Q&A with Jerry Leisure

Currently, Vice President, Customer Success, at Forte, a gaming technology platform, thought leader Jerry Leisure’s background spans several industries, including computer software, logistics, and  recruitment. Yet, there has been one important constant throughout his professional experiences: his heart and mind have remained focused on what he believes to be the heart of any company — its customers.

We asked Jerry to tell us more about his customer service philosophy and the session he led at the 15th Anniversary Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange; he also shared insights about the technologies transforming today’s contact centers and interesting industry changes he sees on the horizon.

At the 15th Anniversary Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, you led a session which examined the relationship between employee engagement and happiness and organizational success. Why is this so important? 

There is a commonly used saying that happy people sell.  There is a lot of truth to this in every industry. A happy and engaged employee will do what is needed and go the extra mile for a customer, hands down.  The amazing opportunity is to tie employee satisfaction to customer satisfaction. Not many people have been able to achieve this and make it meaningful to the business.  Those who do, see a significant increase in customer loyalty, retention, and employee happiness. I like a  term  I learned from Rachelle Dever, “emotional affinity.”  She shared that this is when a customer deems your product or service essential to their lifestyle.  If you expand this to employees, can you imagine what employees with emotional affinity to a company can do for the company and their customers?

At the same event, you stated that your employer, Forte, has a 98% de-centralized workforce (i.e. work from home, etc.) and that you believe we’ll start to see different kinds of customer experiences based on this. Can you elaborate?

Interestingly enough, I did a recent podcast that elaborates on this topic, Why should I care – How the Blockchain is going to change the future customer service and support. The heart of the blockchain is decentralized.  When I joined Forte Labs, Inc, my CEO asked me to consider how we might build out a CS organization that can be in whole or part decentralized.  It was an interesting challenge. It really gave me an opportunity to shift my mindset. As I started to investigate this topic, I found super interesting trends of workforce transformations happening in the CS space.  At the same time I was researching the transformation of the blockchain and virtual currencies. I discovered a beautiful dovetail happening in these two areas and the meeting point was gaming. We have a lot of gamers that want support where they are and they often trust other gamers more than support agents.  This aha moment led us to start to rethink the customer or player journey. We are integrating gig worker gamers that had more credibility with our gamers. This led to happy gamers, happy gig workers who get paid for doing what they love, video games, and a valuable new way to provide support in our overall Services Stack.

What affect do you think rapidly evolving technologies like AI, machine learning and chatbots will have on both on-site and off-site employees in the contact center? On the customer experience?

There are a few interesting observations here:

  • Process Bots will eliminate the need for boring, manual work to be done by people.  This is great as it will allow companies to have engaged employees focused on exciting and impactful work opportunities
  • KB Bots will eliminate the need to engage directly and wait for a response.  When trained and fed with the right information, these bots can give super-fast response times with relevant meaningful answers.  This gets the customer the answer in the fastest way possible. A great example of this is a working prototype of a Facebook Messenger Bot that allows users to retrieve Dutch cultural heritage masterpieces. It is a showcase of an open source content management system that allows you to build your own chatbot
  • Language Bots will enable companies to close the global communication gaps similar to how Babel Fish did in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Yet, humans and high touch engagement will always be needed and will always be better than a Bot.  However, companies now have an opportunity to make human to human interactions t more meaningful for their employees and customers alike

How do you keep the “heart” and brand of a company foremost when deploying these types of technologies? 

The “heart” or customers of a company is the most important mindset.  Regardless of what you do, if you are focused on your heart, you will never fail.  I wrote a recent blog post talking about this – Best in Show, your Heart depends on it. It is easy to get excited about shiny technologies, new sales approaches, awesome product launches, and the many other things that get people excited to work at a company.  All of those things are important and vital to a company’s success. However, without tending to your organization’s “heart,” all of those things will eventually fail. Nothing is more important than the customers that build your company.

When companies keep that mindset in place as they make transformations, changes, and evolve to their next awesome state of being; they will always have a better chance of success.  And in return, their customers will thank them in spades, with their wallets!

Turnover and retention are ongoing and big issues in the customer contact industry. As you have led teams at very diverse companies (Autodesk, Postmates, Inc., Kabam) can you share any consistent lessons learned addressing these issues?

People are interesting to me.  They are the lifeblood of a company.  They are the difference makers. Tying back up to the first question, happy and engaged people really do build and sustain a company.

The tension with a services company, like contact centers, is that in many countries the jobs are viewed as stepping stone jobs for a much bigger career plan.  In some cases, it is the career people want. Inherent in this context is variability and transition. Which means it will always be challenging to mitigate attrition.  With that shared, here are a few lessons I would share:

  • Co-creation and collaboration with all levels of the team are critical to gain buy in, improve retention, and enable a happy and trusting environment
  • Creating pathways where ideas from the frontline influence executive decision making is critical
  • Enabling and empowering less constrictive working environments, where people can express themselves freely, is a necessity
  • Remember, people want to work hard, have fun, and be nice to people.  Supporting those mindsets in the context of your decision making is recommended

What is your “secret sauce” when it comes to creating customer success? And the happy employees that help foster this?

Ok, I guess I’ll give it away :).  To be honest I don’t think it’s a secret, it’s just hard to do all the time.  Here are the ingredients to my secret sauce:

  • Enable a culture where people are listened to, respected, and celebrated
  • Keep things simple and focus on the customer mindset at all times
  • Use data and tech to support valuable decisions to drive customer value
  • Engage the future and adapt to change with agility
  • Be responsive with employees and have passion, authenticity, and fun every day

Now, for a little fun, look into your crystal ball and tell us what you think the contact center will look like in 2050, please! 

My first thought was of a bunch of robots on the moon delivering human like AI personalized telephone support.  That’s not going to happen, but I am a science fiction geek, so there you go. Realistically, I see these trends over the next 30 years:

  • Automation of 70-90% of services tasks, freeing up companies to maximize efficiency and profits
  • Higher touch engagement of the remaining 10-30%, this will drive CX work to be a profit center
  • Resourcing decentralization that will enable a person to work for several companies and be more entrepreneurial (flexible and meeting people where they are)
  • A connected network of services pros that enable a long term network marketplace affect and ubiquity of service capabilities in every local neighborhood (think the internet web network, combined with an Uber for Customer Service)
  • Service revenues and value will become a top exportable economy Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 5 of the top 20 countries around the world 

Jerry Leisure is a Customer Success leader who believes the heart of every company is its customer. Before becoming Vice President of Customer Success at Forte Labs, Jerry was Vice President of Player Retention and Customer Services at Kabam, a mobile device game developer. At Kabam, he led by the ethos, “Happy and empowered employees = happy and engaged players.” Previous to that, Jerry served as Vice President of Customer Service at Postmates, Incorporated, where he led the company’s expansion through 4x market growth. He can be reached via LinkedIn,TrueCustomerSuccess.com or jleisure@forte.io.