Building Empathy and Connection Across Multicultural CX Teams
Imagine yourself in the moments after a catastrophe. Maybe a fire or burst pipe has caused your family to leave your home, or a tree has fallen on your car. Your first call is probably to emergency services. Your second call might be to a close friend or family member to sort out the logistics of the next steps. The third call, however, is likely to your insurance company.
We typically think of insurance companies as stodgy and stuffy, but strives to change that expectation. Lemonade is a licensed insurance carrier powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and behavioral economics, but we speak to you the way we would with a friend or neighbor. We are also driven by social impact. That means we do more than offer renters, homeowners, car, pet, and term life insurance in the United States (as well as contents and liability insurance in Germany, France, and the Netherlands). We are also a certified B-Corp, and donate unused premiums to charities selected by our customers, as part of our annual program.
I've been with Lemonade since 2018, but my experience in the customer experience space goes back a decade. When I was younger, I tried hard to find success in the world of business development, sales, and account management. But I never felt connected to selling, even if I believed in the product and loved the company I worked for. I didn't like the feeling of approaching a potential customer proactively, even if I had the "right" solution for them.
I then moved into customer care, which put me in the position of helping someone already interested and invested in a particular product or service. It was there I discovered I love empowering others to assist people.
Over the past decade, I've seen a shift in the conversation around the customer journey and customer experience (CX). The discussion previously centered around customer service, where a customer has an isolated request related to a specific incident. We would then work quickly to resolve the issue or answer the customer's question.
Today, the most successful companies take a much more holistic approach. The customer journey should delight the customer not only so they stay with us, but also so they tell their friends and family about their positive experience. The outcome of a pleasant customer journey often rests with the customer experience team.
Meet Your Customer Experience Team Members Where They Are
In my time managing support teams of various sizes, I've worked with groups spanning different countries, cultures, and time zones. Different cultural expectations directly influence the customer experience, so managers have to find a way to meet customer experience team members where they are and get everyone on the same page.
Some cultures dictate a laid-back, casual atmosphere in the workplace, while some are very formal. Others frown on building personal connections with coworkers or sharing personal information related to life outside of work. Mixing these different cultural expectations can make for awkward meetings and misunderstandings.
My goal is to bridge those gaps, so everyone works as a true team with a unified front. I try to go the extra mile to understand what my team members bring to the table and where their communication expectations might detract from the experience we want to give our customers. This understanding might be as simple as gaining general knowledge and context about communication in a team member's country of origin. For example, asking too many questions might be interpreted as rude in a particular culture, but doing so is critical to understanding our customers at Lemonade, so any hesitation needs to be addressed.
Regardless of background, everyone values authenticity. People want to understand the why of their work, how their leaders make decisions, and what's coming next. Let them in on that, and they'll extend that authenticity. By modeling inclusive empathy and transparency to my team, my team sees how I expect them to treat one another, and they extend that care to our customers.
I try to understand team members' individual goals and targets that motivate them. But in the end, what makes the difference is that I care, and I wouldn't recommend this line of work to someone who can't make an effort to care about and empathize with their team members. I build trust by being genuine and straightforward, and people respect that.
Enabling Team Members with the Right Technology
As attitudes have changed toward the customer experience, so too have customer expectations. Customers expect a much higher level of care and attention than they used to, in addition to support staff being knowledgeable and up-to-date on products and processes.
Moreover, CX in the insurance space differs from other industries where customers can call with more product-specific issues. When people call us, they are usually quite anxious. Something bad has just happened to them—potentially a traumatic experience. In these situations, the team needs to provide a high level of empathy on top of walking through the solutions our customers require.
helps me achieve that empathetic, knowledgeable response across my team, even as Lemonade has scaled. The reporting features in Talkdesk help me keep track of every individual's performance. I can easily see their average handling time, talk time, how quickly they picked up the call, and the length of the after-call work. We use all these metrics for our efficiency targets.
I also use this data in my 1:1 evaluations, which helps me develop a relationship with team members—even on a large team. Sometimes an agent is not performing to expectations, or they make a mistake that impacts the policyholder or reduces profit. I always pinpoint specific areas for improvement but make sure to demonstrate empathy, moving to rectify the situation instead of passing blame. Taking this approach goes a long way in building trust in teams, and it starts with having the right data.
Talkdesk also helps me identify top performers within the organization and replicate their actions with other agents. I can accelerate their learning curve by giving them more projects and responsibilities. I can also reward them through development plans that set them on what we call our "road to success," a program that prepares them for future roles and helps keep them moving forward in their career. We usually hire leaders from within the team, and it's great to build on their knowledge.
The Right Recipe for Success, Regardless of Location
One of the most valuable features of Talkdesk is that it allows us to see who's working in other offices in real time. Most of Lemonade's CX and claim team members work out of multiple global locations. But with this feature, anyone can see who else is available to offer after-hours support. Knowing you have backup makes customer experience employees that much more confident and comfortable when answering an emergency claim call.
I work out of Amsterdam, but as we scale to larger teams, greater call volumes, and more geographies, I can build interactive voice recordings and workflows in Talkdesk to route calls to the right people faster. In this way, Talkdesk will continue to help facilitate seamless work across time zones and continents.
At Lemonade, we have a lot of great tech tools like Talkdesk that make my life—and my team’s—so much easier. Any company that aspires for a best-in-class customer experience team needs to put these tools in their agents' hands. But regardless of the tools available to a customer experience team, success begins with being empathetic, caring, genuine, and transparent. When you demonstrate the qualities you want your team will pass on the same level of care to your customers.