Eric Vermillion is the CEO of Helpshift, a San Francisco based company that develops mobile customer support software that helps companies provide better customer support in mobile apps. Before Helpshift, Eric was instrumental in advancing BlueCat to one of Canada’s most notable software exits, and also helped grow revenue at NICE Systems to over $1 Billion. He has also held sales and leadership roles at PTC, Tecnomatix and Triad Systems Corporation. Eric holds a Bachelor’s degree in management from Purdue University.
- We like to give our guest an opportunity to do their own introduction in their own words, can you just tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are today?
- Can you tell us a little bit about what Helpshift does?
- Do you see mobile applications advancing even more in the whole development of customer experience on a global level? Or do you find people are looking for more opportunities where they can have more face-to-face interactions and less interaction with the digital or the technological side of things?
- Metaverse, there are a lot of people who still have a little bit of apprehension in relation to that whole emergence of that, what it represents, how to interface with it. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it’s something that will become the norm? How do you think people can adjust to it feeling more comfortable because it’s so different and generally speaking, human beings just don’t adjust to change very readily.
- Could you share with us what’s the one online resource, tool, website, or app that you absolutely can’t live without in your business?
- Could you also share with our audience, maybe one or two books that have had the biggest impact on you? It could be a book that you read recently, or even one that you read a long time ago, but it still has impacted you in a very great way.
- We have a lot of listeners who are business owners and managers, who feel they have great products and services, but they lack the constantly motivated human capital. If you were sitting across the table from that person, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to have a successful business?
- What’s the one thing that’s going on in your life right now that you’re really excited about – either something you’re working on to develop yourself or your people.
- Where can listeners find you online?
- Do you have a quote or a saying that during times of adversity or challenge, you will tend to revert to this quote, it kind of helps to get you back on track if for any reason you got derailed or just kind of helps to get you back refocused.
Eric shared that he spent his entire career in the world of software, pretty good chunk of it on the sales end of things. He kind of got lucky coming out of Purdue University, when all his friends were taking jobs at places like John Deere and Caterpillar and Anderson Consulting, I found the Bay area software company to join and kind of fell in love with technology and software. So, he’s spent his career helping people use technology to create value. And he’s spent a big chunk of it in the world of customer service, he was at NICE for 8 years and got to be a part of things when kind of this whole omni channel trend happened. After he left NICE, he did a couple of other software plays in the world of identity management and IT security with blue cat, he found his way back and spent the last 3 years in Helpshift trying to really redefine what good customer service looks like for mobile apps and using more mobile devices more effectively.
What Does Helpshift do?
When asked about what Helpshift does, Eric shared that if you think of the your mobile phone, you probably engage with a lot of mobile apps on a day to day basis. Most people do and that’s a trend that is rapidly increasing. They help brands use that mobile app to create essentially an orchestration tool for consumers to drive a very elegant customer experience. So, when you’re in the mobile app you got typically it’s the mobile app knows who you are, there’s some context to the situation. And so, their customers are able to really provide their consumers with a much more elegant logical flow within the mobile app, allowing them to really self-serve much more effectively and by the time they actually get to an agent or human if they need to, because it’s a more complex problem, or they’re a blue-chip customer. A lot of the problems already been solved, the context is there for the agents, so they can become a bit more like a concierge or a personal assistant than then the traditional view of what we would think of as a customer service agent.
Mobile Applications Advancing to Develop Customer Experience
Me: Do you see mobile applications advancing even more in the whole development of customer experience on a global level? Or do you find people are looking for more opportunities where they can have more face-to-face interactions and less interaction with the digital or the technological side of things?
Eric stated that those are two separate interesting questions. He thinks after what we’ve all been through in the last couple of years with COVID, he’d be surprised if there’s anyone in the world that isn’t craving a little bit more face-to-face interaction. So, he does think people want that, but he’s not sure that customer service is the place where they’re striving for more kind of face to face, human to human interaction.
People are busy, people’s schedules have changed and evolved a lot over the last couple of years, people tend to do a lot more working remotely, they tend to have schedules that are not very standard and typical, so they want to be able to find resolution to their problems whenever they want, wherever they want, at whatever time of day they want and that’s something that he thinks companies are going to have to continue to adapt to.
And one thing that we know is true is that there were 2 million mobile apps that were created last year and there’ll be more than that that are created this year. People tend to carry their mobile device with them, all the time 24/7, for most of us it’s sitting next to our bed even at night. And so, it is this tool that’s on our person 24 hours a day and when used properly, it can be an incredibly powerful tool for accessing support and creating a support engagement that really fits your needs and your schedule as a consumer, whenever and wherever you want.
He also thinks that when you think about some of the other trends that are going on in the world, like the emergence of this thing, everyone’s calling the metaverse, other kind of distributed commerce technologies, like blockchain and web3, and other digital commerce trends that are happening in the world, most of those actually are accessed through mobile devices and through mobile apps as well. So, it’s a trend that he thinks would be hard to find any reason that it’s not going to continue to grow and kind of grow exponentially.
Metaverse, How Can People Adjust to it Feeling More Comfortable Because It’s So Different
Me: I’m glad you mentioned the metaverse, because there are a lot of people who still have a little bit of apprehension in relation to that whole emergence of that, what it represents, how to interface with it. What are your thoughts on that? Do you think it’s something that will become the norm? How do you think people can adjust to it feeling more comfortable because it’s so different and generally speaking, human beings just don’t adjust to change very readily.
Eric stated that all very good and fair points. He thinks that a lot of people’s view of the metaverse is driven by the images, or the headlines that they see about broken virtual reality experiences, they think the metaverse as kind of a 3D VR kind of gaming environment and to a certain extent, it largely is in 2022, but the evolution of it is happening very, very fast.
And for him, he envision this world, not so many years from now, the technology is there to make this happen right now, where maybe he has a meeting with someone who is sitting in Japan, speaks only Japanese, someone who’s in Brazil that speaks only Portuguese, someone in France who speaks only French, and himself in a room having a meeting, in a virtual environment in real time collaborating on some project where they all understand each other, and they can effectively communicate and collaborate in a way, that’s just not possible today, and kind of a purely physical world.
And so, he thinks there’s just so many applications for it like that really impacted us in a positive way, in a professional environment, in an educational environment, from a healthcare perspective that gets taken granted a lot today when people just think of the metaverse is kind of this scary 3D video game. And all of those things that he just described, of course, are also going to have commerce that comes alongside of them and ownership and digital rights that around and a lot of that is being handled today or will likely be handled through blockchain technology.
And so, you have this kind of parallel digital existence that happens with all of this commerce, would be naive to think that that’s not going to create a lot of support issues and a lot of support challenges. And jumping from that world, out into the more physical world to pick up the phone and make a phone call or send someone an email is highly impractical when you think about it. So, he thinks support tools are going to have to evolve as well to be able to handle some of those changes.
App, Website or Tool that Eric Absolutely Can’t Live Without in His Business
When asked about an online resource that he cannot live without in his business, Eric stated that it’s probably pretty boring, but he spent a big chunk of his day in G Suite, from kind of managing the calendar to all the collaboration that happens over the tools. So that’s a pretty boring one because they spend a lot of time talking about mobile apps, he would maybe add a bonus that he travels a lot and he’d really struggle if he didn’t have his American Airlines app, that’s kind of how he gets from place to place anymore. So that’s one that he tends to use a great deal as well.
Books that Have Had the Biggest Impact on Eric
When asked about books that have had the biggest impact, Eric stated that he’s a big fan of Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins, that’s just that’s one of those timeless books, the concept of the whole hedgehog principle and really having that one thing that you’re laser focused on, and the whole organization is laser focused on, that you want to be known for. As well as the concept of having the right people on the bus, even if you don’t know where they will sit. Those are just concepts that resonates with him very well with him, and philosophies that he tends to use and in his own management style.
On a more kind of non-business level, he’s a big fan of Bob Goff as well. He’s got a very fascinating story. His first book, which is called Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World, is still his favourite of the ones that he’s written. He’s written a few since that he thinks that was probably 10 years old at this point. But he tends to really love experiences, he thinks Bob does a great job sharing interesting experiences and the lessons you can take from each one in an extremely interesting way.
Advice for Business Owners and Managers to Have a Successful Business
Me: We have a lot of listeners who are business owners and managers, who feel they have great products and services, but they lack the constantly motivated human capital. If you were sitting across the table from that person, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them to have a successful business?
Eric stated that you know that you’re a coach, you’re not just a manager. He saw this clip in the last few days of Nick Saban, the Alabama football coach that’s highly regarded and very well known. He stepped in and prevented a player from sharing a piece of cake with another player. So, they have this spring game every year, where they play against their own teammates, and the losing team gets beans and franks and the winning team gets a steak dinner with chocolate cake. And the winning teammate wanted to share a piece of cake with his really good friend that was on the losing team and Saban saw it and shut it down.
And he just loves that because losing hurts, and it should hurt and that’s how you know you don’t want to do it anymore. And he thinks people sometimes need to realize that they have an obligation as a leader, as a manager, to also be a coach and not just a manager. His job is really to help everyone who works for him to perform at a high level, and to help prepare them for their next job or even help them get their next job. And he thinks too many managers forget that often. And you can’t buy your way out of that responsibility no matter how much you’re paying for someone.
And then in this world where human capital and good human capital is very hard to come by, and often very expensive, losing sight of that responsibility to really coach and help a person be prepared for whatever’s next, it’s one of those things you take for granted if you’re just trying to sometimes pay top dollar for people because you think that’ll automatically make them the best at things, which is not the case.
Me: I totally agree. One of the things that we talk about a lot as well as a customer service trainer is that the most important role of the leader is to grow and develop people because as you mentioned before, you want to have people around you who are robust, who are efficient, who are intrinsically motivated to do what they’re employed to do, but at the same time, they feel like they have some purpose and for them to feel like they have some purpose, they have to feel like they’re a part of a bigger goal other than collecting a salary. So, I do quite agree with you that leaders are coaches even though a lot of them may not look at themselves as a coach, I like that phrase that you put it as.
What Eric is Really Excited About Now!
Eric shared that from a people perspective, the pandemic has created a lot of confusion around what work looks like and you hear a lot of companies talking about they’re going to be remote only or they’re going to be office only or they’re going to be hybrid or like lots of different things that people are calling this thing. He spent most of his career as a remote employee and it’s hard, it is not something that there’s a kind of a playbook or a handbook out there to do. And it was harder before Zoom and messaging and always available internet, but it’s still hard.
And he believes very strongly that companies need to have a framework for expectations and that’s something that they’ve been continuing to work on a lot as a company. Expectations on what’s expected of you as an employee, and that is independent of physical location, that is just what’s expected of you as an employee, he doesn’t really care where you sit, if you’re doing those things, he doesn’t care where you sit. He doesn’t care if you’re physically in an office or remote. If you’re following those guidelines and principles of what they stand for as an organization and using the technology to do that, if you’re doing it like that, he doesn’t really care where you work from. He thinks a lot of companies think that they can kind of hand you a bag of cool technology and software, and it will make you a great remote worker but it just unfortunately doesn’t always work that way, you have to teach people what’s expected, inspect it regularly and then drag them back into the office when it’s too hard or people are just not able to kind of cope with that very unstructured environment that you have at home, not everyone can do it. And frankly, not everyone wants to and so that’s professionally.
On a personal level, he did get a Peloton a few months ago so he’s been loving that and trying to take off his own COVID-19.
Where Can We Find Eric Online
Website – www.helpshift.com/
LinkedIn – Helpshift
LinkedIn – Eric Vermillion
Quote or Saying that During Times of Adversity Eric Uses
When asked about a quote or saying that he tends to revert to, Eric shared that his favourite quote is the Wayne Gretzky quote, or at least he thinks it’s widely attributed to Wayne Gretzky, which is “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
Me: All right. And that’s a good one. How do you think people can apply that in this whole environment that we’re operating in? As you mentioned, we’re emerging out of this global pandemic, even though we’re not fully emerged out of it, people are trying to just kind of get their life back into some form of semblance. So, with all of that in play and there’s also I think a lot of people are still experiencing a lot of fear and anxiety because they don’t know what to expect. How do you think that quote can help people to really raise the bar?
Eric stated that he thinks it can be a motivating factor for you. He’s definitely a person that’s fairly easily amused and he’s very much an experience person, he doesn’t particularly care about stuff and things, and he thinks for a lot of people over the last couple of years, they’ve had to figure out more interesting ways to entertain themselves versus going out and kind of buying stuff and looking more for satisfaction through material things. Every day is really a new opportunity to learn something, pain tends to create intelligence, practice creates perfection and that kind of galvanizes you.
He thinks that every person that he meets is a new lesson, every person that he has had an opportunity to help in some way is literally currency for him, it makes him feel wealthy, even if it doesn’t add a penny to his own bank account. And every time he gets a chance to experience a new city or a new restaurant, or make a new friend, it makes him feel wealthier than the day before. And he think that’s one of those things that every one of us can remember, every one of us that’s above ground and breathing has all those opportunities every single day to like add those experiences, add those things that do make you wealthier in a non-monetary way, and never miss a chance to take one of those shots and being aware of that he thinks is an incredibly motivating thing.
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Grab the Freebie on Our Website – TOP 10 Online Business Resources for Small Business Owners
- Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
- Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World by Bob Goff
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