Delivering Kindness for Customers and Agents (CCW 2023 Session Replay Feat. U-Haul)

Learn how focusing on kindness helps U-Haul hit and exceed their goals.

Brands that prioritize kindness are not only standing out—they’re retaining customers and employees. Watch a replay of this CCW 2023 session to see how U-Haul is elevating customers and employees, boosting their CSAT scores and breezing by their SLAs.

Delivering Kindness for Customers and Agents (CCW 2023 Session Replay Feat. U-Haul)

Learn how focusing on kindness helps U-Haul hit and exceed their goals.


This was a filmed segment of our workshop session at CCW 2023 featuring Evan Johnson, VP of Contact Center at U-Haul.

You can watch other recordings of CCW sessions or read our U-Haul case study for more.

Introducing Kindness at U-Haul

I’m excited to be here today. I know the most pressing question I think everybody’s going to have is in regards to the order and the lineup as far as U-Haul, Walmart, and Jared—and, er, Lowe’s. And I told Jared, I wouldn’t share this, but last night, he said that, “You know, U-Haul’s the best brand,” so he wanted us to go first out of everybody. So I have to start with the jab.

You know, when I first learned of Mindful’s theme for contact center week in this session, Kind by Design, I was immediately reminded of what our Chairman and CEO at U-Haul Company, Joe Schoen, routinely shares. “Good manners are free.” This is in conjunction with a mentality, an empathetic approach of treating others the way we wanna be treated and is an overarching theme with everything that we do. We work to serve and treat our customers as if they’re family, no different than if it was my wife or daughters.

At the end of the day, our goal is always the same. To help move our customers to a better life. Today, I’m gonna share with you guys a little bit more about how U-Haul is working and our contact is working to accomplish that goal. And contrary to what you may think, I’m actually gonna start with our agents and the employee experience before moving on to our customers.

SUP: Supportive, Upbeat, and Positive

Within our contact center, we’ve adopted an acronym: SUP, stands for supportive, upbeat, and positive.

It’s much more than an acronym to us, though. It’s a guiding light and sets the tone for how we work with and treat our team to achieve greater success.

Whether it be monitoring, our post-call survey results, or any sort of performance or operational metrics, we start every conversation focused on the wins: what the team member is doing well and where they’re succeeding.

From there, if and when opportunity is present, we’ll break those down into one or two manageable focuses, delivering with encouragement, support, and a genuine desire to help.

At the end of the day, without a doubt, we know we will only be a successful as our team and our frontline.

By extending empathy, treating each other with respect and being kind, we trust the same will be extended to our customers.

We do so, obviously, because it’s the right thing to do, but our customers are benefiting. According to our most recent post-call survey, 93% of sales and reservations customers, and 87% of customer service customers have rated us as very friendly or friendly.

While the goal is, obviously, a hundred percent, we’re certainly happy with the result this far and trending in the right direction.

Pre-call kindness with Mindful

Now that we’ve touched on our employees, I wanna move on to our customers and talk about how we’re being kind by design, by breaking that down into a few key areas and focuses.

The first is before the call with Mindful courtesy callback and Mindful Scheduler.

We we deployed in November of 2021, and prior to that, we had received overarching feedback about long hold times and waiting. And so we had worked and focused on a variety of different solutions.

And we wanted to make sure that we were doing what we can to best serve our customers and treat them with respect.

By focusing on kindness and the employee’s experience, we were able to receive tremendous results, happier customers, happier agents, and certainly improved operational metrics, such as customer satisfaction, and as well as agent satisfaction.

In addition, since we deployed in November of 2021, we’ve also eliminated more than 25,000 days where customers would have normally had to wait on hold without a courtesy callback solution. Certainly, that’s a staggering figure in my eyes, And in my opinion, best highlights how kindness can be measured and observed.

The second piece of this equation is with Mindful Scheduler.

We’ve doubled down on our desire to be kind by design and have eliminated where customers have the need to call and listen to an IVR. I’ll be honest with you guys. I was a bit optimistic about this, or or maybe skeptical is the right word, and I wasn’t sure how our customers would respond or how they would feel about this solution. Well, truth be told, since we deployed, which was in June of 2022, roughly 11% of all of our callbacks are now through Mindful Scheduler.

It’s been a home run for us. It’s, again, led to happier customers but also as important, happier agents too. Reason being is that instead of the customers focusing on a poor or frustrating experience leading up to that call, they’re now focused on the wants and needs, and we’re able to get down to business more quickly and efficiently.

Between the courtesy callback, and Mindful Scheduler. It’s certainly been a home run for U-Haul Company, but more importantly, our customers.

Showing care with a post-call survey

Second focus that I wanna talk about today is via our post call survey.

Around the same time, June of 2022, is when I would say we got serious about the voice of our customer.

I think that historically, we didn’t really have a post-call survey. We didn’t really have a defined process. And so we weren’t doing anything at least productively to capture that feedback.

So we collaborated with other contact centers, and we were able to to understand that we wanted a short, intimate set of questions to make sure that we were collecting our voice of customer, we can measure and certainly take action.

More importantly, though, we wanted to make sure that we were treating our customers and providing them with a high level of service care and certainly support.

The secret sauce to all of this though is through our ticketing process. So we talked a little bit earlier, we have a question, right: “How friendly was our agent?”

And so, “How friendly was Jared?” is an example. And so the answers and what a customer can respond: very friendly, friendly, neutral, unfriendly, and very unfriendly, right?

Well, when we get a very unfriendly, that feedback is immediately escalated to our call analyst team. We call him a call analyst team—think of him as quality assurance, if you will. The call analyst team will immediately review to confirm whether our agent was in fact unfriendly.

If confirmed, that’s immediately escalated to our managers. And there’s really two reasons for this, right? The first is that we wanna make sure that our management is being supportive about being positive and coaching and working with our team provide a better experience for our customers.

The second piece of it though is that for every one of those responses, our managers will actually call back the customer. And it’s not necessarily about what we said, or why we said it, it’d be about—it’s about the impression that we left about our brand, right, about U-Haul company.

And so, why do we do all of this, right? That’s kind of the pressing question. Well, what does our CEO say? “Good manners are free.

This has been tremendous in a lot of regards. Most importantly, it gives us an opportunity to apologize and try to right wrong.

We’ve also seen as a result of our ticketing process increased in, again, customer satisfaction, agent satisfaction, and various operational performance metrics such as NPS and customer satisfaction as mentioned.

I wanted to pause, though, here, to, I guess, do a little Q and A, and ask a few questions. Who has had a poor experience as a consumer with a brand in the past? Raise your hand.

I would imagine just about everybody.

Who’s taken the time to feedback to that brand, based on that experience, email, phone, etcetera?

Who has received a response based on your feedback from some of the larger brands?

K. Well, I can see it. You guys can’t but the hands dwindled with the last question.

And so I wanted to try to highlight the impact of the ticketing process.

A sandwich story

I’m gonna preface this story with: this was not the the greatest hardship that I faced that day, that week, that month, etcetera. But I’m trying to apply, put it in a different light.

I was about to leave work recently, and my wife called. She wanted me to pick up dinner for the family.

K? Great. So I went online. There’s a national sandwich shop close by, placed an order online, seamless process. Went and picked up the order, seamless process. Got home, which is about 45 minutes from where I work—we’re located in downtown Phoenix—only to find out that the two kids meals that we had ordered weren’t in the bag.

So I have a three-and-a-half and a five-and-a-half year old. And for those of you, have kids, when they get hungry, they get hangry. And so this was, this was a big ordeal. Now, again, this wasn’t the greatest hardship we faced, but my wife and I, we pivoted. We called an audible. We got them situated.

And there was two pieces about this. One, obviously, mistakes happen, right? I think as consumers, we would all agree with that. But two, there was a little bit of a financial loss.

So that night, I called the location.No answer. The next day, called the location. No answer. Third day, called the location. No answer.

Again, this is a national sandwich shop. Not some mom and pop. On the fourth day, coincidentally, I received a survey through email.

It was a long survey. I’m talking 30 minutes it took for me to fill that baby out. And I was even more frustrated at that time, but the last question they asked was, “Based on your experience, do you wanna be contacted?”

Heck, yes, I do. Mark “yes,” submitted it.

Who in this room thinks I was contacted based on that survey?

I wasn’t. Never, even to this day, and this was a few weeks ago. And so I I share this story because I think at the end of the day, we’re all consumers, right?

And most of you are decision makers and key executives, within your brand, your businesses, your contact centers. And to me, again, mistakes happen, and I can recognize that. But at that moment in time, it showed me that that brand, that national sandwich shop, didn’t care about me or my experience as a consumer.

The end result I won’t go back there. I won’t eat with them, and that may be harsh and extreme, but I wanna do business that appreciates the voice of the customer. And is actually going to make meaningful action and change.

The last piece that I would share with you is that through this process, I can’t tell you how many times when our managers reach out to customers that they’re pleasantly surprised that they’re receiving a call from our contact center. They’re happy. They know that we’re listening. They appreciate that we’re listening, and it helps just that little pit to repair the relationship, not only then, but in the future.


360 care with U-Haul App

The third piece I wanna talk to today is self-service.

As an organization, as a company, we’re currently focused on self-service through our application, our mobile application.

We’ve redesigned the U-Haul App to provide personalization and customization of our products and services to meet the needs of our customers, not only now, but into the future as well.

This will allow—and this design and use of technology—helps to make sure that we create as frictionless of an experience as possible. What I would share, how does that relate to the contact center world? Well, we’re continuing to quantify and analyze the types and number of calls that we’re receiving. We’re then working collaboratively with each of the business units to make sure that we’re solving for the low hanging fruit, right, the repeat, the redundant calls.

I think that, I would imagine most of us in this room can agree moving is stressful. But without a doubt, The U-Haul App and our redesign will make sure each customer’s journey is a seamless experience.

Next steps

That was a lot of information. I know through these sessions that, you know, what may be most prevalent is what can we take away and how can we work to improve. So I figured I’d recap with a few main points.

The first piece is, you know, certainly there are a tremendous amount of opportunities to be kind by design. But if you, as a stakeholder, as a business leader, are not intimately involved in your experiences. right, the customer’s experience, and then the agent’s experience that is attempting to help, that is a phenomenal place to start.

Some of the questions that we try to ask ourselves, is, you know, what type of impression are we leaving based on an interaction with our contact center? We talked about Mindful courtesy callback, Mindful scheduler. Are we being respectful of our customer’s time? We talked about our mobile application today. Are we creating and working collaboratively within the internal organization to create a frictionless, seamless experience.

If you’re not doing that, that’s a great recommendation and place to start.

The second piece that I would certainly share is that there are many ways to be kind by design, and there are many parts to a customer’s journey, right? Before the call, like we talked about, if you’re waiting on hold during the call, after the call, many opportunities.

And I would share with you that these opportunities are what help shape positive, memorable experiences with each of your brands.

And really, all of that can be driven based on your customer’s feedback and your agent’s feedback. Right? That is a road map and a guiding light to improve.

Most importantly, though, is not just collecting the feedback, right? It’s taking action on the feedback and making meaningful and positive change.

We have a director of customer service at U-Haul, Michelle Sullivan. And we were recently, we were talking, and one of the insightful things that she shared with me was that when a customer has a concern, they’re essentially saying to each of us, but if for only this, I would continue to do business with your company. Whether that be a concern with their rental, whether it be a concern at one of our stores, with a contact center agent, there could be a variety of things. But if you’re able to focus and shift the mindset of looking and changing them from concerns to opportunity, Those opportunities are your opportunity for future business.

And so we’ve really tried to integrate and use that to shape how we’ve changed our mindset. And especially with our post-call survey, look at each of those as areas that we can make measurable, positive change, so that each of you, as many I’m sure, are all customers, and our customer base holistically can have a seamless frictionless, positive moving experience, and what is largely a stressful time in everybody’s lives.

I appreciate your time today. Thank you so much.

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