September 3, 2020
Kim Kiefer, Mindsight’s Director of Customer Experience, sat down with us to discuss Mindsight’s approach to customer relations, and how the team brings value to maintaining a positive relationship with our customers.
As a managed services provider (MSP), Mindsight centers its strategy on the expert-level-only engineers that deliver technology services to our clients. As Director of Customer Experience, Kim shares her perspective around customer service, being proactive versus reactive, and shares some stories for us.
Can you describe the path to your current role, and what skills you’ve gathered along the way that make you successful?? Have you always worked in the tech sector?
KK: I have been in the industry for just over 20 years. I started in voice and became more data-centric with the introduction of VoIP. I have held positions in virtually every department throughout my time in the industry. While some may think that makes for nightmarish resume and no real specialization, I have found that it has afforded me insight to the business from all angles. I have been very fortunate to experience customer touch from that initial interaction to engaging in on-going technology roadmaps after years of being a managed services customer. It has allowed me to learn and understand the common pain points from both internal and external perspectives, which in turn has helped me to refine my ability to collaborate with my teammates to cultivate very positive, long-term customer relationships.
Your title is “Director of Customer Experience”. Can you tell us how that differs from “customer service” and what it means for Mindsight clients and prospects?
KK: Experience denotes longevity, and that is what I want to build, customers for life. For over 10 years of my career I was a project manager. That helped me develop my focus on service excellence. It also taught me how to multi-task efficiently, achieve and maintain a specific level of team performance, and listen and communicate effectively with a vast array of personalities for a common goal. What that means for Mindsight and our customers is that I will always be a resource who listens, executes, and cares.
We know companies like Comcast have the stigma of historically bad customer experience even though they have taken drastic steps to remediate the issues. What are your personal thoughts on why that happens, and how to turn dissatisfied customers into brand advocates?
KK: It is all about expectations and perception. If we do not deliver what our customers expect they are going to be unhappy. Does that mean that we in fact dropped the ball? Not necessarily. But at a minimum, we failed to make sure that what we communicated and what the customer understood were the same thing. Perception is reality. This is also true for internal customers, the associates interacting with customers. If there is not a clear understanding of the expectations, if associates are not empowered with guidelines and processes to take care of customers, the chance of creating unhappy customers greatly increases.
In my experience, unhappy customers often make the best champions and advocates. There is much to be said for jumping in the trenches and making it right when something goes sideways, and it is IT, something is bound to go sideways at some point. To me, it is lack of interaction that cause customers to seek new partners. Service excellence does not mean nothing ever goes wrong; it means when things go wrong you will do what it takes to make it right and then take steps to ensure it does not happen again.
Are there any clichés when it comes to dealing with customers that you can’t stand? IE: “the customer is always right” or the idea if you speak to a manager you can circumvent a company’s procedures and policies.
KK: I think that some approaches to customer service make that whole aspect of the business seem cliché. You can hang as many posters of people rowing boats and climbing mountains as you want, while those are positive, motivating messages, that does not mean you have a culture that creates an excellent customer experience. Everyone says that customer service is their differentiator but if there is not a solid process and a passionate team to back it up, it becomes it is just another hollow, disingenuous pitch.
Are there any “doosies” that you’ve encountered in your career? Can you share some details and how you turned a bad situation around?
KK: There was one project I managed that stands out above all others. The scope was simple and something we had done often, a physical to virtual migration (P2V). This was a relatively new customer that had only done time and materials projects and we really wanted to WOW them to increase our chances of becoming their MSP. In addition to our engineers we engaged a partner who specialized in these deployments to ensure this was a “non-event.” One of the most critical pieces of information I took away from the kickoff call was that they had chosen to do this project during their busy season (ugh). Wait, it gets better…
- The gear was a custom build and some components were backordered with no ETA.
- The expert partner we contracted failed to say he would be on vacation for virtually every critical phase of the project, with no access to messaging.
- The customer received a large rush order and asked to expedite our project timeline.
We managed to navigate all of that and keep things on track. Gear was programmed and tested, the expert partner made himself available for install and cutover, everything was racked and stacked, data was migrated, we cutover, and… nothing. Hosts were not communicating with each other. We did it several times in the lab flawlessly.
We engaged manufacturer support and painfully made our way through the endless tiers of support until finally it was determined that replacing hardware was the next step. New gear arrived within hours. I escalated until I secured a top tier engineer from the manufacturer to be available on a conference bridge for every step. It was confirmed we did everything right, same result, hosts could not see each other.
I began a series of phone calls with the manufacturer that resulted in them sending a team to the customer site to troubleshoot. (Think Linoge from Stephen King’s Storm of the Century, “give me what I want, and I will go away.”)
They had the same result. Next step? Take the gear to the manufacturer lab for more troubleshooting. This all transpired from Friday afternoon to Saturday evening. We rolled back to existing gear and waited to hear from the manufacturer. The escalation team was pretty used to my relentlessness at this point, so I got updates regularly.
The result? The cable physically connecting the two hosts was upside down. Every time. By every team. Except our engineers that built and tested it in our lab. It was reinstalled and successfully cutover by our internal team the following weekend.
The customer was extremely impressed at the way we escalated and resolved the situation so quickly. A 36-month MSP contract soon followed.
For those that are local to Chicagoland area, any hidden gems you would urge someone to visit?
- Sebastien’s Ale & Whiskey House (formerly Overtime Bacon Bar) – on Roosevelt a few minutes east of 355 in Lombard. They changed the name but kept all the glorious bacon. They were on a best of bacon episode on Chicago’s Best. You name it, they wrap it in bacon. Bacon stuffed avocados. You’re welcome.
- Golden Steer Steakhouse – also on Roosevelt just west of Harlem in Forest Park. The décor will remind you of everyone’s basement in the 70’s but it is one of the best steaks you will ever eat.
- Max and Benny’s – on Waukegan just north of 94 in Northbrook. Outstanding deli and bakery. Order the Nosher, one corned beef, one pastrami with sour cream and apple sauce. Trust me. Let me know if you finish it in one sitting. *Bonus – it is in the same shopping center as Nickel City Games. As the name suggests, video games are just a nickel.
- Al & Joe’s – Just east of Mannheim where 294 crosses over in Franklin Park. The BEST Italian sub you will ever eat, get extra dressing and be sure to pair it with jalapeno potato chips and a proper cane sugar Coca-Cola.
Favorite sports moment/memory?
KK: The Blackhawks 2012-2013 season, it was amazing to watch. They did not lose a game in regulation until the 25th game vs. Colorado and had only lost 3 of 24 games to that point. They only lost seven games the entire season and won the second of three Stanley Cups of the Quenneville era.
Lastly, Chicago is a place where you can experience all 4 seasons in 1 day. Which is your favorite?
KK: I like parts of all seasons, but I would have to say summer is my favorite as that is when the toys come out. My partner Mark and I LOVE cars, sports, muscle, you name it. We own a transmission and engine shop so at any given time we have at least one or two of our own project cars in the works. Right now, it is his and hers rat rods. Mine is an early 60’s Willys Jeep Truck and his is a late 30’s International.