As conversations around sustainability and corporate social responsibility continue to increase, I think you’ll enjoy this timely conversation with Michael Bair, Senior Director of Member Experience at Inspire, a clean energy tech start-up. Inspire uses technology to bring clean energy sources to businesses and the homes of everyday Americans.
With over 10 years of experience under his belt, leading customer-facing teams, Michael sheds some insight into how he breaks through some of the challenges to get customers to think differently about their energy options.
Build Your Company with a Capable Team
When Michael joined Inspire, the company had only been in business for about a year, which offered him a unique opportunity to shape the customer experience. Michael shares that based on his previous experience, he knew that good customer experience meant starting with having great people.
While laying out a framework for hiring and retention, and contact strategies, Michael looked for the best customer service reps and managers that he could find. Even now, he states that his number one goal is to find higher trained future leaders in customer service and in clean tech.
Michael helped build the foundation for Inspire’s operational plan. And in doing so, he focused on defining these 3 things for Inspire’s operations:
- Hiring standards. He clarified what were the types of people Inspire was going to look for.
- Training. Michael put together process documentation for how they would handle situations related to customer service and clean energy.
- Retention strategy. Michael and his team needed to create movement around a communication and channel strategy to keep clients.
Use Education and Emotion to Communicate with the Customer
Understanding that energy considerations are a low priority for most consumers, Michael and his team have to break through customer apathy. His team focuses on how to make personal connections with the customer, using a bit of behavioral psychology to help them understand why this decision is important and ultimately helpful for them.
Internally, this process is referred to as creating an EEC: an environmental, emotional connection. His sales team positively encourages customers, telling them that they have the power to make a choice that matters.
Make it Easy for Customers to Say Yes
The first piece of education begins with informing the customer that they have a choice in their energy options. Many customers don’t realize they can choose a different energy provider. Since Michael’s team usually meets with potential customers in face-to-face environments like grocery stores, festivals, door-to-door, etc., the sales reps converse with customers by asking questions like, “Do you know you have a choice?”
Michael shared that customers like having a choice, and if they find options in a palatable way, it’s easier for them to say yes. Inspire’s research was recently quoted in Forbes, supporting the claim that more people are interested in making choices that benefit the environment.
Make a Personal Connection
Since a part of Michael’s role is setting up the scripts for how Inspire representatives will explain the service, disclosures, standards, and everything else that clearly communicates what the customer is signing up for, he has built-in a communication priority for the reps to create a personal, emotional connection with a customer. This means, ask customers how their day is going. If there’s a dog barking in the background, ask what the dog’s name is, etc.
The other component to this personal connection is creating the environmental connection. There are some tools in Inspire’s CRM that the team leverages to communicate to the customer what their individual impact has been on the environment. Knowing that this is another aspect of the emotional connection, the reps thread those impact stories throughout the conversation. This helps reps reinforce to customers how valuable their choice has been because they’re emphasizing something that’s of personal interest to the consumer.
What Do You Know Now That You Wish You Knew Then?
I would say it’s all about communication. Communication is what allows us to influence, persuade, make connections; it’s everything you need to be an effective leader. I honestly spent so much of my career focused on hitting numbers, effectively running projects, building, and creating. I didn’t realize as I grew in my career, I needed to dramatically improve my communication skills. Whether it’s speaking in front of potential clients or partners, or public speaking opportunities, or just the ability to co-create with people above you, communication skills are invaluable.
About Michael BairMichael Bair is a Senior Director of Member Experience who cares deeply about wowing customers, crushing goals, and developing future leaders. He has created and co-lead numerous people and culture initiatives including career progression planning, manager coaching workshops, rotational leadership programs, and cultural programming.
Michael has worked at everything from startups to Fortune 50 companies leading contact centers, inside sales, and customer service. He has a degree from Westminster College and completed Seth Godin’s AltMBA.
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