The New Wave of Customer Service #3: James Baldwin from Change.org

Customer service is evolving at a rapid pace, so having a conversation about the field’s major trends and topics has become particularly important. 

Zowie’s New Wave is a series of interviews with trailblazing experts from the customer service industry. They’ll be offering insights and laying out their vision for the future. 

Today, we meet James Baldwin, Director of User Support at Change.org.


About Our Guest

James is the Director of User Success and Support at Change.org and is based outside Toronto, Ontario. Since joining Change.org in 2013, he’s helped his team scale alongside the company’s tremendous growth, going from 20 million users in 2013 to over 460 million today.

Previously, James spent time in community management, operations, marketing, and customer service. Now, his focus is on growing into new support channels, finding ways to partner with Change.org’s customer success team, and continuing to deliver outstanding support experiences to all users.


What does excellent CS mean to you?

I think excellent customer service can be defined differently depending on the context of the interaction, but I’d start right at the very beginning of the user interaction.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently looking at Customer Effort Scores instead of Customer Satisfaction, as it looks at the customer journey through their eyes. I’ve found that an excellent level of customer service is one that is perceived as quick and easy for the customer. This can mean a customer never even needs to deal with a human to resolve their issue. If they do, that too should be painless and in the channel of their preference—be it phone, email, live chat, etc. 

At the end of the day, no one wants to spend hours dealing with a company’s customer service team to answer a question or resolve an issue. Make the experience quick and painless, and you’ve set yourself up to deliver a truly excellent level of customer service.

What do you spend the most time on as a Director of User Support and what would you like to spend more time on?

I spend a significant amount of time on operational tasks that vary from day to day. I think I’ve ended up in this position due to my strong operational background, so I’ve sort of defaulted into taking care of operational work.

Ideally, I’d like to spend more time looking both internally and externally at the “customer experience” aspect of things. I want to be more strategic with my work. This’ll ensure our team is focused on continually serving the needs of our users as we continue to grow as an organization.

What are your biggest challenges in CS/CX?

From an agent’s perspective, I think handling large volumes of repetitive work while maintaining high quality standards can be very challenging. Furthermore, empathy is a major aspect of how we look at customer service at Change.org. Staying empathetic in every interaction can be challenging for our staff at times.

From a director or department head’s perspective, balancing aggressive roadmaps with limited resources can pose a real challenge at times. We always want to improve how we work, the tools and systems we employ, and the staff themselves. But we rarely have the ability to focus on all of these at the same time. As a result, we have to find the right balance with the resources we do have. We often have to do this in a rapidly shifting environment, whether that’s internally or externally.

In your opinion, what will change in CS/CX within the next 5 years? What are the main trends?

I think the biggest change we’re already seeing is with the evolution of chatbots. I’m constantly being pitched new products by companies wanting me to test their new chat product. They always tout the latest technology and AI.

In 5 years, I think the underlying AI in these tools will really take center stage and expand well beyond chat. I can see AI becoming a personal assistant to our customers. It’ll understanding their needs well before they do and help ensure they have whatever they need to be successful.

In other words, AI will have a deep understanding of the customer journey. Wherever customers are, we’ll be able to put AI in front of them. This’ll not only reduce complaints, but it’ll possibly increase customer LTV too.

How could CS and CX teams work together better?

The biggest challenge I’ve seen when CS and CX are separate teams is that both have different sets of deliverables and goals to achieve.

Ultimately, they should be working toward the same goal—ensuring that customers receive outstanding customer service that’s quick, easy to use, and available whenever it’s needed. Both teams obviously tackle this problem from different sides, but having them ladder up goals is a great way to prevent them from siloing each other out or missing opportunities to work together.

What are the challenges around automation in CS/CX?

When you automate, you have to deal with issues like complexity and maintenance. I think there’s a large portion of work (a soft ceiling) that can be automated in customer service.

Once you get past that first hurdle, though, implementing any additional automations becomes quite complex. The more complicated an automation is, the more challenging maintenance on that automation becomes. You also have to worry about creating more single points of failure. I hope that as AI evolves, many of these challenges will be solved or, at the very least, lessened. Until then, I fear the soft ceiling won’t see much growth.

We want to thank James for his valuable insights.

For more pioneering perspectives on customer service, check out our other New Wave interviews.