allegiance provide you with unique insights that you can apply to your own businesses. My name is Liz Tsai and I'm the CEO and founder of Hiop. Hiop is at the forefront of customer support by scaling dynamically based on a company's evolving needs using generative AI as well as some good old workflow automation to provide personalized customer responses. Our proprietary customer support engine, HiQ, combines all of that together to help us tackle complex customer requests. We use AI to understand customer queries better, cater to each customer's unique needs, and create precise responses. Our platform learns and adapts, making each customer interaction more meaningful and more human, all while improving efficiency and scalability for businesses. But all of that aside, I'm super excited to introduce our special guest for today's lunch session, Thomas Jones, the VP of Operations and Customer and Provider Success at Zeal. So Tom brings nearly two decades of customer support expertise across a bunch of different industries and is making an impact where it matters most today at Zeal Medical Care and Therapy. So Zeal offers last mile care that delivers peace of mind where and when it's needed, whether via medical testing, massage, injury recovery, or freedom from pain. They believe that good health begins right where patients are and should be accessible wherever they go. We're proud at High Operator to support their mission to foster excellent care and ensure that their customers have the best support experiences. As a super quick housekeeping note, if you have questions or comments, please feel free to put them into the chat. You'll see them over to the side there on your screen. If we don't get to them during the session, we'll reach out and or post answers on LinkedIn. So, Thomas, it is fantastic to have you with us today. And for the audience, your thoughts on the changing landscape of customer service, how technology is reshaping the space and your experience at Zeal. So maybe to kick us off, love to hear a little bit from you. And then also a little bit of the lay of the land when it comes to the Zeal landscape. Zeal is a marketplace that exists between different both patients as well as providers and different platforms and provides a variety of things from, you know, massage and discretionary things up to physical therapy and medical adjacent services. Can you give us a little bit of an intro and maybe just a lay of the land? You bet. You bet. First of all, thanks for having me on. Um, I will, this is where I will give my shameless plug for HIOP. If you don't know what they do or who they are, you should definitely check them out. We don't, uh, very few meetings go by where we don't talk about what HIOP operator can for us. So that's my shameless plug for you, Liz. Thank you, Thomas. Well, as you can imagine, we're talking about medical care. So one of the big issues that we deal with is working to remain HIPAA compliant as we deal with all of the facets of providing medical care. You mentioned medical massage. We've got PT. Well, we don't have PT right now. We used to, it's gotta come off the website. But we do have behavioral health that we're doing for veterans. Our primary medical business right now is with the VA. We're proud to help our service members who have come home and given so much. And there's a lot of chronic pain. I can't speak to that. I've had moments of not being able to lie down and find a comfortable spot. I can't imagine having that be years and be always. And so it's an honor for us to be involved in it. It's been a really fun transition, a lot of work trying to run a three-sided marketplace with the government and insurance companies for sure. I bet. And I know when we talked last, you mentioned that, yes, you're a hip is a concern and daunting for people outside of the industry. But some of what you guys think a lot about is actually as Zeal, you're sort of a third party, right? How do you bridge that communication? How do you think about communicating to potential patients? What you guys are? Yeah, we we have we have a little bit of a different scenario because we're not a doctor's office, we're not an insurance company. So we don't have an established relationship with these patients as they come to us. What happens is they'll go to their VAMC, VA Medical Center, and they will get a massage or a prescription for massage. And while they're in the VAMC, the VAMC selects to have us give the massage to them, which is great, we appreciate that. But as you can probably attest that if you were given a prescription to go get any sort of testing done, you wouldn't necessarily remember the name of the doctor, you would just expect that doctor to reach out to you and call you. We're outside of that healthcare system and so we have to find a way to communicate with them in a way that's HIPAA compliant, yet still make it that they know who we are and that we're not that we're not somebody trying to scam for information and so that's difficult. Absolutely look as a sometimes recipient of medical care in America I don't even know where to begin to navigate the system so I can't even imagine how having a third party layer what the difficulty that that raises there but at the end of the day you know regardless of industry regardless of you know the specifics there you know tell me a little bit about given in all the industries you've worked in, Thomas, your customer support philosophy. What is that philosophy that you hold near, dear to your heart personally, and also how it manifests itself into your everyday approach at Zeal? Well, I'm gonna geek out. I get a little bit excited as you know, I talk about this and you might think I'm talking about my favorite sports team, but for some reason, customer service is just something that I've just enjoyed being involved in. So my philosophy is actually pretty simple. There's an overarching theme that successful businesses will implement. And that is, it doesn't matter what your customer needs to be successful with your product. You have to find a way to deliver it, either paid or free, or you've got to find a different customer. So what that really means is that if I have a group of customers who are not technologically savvy enough to use an app without customer support, then I have to provide customer support, or I have to find a customer who's more technically savvy. As an umbrella, even higher than that philosophy though, is that our customers, well, let me back up. We live in an increasingly remote and digital world, and you don't have to look very far to see deep fakes and chat GPT, you don't even know who you're talking to sometimes. And so to get a customer to enter their credit card information is a huge leap of faith for them. And, uh, it's, if they, when they do that, what they've really done is they've opened up a trust banking account with us. I call it a trust, a trust account. And so in that account is all the trust that we built with them in order for them to give us that credit card number, for them to give us their digital identity, whether it's potentially a social security number, our providers who come on board our platform, in many cases, they'll come on our platform and provide us with their social security number, and they've never even spoken to a person that's healed. So that's a lot of trust that we've been able to build. Every time we interact with a customer, and in our case, we have customers who are customers, we have customers who are providers, and now we have customers who are these who are the VA and the insurance companies. Every time we have an interaction with them, be it a web, a website, a page view, a click, a chat, a phone call, an email, every interaction is a chance to either withdraw or deposit into that trust bank. And there are going to be things that happen that are outside of our control. A big storm is going to delay a provider from getting there or potentially cancel, you're going to have AWS outages that we just had. I think last week there was an outage, although that's not something we can control, our customers ultimately hold us accountable for that. They get frustrated. And if we don't have enough money in our trust bank, then they will go into the negative and they'll leave us. And so by, by not wasting that currency on things that we can control, That's how we win in customer service. Because if I have a riddle that I were to ask you, what's the best kind of customer service? The answer is customer service that you don't need. We don't want people to have to message us. We don't want people to have questions. Because again, every time they have a question, a little bit of doubt creeps in. Like, wait, what am I supposed to do here? That's not the experience we want them to have. So, that's really what we're talking about from a customer service philosophy. I love that, right? Because people talk a lot about frictionless experience, but it's really not just friction. It's actually the whole idea of building trust, maintaining trust, and then things will eventually go wrong because reality is reality, right? How do you build up for those moments so you can absorb those and still maintain a positive trust balance? That's right. And of course, customer service, I think any of us that thinks about our best customer service experiences that we've had in our personal lives, they generally are a result of how a business responded to a poor customer service experience. You get to the hotel, your room's not ready. How they handle that is what makes you say, man, these guys have the best customer service. There was this problem and they fixed it. We ignore the fact that the problem happened in the first place and we focus on what they to fix it. And so again, that's an example of a withdrawal and a deposit that was more than the withdrawal. Ah, okay. So it's not just withdrawals, right? Yes, things will happen, but at every point when you interact and when you happen, you have the opportunity to sort of go above and beyond. Yeah, that's right. And to leapfrog, I don't want to get ahead if you're going to ask me this question later, but that's why this automation is so important, right? We don't want to lose human touch. But my filos don't actually care about they care about is the co a human way. And so, you about rules and laws. Wel a law that they have to d side of the road. Nobody law that we're all going light because those laws Keep it safe. What they don't like is a four way stop in the middle of a mile long stretch of road where you can see in all directions and I have to stop. That's a stupid rule, right? I know why it exists, but so people don't mind automation. What they don't like is automation that feels like automation. So when you start to talk about running a business, there are certain things. We want to automate the things that are most likely to get messed up by repetition and human touching. That's one of the things that again, another plug for High Operator, I have two businesses that literally come up in almost every conversation at Zeal and that is High Operator and Stonely. And Stonely is a company that helps us build walk knees and without having to go to engineering to fix stuff, I can layer it on top. So again, going back to HIOP, both of these is, we live in a world, in the technical world where there is tech debt. And if you're not familiar with tech debt, I know you are Liz, but anybody who's listening or watching, if you're not familiar with tech debt, tech debt happens naturally. It's not a flaw in the system, it's actually a feature because we can't afford to wait to launch something until every single possibility is considered. we launch with an MVP, minimum viable product, and we go, okay, now that we've launched that, we'll go back and fix some of this. But we all know that going back to fix the stuff oftentimes doesn't happen for a variety of reasons. It's too expensive, I'm moving on to the next thing, we've lost some people who know a ton about that. And so this tech debt exists. And so where High Operator has really come in And Stonely, those are my two examples. I'm sure people have their other examples in all this. But where they've come in is they help us bridge that tech debt by helping us accomplish some of the things that we need to accomplish. So I'll give you an example. We have a system where people submit a request to book an appointment and those requests get blasted out to our provider network and the provider network and say, yeah, I can do that one. Well, and two people can respond and there's logic in the back that will handle that booking automatically and it all it all goes to plan. But there are a certain number of exceptions, say a provider's insurance is expired or the provider can do it a half an hour earlier, but we don't know if the if the if the customer can do a half hour earlier. or those types of things. Well, that takes a lot of work to try and build exception, to build the technology and the engineering to handle those exceptions. So we partner with a company like High Operator who can connect those two systems with the bridge and they can go ahead and hands-free book it instead of me having to have a person who just sits in front of the computer all day and says, book, book, book. So that helps us to automate backend stuff. There's really no, I don't think High Operator has any interaction with our customers or our providers, but they're handling a lot of that tech debt that we're talking about. And then what we can do is we can put a cost to it. We can say, we're paying High Operator X number of dollars a month to do this process. What would it cost us to automate it on our own? Oh, it's gonna cost $50,000 for us to fix that thing. And we're not gonna get any other reward out of it. and it doesn't positively impact our customers, yeah, we're going to keep paying high operators to do it. Yeah. Thomas, I love that automation process example. I think it really points out how customer support isn't just the thing you do when the customer tries to talk to you. There's so many layers to that. And if processes and customer journeys were perfection, customer support wouldn't really need to exist. But when something happens further down the line, before you even talk to a customer, And whenever something goes wrong, customer service ends up being the department that sometimes oftentimes is expected to sort of pick up that slack a little. That's right, that's right. I think if I were to sum up the problem with poor customer service, is that we make our problems, our customers' problems. Our customer doesn't actually care about our problems, nor should they. My daughter, my oldest daughter, she loves a particular type of gum. She buys it five packs at a time off of Amazon and she pays like, I don't know, $4. And she ships it overnight because it's included in our Prime subscription. Does Amazon make money on that purchase? Absolutely not. Does my daughter care? Absolutely not. You know why? Because it's not her job to worry about whether Amazon makes money. It's her job to order what she wants and it's their job to give it to her. If they can't make money on it, then they should stop selling it and stop offering that service. So when people have these bad experiences, it's because we've transitioned the problem and the burden of solving that problem to them. And so it's, we can think about experiences like that in our lives. Some of them are really trivial, like first world problems, right? Like there's a golf course I like to go to and they keep all their carts down below the clubhouse. And when you check in, you've got to walk down, get your club at your, your cart and go back up to get your clubs at your, at your, at your car. I recognize that's not a, that's not a first word. That's not, that's not, that's not a big problem, but it's a little situation where if they just kept the carts up above, it would be easier for me. But because it's harder for them to keep them up above, they've transitioned the work to me. That's fine. As long as I'm willing to pay for it, that's fine. That's right. Because I like that course. It's cheap enough. Well, it's, actually not, I don't play there anymore. But that's one of the reasons, but honestly, is that it's just they it's not convenient to do business with them anymore. So, so this automation that we're talking about chat GPT, things like that, again, we need to make it so that we're not forcing the burden of doing business with us on to our customer any more than we have to obviously, there's going to be some friction. Like, if they're going to get a massage with us, they have to give us their address, they have to give us their information. We want to make sure they are who they say they are. We don't have providers going to the house of John, who's really Jim. It's things like that. There is friction that has to happen in order to do business safely and well, but we want to minimize that. That's the way automation is going to help us do that, or does help us do that. Thomas, I love that focus on the end goal, because yes, everyone's talking about automation, generative AI. Everyone wants to use these really cool tools and customer support, but the yardstick is not how much automation are we using. The yardstick is this is the customer expectation. This is what we're supposed to deliver and it's our job to deliver. How do we use all the tools at our disposal, whether that's automation, whether that's generative AI, whether that's good old awesome humans that are customer service agents to deliver against that goal. Yeah, 100 percent. You've nailed it. You know, my dad used to say, if you steal from me, it's been stolen twice. So that includes this quote. I don't know who coined it. And he used to say to me, Thomas, the problem with most businesses is that when I go to Home Depot to buy a drill, they think I'm there to buy a drill and I'm not. I'm there for a bigger hole. And we need to understand his businesses that they do business with us to get the result of the product that we offer with the exception of Apple. Some people just buy Apple devices because they're in the cult of Apple, right? I get it. I've got my Apple watch and my iPhone, right? So there are some brands that transition and the brand becomes what it's about. But in general, I don't do business with high operator because I want to do business with high operator. I do business with high operator because what it does for me, right? I like you, Liz, and I like doing business with you. But if you stop providing what I need, I'm not gonna do business with you anymore. And so we have to understand that they're buying the result, not the product. Yeah. No, I love how you tied it all together, right? Because it's, when we think about automation, it's really, no one dislikes automation. They dislike it when automation doesn't deliver whatever customized personalized exact thing they're trying because they don't like them when you've offloaded the burden to them and you've automated hey here are all these things you tell me what you want right it's really just about can you leverage that to produce something that's super appropriate um in there that that you've agreed to provide the customer and that they're expecting agreed agreed yeah um okay well let's talk a little bit maybe about present and future I know it's everyone's lunch hours, so we want to make sure we're good and brief here. When you look to the future, what are some trends that you're seeing in customer support, either they're using Azil or just more broadly in the ethos? What are some trends that you might want to share or are just generally excited about? Well, I think the trends are just moving as in the direction that we've already started. So, you know, I think about how we handle inquiries. We can have open-ended text, and the only reason we have to have open-ended text when somebody chats or messages us is because it's really hard for us to take a free-formed sentence or statement and interpret from that what they want. So we've got two options, right? we can either have freeform text that goes to a general pool and that general pool then triages from there. Should it go to this person or this team? Is it urgent? Is it not urgent? Or we can build a conversational assistant that tries to present some options to have the customer narrow that down. In general, I don't think people mind that. Again, people don't mind automation. They just mind bad automation. And so we've done a decent job. I think we've done a good job given what was available of having good conversational assistance that break our, we have logic, like if you chat in and you're logged in and we recognize you're a provider, we're gonna ask you provider questions. So that's one way to do it. But there's still always an other category because we're not gonna broadcast out there every single problem they might have because sometimes telling somebody a problem they might have creates a problem that they didn't have. So then that GPT really, I've been getting calls for years. Hey, we've got AI, we've got AI, we've got AI. And every time I get excited about it, I realize what it really is is just a brute force version of a conversational assistant. And when you messaged me, I mean, I'd seen some stuff about chat GPT, but I'll be honest, I was kind of turned off on the whole AI thing because it just wasn't real. And you messaged me, I think over Thanksgiving weekend, maybe and said, hey, I know you're probably off, But if you want to talk, I've got a really cool thing. And so we got on the phone on Friday after Thanksgiving, and you showed me ChatGPT. It was the first time I'd really seen it. And what ChatGPT does is it takes away the need for me to try and guess what kinds of questions they would have. And it allows us to tap into some sort of a base of information that can interpret really pretty cleanly what somebody's intent is. What are they actually trying to ask? Because when somebody requests a massage with us, sometimes they don't get it because the area doesn't have enough therapists, they're too busy, they've decided last minute they wanna request a massage for their spouse on Valentine's Day, and everybody's booked. So, but they can ask the question 20 different ways. Am I having massage? What's the status? Like all those things. and a really intelligent chat GPT style of assistant can interpret what that is, grab the information and say, we're still looking or you're booked or whatever that is, at the very least, it can route it to a person that is supposed to handle that. So if it's a provider asking about something, it can go to our provider support team. If it's a customer, we can do that. If it's an insurance company or the VA, we can do that. So, it's really more a function of the intelligence, I think, that's coming, that will allow us to route stuff. That's next. And then, eventually, I do think you're going to get to a spot where frontline customer service is handled entirely by chat, GPT, and the likes. And then we can move up the value stack and have our paid employees handle the escalation the things that are outside the norm that, that you wouldn't really necessarily trust to a computer, maybe eventually, but not right now. Yeah, the interesting stuff, right? Cause I think that's one of the things to me personally, that's really exciting about where generative AI is right now because it feels like we finally crossed the tipping point into an area where the current generation of conversational AI is really an experience accelerant rather than something that makes the customer feel like, oh, the company is trying to cut costs, so now I need to navigate this thing, right? It can actually do a lot more now because humans are great at being human, but what software does really well is really cross multiple systems, consolidate information, aggregate context in a way that's faster than what a single human who's sitting there at a chat window can do. And that to me is where it gets exciting, right? Where the automated version is not just adequate, it's not just as good as the human version, but it's actually significantly better than what a customer service agent alone can provide. That's why it's, I think, exciting. Yeah, for sure. And we, I know we're up on time, but we could talk about this forever. There is so much happening, so. Exactly. Now, all I gotta do is keep it on the rails and make sure it doesn't make anything up. But, you know, that's where sort of the anti-hallucination strategies that us at HiQ think a lot about. Okay, so lunch is important. So each week we have a rolling question here. Yours is actually coming, Thomas, from Drew, the athletics customer support manager from last week. And that is what is your dream classic car or any car to have in your garage? You know, I've never been a classic car kind of person. My dad always wanted like a 1959 model or I don't know, I don't know, I can't remember because it's never really been a super interesting thing for me. but I will have to admit that when the Ford F-150 Lightning got announced two years ago, I got on the waiting list and I got mine about a month ago, two months ago, and I love it. Nice. I gotta come out and see it. It was way more expensive than I should have paid and I regret buying it, but I love it. I bet. I was not on an electric truck train, but I just had to replace the transmission on my Ford F-150. So I might be seeing that. I have seen your Ford F-150. It's a good-looking truck. Yeah, even better with a new transmission in it. There you go. Awesome. Well, OK, last question for you then, and if you want to answer it as well, but what is your next rolling question for next week's PlaneSpeak guest? You did prep me for this, so I was going to ask whether or not the next speaker preferred the Toto version or the Weezer version of Africa, but I have decided, and by the way, the answer's Toto, but my question is, what's on your bucket list? So like an item on your bucket list. Mine is I wanna get all seven continents. I've got five and through different work things and over my life, but I wanna get those last two, Africa and Antarctica. And I think there's a cruise that I can take that'll leave from Africa and let me visit Antarctica. So that's mine. I love it. Excited to see those photos. Thomas, thank you so much for all of the work you do to ensure that medical care is made available to more people, including our veterans. It's been wonderful to see how, you know, we talked through a little bit of that. So thanks again as well to everyone who tuned in to spend some time with us today. Please, if you have any customer support questions, please reach out and come join us here again at Plainspeak in the next two weeks. You'll see details on our LinkedIn page. And I hope everyone has a safe and happy 4th of July in the interim as well. Thomas, thank you so much again. Really appreciate it. Thank you. Bye bye.
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PL-ai-N Speak Thomas Jones
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