Make the Call

Infinite Green helps cringe-worthy customer experiences become a thing of the past

You know that feeling you get when you just think about calling customer service? You do anything to avoid it — scouring the company’s website or searching message boards to find the answer to your problem. One North Loop–based company, Infinite Green, gets that and is on a mission to make customer service interactions as pleasant as the rest of your brand experience. 

“Empathetic. Warm. Genuine. Curious.” Those are the words that come to mind when you meet the founders of Infinite Green, Jon Blum and Scott McIntyre. They are intelligent and experienced executives who recognize the challenges companies, especially Fortune 500s, face when trying to integrate the brand promise into every customer touchpoint. 

Having more than 25 years on the ground manning Fortune 500 company contact centers, the duo gained valuable insight into the systemic blind spots preventing businesses from building brand loyalty and trust through solid customer service. In 2009, they launched Infinite Green with the express purpose of approaching this problem in a new and different way. The company generally sees clients decrease spending up to 20% through cost savings, incremental company growth or a combination of the two — all by simply looking at the contact center, regardless of industry, and its company-wide impact.

MN Biz: Why start Infinite Green?
McIntyre: Marketers are spending multimillion dollars creating positive brand experiences only to have the impact thrown away the second a customer reaches out to customer service. Sure, some companies get it, but the vast majority still has customer service reporting up through operations. Operations typically treat interactions in a very process-driven manner instead of thinking of customer service as a way to reinforce the brand experience. We help companies from small to Fortune 500 make this shift and improve their bottom line, all while creating happier customers. 
Blum: And we know how to do it. We were part of the team that launched Geek Squad [for Best Buy] and have worked at multiple Fortune 500 companies making this transformational shift happen. It’s about getting out on the floor, working with the front line and helping them have some level of interpretation of brand messages, so they know how to interact with customers one-on-one. It’s about giving frontline employees an idea of how you want the customer to feel about your brand not only after purchase but also after any one-on-one interaction. That could be an email, social post, call, chat session or face-to-face. We started Infinite Green to help take the 100,000-foot brand message all the way down to the people who interact with customers every day.

 

MN Biz: You mention customer service reporting to operations. Why does that matter?
McIntyre: Operations thinks in terms of efficiency. How can we shorten call time? How many contacts can a rep handle per hour? They are metric-driven. This creates an environment where the goal is to follow a process as fast as possible. Think of the experiential shift that would occur if customer service was led by marketing and the goal was to make sure the client experienced the brand values in a genuine “service experience” way. Even the smallest customer interaction is an opportunity to inspire meaning and trust. The leaders we work with know the power of a loved and trustworthy brand presence and understand the impact it can have if done at all customer touchpoints.

MN Biz: Speaking of trust, why do Fortune 500 brands trust you?
Blum: Our team worked in customer-facing operations, project management, IT transformation, and other business areas at Fortune 500 companies across industries. Our project leaders have owned large budgets and deliverables for companies like Best Buy, Target, State Farm, American Express, Carlson Travel, U.S. Bank, Visa and Intuit to name a few. We can connect with operators because we can relate; we get it because we’ve lived it. We bring maturity, experience and people who had to own, operate and deliver results — oftentimes without development budgets. Our solutions live in the real world. We can assess what an operation is capable of and design solutions to match versus the cookie-cutter approach others take.

MN Biz: Do you rely on certain technology for solutions?
McIntyre: Frequently, we have to deliver results without large client investments, which forces us to get creative around solutions. Luckily, we’re vendor-agnostic which makes us very flexible with solution design, and we’ve worked with a lot of technology so we know what will work in certain situations, what won’t and what [those solutions] cost. 
Blum: We do have our favorite technology solutions, mostly in the cloud space, but we like not having to force in specific solutions that may not match the need like other consultants do.

MN Biz: All your employees have titles with the word “chief” in them. Why?
Blum: When we started the company, we knew we wanted a completely flat organization, where every member of the team had the ability to make key decisions in the moment and not be hindered by having to get approval to get things done. That gave us the idea to give everyone a chief title. 
McIntyre: Being leaders during the rise of Geek Squad at Best Buy, we also learned that titles could be more descriptive and personal regarding a contributor’s expertise. Not everyone can be a chief, and we don’t hire role players, so we use our “title” philosophy to invoke creativity during hiring, having candidates come up with a chief title and defend its meaning. It has been a very effective strategy and is now a foundation of our culture that attracts strong leaders.

MN Biz: Where do you see your business in the next five years?
McIntyre: We want to be well-known for helping companies create value and great customer experiences regardless of industry. That means we will have to grow, find more diverse and mature industry talent, and continue to get our hands dirty helping others, not just with ideas, but sitting side-by-side with their teams and doing the heavy lifting together.
Businesses need operators, but they also need trusted partners to get them over their hurdles, and we are positioned perfectly to do that.  

 

This story appears in print in our March/April issue. Click here for a complimentary subscription.