Episode 45: Last Crumb's Jillianne Estevez On Challenging The AI Revolution
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Brian: And I'm Brian.
James Gilbert: And this is Spamming Zero. What's up, everybody? Welcome to Spamming Zero. I'm your host, James Gilbert. Today, we're joined by Jillianne Estevez, who is the customer experience manager at Last Crumb. Welcome to the show, Jillianne.
Jillianne Estevez: Hi, James. Thank you for having me.
James Gilbert: I need to let our listeners know this, and Jillianne might be mad at me for saying this, but she was very nervous to do this episode. So what we're going to do is throughout the episode, we're going to throw curveballs at her like crazy just to break down-
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, great.
James Gilbert: ...the ice.
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, my God, it's going to be so fun.
James Gilbert: No, we're going to have a good time on this. Jillianne, tell the audience a little bit about yourself. Primary listeners of the podcast are direct- to- consumer folks that are in roles just like yours, so talk to them about what you do.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, for sure. I guess I can start with I have been in the customer support, customer experience world since I was 17 years old. That's when I got my first job and I worked in a more of a face- to- face customer support role. From there, a couple of years later, I was like, I really want to work behind the scenes. This face- to- face thing might not be my vibe. So I landed a really cool opportunity at a luxury brand. A few short years after that, I also was like, man, everybody's talking about startups. I need to get into a startup. I need to do that. It's really cool right now and not even thinking that startups are very risky. At that time, I was just like, let's just do it. This is cool. Actually got a job at a startup and I loved it, but then the pandemic hit. I had two kids and life got really crazy, I'm sure for everybody. But then I'm very thankful that I ended up getting an opportunity here at Last Crumb or with Last Crumb. Basically, my interview was pretty much, " Hey, we have no CX at all, so you're just going to come in blind and fix it for us." I was like, " Oh, it's like that. Okay, cool." So yeah, I thought it would be a really good opportunity for me to take all of my experience throughout the years and build the CX based off of what I wanted to see and how I wanted to interact with people and what I imagined it would be or what I imagined everyone would want when speaking to someone through the computer.
James Gilbert: We are going to get into a really hot topic right now on this episode. If you're listening, we're going to unpack Jillianne's hot take of why AI should not be the answer to your customer experience. But before we do that, I want to ask you just a couple of questions to follow up with some of your role. Now, Last Crumb comes to you and they're like, " Hey, let's build this thing." So what's the first thing that you decided I'm going to do this and I'm going to implement this? What's the first thing? Then a follow- up to that, how did you get buy- in from the rest of the organization to do that one thing?
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, well, it's tough. I think the one thing, my main focus once I started was just to make sure that everything, one, sounded like our brand, because we have a very unique brand tone. I needed to make sure that everything that we said to our customers was one, clear, concise, and also brand voice. So that was one thing that I did when I came in was just cleared everything that we had as far as macros and things like that, the way that we answer our tickets. Then, sorry, what was the other question?
James Gilbert: And then how did you get people to buy into it?
Jillianne Estevez: The rest of the team?
James Gilbert: Yeah.
Jillianne Estevez: Well, they were like, " This is your realm. We know nothing about this realm and we fully trust everything that you decide on doing. So whatever you need to change, change it and whatever you want to keep, keep it because they really are like, this is not us. We need someone that can really build it out for us. I think they were really open to just any idea that I had or any changes that I wanted to make, which was really fun. That's what I imagined any startup would be, me just giving my ideas and changing things that I thought were wrong or didn't seem right.
James Gilbert: That's amazing empowerment that they gave you, which is awesome.
Jillianne Estevez: For sure, for sure.
James Gilbert: I pulled up one of your company's recent Forbes articles to talk about this new collection of cookies that you just released not too long ago. I just want the listeners to hear this because this is super cool. I love this description. I'm not even sure if you guys had any say in how this was written, but I think it's pretty cool. The Stiffler's Mom cookie is a true ode to the'90s film made with oatmeal, toffee, and brown butter crumble that's stuffed with apple pie filling naturally. There's also a cinnamon roll- inspired cookie, one that's reminiscent of a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a churro, and even a Creme De La Crumb cookie that's Last Crumb's take on the Oreo- like cookie, promising layers and layers of vanilla buttercream and homemade Oreo cookie crumble. So here's my question for you, Jillianne. What's your favorite cookie?
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, man. See, these curveball questions. From this platinum box, I have to say, the cinnamon roll. It is truly nostalgic. It comes with a little icing bottle so you can drizzle it right on after you pop it out of the microwave. It is delicious. I love it. I can eat 10 of them, but I won't.
James Gilbert: I love it. When I read this, it literally made me want to buy cookies and I've never really bought cookies online before. Typically, I just make them with my kids or whatever,-
Jillianne Estevez: So cute, yeah.
James Gilbert: ... have it be afun thing. As a matter of fact, we just made some on Sunday. We made some chocolate chip cookies and it was just like my kids just wanted to eat the dough the whole time. I was like, well, why are we making cookies if you just want a dough? It defeats the purpose. I am curious, when it comes to these cookies, if you have heard about the cookie war in Utah. Have you heard about this war?
Jillianne Estevez: No.
James Gilbert: All right. So you've got these-
Jillianne Estevez: A cookie war?
James Gilbert: Yeah, with these cookie brands. You've got to look it up. It's wild. It is really wild. It's all over the news. Crumbl's a cookie place here in Utah. There's also another one and I can't remember which one it was that's in this war, but they're shooting their shots at each other publicly and it's wild. One of them hired a media agency to create these really, really funny advertising videos to make fun-
Jillianne Estevez: That's funny.
James Gilbert: ...of the other one. Then they are in this lawsuit together. It's just wild.
Jillianne Estevez: inaudible.
James Gilbert: So I just had to ask because you work for a cookie company if you've been a part of the cookie war that's going on.
Jillianne Estevez: No. We're not, but it sounds exciting.
James Gilbert: It's pretty fun.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, no offense at all to any other cookie brands, but I think we're on a different level maybe, so we're doing different things. Maybe that's why inaudible.
James Gilbert: There you go, Jillianne. Jillianne's hot take, calling out the other cookie brands.
Jillianne Estevez: No, no, no.
James Gilbert: I love it.
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, man.
James Gilbert: All right. Let's get into this hot topic. When I asked you not too long ago to come on the show, one of the things that I asked you was tell me something that you think a lot of people might disagree with you on, and your response was really telling because it was like, " Well, look, I really don't think AI is the answer, and everyone's on board with it. I just think humans are needed."
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: What's your premise behind that? What's your argument behind that? Then how does that relate to what you're doing at Last Crumb?
Jillianne Estevez: Let's start by saying, I don't want to make any AI platforms angry here because I know there's probably going to be a lot of them watching. I'm not 1,000% against it. I know that it can be beneficial for certain companies, brands to use them, especially when on a larger scale, but I think that a lot of people think that maybe it's easier to use them. Maybe it's the easy way out of responding to customers. What I'm doing differently is that I want every interaction to be very personable. I think we said this before, where obviously, I'm not going to have something new to say to every single person even when the questions are pretty much the same. But there's little things that you can add in a response to a customer that can really change their outlook on your brand. You reach out to them. You say something that's in response to what they've said like, " Hey, it's my husband's birthday and I really wanted to get these cookies." Then an AI responds and it's just very generic, which is usually the case.
James Gilbert: Your order will be there at this time and skip over the entire-
Jillianne Estevez: Exactly.
James Gilbert: ...premise of the birthday, right?
Jillianne Estevez: Right. And sometimes, I think that some people just don't care, but other people, maybe when you receive a, " Oh, my God, happy birthday to your husband. You're such a great gift giver," it sounds like a human because I am, I am a human responding. But I think it creates a connection and it creates like, wow, they read my email. They answered my question, but they also said something nice and then that was it, and now I'm going to come back. Or I had a really great interaction. That was really awesome. I think that's my goal every time I speak to someone. I just want it to be personal as much as it can be. Don't get mad at me, I don't think AI can do it.
James Gilbert: Well, being a voice vendor here at Flip, can we do that is the question. Can AI get as close to that sentiment that you need when you're trying to interact with humans? Now, the straight answer is yes, it can. However, the more complex answer is we also, even as a voice vendor, do not believe that you should supplement the human experience with an AI experience.
Jillianne Estevez: Absolutely.
James Gilbert: However, what we do believe is that the combination of both, just like you stated, is the right option for people.
Jillianne Estevez: Mm- hmm.
James Gilbert: To your point, simple inquiries that people are calling about should require a very quick and simple response, to not have to wait on hold.
Jillianne Estevez: For sure.
James Gilbert: A human shouldn't have to handle those things. So that's where I think AI can play a huge role, making us more efficient.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: The interesting thing is where, especially voice AI, has come from, if we go way back into the early 2000s, voice was so robotic and it couldn't understand a thing. Then you have this huge influx of voice that's happening on mobile devices with Siri and Alexa and all these things that are happening through the late 2000s and into the 2010s and the 2015s to the point where now, voice is something that we're actually primarily relying on to do searches and things like that. Here's where I think the big power could come in from AI, and that's the computation that would take for a human. I'll give you an example. I'm going to pretend like I'm the AI and you're calling in. So Jillianne calls in. So I say, " Jillianne, welcome to Last Crumb. Thanks for calling." Let's say you guys have a brand tagline. Do you guys have a brand tagline?
Jillianne Estevez: No.
James Gilbert: Okay.
Jillianne Estevez: We have never crumble. It's on the inside of our box.
James Gilbert: That's perfect.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: Let's say we start off and say, " Jillianne, thanks for calling Last Crumb. We hope you never crumble," giving it the brand tagline right away. Now that alone and that introduction from a voice is unheard of.
Jillianne Estevez: Mm- hmm, for sure.
James Gilbert: That typically doesn't happen because people are so used to going through the IVR process, which everyone knows we all hate that.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: Now let's say that you say, " Hey, I'm ordering this for my family."
Jillianne Estevez: Mm- hmm.
James Gilbert: Now the beautiful thing that AI can do is let's also say that they have an entire history of orders that they've done with you. AI, in theory, can, if it's integrated into the right tech, compute that, spit out a recommendation to even your agent before they get on a call. So this is preparing for them to pass it to an agent, then they can spit that out and give a recommendation, but also, they can potentially handle that themselves. For example, we try to use it with our swag store, and so people call the swag store. They ask where their order is. We can tell them where their order is and we do funny things like have a flipping awesome day, just keeping it real and fun.
Jillianne Estevez: And this is by phone, right?
James Gilbert: Yeah, it's all by phone.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah. Cool.
James Gilbert: I think that the experience that I think so many are fearful of with AI, and you tell me if I'm wrong here, is so much tied to so many bad experiences that we've all had.
Jillianne Estevez: Yes. Yes.
James Gilbert: It's a matter of course correction like, can AI change the way people think about it when they have had decades of experience of having a bad one?
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, for sure.
James Gilbert: That's the big open question.
Jillianne Estevez: I think that's what it is.
James Gilbert: Can it change it? That's what I get excited about. I think it can, but I definitely do not think that it should ever take the place of a human.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah. I guess we're on the same page there because I'm not completely against it like I said. I do think it can help, especially like I said, when it's on a larger scale, when there are so many tickets coming and you don't have enough bodies, then yes, absolutely. Please, somebody answer these super simple questions. But yeah, it should never take over a job, right? You definitely need humans there interacting with people. But yeah, going back to what you said, I think all the frustration that I've ever felt dealing with a robot like chat, oh, my God, I can't not tell you how many times with a delivery I'm like, " Where is it? Just tell me. Somebody help." So yeah, the bad experiences have obviously led me to believe that it's just not the right experience. This is not what we should be giving people, but I know that technology is advancing.
James Gilbert: As all technology does. It all advances and then we can be sometimes happy with it. But I like the fact that you wanted to talk about this today because I do think it's important to address this and to talk about it more openly because there's so many people out there that I think feel the exact same way.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, for sure. I didn't know, honestly, getting into the startup world that people cared so much about customer experience. There's a community of us. I'm on a Discord with a lot of people that just love CX so much and bounce ideas off of each other and I love it. I love that everyone is really just trying to make the experience at their brand, at their company just one of the best experiences. You want someone to just walk away and be like, that was great. Everyone needs to be like them.
James Gilbert: What do you feel stands out in your own customer experience at Last Crumb? Let's say you were to post the coolest stuff in the Discord community with the rest of the customer experience people that are in there, and I know which one you're talking about, what are people going to be like, " Holy cow, that's really cool"?
Jillianne Estevez: I think we're kind of all on the same page. I'm the only one that does customer experience right now. I don't have anybody else doing it with me, so that's pretty cool.
James Gilbert: One- person crew, folks. This is awesome.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, so just me right now. I actually do read every single email and answer every single email by myself, which I think is pretty cool. If anyone that's in CX, they know how difficult that can be.
James Gilbert: When you think about some of your customer experience interactions that you have with your customers, you read every email, which means you have a lot of insight, probably more insight than anyone at your organization.
Jillianne Estevez: Mm- hmm.
James Gilbert: What is your thoughts around how you bring that insight to the rest of your team that you work with on a day- to- day basis and how can they leverage those type of insights even more?
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah. Every single ticket, every single interaction that I have, obviously, I run the metrics and I send this over. I work so closely with everyone. We're a very small team, about eight of us, but we're very close in the sense that every issue that I've ever brought up to our ops manager, to our kitchen ops manager, to the marketing team, it does not go unnoticed. They're like, " Okay, how do we fix this problem?" Even if it's something very small, everyone's hands on deck in how do we change what's going on, how do we make the customers happy, because they do ultimately know that the customers in this case are very important. I think with everything that I bring to the table, any changes that need to be made, anything that I need to flag, it's always like, okay, team, what are we doing? How are we changing this? What can we test out? What can we try to make this better?
James Gilbert: Jillianne, do you guys have an e- commerce platform? Can people buy your cookies online and have them shipped to you?
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, that's the only way we do it.
James Gilbert: I want to unpack this a little bit because you have a different set of CX initiatives than others that are in the direct- to- consumer world. If you're a fashion brand, you certainly have to worry about your clothing or whatever you're selling being quality products, but you don't have to worry about the perishable side that Jillianne has to worry about.
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, yeah.
James Gilbert: So this is time to ship, this is supply chain stuff that you are having to deal with and these other brands might not have to deal with quite as much. How do you tackle that with your team?
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, man. We're still very early. We're still very new. We're constantly trying different things, but I don't know if you've ever seen our packaging. It's really cool, huge matte black box with slots for each cookie. Each cookie is individually packaged with heat seal packaging. We bake right before it ships, literally right before it ships. We have a drop model too. I'm not sure if you're too familiar, but we don't bite off more than we can chew. We want to make sure that we are able to freshly bake everything and then ship them out same day, make sure you get them as quickly as possible. We use pretty quick shipping methods because I'm in New York, so I know how it's going to be from coming to California and long all the way to New York. I'm like, those cookies better be super fresh. But yeah, I feel like we have a pretty good process down. The inevitable happens sometimes. It's not always going to be perfect. Sometimes UPS messes things up, but I think we do have a really great process of baking fresh, packaging them really, really well, and then shipping pretty quickly.
James Gilbert: I just want to try them. Whenever I talk to a cool brand like you, yeah, it makes me want to try them. We actually just recently,-
Jillianne Estevez: You have to.
James Gilbert: ...not too long ago, go check out this other episode too because it's very relatable, Eddie, who is the CMO of Magnolia Bakery, talked a little bit about this too. He had one of his investors on as well and they were talking about brand. He brought up the idea that it's very different. You have different type of CX initiatives that you're dealing with because it's one thing to have a product that's not available, it's another thing to have a product that potentially couldn't be available, but also it could show up and it not be good.
Jillianne Estevez: Right, right.
James Gilbert: So it is a very different approach.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah, and we don't take returns. It's not like, " Oh, this shirt doesn't fit me, I'm just going to send it back." It's like, " Hey, I don't like these," and it's like, " Oh, I'm sorry about that." It's very different, very different.
James Gilbert: So you guys, you're in New York and the organization itself is headquartered in California, yeah?
Jillianne Estevez: Mm- hmm, in LA.
James Gilbert: Los Angeles, nice.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: When it comes to the peak season for Last Crumb, when is that? Is it the holidays around the Christmas holiday?
Jillianne Estevez: Everything. Every holiday.
James Gilbert: It's everything. Love it.
Jillianne Estevez: Because who doesn't want cookies? Every single holiday is like crazy, and especially Mother's Day is really fun to gift. But the peak peak is definitely Christmas time, Thanksgiving also because it's like, who doesn't want dessert?
James Gilbert: That's a good idea. I think I might order me some Last Crumb cookies for Thanksgiving.
Jillianne Estevez: For Thanksgiving or just like any day. It's okay.
James Gilbert: That one cookie was just like an apple pie, right?
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah. Over for Thanksgiving, this last Thanksgiving, we had a Thanksgiving box. It had four different flavors. It was all based off of Thanksgiving vibes, apple pie. See, I'm drawing a blank now.
James Gilbert: Yeah, I'm sure you had pumpkin.
Jillianne Estevez: Yes. Oh, my god, we had the PSL cookie. Yeah, they were very full. It was good.
James Gilbert: Love it.
Jillianne Estevez: We need to get you a box.
James Gilbert: Jillianne, we're coming close to time and I want to ask you two last questions.
Jillianne Estevez: Okay.
James Gilbert: First one is taking your hat off of Last Crumb and just thinking about customer experience in general, what is your most memorable customer experience that you've had?
Jillianne Estevez: Oh, man. I remember I was at Away, I don't know if you're familiar with Away Travel. Oh, man, people just need so many things when they're traveling. When I was at Away, we had a customer contact us about their bag breaking while they were in Hawaii and I'm like, oh man, okay. She's like, " I need a new one so I can get home," and I was like, " All right." Usually, shipping to Hawaii is a little difficult.
James Gilbert: Yeah, no kidding.
Jillianne Estevez: Big for any company and we're like, okay. We had a process. Every company has a process. I remember just hounding down every single person I could to get a replacement for this person. I remember printing out a label for her, taking it myself to UPS. I feel like I have gone above and beyond so many times for our customers, but that one was just... I remember she gave me her phone number. She was like, " Please call me," with the time difference and everything, " Please call me when this is on its way." And I called her, " Hey, this is shipping very quickly going to your hotel. I put a label in the box. Make sure you send that over. Send the broken one back to us as soon as you receive it from there. You're good to go." It got there. She was super, super stoked. I think it's great that we can do that and work together as a team. Everybody can work together as a team and be like, we're going to get this done. We can do it. inaudible.
James Gilbert: The most common thing when I ask this question across so many different episodes that we do is as simple as this, you follow through with what you say you're going to do.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: Those are the big wow moments.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah. It was your job.
James Gilbert: Yeah. It's funny that we oftentimes overcomplicate it and we think it has to be some extravagant new thing that we're not doing. We have to be crazy innovative. Truthfully, we just have to follow through and do the basics and the foundational pieces.
Jillianne Estevez: That can last a long time for you, right?
James Gilbert: 100%.
Jillianne Estevez: Yeah.
James Gilbert: All right, Jillianne, so this is the last question. What piece of advice would you give other direct- to- consumer brands who are trying to build a strong customer experience strategy?
Jillianne Estevez: I think that for anyone that's trying to build something out and you want it to be really great, I think put yourself in the customer's shoes. Whenever you are thinking of how can I help this person, what can we do, what would be the best experience for them, just put yourself in their situation and see how you would want to be treated. We talked about this, the golden rule. Treat others how you want to be treated. I think keep that in mind. When you're building out your team, when you're building out your policies and things like that, just remember that we're all human and just have a little empathy. Show a little grace.
James Gilbert: Wow.
Jillianne Estevez: That's how I do it.
James Gilbert: Jillianne, was this as scary as you thought it would be?
Jillianne Estevez: Yes, absolutely.
James Gilbert: Oh, man. I get-
Jillianne Estevez: You thought I was going to say no.
James Gilbert: I didn't do a good job then.
Jillianne Estevez: No, no, no. It was so much fun. It was so much fun. Thank you so much again for having me. I had such a blast even though I was scared.
James Gilbert: You did awesome. Thank you so much for joining us.
Jillianne Estevez: Thanks.
James Gilbert: If you have not yet subscribed to the Spamming Zero podcast, go search it on your mobile device and subscribe to it, or you can find it on YouTube. You can find it pretty much everywhere. We are one of the only podcasts that's also listed on IMDB, so that's fun. But if you have not yet subscribed, do so. Every week, you're going to get an awesome guest like Jillianne. You're going to get an awesome host. Hopefully, you feel that way with me. Yeah, we would love to hear from you. If there's guests that you also think would be awesome on the show, please tell us. Reach out to me on LinkedIn and I would be happy to talk to them. Thanks again.
If you’re talking hot topics, AI sits right up there at the top these days - with most people believing *passionately* that it’s the bee's knees.
But, as it turns out, not everyone thinks it’s the answer when it comes to customer experience. Like Jillianne Estevez, Customer Experience Manager at Last Crumb and our honored guest this week on Spamming Zero.
- A bit about Jillianne’s background
- What it takes to get CX buy-in at a small startup
- The foundation for Jillianne’s argument against AI taking over ALL the things
- Human and AI collaboration
- What makes the CX at Last Crumb unique
- Jillianne’s advice to DTC brands trying to build a strong CX strategy
- And more