Executive sales leader with extensive experience in start up organizations and growing revenue over 200% year over year at multiple companies and multiple years. Sales Professional with experience selling and managing to C-Levels in the Enterprise space with an emphasis on Technology and Software solutions including SaaS, web-based, ASP and client-hosted applications; HCM, Talent Management and consulting services.Follow Follow
Today on the RecruitingDaily podcast, Melissa Swisher of Socrates is here to talk about the relationship between experiences and retention. Of course, we know that a better overall experience and company culture equals happier employees.
We’ll look at this from multiple angles, then we’ll define what these experiences are for the different people in your company utilizing your interfaces.
Melissa has served as Chief Revenue Officer at Socrates AI for over four years. She’s an executive sales leader with extensive experience in startup organizations, having grown revenue over 200 percent year over year at multiple companies. Melissa’s experience is heavily focused on c-levels in the enterprise space, with an emphasis on technology and software solutions, including SaaS, web-based, ASP and client-hosted applications, HCM, talent management and consulting services.
Socrates works it AI magic by pulling together all the HR benefits answers and information your employees need into the world’s first Employee Awesome Digital Conversation Hub. With HR, IT and employee focus, it helps to simplify and transform the entire experience, creating a consumerized and efficient system. As Socrates states, their ultimate vision is to “power all integrations and systems that will make the digital revolution at long last — a reality.”
The big questions we answer today: Administrators have purchased the software; so now, how do they know if they’re getting the experiences “right”? What information does the system use to become intuitive, and how does this benefit other users? How do we tie experiences to retention and make people want to stay?
Of course, we address a ton more, but you have to listen to learn! Make sure to drop your questions and thoughts in the comments.
Listening Time: 30 minutes
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This is RecruitingDaily’s recruiting live podcast, where we look at the strategies behind the world’s best talent acquisition teams. We talk recruiting, sourcing, and talent acquisition. Each week, we take one overcomplicated topic and break it down so that your three-year-old can understand it.
Make sense? Are you ready to take your game to the next level? You’re at the right spot. You’re now entering the mind of a hustler. Here’s your host, William Tincup.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. This is William Tincup.
Today, we have Melissa on from Socrates. And we’re going to be talking about the relationship between experiences … let’s define that as a candidate, employee, alumni, et cetera … and retention. So what does that, what does that relationship look like?
So let’s start with introductions. Melissa, would you do us a favor and introduce both yourself and Socrates?
Yeah, absolutely. And thanks for having me, William.
So, as, as, as mentioned, Melissa Swisher. I’m the Chief Revenue Officer and Co-founder of Socrates. And so, by way of background, what Socrates does is … really, the way to think of us as an employee experience platform using AI technology that creates a layer, right, an experience layer … so using any technology an employee might want to use … to ask any question and do anything that they might need to do as they interface with enterprise systems and applications. We, we focus heavily on helping companies, especially around HR and benefits and IT support.
So, thanks for having me.
Absolutely. Let’s give the audience some examples of experiences. So, you know, I think you and I joked at one point about the vision plan, you know, in Indiana, you know, somebody needs to find that. Because they’re going to be taking their kid to get new glasses and they have no idea, because it’s been a couple of years, they have no idea what they’re covered for. That one’s kind of a basic, but what other types of experiences are your customers, you know, experiencing and using?
Sure, absolutely. So I think the big thing is, you know, what we see people doing is really getting these personalized answers. And so let me just give you a couple of quick examples. So whether, you know, when people are looking for things and if you’ve ever worked a SharePoint or any knowledge database, they’re, they’re great for, for storing things. But if you’re anything like me, I completely forget where I put things the minute I save it, right? And I think that oftentimes it’s, that carries through for companies when they think about policy. And if a person goes to go ahead and search for something, oftentimes they’ll get thousands of results or they’ll get no results, right? And so what we really strive to do is give people answers and so, and answers that really reflect their experiences they have as consumers. So instead of playing back an, an answer about, you know, what’s the dress code policy and giving me legalese, what we will do is say business casual is great, you know, and we wear Hawaiian shirts on Friday, right?
So that cultural and meaningful experience. And then that second part though, is really the ability to do things. So if you think about all the systems people might need to interface with, like a great example is anytime that you’re looking to either request time off, or you need approvals, if you’re a manager, or if you need to schedule a meeting, oftentimes those are all things that might touch different places, different parts of the organization.
So having the ability to say, ‘Hey, I need to request time.’ It tells me how much I’m eligible for. It then can then route that approval directly to my manager, my manager then can get a text saying, ‘Hey, Melissa is looking to take this time off, she’s, she has the time available, and nobody’s out on your team this week. Do you want approve?’ And then that way, she can approve that and then doesn’t have to necessarily touch any of those underpinning systems. And all of that information is, is, is pushed back to those systems of record. So really kind of taking all of those different myriads of places and making that a very simplistic and meaningful experience for, for the employee to be able to get on with their day and, and have a very positive interaction and interface.
So if I get this right, it’s, it could be something as simple as a file or a document or something like that, but it could also be contact information. And one of the things that, you know, you’ve talked about is there might, there might be sitting on five or six different systems to find one thing, something as simple as like, what is the org chart look like and contact information for people or whatever. Well, they might have to actually go into four or five different SaaS applications to then find those questions, and Socrates experience the, you know, creates an experience that can go in and get that data and then render it back to them pretty fast, but also get them in, as a way-finding, get them the information they need, and so that they have a better experience. Is that right?
That’s, that’s absolutely right. Yep. So makes it super simple from that point of view for that individual, for sure.
How do we, how do we know we’re getting experiences, right? Like, like again, it’s like Alexa, Siri or Google maps or any of these types of consumerized technology, you know, you ask, you ask a question, it gives you an answer and, and then you kind of go on about your day. You don’t think about it as much, but these are different, especially, you know, there’s change related to these things as well. How does the, how does the folks, you know, that, that both use it, but also the administrators and the purchasers of the technology? How do they know that they’re getting experiences correctly?
Yeah, no, it’s a great question. And I think it’s, it’s two parts, right? Because I think that there’s the piece that, you know, I think companies are dealing today from a talent perspective overall, right? From a talent acquisition to talent retention. And so it’s obviously really critical and a part of what we focus on is a return on experience. And so where we’re looking to measure, you know, the experiences people have, right? And so from that, right, you know, you can look at obviously the data itself, right, which is the repeat usage, right? And, you know, oftentimes we have the thumbs up feedback for when an answer goes well with them, you know, when people love it and the experience that when they return and say, ‘Wow, this really was awesome,’ right? Or this was really, really cool. You know, a lot of times what we see people do weave throughout the, the experience with Socrates is they will, they will do things that represent, you know, the culture and the persona of what they want to, to emulate from an organizational point of view to really create that one-on-one relationship with the individual.
So the, the consistent thing we see is that, you know, as people start to use Socrates and they have a positive experience they’re, they’re absolutely returning back right, to, to, to go to that again. Right. And so, you know, I think we start to see that, you know, from a shared service point of view, right, just in terms of a tactical ROX point of view, you know, we absolutely start to see reductions of, of call volume. You know, we have a large employer that has nearly 50,000 people in 26 countries, 20 different languages. And they saw within the first month, a 60% reduction and, and that had two- fold benefit, right?
It allowed people to feel really good and move on with their day for things that they needed to do, that could be frustrating, but from the shared services support model, too, right, really allowed those folks to help really solve with the things that were really top of mind for the employees, that would be those conversations. So, I think that, you know, those are the places that we get towards and what we’d ultimately love to do is continue to work on that, personalize their individual experience with the company, right? Because it really is a one-on-one relationship. And when you have that white- glove type of service for employees, it just leads to higher levels of retention. If that makes sense.
Oh, 100%. Well, and I wonder, because you mentioned something I wanted to just make sure I understand the, the ratings part of this. So as they have an experience, again, everyone that goes through this is going to have an experience and you’ve got thumbs up, thumbs down, et cetera, some type of rating system on the back end of that we’re doing with, you know, artificial intelligence, machine learning, et cetera. So that the, those experiences over time are getting smarter and getting better.
Mm-hmm affirmative). Absolutely. Yes. And it also starts to understand, right, and in terms of recommendations, right? So if there, you know, as a new parent now, I mean, it feels like a hundred years ago now, since my kids are a little bit older, but you know, the, as a first time parent, you know, you don’t know what’s up and what’s down. And so being able to then, you know, say, ‘Hey, congratulations,’ and have automatically a, you know, a gift basket or whatever, sent to the family as somebody inquiring about some of this stuff. But also then to let them know about all the programs and initiatives they offer, you know, ‘Hey, if you guys know we have this new mom, new baby program, do you want to enroll or do you want to find out more?’ So really being for that employee and starting to understand some of the places where we can help them with so many of the things that we, we, you know, companies do to offer their employees, these types of solutions and services.
It’s nice because it becomes intuitive. You know, it’s a concierge type of approach where it starts to get to know you as an individual and what your needs are, but also it’s looking at a much larger band. And so I, I love that. What, what’s your take on kind of the expectations that both candidates, employees, alumni, et cetera, how their expectations of experiences have changed.
Oh, yeah. I mean, I think it’s changed exponentially, right? You know, I think that, you know, it’s, it’s an interesting time, you know, I think the pandemic, you know, highlighted a number of things, right. It really highlighted a way that we need to talk to people in a way digitally, right, that’s representative of those experience potentially they might have in an office. Right. You know, I think that from a, you know, the, the world of, ‘Hey, just running down the hall to the, to the person in an office’ is, you know, how do you carry that through, right? But so many of people today want those digital experiences to begin with, right?
If you think about those experiences that you have that are memorable, right? It’s, it’s the way that something makes you feel, right? And it’s, it’s something that you are reminded of. And so if somebody is going through something difficult, right, leveraging the technology in a way that can be helpful for them is, is something that the world’s expected to, or has somewhat come expected to, to see, you know, one of those examples is as you know, you know, the, the difference of an experience when, you know, I use the example of Lego, right?
So Lego Land is an experience, or going into a butterfly museum as an experience, right? It’s super cool. And it touches, it warms your heart, you know, and, and you want to be able to carry that through with the experiences people have in, in their work life. And, you know, so much of how people communicate today is digitally, right? Think about text and think about how people connect with one another today. A lot of the things people do is send each other gifs or gifs, however you pronounce it, memes, and videos and snippets. And that all is things that make people laugh or, and those experiences from a company point of view matter too, right? It’s part of what we’ve experienced as part of this digital world and the world of ‘always on,’ that they almost expect that same type of the snippets, those ways that they interface, even things is how people interface, with Tik Tok, and even though I’m not on Tik Tok, but right. Think about all the different ways that people consume data today. It’s very different than it was, even just a couple of years ago.
Well, you’ve nibbled around the edge of it, but I want to make sure that, that, that the audience understands that experiences isn’t singular, experiences, obviously plural, but it’s also the way that you’re, you’re, you know, you want to convey to folks, it’s highly personalized.
So you can be at the same company, have the exact same job, you know, and the things that you need, so your requirements, if you will, and the way that you interact and your experiences can be different and then be, should be tailored to you.
That’s right. Absolutely.
They should be. And what, what makes Melissa work versus William is very, you know, it could be very different and, and how that experience impacts them.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, I don’t like to work, so there’s that.
So historically HR, we’ve gotten to retention data through three mechanisms, and this is exit surveys, stay surveys and employee satisfaction surveys.
No, so historically that’s kind of how we’ve tried to get to what made people leave and what makes people stay and, you know, some of the drivers, et cetera. So those are kind of A. old fashioned and the data wasn’t really that great to begin with. So how is, how do we tie or tether experiences to both the, you know, retention? Obviously we want to retain our top talent, but also the, you know, staying, getting people to stay and wanting to stay.
Yeah, absolutely. And, and I think that those, those are great for point in time. Right.
You know, if you think about it, you know, think of a, an exit survey as post-mortem right?
You know, it’s kind of like they’re on their way out, so you can take the lessons learned, but you know, it didn’t have an opportunity to fix what was really important, right? You know, versus, and then a, a survey, you know, many times if somebody is in a mood laughs) and a lady mood or a really crappy mood, right, there’s going to be a very different potentially response rate to, to that experience. And so it’s something that has to be completely ongoing. And, and from our point of view, I think the way that you continue to measure that is the way that people start to view the company, the way that they view those experiences and, and how we’re responding, right?
You know, I hate to go back to the pandemic. I think everybody’s sick at the pandemic, but think about how many working parents, you know, had to have adjustments to schedules. Right? You know, my kids were home online, learning all last year. It was bananas in here, you know, and the work, you know, the way we work today might be very different and providing people flexibility as they’re going through something, or for, for instance, if they have to take care of an older parent, right. Who’s going through something and, and being there for those moments that matter to them personally, or they have a child sick or, or, you know, they’re suffering from, you know, some, you know, they have their stress and, you know, you know, are dealing with anxiety.
And instead of saying, ‘Hey, here’s this, this EAP number you can call,’ you know, how cool would it be if what pops up for them is, you know, let’s say it’s an exact and say, ‘Hey, you know, I deal with anxiety too. Here’s what’s helped me, here’s some of the programs that have been amazing for me,’ to help and, and having that experience that really matters to them and makes them feel supported. You know, those are the things that matter. And those are the things that make people loyal.
It’s, you know, I use the term a lot and I, I do like to shop in my spare time, which my husband of course hates, but, you know, Nordstrom’s is a great example of the experience that they give people, their return policy, the way they interface with you is worth it in spades, right? Because of how they make you feel right. And the way they interface with you as a, as a customer. And we strive to try to help companies bring out that cultural uniqueness to them, with allowing the technology to help support it, but then really making those moments matter for the individual of what’s really important to them.
What’s great is, is, you know, experiences, aren’t new. There’s customer experiences, especially the luxury brands have been studying customer experiences for, you know, for the beginning of time. So like Rolls Royce and Bentley and Rolex and Four Seasons, you know, like they have people dedicated to doing nothing, but making a symphony of great experiences. And Nordstrom’s another great example of that is a brand. It’s new to HR. It’s new to recruiting, so it is new, but I wanted to get your take on a couple things: when someone’s having a, an experience. And again, a little say it’s with a chat bot and they’re having the experience of finding something, but let’s say it needs to go to the next place.
Triaging is where what I’m trying to get at is, how does, how does, how does the technology know, I need to get a human involved?
Yeah, absolutely. And I just probably would add one thing on top of it, which is you’re exactly right. You know, from an HR point of view, the thing that I think what we strive to do and where we work with customers is the user experience. So what we don’t want to do is just replicate a business process that might exist for instance, in one of the systems of record, you know, the systems of record are great, but really what we want to do is have a conversational experience with a person, right? It’s not necessarily about filling out or saying, ‘Okay, well, this is how this is configured in XYZ system,’ right? That system’s great, but what you want to give the person is a really easy and, you know, positive experience as they’re updating information, or you’re trying to get more data about their, you know, and just make it super easy for them that, that matters to employees.
And so that’s a lot of places where we spend time, in terms of those user experiences that are attached to some of the things that we see employees want to do in a way that’s very consumable for an employee versus the practitioner, which then increases the overall usage and adoption of the systems that they want anyway. So there’s a, there’s a two- win there. And when we can’t get people to what they need, right. In terms of the triage itself, there’s a few things we can do, right. It really depends on the company.
You know, we can connect them directly to a live person, a live agent, right? They can open a case, you know, it’s really about how do we want to direct that person, but we were never going to leave somebody hanging, right? And it, and, and we usually have a few different recommendations about trying to connect them with somebody who can help or, you know, saying, ‘Hey, we, you know, if you want us to get back to you on this, you know, we will.’ And then we get back to them in a certain period of time. So, so there’s lots of different ways that it can be supported. And it really, it’s all about making sure that we create that service and that white glove service to, to have that experience and that, ‘Hey, they’re looking out for me and got back to me on this.’ It means, it means a world of difference if somebody is going through something or they’re looking to do something.
You mentioned the word loyalty, which is, which is, first of all, it’s, it’s great because we’re thinking about it from, again, the brand’s perspective that do this really, really well. Nobu is, you know, it’s one of those kinds of experiences that you have, and you never forget it. It, it doesn’t matter what city you’re in or whatever, and you know what you’re going to go back. It does create customer loyalty. You know, what we’re talking about is candidate loyalty and employee loyalty and alumni loyalty, and how do you manufacture those things? And again, you manufacture them by having great experiences, by carefully curating and manufacturing, or creating symphony of just great, wonderful, memorable experiences that people can’t imagine a life without. You had mentioned the return on experiences ROX. So the basic question is who owns experiences, who owns retention and how does the organization justify the spent?
Yeah, absolutely. So, so for sure, I think in, in, in our mind that, you know, HR, you know, it’s amazing, we’ve seen a lot of HR departments reframe their, their titles, to people and culture and employee experience. And so, you know, I think that it starts with it’s, it’s a responsibility to the entire company. And I know that this is something HR professionals are super passionate about is, is creating these experiences for employees. So, you know, we tend to work a lot with HR, HR teams, you know, in terms of an ROX, it’s something we’re, you know, we’ve had customers say, ‘It’s just the cost of doing business,’ right? Because the implication of somebody leaving after you onboard them and the implications of those inherent costs are, are substantial, right? But really what we look at is a few things, right? We, we look at, you know, there’s absolutely some hard dollars as we think about the things that come into call centers, right?
So, so many of the things that people are inquiring about are things that are either really straightforward questions or FAQ’s, or what we call the, ‘How do I?s’ ‘Where do I?s’ and ‘I need to use,’ right? And the ability just to have people be able to do that, you know, creates, you know, reduction or the way we think of it is almost, you know, the call avoidance altogether, because they’re giving self-service in a way that’s available to them 24/7 in a way that they already use technology, right? It’s not anything else they need to learn. The other piece is also though around things like, you know, there’s so many different applications companies have, right? On average in the HR world, we see anywhere from 25 to 30, as we start to think about HR systems and benefits, information, and places where people can go.
So it’s almost like a SaaS overload, right? And so how do you start to say and look at things that create that layer to make those systems more impactful. And then if you think about how sometimes companies still work today, there’s also places of where things are silo. So oftentimes we’ll see that there’ll be duplicate apps within an enterprise that do the same thing. So how do we start to really maximize the systems that people use by giving them a way that’s much more consumable to them, personalize, gets them what they need and create a set experience, because what they want to spend time doing is making the company more successful. And, and so you have, you have increased productivity, you have an overall job satisfaction, right? You know, we measure did, did Socrates make your life easier? Was, you know, what you use easy to find, right? So that’s satisfaction. And then of course there’s the actual hard dollars with avoiding those calls altogether. So it’s a few parts if that helps and makes sense.
Oh, it does, absolutely helps. You know, I mean, you know, I would start with the logic of, if you don’t create a great experience for your candidates, employees, alumni, someone else will.
That is for sure.
So, you know, again, that’s kind of a, kind of a fear-based statement, but the point is, is again, this is, it’s a competitive market as it is in consumer, Nordstrom, because they, you know, they compete with a bunch of different people and, and again, they create great experiences. They, they, they don’t do that at a philanthropic reasons or for philanthropic reasons. They do that because they want to create loyalty.
And we’ve just got to change our mindset again, you know, if you, if we don’t do it, someone else will. Two, two questions before we roll out. One is I want to get your take on what, what you think the, even the near future of experiences at work will be.
Yeah. I think it’s going to be a personalized relationship with, with the company. I think it’s going to be a place of where there, there’s some, you know, the, the, the, the barriers get broken down a little bit more in terms of that trust and loyalty, right? And, and if you can create that, right, the journey where companies are on, you know, if we look at that spectrum and, and getting people to that level of trust, right? I trust that this company is doing the right thing for me.
I believe the loyalty, you know, I have loyalty as a, as a, as a person to my company, as a result, we’ll have exponential results in terms of their, their time, or even if they go on to be alumni, you know, to this day, I still say the best place I ever worked was SuccessFactors. And, and part of it is because of all my best, you know, the best friends that came out of it, the experiences I had, and the culture, right? And being able to carry that through in a way of the world that’s changing and how people consume things today. You know, my kids get super excited about acquiring assets in Minecraft. It’s a digital world, and more and more people are going to be expecting that as they interface with companies in future.
Your favorite experience so far. So a customer that’s created something or an, an employee that’s interacted with a system. And it’s just, just something that sticks in your mind.
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s a great question. So I probably, there’s one where it was a new…
And you don’t have to name names, by the way, that’s that’s not the point…
Name names. Okay. I won’t…
No, no you don’t have to name names.
Okay, perfect. Well, I will name the experience, how about that? So…
Okay, that’s fine.
So we have a customer who had a new hire, and it happens to be a new employee who had come on and, and it was over the weekend and her kid was their, their child was sick and they, he couldn’t, he couldn’t get ahold of anybody and he needed to get the prescription information for their plan and couldn’t get ahold of anybody. So he said, ‘You know what, I’m going to try this Socrates.’ And he texted Socrates and was able to quickly get that information of their plan and his Rx number in order to get his, his child, the medicine that, that he needed in a way that, you know, got him that information really quickly, that was personalized to him as the end user.
And to me, we got an email on Monday morning that said, Hey, you know, I just, from, from our, our, our contact had forwarded on his email and said, ‘This, the Socrates thing is great. You know, it was amazing because I was in a bind and couldn’t, I was worried about my son and, and caring for him. And to be able to get that information after hours on a Saturday evening was just huge. And it made a huge difference for me. So thank you so much for, for providing that.’ And that, that really warmed our heart to hear that, you know, because that’s the intent, right? Is to have that memorable experience that, that translates as the company being there for that employee. So, really cool.
It’s great because you, you know, trust and loyalty are things that have been around for a long time. You’re using new technology to create values that people appreciate and love. And, and we’ve gotten away with, I had gotten away from, for, for a while, but it’s nice to kind of a return to some, some older values. Melissa, I know you’re super busy, so thank you so much for your time today, and thank you for being on the podcast.
No, thank you, William. It’s great to be here.
Absolutely. And thanks for everyone listening to the RecruitingDaily podcast. Until next time.
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William is the President & Editor-at-Large of RecruitingDaily. At the intersection of HR and technology, he’s a writer, speaker, advisor, consultant, investor, storyteller & teacher. He's been writing about HR and Recruiting related issues for longer than he cares to disclose. William serves on the Board of Advisors / Board of Directors for 20+ HR technology startups. William is a graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham with a BA in Art History. He also earned an MA in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University.