jobs, unfortunately more common than you think. And I think when you take away that take that away and you just hold and you give them a compensation that's equivalent to those three jobs and just say like, Hey, just do your best. And we'll, we'll provide you guidance over time. People inherently want to do a good job because I think one, they want to hold the job into they, they want to make the world a more delightful place cause they themselves want more delightful experiences as a customer. We tried, I have seen between the clients of mine who incentivize with money and those who don't incentivize it with the money. And as far as we can tell, the satisfaction ratings are not significantly different.

Speaker 1 (38:26):
Right. Got it. And so what other activities can one do to keep the morale up and the customer support department like Friday night activities games

Speaker 2 (38:41):
To do exactly that we're trying to do more, more fun social events. The unfortunate thing about us in our timeline is the fact that COVID makes it unfortunately awkward or unsafe or uncomfortable for either the legal at the legal level or at the social at the individual level. Right. But we're, we have a lot of plans in the roadmap. We've done a couple of digital events and I think people enjoy them. It's obviously not the same, but we're trying to do what we can. And I think it's where we really rely heavily rely on our team leaders who are close to these people. One of the things about support businesses, they have to be available 24 seven just because that's what the clients want. So we have countries we're working in countries around the world. So we have to rely on team leaders on the ground, all around the world. And we're just really trying our best to mentor them well, to be very team-oriented and doing what they can with their time to plan for team events have one-on-ones regularly and relay how much gratitude that we have for them.

Speaker 1 (39:40):
Got it. Yep. I've seen some of the digital stuff like online poker, some of our guys have been doing link the online poker events. There's hanging out there doing pets. Yeah. So yeah, no, that's that, that this has been really useful and really, really insightful. So where can someone go if they fall into your customer archetype and they're looking to outsource their support who's the best person to contact? Where can they go? Where can we send them?

Speaker 2 (40:06):
You can contact me at LinkedIn. I think my LinkedIn handle is just David Tran [inaudible] and there's also our business website, exclusion.io. That's spelled xFusion.io. You can also send me an email and [email protected] And we're also for the people who are interested in furthering the conversation either through like a free consultative call or a free like invite to our show. We're working on a website called fuse.show F U S e.show. The idea is we just want us to want to provide value from what we learned without necessarily asking everyone to just be on the plan or anything. We just think there's lot of people out there who can learn what we're, we're trying to learn in the process. And I think it's cool to build community around that.

Speaker 1 (40:50):
Cool. Well, David, I really appreciate the time we we'll end the interview here. I think that was really useful.

Speaker 2 (40:56):
Thank you.

 

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