Why are vision and mission statements often so overlooked? Most companies have them, but employees often don’t even know what they are. Jose Herrera, Co-Founder, and CEO of Hire Horatio, talks about the importance of these branding components when delivering satisfactory customer experience. We also cover the most discussed topics, such as balancing technology and the human touch or the best practices for communicating your client’s brand voice.
Jose’s LinkedIn Profile – https://www.linkedin.com/in/joseherrerap/ Visit Hire Horatio website – https://hirehoratio.com/
The one thing that humans still have over machines is the ability to leave the script and go above and beyond in the name of providing amazing customer experience, right? So a computer can confirm the data but people can actually smile, and that is very key when providing a personal interaction that is valuable for the consumer in the tech-dominated world that we’re living in, right? But obviously, in our experience, the way to provide amazing customer experience relies on leveraging, both the human touch and tech enablement.
In today’s episode, I interviewed Jose Herrera, co-founder and CEO of Hire Horatio. You will hear Jose’s inspirational personal story about his journey from the Dominican Republic to Wall Street, to founding his own company. We will discuss his motivations behind creating Horatio, his vision of the company, and viewpoints on maintaining the human touch a core value of the business while leveraging technology.
Jose describes himself as a dreamer, as a young ambitious student in the Dominican Republic. He always dreamed about becoming the Wolf of Wall Street. As soon as he reached the appropriate age, he left the country to fulfill his dream.
So I grew up in the Dominican Republic, which is a small country in the Caribbean and my dream was to always work in Wall Street. I decided to go to college in the US and after graduating from college in 2010, which was right in the middle of the financial crisis, I was lucky enough to land a job at Goldman Sachs. And then after a year working at Goldman Sachs, I joined Morgan Stanley in their Investment Management division, which was a very cool opportunity to revamp the Latin America Asset Management business alongside my boss at the time and it was a very unique experience that set the foundation for what we do today at Horatio.
Hire Horatio is a tech-enabled company, outsourcing customer services. Founded in 2019 with a team of 25 employees and three clients, they now work with 41 clients across industries and employ over 500 people. But Jose was not the only founder of this fast-growing company.
The moment I met Alex and Jared I knew that I wanted to do business with them. I knew that their skill sets would take Horatio to the level that I wanted to take the company. I had the vision and I have the strategy, but I was aware of my shortcomings. Right? So Alex and Jared are very process-driven. They come. They also come from Wall Street, but they have a more structured background when it comes to creating processes and are more risk-averse. I’m more of the dreamer and the visionary and they keep me in check.
And when we decided to do business together, we had a very open conversation about the fact that business is business and our personal relationships should be kept aside. So, whenever we have any differences in the business, we try not to take it personal, and obviously, after doing this for two years, we’ve learned what our strengths are. And I think that the key recommendation I would provide to other friends that are also co-founders is to number one, not take things personal when things get a little bit heated, and number two learn to listen to your partners because sometimes you have to take your ego aside and understand that, whatever they are providing as a solution is in the best interest of the company, and so having that dialogue, and that open conversation is what is going to set up the business for success.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the key concept of Hire Horatio is outsourcing customer support, but not always outsourcing is a good solution for you based on the nature of your organization. So, when is outsourcing a good idea to help grow your company?
If a large percentage of your customers are contacting you for support with unique issues that require constant escalation, or if the price point of your product or service is extremely high, that probably means that you have a lower volume of interactions and your needs may be too complex for an outsourced partner. And I think that also if your business is not going to scale on the customer support side, and you will not have that much in terms of customer service demand, then it is best to keep CX in-house.
Outsourcing I think works well for fast-growing subscription companies, fintech companies, health-tech companies, and marketplaces where the volume of increase is unsustainable to keep in-house without compromising on quality.
When a customer is unhappy and they contact a call center agent, the agent embodies the company’s voice. The brand voice is not celebrity endorsement or influence marketing, but the members of staff the customer interacts with on their journey. In case of outsourcing this voice, how would you ensure that your client’s brand mission and vision are communicated during the service correctly?
We start working with companies right when they understand the value of customer experience and when they think there’s going to be an inflection point in terms of number of inquiries, and also when they want to reach their customers across multiple channels, say chat, text messaging, phone, email. And the first thing that we do with all of our clients is we create what we call the customer experience Playbook, which is a very detailed guide that includes everything we need to know about the company, your brand voice, your values, your mission, your vision.
In order for us to put that emphasis at the time of hiring the dedicated team that is going to be providing the support on behalf of that company, we focus on culture first as a primary means to strengthen customer centricity, which sounds a little bit counterintuitive, but remember that employees are the ones that are going to be interacting with your customers and if you don’t convey that mission to your customer support team, then you’re going to fail to provide an amazing customer experience. So we first focus on understanding what the company is all about, and then we dive deeper into the actual product or service that we’re going to be helping with, right. And so that is how we think about building out processes that can allow the company to have a trusted partner on the customer experience side that understands that the company is going to continue growing, the company is going to continue adding new products and services. But as long as you have the backbone of understanding what the mission and vision of the company is, you will be able to continue delivering amazing Service as the company continues to evolve.
Then the other thing that we do is we also have to train our clients to treat their team members as a true extension of their team. What differentiates us from our competitors is that we assign dedicated teams for every company that we work with. So the reason why we do that is because it is very important for your dedicated team to really feel like a true extension of your brand or your company. And so the way that we do that is like I said in the beginning, is teaching the team about the mission of the company, finding qualified team members that can relate to your brand or product. And we also stress to the clients that we are working with, to also organize bonding activities with their team, provide product samples, recognize their efforts, send them products so that they actually can feel proud that they are working and representing that particular brand or client, and that goes a long way in order to provide amazing customer experience.
If you teach your employees how to communicate your clients’ values, as a company you need to have a strong vision statement and value proposition yourself. In a fast-growing company like Hire Horatio, I can only imagine it is all the more difficult to stay true to the values and embody them.
So, something that a lot of people don’t know about me is that when I was in high school I worked at a call center. I worked at a call center in the Dominican Republic for Western Union. The way that the old call center model works is that, imagine you know, imagine myself working as a call center employee at Western Union and I’m dealing with an angry customer on the phone, right? My incentive is to follow the script that I was giving, use the canned responses, and whenever I failed to resolve the customer’s issue I immediately escalate that to a supervisor or a manager because my incentive is to reduce the time it takes for me to resolve an issue on the phone, so I don’t want to extend my weight time because I would get penalized for having a longer than average phone call with a customer. So as long as I am under that two-minute phone time, I did, I did my job and I passed it over to the supervisor and hopefully the supervisor resolved the issue, right? And that’s how most people in the industry are trained. They’re trained to manage those KPIs. And that is the wrong incentive when it comes to servicing a high-touch subscription business or tech-enabled fintech company, right? You want to make sure that your agents can go off-script. You want to make sure that they don’t necessarily rely on a hundred percent on canned responses because of the power of the human touch. And I know that we’re going to be talking about AI in a bit, but it is still very important, right? You can tell when the interaction comes from a human and when that human really cares about you as a customer, right? And so we train our team members to understand that the goal of providing an amazing customer experience relies on them being human, and that means doing everything in their power to ensure that the customer leaves satisfied after the interaction. So we stress not relying so much on your KPIs, but more on, did you resolve the customer issue, and do you think that they’re going to come back for more?
And we do rely a lot on metrics like lifetime customer value to see that a customer is a regular customer and if we should do any exceptions for that particular case, or if we should also take into consideration the fact that it was out of our control, right? During covid a lot of our clients had a lot of shipping issues, right? And customers grew frustrated because the wait times were insane and being empathetic and understanding that that customer really needed that product at that particular time, but how can you help them by providing the right incentives to keep them coming back for more? That requires you. Human judgment, right? It’s not so much the software is going to tell you what to do in that particular scenario.
The Never-Ending discourse on how to balance technology and human touch didn’t miss our conversation, of course. So how does a tech-driven company with an emphasis on human input approach technology automation?
Horatio is very unique on relying on tech-forward solutions combined with a considered like approach with a team of dedicated agents. So we like to deliver impact by leveraging AI to get better customer feedback and also help the agents become more efficient in their day-to-day operations. So we do recommend some of our clients that are particularly on Zendesk, for example, to leverage tools like Lang.ai or Loris to provide coaching and feedback for the agents and to also help them become more efficient on their day-to-day operations.
We also focus a lot on creating tagging within tools, like Gorgias to ensure that we are driving the right customer feedback and we can provide that back to the brand or the company that we are working with. So, definitely we are relying on automation to help the agents become more efficient, but I don’t think that replacing the human touch is going to happen at least in our lifetimes. I think that customers still can tell when it’s a human versus a bot, and so you have to be very careful when you leverage technology to provide customer support.
I think that there are certain channels where you can get away with it initially such as SMS or live chat, but it comes to a point where as a human, and you guys can correct me if I’m wrong, you can tell when it’s a bot versus a human. And what do people prefer? People prefer to talk to a human at the end of the day. I think that there’s a generational gap in terms of channel preferences. I think that the older generation, like my parents, they love talking on the phone. So they like their issues resolved on the phone. And I think that that won’t go away at the moment, but our generation prefers to communicate through live chat or SMS.
So, to the extent that you can provide quick resolution through those channels and rely on AI and automation to make your agents more efficient, then definitely that is the way to go. You have to be very careful when you add phone as a support channel because if you don’t have the right staffing that will increase your first response time, and ultimately it’s not a good experience for anyone when you’re waiting on the phone for 30 minutes, so something that we’ve done with some of our clients is provide sort of like a considered approach to phone where you can book an appointment and one of your dedicated agents can call back that customer for particular issues. So, it’s like a 15-minute time frame where the agent also has the power to call back, which also reduces anxiety on the agent side, dealing with back-to-back calls. I did it when I was young, it is not fun. So, I think that relying on that concierges like an approach number one, makes the customer feel special, and reduces the stress and anxiety on the agent’s side. And like I said, we focus a lot on the employee experience so it’s all about finding the right balance between the experience that you’re providing to your customers and the experience you’re providing to your employees.
From a young ambitious boy living in the Dominican Republic to a VP of sales and business development at Morgan’s Stanley to a co-founder and CEO of a tech company, Jose circles back to his roots, with his vision to help the community and contribute to the society in DR. And without judging companies where corporate social responsibility isn’t on their priority list, it does make a person wonder what our society would look like if more companies were socially responsible or if they didn’t use social responsibility as a label to enhance their brand image. I don’t know. What do you guys think? Let us know on LinkedIn on Arlington page and we can open this conversation whether a company should be socially responsible or they shouldn’t? Why? And why not? It’s certainly an interesting topic for conversation.
So our headquarters is in the Dominican Republic, which as I mentioned is where I’m from and where I grew up, and my main goal was to provide amazing job opportunities and revolutionize the working culture of the BPO industry, by providing an amazing environment that employees are proud to work at. We actually just got recognized as one of the best companies to work for, which is very satisfying. And I think that we were recognized because of the inclusive environment that we have in the company, over 40 percent of our staff is LGBTQ. And it’s an environment where people are accepted, no matter their background or where they’re from.
We also provide amazing benefits to all of our employees, which is on scene in the industry. Everyone gets free daily catered meals, we provide private health insurance to all of our employees, and we’re always constantly trying to find ways to innovate on the employee experience side. We recently hired a People experience coordinator that is working on a lot of very cool initiatives, not only to provide a cool working environment that will allow our employees to provide the very best service, but she’s also trying to find ways to give back to the island and to include our talent in that mission.
So, we actually are launching a new program called Horatio Cares, which is our community service initiative at the company where we are going to be doing a lot of activities to give back to society. So one of the first activities that we’re going to be doing is Beach cleanups, which is a big problem in the island. We’re also going to be donating Food Supplies and Medicine to a lot of shelters that have been affected by the pandemic and it’s just a way to give back and recognize the fact that not everyone is as privileged as we are and that we live in a world where a lot of people have been disadvantaged by the pandemic, and I think it’s very satisfying to see how engaged all of our employees are in this initiative.
I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please don’t forget to like, share, subscribe, comment or follow our LinkedIn page. If you are interested in what Jose does, check out his LinkedIn profile or go to his website www.hirehoratio.com …and I will see you in two weeks.