How to Stay Customer Centric Through Extraordinary Growth

Matt Zurcher, SVP of Customer Care, HomeAdvisor
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How do you maintain a customer-centric approach to operations when your organization is growing at an unprecedented rate? The answer, we have learned at HomeAdvisor, is by keeping people at the forefront of your strategy. 

With a few consecutive years of double-digit revenue growth, HomeAdvisor has rapidly become the world’s largest online marketplace connecting homeowners with qualified home service professionals. It’s been an astounding trajectory. However, it presented our entire organization—our customer care department, in particular—with some unique challenges and opportunities. 

Generally speaking, there are two ways you can manage the kind of growth we are experiencing; you can add more technology or you can add more people. As a tech company, you might expect that HomeAdvisor would lean more heavily on the former. In fact, we are doing both. And we are taking a people-centered approach in every aspect.

Here’s a look at five of the things we are doing in HomeAdvisor’s customer care department to ensure a consistently positive customer experience:

1. We are being specific with our staff:

We are making a concerted effort to be as specific as possible in all communications with our customer care managers and staff. This may seem like a no-brainer, but we have found the more we grow, the more our ability to directly influence agents diminishes—and the harder it becomes to ensure that our vision is being appropriately communicated and understood. Being specific, helps ensure that our brand message is not muddied in the “game of telephone” that comes with the addition of hundreds of new employees in multiple offices. It also ensures that everyone is on the same page when it comes to providing a great customer experience. 

2. We are outsourcing strategically:

Several years ago, although more out of curiosity than necessity, we piloted using an outsourcer. That decision turned out to be fortuitous because it allowed us to gain valuable insight into this form of customer care. “Dipping our toes in the water” early made the expansion of outsourcers much easier and reduced mistakes in the longer term. Among other things, we now know it is essential to visit outsourcers frequently and to work hard to recreate our culture in different locations. We also believe strongly in a “champion/challenger” approach; having multiple outsourcers compete for opportunities creates competition and is extremely beneficial.  

  ​We are taking a people-centered approach in every aspect  

3. We are using tech to train and reduce strain:

Growth puts a strain on all processes, especially manual processes. So, we are exploring and implementing technologies to minimize that strain and realize greater efficiencies. We have recently partnered with Fonolo to implement a “call back” system that gives our customers an option to be called back instead of waiting on hold to speak with a representative. We are also piloting a new customer satisfaction survey that’s giving us a better read on how our reps are performing. And lastly, we are exploring the implementation of speech analytics technology that will allow us to mine more phone calls and provide topical, objective feedback to our customer care representatives in near real-time. All of this technology is implemented with the goal of improving the customer experience.  

4. We are creating customer-centric tools:

Our customers—be they homeowners or home pros—are busy. And, like most modern consumers, they want the option to use their smartphones and computers to communicate and book appointments when it is most convenient. To that end, we have created mobile apps, voice-activation and instant booking tools that streamline the scheduling process and pay heed to the ever-evolving uberfication of the customer experience. Offering these tools in tandem with our more personal customer care efforts allows customers to choose how they interact with us, thereby improving their overall experience with the HomeAdvisor brand. 

5. We are changing our mindset while sticking to our core values:

We have had to start thinking, strategizing and performing like the big company we have become. And that means changing our mindset to ensure we are thinking more globally in terms of satellite correspondence. We are purposefully scheduling more one-on-one meetings, video conferences and site visits to keep things personal. And, we are doing everything we can to make sure that we never get to the point in which our employees become nothing more than another number. 
    
At HomeAdvisor, we have always been very thoughtful about treating our people like people. So, while we have got more people in more places than ever before, we remain laser-focused on making each one of them feel valued and informed. We have grown our customer care department from 25 to 550, but have continued to keep a 12-1 rep-to-manager ratio in the process. Bottom line: We are making a concerted effort to give our employees all the benefits of working for a smaller company while we continue to expand our reach as the world’s largest home improvement marketplace. After all, it is our people who are most valuable in providing a consistently positive customer experience.