S4e8 The Getting Online Customer Service Right Edition with Mat Patterson

S4e8 The Getting Online Customer Service Right Edition with Mat Patterson

James chats with Mat Patterson who began his career as a web designer, in the days when every web page had a grey background.


He worked as an in house designer for companies including the Australian Stock Exchange and Booking.com, and did freelance web design for companies in Australia and the UK.

Anticipating the rise of self-service web design tools, Mat switched careers to become the first customer service team member for Campaign Monitor, an email service provider started in Sydney, Australia.


As he grew that function to a global team of 27, Mat began blogging and speaking about online customer service. That work eventually turned into a full time role at Help Scout, a fully remote software company that  empowers businesses to serve customers in the most human, helpful ways. At Help Scout, Mat is the customer service content lead, teaching people how to deliver better online service experiences.


They discuss the self-service online world, giving your customers what they need, not just what they think they need, building service culture, listening to the data, why AI has a long way to go and getting the basics right all the time.


Contact Mat:


Twitter twitter.com/mrpatto
LinkedIn www.linkedin.com/in/mathewpatterson/
Email mat@helpscout.com

Help Scout writing helpscout.com/blog
Subscribe to the newsletter www.helpscout.com/newsletter/join-us/

Click for Full Transcription

James Nathan  00:07

Hello, and welcome to The Only One Business Show with me your host James Nathan and a fantastic guest for you today. All the way from the other side of the world well other side of the world from me. So I’m a West Australian sitting in London and he’s a New South Welshman sitting in New South Wales. This gentleman began his career as a web designer back in the days when every web page had a grey background. And if you’re as old as me, you’ll remember that very, very well. He worked as an in house designer for companies including the Australian Stock Exchange and booking.com and did freelance design work or web design work for companies in Australia and in the UK, anticipating the rise of Self Service web design tools, he switched careers and became the first customer service team member for Campaign Monitor, an email service provider which started in Sydney in Australia. As he grew that function to a global team of 27, he began blogging and speaking about online customer service. And that work eventually turned into a full time role with Help Scout, a fully remote software company that enables businesses to serve customers in the most human and helpful ways. And Help Scout. He’s a customer service content lead, teaching people how to deliver better online service experiences. Please welcome Matt Patterson. Matt. Hi, how are you?


Mat Patterson  02:10

Hello, I’m good. Thank you for having me.


James Nathan  02:13

Oh, it’s a pleasure. And thanks for staying up late for me as well. It’s it’s always fun trying to do these things across the world. But we were just saying before we went online tech’s good now.


Mat Patterson  02:23

Yeah, it’s a lot better than it was even when I started doing this at Campaign Monitor. Right? The early days with the Americans very difficult.


James Nathan  02:31

Well, it’s yeah, I mean, we have, we have got the tech and thank goodness we have because if the world is, well, if the COVID thing had happened 10 years ago, nothing would happen. Well, now, so but you’ve been in this in the online world for a very long time. It’s not, it’s all second nature to you. What was it when you were working in blogging and what have you that you, you kind of saw the rise of online customer service? How did that happen?


Mat Patterson  03:00

So I think I was, what was I doing? Well actually, my very first job actually was in tech support. I was working for a company in Sydney that was teaching accountants how to become financial planners. And so I was doing phone support for them, we had some very terrible products that were based on Microsoft Office macros, and spreadsheets and things like that. And it was trying to help them over the phone, very difficult. I had some very frustrating conversations in that role. And I spent years, you know, as a web designer, because the web, the commercial web really just kind of popped up right at the right time for me. But I think, even in my years as a web designer, maybe this should have been an indication to me of what my job should actually be. But no one ever stole my web designs, you know, people learn about like, someone’s ripped off my web design, people did rip off my copy, they ripped off the copywriting. They never ripped off the design. And that was probably an indication. I was better at the writing and the communication in that way than I was at the actual design.


James Nathan  04:04

Oh, some of this stuff’s pretty tricky to copy though, isn’t it?


Mat Patterson  04:08

It is these days, it was a lot easier, then I can tell you. That’s how we all learned. Just rip off each other. And you if you do a good job of it, it looks like you’ve built your own thing. And if you do a bad job, people call you out on the internet.


James Nathan  04:19

Right. And there were a lot of bad jobs done in the early days as well. I mean, you still see companies now with web sites, and you think my goodness, when did you build that?

Mat Patterson  04:27

Yeah, that’s still out there for sure.

James Nathan  04:30

Okay, and so when we’re online, we’re Self Service web design, is that we’re How did that come about? How was that something that just happened? Or were people sort of forecasting that was a good plan?


Mat Patterson  04:41

I think we knew pretty early on once it became clear that there was, you know, people could run businesses online, that eventually everyone’s going to need a website. And the way that we were doing it, then building it by hand, coding everything…. It was a very labour intensive way to do it. And it took a lot of technical knowledge, not so much the design knowledge. But it just became clear that over time, it’s going to get easier and easier to do the building part of it, like the tools are going to get better, people will be able to do this without having to hire someone to do every element of it. And something like Squarespace, it was just inevitable that something like that would come along, where if everyone’s going to design a website looks pretty much the same anyway, you might as well use a service that just generates that. And so at that point, I had to decide like, am I going to be, you know, upskill in the actual design to become a specialist in that way, or really get into the coding side of it, or do something else, and I chose do something else?


Mat Patterson  04:41

Okay, I guess for most businesses, the majority of businesses are small aren’t they. And so being able to knock out something quickly, yourself or use these tools is fabulous compared to the cost of using a good designer and a good good business?


Mat Patterson  05:55

Yeah, it was just it just not practical that most businesses aren’t going to be able to shell out, you know, $10,000, or whatever it was, we were charging for websites, you know, for very small ones back in those days. So it just there was going to have to get cheaper and cheaper, which is what it did, you know, some people kept doing it, but they had to charge less and less over time, because there was so much more competition, and people can do it from anywhere in the world, you don’t need a designer to be necessarily in the same town as you. There was a lot of competition in that way. And so we had to differentiate in a different way, which I think, you know, it’s basically the same thing that’s happening with online customer service now. You know, in the last couple of years, a lot of companies have migrated online, and a lot of customers have many more options than they used to have. And you’ve got to differentiate yourself in some way.


James Nathan  06:40

So how do you do that? Because the web was a nice kind of sojourn into that conversation, I guess. But, you know, how do you differentiate yourself online, when when there is no human interaction to have? Or direct human interaction? I should say?


Mat Patterson  06:56

Yeah, it is not necessarily easy. Because you’re right, a lot of the time you using services that you don’t have a lot of interaction with a person. But actually, customer service is probably the one area where you are likely to have at least some contact with customers no matter where they are. Right. So I think a lot of businesses are discovering that yeah, if you know, if your customer can come to you…. this is what I think has changed, the customer can come to you now. And they probably already know a tonne more about the field that you’re in, like the type of marketplace that you’re in the alternative options that they might have, they probably have access to a lot more information about the types of services that you can provide. By the time they get to you. They already know all of that when they get to you. So the information disparity that used to be there. With a lot of businesses, it’s not there anymore. And so when they come to you, they’re not looking for like the basic information anymore. They’re looking for like, I’ve, I’m trying to get something done here, and I need some help. And so that is where a really good customer service team and a good customer service experience, can kind of handhold that person and say let’s talk about what it is that you’re trying to get done. And we’re trying to get to and let’s get you there. And our product is one way to do that, or our service that we’re providing is a way that you can get to that thing that you want to get to, which is a lot of businesses aren’t really providing they’ll provide support and customer service, in that if you ask a direct question, you’ll get an answer. But they aren’t necessarily answering the actual need that you have, which maybe you can articulate or maybe you can’t.


James Nathan  08:31

That’s quite interesting. Because that’s the bit which, you know, often you if you go onto a help screen and you click through the things that appear as a problem. They don’t necessarily tie up with what your issue is, or you go… you try and choose the kind of most… the closest match. And then I mean, I’m old fashioned Mat, I like to pick up the phone and talk to people. Is that still a thing?


Mat Patterson  08:54

Yeah, I think, I think you’ve got to know your customer base. So a lot of customers still do want to use the phone and certain types of conversations are much harder to do if you’re not in real time conversation. But then there’s a whole I think, a whole bunch of people who would do anything to avoid using the phone. It depends who you’re selling to.


James Nathan  09:12

Absolutely. I mean, my seeker by 50 year old boy, he’s got the strongest thumbs in the world and the way he communicates. But yeah, I said, the real time thing though. How does that work online? How do you make sure that you have all the channels available to different types of customers that you might need to interact with?


Mat Patterson  09:32

Right, so you have options, right? And it depends on the size of the business and how many people you have to staff it because real time obviously requires more people than doing some sort of asynchronous email only type support. But I think what we’ve seen in last probably 10 years maybe is the rise of, well, first we had live chat. But now we’ve got I think, really we’re moving towards more of a messaging model which is, it might be live, it might be slightly less live. If that makes sense. It’s still more conversational than an email thread usually is. But you can use those tools. HelpScout has one we call ours Beacon, where it’s just one point, and you press help. And it will present to you the options, according to you know, what the business has decided to allow at that time. And we’re all for the type of customer, you are, or for who’s available to help you at the time. So you might see a knowledge base search, you might see a live chat, you might see email us, and we’ll get back to you within X number of hours. All of those things can be available from one spot, and you just kind of train your customers in that way, like you need help you go here, and then you’ll get the best option presented to you at the time.


James Nathan  10:43

Great. And so tell us about HelpScout? What is HelpScout? And why is it different? And what is it? What’s it all about?


Mat Patterson  10:50

So HelpScout is a customer service software company, right? So we talk about helping businesses to deliver service to their customers in human and helpful ways. Which a lot of help desks are out there, you might have probably seen some yourself, certainly you’ve probably interacted with some as a customer, some of them are pretty clunky, they’ll tree, if you get an email back, and it has a really long number in the title. Like, that’s a pretty strong indication to you how that company is kind of treating you like, oh, I guess I’m that number now. So Held Scout was kind of originally built to just give people a better experience in that it just feels like an email, if you’re sending an email, you just get an email back, it just looks like an email from a person. And behind the scenes, all the work is being done to categorise that and organise it and make it accessible to the team and be able to pass things around. All of that stuff kind of happens transparently to the customer. And so the service experience can be really nice from the customer side. But you get all the benefits of highly structured information on the business side, and the reporting, all that kind of stuff is built in for you. So that you can concentrate on, you know, the customer experience.


James Nathan  12:03

Okay, so what sort of businesses would want something like your tool.


Mat Patterson  12:10

I mean, that’s a pretty broad list of customers, a lot of our customers are other online businesses. So there’s a lot of obviously, there’s a lot of software companies, because they’re the ones that use most of the software in the world. But there’s also a lot of, you know, ecommerce businesses, higher education, like universities and departments in larger companies, anyone really who’s has like a set of clients or customers someone that they need to, they need to communicate with, and they need some way to manage that. So a lot of businesses will start with, you know, we’ve got a Gmail address, and three people will try and log into it and try and do, you know, reply to people in there. And that sort of works for a while. Generally you’ll get to a point where that starts breaking or you’re accidentally replying to the same person twice, or someone gets missed, all of that stuff starts to happen. And then you need something, which is a step up from that. And something which can start to integrate with all your other business data sources. And because a lot of the best service, I think comes from the customer service person having access to all that information. So you don’t have to, you know, ring up and say the same thing 12 times to 12 people, before someone can help you.


James Nathan  13:14

There is very little more frustrating than repeating yourself over and over again to a help desk. You know, and we’ve all had the experience, I mean,  I like to bag mobile phone companies, because they tend to be the worst at it for whatever reason. It’s just you just think with the massive number of people that they deal with, they’d get better at it. But then you talk to someone like Apple, and you know, I remember very clearly having a conversation with someone where they said to me, I’m just going to pop you on hold for a moment. And I hope that’s okay, are you able to hold for a minute. And it might take slightly longer because I want to explain the situation to the next person so you don’t have to repeat yourself. And I thought, wow, please take as long as you like, as long as I’d have to do it myself. But that’s a it’s still a common problem, isn’t it? And there’s well, how does how does a business get around that? How do they stop that happening?


Mat Patterson  14:05

It really is a common problem. It shouldn’t be. And there’s sort of two elements to it, there is a technical problem. Like sometimes people are using a system that just that information is not available to them for whatever reason. You know, they if they’re using something like Gmail, you know, it’s not that easy to pull out the history of that conversation and see like, oh, these are the same people that emailed us yesterday about a related thing. Or they spoke to a different person on a different team. And all of that information is kind of separated and siloed in different spots. So there is that technical problem. That’s something that software like Help Scout can definitely help you with. There are other products too, but often, it’s not that there is no technical solution. It’s that there is no cultural solution inside the company like someone at the top there doesn’t think it matters enough to invest the time and the effort to build a system that can do that. I used to when I was running the campaign one To support team, we hadn’t, you know, had grade ratings, we were very successful. But I used to tell them, like, if we all went down the road and worked for a bank, we would just have terrible ratings. It’s not because the people on the frontline don’t know what to do, it’s that they don’t have the systems in place, they don’t have permission to do the right thing. You know, they haven’t been trained properly, all of that stuff. The systems and the processes and the culture within the company are what come together to deliver that ultimate customer experience.


James Nathan  15:28

It’s fascinates me because I have this conversation a lot. I mean, if you you know, if you listen back to any of the, any of the previous episodes, in the other series of this podcast, we have this conversation all the time, you know, businesses say they’re customer focused, and they’re not, they focus on what they can get from their customer. And when it comes to helping in the back, you know, after care, or you know, just just general onboarding, or whatever it might be, there just seems to be this disconnect. And that cultural thing is, is really interesting, because someone I was speaking to recently said, you know, good customer support is marketing. And it really is, isn’t it?


Mat Patterson  16:03

Yeah, great customer support is marketing. And it’s also sales a lot of the time, because as you say, that might be the only chance you get to actually speak to someone, especially if they’ve reached out to you and kind of explained like I’m having this problem. It’s an incredible opportunity there to learn from them. Like, how are you thinking about the product that we offer? You know, what do you think it does? What do you think it’s for, it’s a great opportunity to see what they’re trying to do. And to pass all of that information back into the rest of the company, you can use that to, you know, to shape the marketing, to shape the sales experience, to build the product, if you’re doing a product. All of that incredible information is coming in through customer service. In a lot of companies, it just stops there. It doesn’t go any further. Because they haven’t thought about how do we get that out? And what do we do with it?


James Nathan  16:50

And what we do with it? That’s the…. so what do they do with it? How do we take the data and information we’re getting from these calls and conversations and interactions? And how do we use that to produce better customer service online?


Mat Patterson  17:02

Right, so I’ve written about this recently, actually, I think you need a few things. First, you need the customer service people to actually recognise that information. You need them to understand these people. And they might be just asking one question, but they probably have something else in mind, you need to do a little bit of, you know, reading between the lines to understand what their actual underlying goal is. So they need to be able to do that. But you also need them to be able to do that in the sense of, if I take another five minutes to talk to this person, it’s not going to be me getting marked down on my metrics for you know, my call times or whatever. I think a lot of the time, it’s, you’re so ingrained with the idea that you have to get through the conversation quickly that any chance that you had to capture a little bit more information and pass it back in is just gone. Your metrics need to be there, they need to be incentivized in some way to actually take that extra time. And then you need some sort of way for the information to be passed through. So whether that’s your your reporting, to include information back, whether it’s a what we do at Help Scout have some of the frontline support, people are kind of embedded in the parts of the product team. So different elements of the product, they’ll have a support person who’s attending meetings in the product design side of the business, say like you’re working on this, this is what we hear from customers about this particular part of the product. This is what they would like, this is how they… where they run into trouble. These are the features that they tell us the competitors have that we don’t have that they really want. So you’re kind of just building bridges all the time between the people who are making the decisions about what do we sell? And how do we sell it and the people who are supporting it on the other end?


James Nathan  18:41

Okay, because I guess, you know, if you if you pick up a tool, or we say we, in my business, I think you know, Help Scouy are the guys for me, I engage you guys into my business, I still need my people trained well to interact with the others to the humans that we get in contact with don’t we.


Mat Patterson  18:58

That’s right, no piece of software is going to do that for you. As I say we could, you can have the best customer service platform in the world, you could spend as much as you’d like on it. But if that culture internally is that customer service is for fixing problems. It’s like a wall that prevents problems from getting into us, then that’s what you’ll get out. And he doesn’t matter what your software is, then it’s not a technical problem anymore. It’s a cultural problem or a policy problem. So what you really need is someone at the top who understands the value of customer service, and the potential that it has to inform the rest of the business and to be a form of marketing and to complete the customer experience.


James Nathan  19:39

And understand I mean, we’re kind of talking around businesses, tech companies, I guess all the peak kind of contact that people would have when they’re having issues with using a product. And I guess a lot of that is how do I do this or I’m trying to achieve this or you know what? It’s kind of, it’s almost calling up and asking for training on the thing a lot of the time. But what about retail and hospitality and professional services? How does it differ for those sort of businesses?


Mat Patterson  20:11

As in the type of help that they’re giving? What, how does it different which way?


James Nathan  20:15

Well, just the approach that they take to the customer.


Mat Patterson  20:18

I mean, it does differ, obviously, the types of conversations you’re having are going to be different. And you’re right a lot of technical problems. There’s a lot of repeated sort of you do this thing, this is the way in which you do it. But even in a software company, and so I can tell you this, from my experience, certainly, once you get past that kind of big chunk of this is really a question about the product, you still end up with a whole bunch of questions about like, I’m actually trying to grow my business in this way. And I think, I think your product, someone told me, I could use your product to do that. And really, what they’re asking is, how do I grow my business? And your product is sort of like you just happened to be there. So and I think a lot of, a lot of retail sales, a lot of things is that, you know, it’s what problem do they think they’re solving by buying your thing that you sell, or your service that you offer? And so the the really good customer service people, and again, the people who are in a good environment in which they’re able to do it, are the ones who can, well, okay, this is what you think that you want. Or this is, this is the solution you’ve kind of jumped to in your mind. But let’s take a step back. And let’s talk about oh, actually, what you’re trying to do, the hole that you’re trying to fill in whatever that is in your life. And if they can do that, there’ll be you know, those people can transfer easily. Like, I’ve hired people from that sort of environment. I work at a video game retail store, is the same sort of thing. You know, someone comes in and says, my son, I need to buy him something. I don’t really know what he likes. You know, that’s the sort of conversation that could happen in any customer service business, technical or otherwise.


James Nathan  21:54

What are the kids? What are the kids playing? Now? I remember my mum used to go overseas and buy me records? She’d you just walk into a record shop and say to the guy, what are the kids here listening to? And bring it back, you know, sometimes it was a hit, sometimes it was a very big mess. Particularly French music. That was never never my thing. But, but yeah, I can imagine the same kind of, kind of conversations around that. And, you know, it’s easy to kind of point to bad service, because it’s the sort of thing that sticks in our minds, we remember it all. But then we do get these stories of amazing service I just had, very recently, I’ve just just taken, just decided to take golf back up after a 15 year break. Mainly because of having kids and stuff and just having no time. And I went to my bag, and I pulled my clubs out and the cover on my driver was you know, pretty used, it was knackered. Here’s the probably the best way to describe it. And so I sent an email to the golf company that made it a company called Lynx Golf to say, you know, I’ve got I got this driver, it’s about 20 years old that the covers really worn. I can’t see on your website where I can buy a new one, is there any chance I could buy one? And I got a response within about a couple of hours. You said, James, really sorry about that. Let me send you on What’s your address? You know, and it arrived? And I just think, well, you know, it costs them. I don’t know what it costs them. But I’m going to talk about it for a long time that you know, instead of saying, yeah sure, it’s 15 quid, or whatever it is, you know, it’s just don’t don’t be silly, we’ll send you one. And that’s lovely. That sort of thing. When you get that little, I guess its a surprise really more than anything else. What, what, who, who’s doing online? Great. I mean, obviously, we, you can talk about your clients, but just in your own experience, Mat, when you’ve had, you know, contact with different businesses, who do you think is really starring out in this stuff?


Mat Patterson  23:46

That’s always a tricky question, isn’t it? The thing, the thing that I look for, really is consistency. Like, I think if you look, you’ll go and we have articles like this on the Help Scout blog, who have like great service experiences, and tell stories about you know, here’s this amazing thing that happened. But a lot of the time, you know, I think we focus maybe too much on those kind of wow moments. And forget, if you jumped to that, and you haven’t got the regular everyday customer service working. It’s so frustrating, you know, when you’ve had one good experience with a company and then you go, Well, great. I’ll use them again. And next time it’s terrible. I just find that to be much more frustrating than just getting mediocre experience the first time.


James Nathan  24:29

Yeah, no, I hear what you’re saying. I mean we do…. and it’s an interesting point you make because we do like to talk about the good and the bad. But actually, you know if I want to return a t shirt I bought that didn’t fit. And I can do that very quickly, easily. It all happens instantly. And I you know, then I don’t think about that as great service but actually it is because it’s doing what I need. In the simplest way possible. Yeah, an interesting point.


Mat Patterson  24:53

I mean, I’ve had some good… I’ve used The Iconic, it’s an Australian you know clothing brand. So I like those businesses, which are solving problems. Like returning is a real pain. And I know that I will go with them because I know it’s easy for me to return it, I’m not going to have to put in a bunch of effort if it doesn’t fit. That’s the big risk of buying something online is that it doesn’t fit or it just isn’t what you thought it was, because you were seeing it through a little screen. And they’re taking away that risk. And they’re building confidence. So a lot of companies that can do that sort of confidence building, taking away the scariest parts of online business, or I think the ones that are doing it, well. Let’s just say my one example that I have of really good online service is ING, the bank that I use, at least in Australia, they don’t have any branches. So they are, you know, by nature forced to to do everything online, which suits me. But what I particularly like about ING is that over time they have, they’ve kind of reduced the number of times, which I even have to call them. So you know, my wallet got stolen a few years ago, it was got stolen at the back of a car, and my cards were all in there. And I just had their app, and I could open the app and freeze those cards within, you know, 10 seconds. Yeah, once I realised what had happened, I didn’t have to get in the call queue. And then as you said, I didn’t have to explain to seven different people what had happened and what I needed to be done, it was just really fast. And that sort of thing. Like that’s, that’s self service, right? That’s a beautiful service experience, they know exactly what I need, I don’t need to talk to them about it, they don’t want me spending time like it’s better for them to if it’s really fast. And that’s just a great customer centric piece of product building, which is also a form of customer service.


James Nathan  26:41

And that’s a really clever thing as well, because it saves the customer a whole lot of hassle, I guess, if your wallet’s stolen, that’s one thing. But I think a lot of the time… I always think about my kids, but you know, one of the spouses have lost their card, and they can go and freeze it on their app, which they don’t do instantly. And then it gets found again, you know, you just unfreeze it rather than the whole hassle of having to wait for new cards to come and everything that was was done in the past. And that must be one of the most common things that banks have, isn’t it losing cards?


Mat Patterson  27:09

Exactly. And that just the wasted time and effort of so many people that can be caught out by just a little bit of thoughtful design?


James Nathan  27:21

Oh, it’s almost looking through the compliance book and same right, what are the things that happen all the time? Oh, that here’s a clue. We better do something about that. Which, again, so many businesses don’t do? What’s when we’re talking about better online service? And it’s things that people can do in their businesses? What are a few things that you’ve sort of talked about recently with your customers that others should be thinking about?


Mat Patterson  27:46

Well, I think, yeah, what you want to do is sort of an audit of like, what actually is the customer service experience that you’re giving people? So I’ve got a spreadsheet somewhere for this. But you can kind of go through and say, like, from the customer’s perspective, what is it like, first starting with like, how do they find where to get help, some businesses make that quite difficult to start with. They try and hide it away, or they try and force you to go through their terrible knowledge base, if you’ve got to have a knowledge base, make it a good one, at least. If you’re gonna force me to go through it, like, I’m quite happy to self serve, if I can, but when it’s terrible, it’s even more frustrating. So, you know, make the content point accessible, set some expectations. So like, how long am I going to be waiting here? And what channel should I use? Like? Should I be calling if it’s going to be take me two days to get an email back then I will call you. But if I can get an email back later today, yeah, fine, go for it. Here’s my information, send it back to me. So setting those expectations accurately. And then keeping track of what I’ve actually said, if I’ve already provided the answer in the first email, don’t come back and ask me again, because you’ve lost it somewhere. Don’t…. basically, don’t make me do the work that you could do. So that’s what I always try and teach the customer service people when I was training them as well. It’s like if we can possibly figure that out ourselves without having to go back and ask the customer again. And we’ll do that work, we will take that work on and reduce the effort on the customer side. So that and then…. and then we get into those conversational elements like of asking, of understanding, like, what is this person actually asking us to do? Because sometimes the best thing you can do is like you’ve asked a direct question, I’ll give you a direct answer. But then I will also give you this probably what you’re going to need to ask next, I’ll give you that information upfront if I can figure it out. Which with some practice, often you can, you can often predict like, well, I’ve just given you this, but then the next thing you’re going to get stuck on is this other thing. Let me let me give you that information right now as well and save you another step. That anticipation.


James Nathan  29:59

I know I’ve had conversations with helpdesk before were, they then send you a link to the things that they’ve just discussed with you I find that quite helpful as well. But what I don’t find helpful is where I’m then tried to…. they tried to send sell me something. Here’s an opportunity to sell upsell, no, it’s not. Now it’s an opportunity to make me happy. And let me go off and enjoy using your product again, rather than try and sell me the you know, or did you know you can upgrade? No thank you.


Mat Patterson  30:27

yes, yeah, that’s a real fine line. Because a good a good service experience can be okay, you’ve asked the question, let me show you, this is how you can do it, there is an easier way to do it, it does involve this other plan that we have for this other product. But as long as you… I feel like as long as you have given them everything, they need to go away and just do it, they can ignore the rest. If it’s different then I think, yeah you can do that, please pay more.


James Nathan  30:52

If it’s going to make it better and save me money, then, you know, I’d like that. When I ring up O2 and I’ve got a problem with my phone I’d love them to say to me, hey, you know what you’re not using, you’re not you’re not using, you know much of your data, let’s change your plan. They don’t do that. But then they try and sell you an international bolt on which, obviously I’ll buy, but you know, that kind of thing. But there’s…. and what do people do wrong but not through through any fault of their own? They are trying to do things well, but there’s mistakes they’re making? What are a few things that you come across?


Mat Patterson  31:26

Yeah, I think probably the most… if assuming that they are trying to do it right, as you say, if you’re thinking through trying to give a good experience. So often this happens with newer customer service people I think is if you don’t really understand the answer, that’s when you get a lot of really generic sort of help. If I, I get this a lot when I’m dealing with other companies, if I send in a question, and I know exactly what I need, and I give them all the information. And I just get a very generic sort of response back, which is obviously like, here’s my prepared response that’s given to every customer who matches this sort of pattern of question asker. I think you get that when you’ve got a bunch of new people, and there’s no kind of institutional knowledge being passed around. So they’re not keeping track of the information that would help them deliver like a better answer. Not also people who aren’t, you know, maybe that basic answer is right and good. But if you doing really good service, you’ll understand from the way they asked the question how this person understands a little bit more. And what I’m going to do is, I’m going to rewrite that a little bit, to give them a more detailed explanation, something’s going to be more satisfying for them, based on their, you know, their context and their information. So sometimes you can give the same answer in seven different ways, depending on the person that’s asking what they’ve asked before and what they’re trying to do. So that kind of adaptive response is why I think that AI incidentally, is a long way from being helpful in product service in that in that way. It’s pretty good at like, as long as you match the pattern, you’ll get an answer back, which is probably correct. But not necessarily the most helpful because there’s a big difference between correct and actually useful.


James Nathan  33:14

Well, you know, I was just about to ask you about chatbots. And you’ve kind of preempted that a little bit. Because I find them… when they were first a thing I put one on my website, no one ever used it so I took it off again. But yeah, they seem like a brilliant idea. What’s the future of them? Because they’re really not… it’s, they’re not quite there yet, are they?


Mat Patterson  33:37

In some ways, in some ways, it’s amazing. Like it is pretty incredible technology, some of those. But I think we’re just so far away from when you talk about, when you talk to kind of the average person on the street, about what artificial intelligence is. I think a lot of the time they’re sort of imagining like the computer in Star Trek, where you can just have a conversation with it, it gets you, like it understands when you’re asking it a question, when you’re not asking a question, when you need it to do something. And you can be vague, like our normal conversational speaking is actually pretty terrible. If you ever listen to yourself,


James Nathan  34:11

Unfortunately I do a lot.


Mat Patterson  34:12

I’m really vague. And I like retread the same thing halfway through and I change my voice for no reason. All of that stuff, that people are really good at understanding and moving past, the AI is not as good yet. And that sort of conversational AI is just a really long way away. But I think we will see a lot more artificial intelligence being deployed to as you say, like in software, there’s a lot of very basic questions of how to do something. If the answer is essentially, well, you could read this in the knowledge base and follow the steps yourself and AI can just go find that for you and give them to you. And that’s easier for some people. Great, absolutely. I think we’re going to see a lot of that. And so a lot of those basic questions that used to take up a person’s time can be answered by an AI or at least they AI can write the answer for someone to then send to the customer, I think, absolutely, that’s going to happen. And I think we will see a lot of AI being used behind the scenes to go do sentiment analysis to understand when people are angry and, you know, run some workflows on those to send the right person, to do some of the automated tagging and categorising, all the stuff that is necessary and helpful, but just takes people away from actually talking to customers, which is what you want them to spend their time doing.


James Nathan  35:28

Yeah, I mean, if we could get to the Star Trek thing…. I mean, the sad thing for me Mat is I know I’m not gonna live long enough for it. And I really want to see it.


Mat Patterson  35:37

Yeah, don’t hold your breath I would say.


James Nathan  35:40

Well, as far as you know, right now, I’m trying to get my car to understand what I’m saying when it puts a text message together for me, because it doesn’t like my accent, which is incredibly frustrating. We’re a bit of a way off, hopefully, I don’t know, my brother’s about… I’ve got a Tesla. And as I say doesn’t understand me most of the time, but my phone will I can switch it to Australian, and it understands me perfectly. So I’m looking forward to my brother getting his next week to see whether they’ve actually, Tesla have actually put together a voice recognition system for a different country, which actually understands them otherwise gonna be a lot of very unhappy customers. Oh, sorry, I’ve got myself I do buy my latest fun tangent of electric cars. But, if we were, if you were to give one big thing, one big golden nugget, your top tip for people to make their businesses better for today and better for the years to come. Matt, what would that be?


Mat Patterson  36:40

Well, I mean, I think I’ve already probably talked about four times, but I’m gonna say it again, because it really matters to me. But it’s about differentiating from what people think they need and what they actually need. Right? So like, if we talked about chatbots, for example. And when we used to get, we probably still do it at HelpScout. And we get people asking like, I want… Why is there no AI chatbot in this software? And yeah, yeah, you can answer that directly in the way that an AI would answer it, which is, you know, here is our pre written explanation for that. But a lot of the time, what they’re actually saying is, I’m getting way too much customer service, I can’t cope with it. And in their head, they skipped ahead to a chatbot can fix this for me. And maybe it could, and if they’re a huge enterprise company, you know, you have some options there. And it might be the best option. But for almost everybody else, there’s just so many other ways to address that problem that are going to be faster and cheaper and more reliable and simpler to set up and maintain. Before you have to worry about AI you can get in you know, there’s probably a bunch of questions that don’t even need to be questions because you could fix your service and just resolve them that way. So it just takes in customer service, somebody to see the questions being asked, and to do a little bit of analytical reading, to maybe look at the context of who this person is and what they’ve tried to do in the past. And to understand that giving them exactly what they’re asking for might make them happy in the short term, but actually be really unhelpful in the long term, you won’t lose them as a customer because they’re not getting what they need from you. So developing that skill of reading between the lines, divining the real goal, the real problem that I have, and then delivering, you know, the most effective answer is better service in the long run, more loyal customers, fewer problems coming back to you,


James Nathan  38:29

Matt, fantastic way to end. And thank you so much. It’s been really great chatting with you.


Mat Patterson  38:33

Thank you so much for having me.


James Nathan  38:35




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