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So how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I ask – how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?

Have you attended any conferences lately?

After the speeches are done and the workshops concluded you have the chance to cluster around a table in the coffee shop or bar and get to know other people who attended the event.

And one of my favourite questions is this one – so how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?

If you’re an introvert and get goosebumps around networking – I guarantee you that this question works as a great ice-breaker.

 

Doesn’t it seem like it happened to everyone by accident?

Whether it’s Customer Service, Customer Experience or the Contact Centre I’ve rarely met anyone who doesn’t have an interesting story about how they accidentally ‘fell’ into the industry.

Some folks come up from being an Agent.

That’s cool because we all know you’ll never forget what it was like to talk to Customers.  Learning how to persuade, calm and influence is one of the biggest gifts you get from doing this work.

Others – like myself – fell into the job through management level transfer or acquisition.

I’m lucky enough to have transferred over from Finance to Operations – and I’ve always been grateful to have that background in numbers of logic to call on once I entered the Contact Centre industry.

 

The higher up the management ladder you go – the more you need to work ‘up and out’ in your organization

When I first got into the  Contact Centre industry I faced the common challenge I think many of you have – most of my seniors thought my job was easy.  I mean after all – on paper you just put a bunch of ‘operators’ in place and answer calls or emails or chats – where’s the complexity there?

As time and market forces increasingly put the Customer in the centre of the organizational universe things got a little better.

But I found that at least half my time as a VP, Operations – and time well spent – was spent talking to senior folks across the organization.  Teaching them about the industry, about Customers and about our value proposition.

Helping them ‘get it’.

Today in all my management level Contact Centre courses I advise folks to make a real organizational impact by getting up and away from your desk and office.  And not just walking around your Centre – though of course that has value!

I’m talking about booking time with the Heads of other functions and getting yourself invited to senior level meetings.

You’ve got to make yourself visible and talked about.  You’ve got to help people in other job roles solve problems or create opportunities.

Because if you don’t, your Centre – and everyone who works there – will suffer benign neglect.

3 Suggestions for Contact Centre Leaders to transform into Customer Experience Leaders in 2019

It’s not an easy industry

I always say that in the Contact Centre industry we have to be masters of many domains.

That includes –

  • Operations – after all everything starts here
  • People management & organizational design
  • Leadership & financial management
  • Customer service & experience
  • The role of Technology in the lives of our Customers & People (which I generally classify under CX & EX)

I can’t think of another industry that places this many demands on its leadership.

And a word of caution.

If you’ve worked a long time for one or two Centres you begin to think that the way ‘you’ work here is the way the ‘industry’ works.

Nobel-Winner Daniel Kahneman talks about the danger of WYSIATI – What you see is all there is.

He teaches that we humans tend to make decisions on incomplete information – thinking that what we see or know now is all there is.

Do you best to push back against WYSIATI – I think the best Contact Centre leadership does.

Whatever happened to First Contact Resolution?

But no matter how you got there – it’s what you do when you’re there

So you’re there.  That’s so cool.

You’re the Contact Centre Manager or Director for XX.  And they’re counting on you to be efficient & effective.

When asked what I think is the most important thing to learn first about Contact Centres I always give the same answer.

Operations.

I can hear some people say no!  It’s Customers!  Or no!  It’s people!

But Centres are unique and complex ecosystems.  And what you choose to measure  and how to measure it drives the culture & behaviour of your Centre.

You’ll make better decisions about both your people and your Customers when you’ve mastered Operations.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

I’ll be presenting my Keynote speech at the Customer & User Experience Expo in London

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

I’ll be presenting my Keynote speech – What kind of experience does your Contact Centre deliver? – at the Customer & User Experience Expo in London next week.

More than 5,000 Customer engagement professionals are expected to descend on ExCel London (the ExCel Exhibition Centre) for the Expo, Europe’s largest Customer experience event of the year.

I look forward to meeting & engaging with those making the trek to London!

I’ve put the details for the Exhibition at the end of this short post.

So what will I talk about?

Over the years I’ve managed many Contact Centre based Mystery Shopper programs.  And my responsibility in these programs was to advise management how to improve the quality of the experience they delivered to their Customers.

In this Keynote speech I’m going to share stories from my work with Universal Studios, the Singapore Government and an award winning hotel to help Contact Centre folks

  • Proactively define the type of service ‘we deliver around here’
  • Understand and use the 3 key inputs to select Performance standards for quality conversation
  • Consider a measurement approach that addresses the needs of Customers today

I’ll also share some rather hilarious (and real life) examples of quality standards gone wrong.  Because sometimes it’s not just what to do – it’s what not to do.

I’ll close the session with a list of tips to help your Centre deliver a better Customer experience.

I guarantee a few laughs – and real life stories & examples are always the best.  You’ll love the story about Kung Fu Panda and also the 12 Teeth.

 

Exhibition details

  • Wednesday, 27 March, and Thursday, 28 March, 10:00 a.m.– 5:00 p.m.
  • ExCel Exhibition Centre, Sandstone Lane, London
  • http://www.cu-experienceshow.co.uk/
  • I speak on the 28th at 11:00AM and again at 2:45PM at the designate Keynote Theatre

See you in London next week!

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share some ideas on how to help your Contact Centre Team Leaders do better.

Common barriers to Team Leader success

The Contact Centre Team Leader has arguably the most important job in a Contact Centre.  Their actions or inactions directly impact productivity, quality & culture.

But the cards tend to be stacked against their success.

Why?

As with any Pareto scenario, I think a few reasons account for most of the challenge:

  1. Senior Leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs
  2. Team Leaders are always busy but don’t know how to allocate their time to achieve results
  3. What made someone a great Agent doesn’t readily translate to making them a great Team Leader
  4. The job role requires endless conversations – but they don’t happen often enough or well enough
  5. There’s a fundamental lack of structured know-how for the Team Leader to draw on to make decisions

The mix and relative impact of these barriers varies from Centre to Centre.

So let’s look at each barrier along with some related suggestions.

 

1. Senior leadership sets or pursues the wrong KPIs

I see this challenge all over the world.  A lack of essential Operations know-how.

Chasing incorrect KPIs or KPIs that actually compete with each other.

The only way to close this gap is to ensure that the senior leadership in charge of the Centre has expressly mastered Contact Centre operations.  That most often happens through participation in formal external workshops or certification programs.

Don’t count on experience alone.  I hear that all the time as in “She’s an experienced Contact Centre Manager.”

Experience matters.  But success requires experience + know-how.

One Client I worked with globally established an in-house ‘certification program’ after adopting the various principles and practices learned via external training.  Their in-house certification ensures that what they learned about operations gets codified into their business practices across dozens of Centres.

Delivering on Productivity, Quality & Culture is the big part of the Team Leader job.

So it’s important that Centre leadership be clued in to how Centres ‘work’ and how to define and set appropriate Productivity and Quality measures for Frontliners & Team Leaders.

That’s not always the case.

How to help your Contact Centre Agents improve their Performance

 

2.  Team Leaders are always busy – but busy doing what?

I remember in my VP Operations days I had a Team Leader come into my office.

“Dan, I’m so busy…”  so I asked “OK, busy doing what?”

We then set about finding out the answer to this question – busy doing what?

To this day one of my favorite exercises in a room of Team Leaders is to conduct a time & motion study – across a typical week – of where their time goes.

The 5 Categories of the Team Leader job role

When I conduct a formal Team Leader time & motion study, I use 5 different categories to categorize and then analyze where their time goes.

  • Developing their staff
  • Supporting their staff
  • Doing administrative & management work
  • Developing themselves
  • Other roles such as taking on the role of committee head

I ask each Team Leader to consider everything they do, estimate a weekly time spent on each activity and then slot each activity into one of the 5 categories.

Then we sum up the time for each category and share the results on a whiteboard for everyone to see.

When you talk to Team Leaders (and their Managers) they all say that they spend a lot of time developing their staff – coaching, performance appraisals, developmental conversations.

But when the numbers are laid out – Team Leader by Team Leader in black and white – that’s not usually how it plays out.

What the results tell us

I’ve had time & motion sessions where we learned that nearly 50% of Team Leader time spent was spent on administrative & management work.   Is all this admin work really valuable?  Could some it be redesigned, reassigned or even eliminated?  I worry about turning Team Leaders into admins.

When it comes to personal development I tend to see 0% of Team Leader time spent in a typical week.  You can shout lifelong learning from the rooftops all day – but check out how many hours in a typical week your Team Leaders really learn something.   It’s an eye opener.

Another common opportunity that pops up is to help Team Leaders figure out if they’re offering too much Staff support. 

My definition of Staff support is helping the Frontliners to do their job.

Handling too many escalations or fielding the same questions over and over means the Team Leader is doing the Agent job for them.  And that takes away the Team Leader’s time for Staff development.

Sure – Staff support will always be intrinsic to the job.

But time invested in Staff support – over and above a tolerable minimum – isn’t going to move the Team forward.

Another interesting trend has popped out during these time & motion sessions.

Sometimes, when Staff development hours look low, we uncover that Team Leaders avoid having developmental conversations with their staff.

Not because they don’t see them as important.  But because they lack the self-confidence to coach or have those important people management discussions.

That can be addressed.

When you coach you’re either helping or keeping score

3.  Great performance as an Agent doesn’t readily translate into great performance as a Team Leader

It’s an irony of the Contact Centre ecosystem that the knowledge, skills & attitudes of a great Agent don’t readily translate into the knowledge, skills & attitudes required of a great Team Leader.

If you consider that the job of a former great Agent is to replicate their personal success across other people you can see what they need to know and be able to do is quite different than before.  Their job role becomes about ‘them’ – not about ‘me’ anymore.

There’s also a bit of psychology at play here as well.

We all like to do what we’re good at.

So sometimes the new Team Leader spends an inordinate amount of time handling escalations and engaging in Staff support – because that’s where their formery mastery lay.

Defusing angry Customers and using their product, systems and organizational know-how.

But as we covered earlier, Staff support – though an intrinsic part of the job role – doesn’t move the performance dial forward.

So evaluate your Team Leader hiring criteria on what it takes to be a great Team Leader.  Not on the fact that this candidate was a great Agent.

When I’m hiring for Team Leaders I always ask myself these questions:

1.  What are the specific competencies across knowledge, skills & attitudes I need from a new Team Leader hire?  And what are the minimum existing levels of each competency to be considered for hiring?  I have to be realistic here because – at hiring – nearly no one will come with all the competencies expected nor at the levels expected for a professional Team Leader.

2.  What is my defined developmental roadmap to raise my Team Leader competency levels  – across the identified competencies – to expectation within the next 6 months or year? 

I think a lot of Contact Centres struggle with this.

There seems to be an assumption that the Team Leader can just somehow pick this all up on the job.

Or perhaps it’s inertia – doing nothing is just easier than doing something.  Hope as a strategy.  I’ve been guilty of that one.

One common scenario involves corporate learning & development departments.

Contact Centres are unique and specialized environments.  Trying to graft generic service or people management or leadership training onto the Contact Centre delivers mixed results at best.  Because it’s not specific enough to the environment in which these Team Leaders operate.

More on competencies soon.

Funny things Contact Centre Managers ask their Agents to do

 

4.  Team Leaders need to have lots of great conversations

If the Agent job role is to have great conversations with Customers, then the Team Leader job role is about having great conversations with the folks that they lead.

What kinds of conversations?  Wow – there are a lot – but they can be learned.

I like to cover them in people management & coaching courses.

Here is a list conversations that are specific to the Contact Centre environment and which are most often conducted by Team Leaders:

  • Praise
  • Gratitude
  • Something ‘good’
  • Something ‘not so good’
  • It’s not getting any better
  • Transaction coaching
  • Performance appraisal
  • Team reviews
  • One on one reviews
  • Boss as Leader
  • Boss as Person
  • Boss as Manager
  • Things you don’t talk about (the un-conversation)

Each of these conversations is triggered by an event or is pre-planned into a calendar.  For example Team & One on one reviews and many coaching sessions tend to be pre-scheduled while Praise or Something Good conversations happen when the Team Leader either observes something or learns about something.

As you might have figured out – most of these conversations fall into the Staff development category we covered earlier in this article.

But when Team Leaders are ‘too busy’ – the first category that gets ‘cut’ is Staff development.  Exactly the category which typically needs more time spent – not less.

How Team Leaders can talk like Leaders

 

5. Team Leader know-how

The Contact Centre environment is complex.

I think that’s why folks like me – who fall into it by accident –  end up making the Contact Centre and Customer Experience, a life’s passion.  There’s only ever more to learn and it’s super interesting stuff.

It’s not easy.  But Tom Hanks says that it’s ‘the hard that makes it great’.

If you want to equip your Team Leaders to succeed you need to consider equipping them with know-how across these domains:

  • Contact Centre Operations – there’s simply no excuse not to equip Team Leaders with operations mastery
  • Monitoring & Coaching – this process is key to driving Quality, FCR, Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction and CX strategies
  • Leadership & Engagement – what does leadership look like as a Team Leader?  How can a Team Leader use proven engagement models in their Centre?
  • People Management – for me this is about having those great conversations with the people who work for you at the right times and in the right way
  • Customer Experience – if your Centre promotes itself as fulfilling the ‘Customer Experience’ your folks deserve training on what it is (and it’s not Customer Service)
  • Self-Management – stress management, personal fulfillment, working through change – these are life skills

When your Team Leader is able to bring out the best Productivity, Quality & Qttitudes of the folks that work for them that translates into better results all the way around for you.

Thank you for reading!

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whatever happened to First Contact Resolution?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I consider this question – whatever happened to First Contact Resolution?

Last week I was judging Contact Centres

Last week I chaired a panel of Judges for a number of Contact Centre Awards entries.

One of the Judges on our panel asked several of the entrants –

“So how do you measure your First Contact Resolution rate?” or

“Based on the initiative you’ve shared, what were there changes to your First Contact Resolution rate?”

So that got me to thinking – is First Contact Resolution – or ‘FCR’ – still relevant in today’s Contact Centre?

 

First Contact Resolution is a multivitamin KPI

When I teach Operations I suggest Participants look at First Contact Resolution as a multivitamin KPI.

That’s because it does a few things for you.

FCR helps you to:

  • Improve Customer Satisfaction (through reduction of Customer effort)
  • Reduce cost (through reduction in unnecessary repeat contact volume)
  • Improve future Service Level (through reduction in unnecessary repeat contact volume)

No wonder FCR is referred to with such reverence in the Contact Centre industry.

 

But it’s always been hard to measure

I’ve seen First Contact Resolution formulas out there that would put Einstein’s formulas to shame.

They’re complex and require a lot of internal communication to understand and apply.

So, it’s worth considering why that’s so.

Everyone gets the general idea around FCR.  Assist the Customer to the degree that they won’t need to contact you again.  It sounds easy.

But the practical application is more complex, in part because there’s no industry standard for how to measure FCR.

Push-button KPIs

Many Contact Centre KPIs are push-button KPIs.  Push the button and you get your result.

Push the button and get your Service Level.

Push the button and you get your AHT.

Push the button and get the Occupancy rate.

You get the general idea.

But there’s no button to press for FCR.  It falls into the category best called ‘assembly-required KPIs’.

Think of some other assembly-required KPIs for a moment.

Employee Engagement, Customer Satisfaction, Turnover Analysis are all good examples.  To get at the data for these KPIs you can’t just push a button.

Getting at assembly-required KPIs requires you to design & implement a solid methodology for data collection & analysis.

Common data sources for First Contact Resolution

When it comes to FCR data collection, the most common sources are to:

  • Allow Agents to rate their own performance (not really recommended for obvious reasons)
  • Ask Quality Assurance folks to weigh in on FCR when they do their evaluations (this can be powerful and more on this soon)
  • Survey Customers and ask them if their need was met (but aren’t Customers getting tired of getting surveyed and is this the right question to ask?)
  • Run scans across the CRM system to see if a single Customer record shows multiple contacts for the same ‘reason’ within X time frame (based on business assumptions)
  • Use operational data (when the nature of the interaction is very transactional such as tracking shipments)

And because there are pros & cons to each data source, you choose multiple data sources, assign a weightage to each one and assemble the results together to get an outcome.  The purpose of blending different sources together is to alleviate the inherent advantages & disadvantages of each individual source.

I think of it like making a stew.

You have to select a variety of ingredients, throw them into a pot in the appropriate ratios, stir well and season to taste.

It’s a robust but complex process.

 

So how can we address some of this complexity?

It helps to remember that FCR is ultimately a measure of quality.

Sure – FCR helps reduce unnecessary repeat contacts – and that’s cool.

But at its heart Centres pursue FCR to help Agents create great conversations with Customers.

Conversations that address spoken and unspoken needs – not just deliver transactional answer-based service.

So with that direction in mind, how can we improve our FCR delivery while mitigating the complexity inherent in assembly-required KPIs?

 

Define what First Contact Resolution looks like for each of your Top 10 enquiry types

Every inbound Centre has a Top 10.   The Top 10 ‘reasons’ a Customer contacts you.

While your Top 10 changes over time, these enquiries easily represent 60% – 80% of your monthly contact volume (excluding one-off events of course).

So rather than looking for a magical or ‘industry standard’ FCR rate, take your FCR magnifying glass down to the enquiry type level.

For example, if your Enquiry Type #1 = Questions on room rates you’d sit down with a small group of folks and consider what FCR can and would look like.

What has to be conveyed, whether explicitly asked for or not, in that conversation.

But be careful.

Except for highly transactional enquiries you can’t rely exclusively on your internal determination of what FCR would look like.  You’re going to have to consider FCR from the Customer perspective as well.

And here I always suggest you do some qualitative research.

Bring in some real Customers.  Buy them lunch.

Ask them about their needs, expectations & wants (both expressed and unexpressed) when they ask about room rates.

I don’t see how we can talk about Customer-centricity without actually talking to real Customers face to face.

There seems to a tremendous amount of fear or skepticism or just plain lack of know-how around qualitative research.  That’s an article for another day.

Remember that if you pursue this Top 10 approach – your monthly FCR will fluctuate over time – in part due to changes in the enquiry mix.

For example, if in Month 2 – as compared to Month 1 – you got more volume for an enquiry type where FCR is ‘easy’ to achieve – that will weight up your overall FCR rate in Month 2.  You can’t simply assume this as an improvement in Agent performance – which is what folks tend to believe when they see FCR rates inch upwards.

So the key here is to be able to articulate why overall FCR rates change from month to month – was it a change in enquiry mix, a one-off event that weighted results up or down or did Agent Quality improve or decrease.  These are all potential factors.

By the way – it’s good to know that if your FCR rate is consistently high (let’s say high 80’s and 90s) that could be a sign of a poor self service strategy.  Why are Agents getting such simple enquiries which naturally lend themselves to a higher FCR rate?

That’s why I always smile (and grimace) inside when I hear a Centre say that their FCR rate is in the 90 percentile range.  That’s almost always bad from a self service strategy perspective.

As Centres shift the simpler enquiries to self service you see FCR rates naturally decline overall.

 

Accept that not every enquiry type might ‘qualify’ for First Contact Resolution

By the way – it may turn out the some of your Top 10 can’t be FCR for some reason.  That happens.

But in these cases I ask myself what has to be conveyed or gathered in that conversation to make the ensuing process as effective as possible – even when the overarching goal of FCR can’t be achieved from the Customer’s perspective.

Earlier this year a Contact Centre Manager from a travel company told me that FCR is a mindset and that mindset training would be enough to raise their FCR rate.

But I disagreed.

Yes – having a vision for FCR and putting it front and centre in your Agent’s performance basket matters.  But it’s not enough.

You’re going to have to get a bit more granular – and the Top 10 approach is a practical way to do that.

 

Ask yourself – does my current metrics system align to First Contact Resolution?

Contact Centres are important touchpoints within an organization.  But sometimes that very (self) importance leads to decisions which are good for the Centre but not necessarily good for the Customer.

Let me explain what I mean from a metrics perspective first.

If your Centre focuses heavily on Average Handling Time (AHT) as an Agent efficiency metric or on # of calls produced by the Agents you’re not really considering the Customer journey – you’re looking at what’s good for you.  Short call = lower cost (goes the reasoning).

That’s a touchpoint perspective.

FCR by its nature implies that we take the time needed to get the job done.  To provide the Customer with what they should know – whether explicitly asked for or not.

I’ve written extensively on Average Handling Time but for purposes of this article – if due to your Centre’s metrics perspective your Agent is more focused on quantity or time taken, it’s quality that takes the hit – and that includes  a hit to FCR.

Don’t get me wrong – cost efficiency is great.  But every financial model I’ve worked shows that reduction in future unnecessary contacts saves more $$ overall than trying to shave 30 seconds off current calls.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

 

Customers think in Journeys – not in Touchpoints

McKinsey writes that Customers think in journeys – not in touchpoints.

There’s a beginning, a middle and an end to a journey.  Some journeys go from start to finish and never touch the Contact Centre.

For other journeys the Contact Centre is a key participant – and important to the Customer’s overall perception.

In Service Design you learn that the various touchpoints need to work in harmony together – to avoid dissonance or distress.  So it makes sense to evaluate the harmony across the journey – not just look at what happens ‘inside’ the Centre.

 

Have your Agents been trained on Customer journeys?

I don’t mean journey mapping – that’s not needed at the Agent or Team Leader level.

I’m talking about sharing the motivations and experiences that led to the Customer contacting the Centre.  What was their mood, what was their ‘job to be done’ – what was the role of the Centre in helping the Customer achieve their goals?

On the other side of the interaction – where will the Customer go next in their journey?  Is there some way we can help them accomplish that better?  What can the Centre bring to the table to deliver a standout role in the Customer journey.

When I do Frontline training I often ask – “Do you know what your music on hold is?” or “Have you experienced your own IVR?  Your own Delay Announcements?”.

Because the Contact Centre Customer Experience doesn’t begin when you start talking (or typing).  It begins earlier upstream.  When the Customer begins to think and feel that they have to contact you.

Nine times out 10 the Agents hadn’t spent time studying the Contact Centre journey – much less the Customer journey.

I think this represents a real opportunity for training and discussion at the Agent & Team Leader level.

 

Should you pursue First Contact Resolution?

My personal belief system around First Contact Resolution is this.

It doesn’t make sense to implement an elective process where the costs and effort of the process aren’t outweighed by the benefits delivered by the process.

If you can prove out that your complex but solid methodology to get at metric-oriented FCR is yielding dividends – then by all means go for it.  Just keep Quality as your North Start for putting together your FCR program – it should always be aligned to what the Customer would say.

So I’m never surprised or judgemental when I meet Centres that don’t specifically measure FCR.  That puts me into the minority I think.

Lately I’ve seen some Centres take a less metric driven approach to FCR that I admire.  It’s also been quite effective for them.

They build the concept of FCR into their Service Vision & Principles.

If you haven’t heard of a Service Vision or Service Principles, they’re essentially a set of statements that answer the question – “What kind of service do we deliver around here?”

For example, if one of their Service Principles is ‘to be helpful’ – they consider all the ways they can be helpful to Customers (and each other) across their various interactions.  The successful behaviours  that enable ‘being helpful’ become codified across the Centre.  Culturally ingrained.

And the use of the Top 10 enquiry type approach works wonderfully here.

Measurement-wise – the use and impact of  these helpful behaviours are picked up in the normal Contact Centre monitoring processes through Quality Assurance, Team Leaders, Mystery Shopper providers and the like.

3 Suggestions for Contact Centre Leaders to transform into Customer Experience Leaders in 2019

In closing

I think FCR still has relevance in today’s Contact Centre.  That’s simply because it has to do with making Customers lives better through letting them know all that they need to know to achieve their goals.

And I think there are alternative ways to achieve the multivitamin benefits inherent in FCR.

If you can prove that your robust FCR measurement system yields results then well done – and keep it up.

But if robust measurement systems are a bit out of reach for your Centre, driving FCR-style behaviour through your Culture & Quality program is a viable alternative as well.  Service Visions & Service Principles are relevant for every Centre.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

 

 

3 Suggestions for Contact Centre Leaders to transform into Customer Experience Leaders in 2019

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share 3 suggestions for Contact Centre Leaders to transform into Customer Experience Leaders in 2019.

First things first

I sometimes hear Contact Centre leaders say that their senior or functional management doesn’t support their Centre.

If you work at a cult status company like Zappos you’re clearly fortunate.  Your high level of Customer Experience (CX) ambition is aligned to and reinforces that of your company.

It’s a virtuous cycle.

But what if you’re the Centre Manager in a company where your purpose isn’t seen as mission-critical.  Where management doesn’t meaningfully embrace Customer centricity.

That’s a different scenario.

Sure – you can’t control the level of CX ambition in your company.  But go ahead and pursue your personal CX ambitions – even if they don’t align to the current CX ambitions of your company.

John Maxwell writes “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  Don’t settle for becoming an outcome of your culture. Consider yourself a driver of your culture.

I think that’s putting first things first.

Suggestion #1 – Get involved with the Customer Experience (CX) Vision

Not every company decides to pursue a CX strategy.  At the end of the day it’s a business decision.

And don’t let the false use of lingo in companies fool you.  Rebranding everything as ‘Customer Experience’ when it used to be called ‘Customer Service’ doesn’t make it so.

They’re different things.

Window dressing doesn’t equate to strategy.

A Customer Experience strategy – a big topic – addresses:

  1. What kind of experience you intend to deliver to Customers
  2. The objectives, goals & metrics you set to measure success
  3. The outside-in perspective of the Customer to ensure your aim is true
  4. The ways you plan to engage everyone within the organization to deliver
  5. The long- and short-term actions you take to achieve your objectives

I’ll cover CX Strategy more in a future article.

CCXP Exam Practice Questions for the Customer Experience Strategy component

 

But for our purposes today let’s look at Point #1 -what kind of experience you intend to deliver.

Because this is where your CX Vision lives.  It describes the intended experience in vivid and compelling terms so that everyone knows what that experience should look like and feel like.  In Service Design it might be called your Value Promise.

If your company has a defined Customer Experience (CX) Vision in place, life is good.  You’re in a great position to align your quality program & performance standards to that vision.

No more excuses to use weak standards like ‘Use the Customer’s Name 3x’.

From Contact Centre Management to Customer Experience Management – do you have what it takes?

What if your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place?

If your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place, then it isn’t likely to have a CX Vision in place either.

But hey – don’t let that stop you.

Sometimes Contact Centre Leaders need to shape their own destiny.  You can and should put together a strong Service Vision.

By the way, I tend to be very particular with terminology here.  I don’t call this a Customer Experience Vision.

The reason is simple.

A CX Vision by definition and application incorporates the entire organization and its ecosystem.  If your scope of authority extends only across the Contact Centre or Customer Service function, it’s better to be precise and call it a Service Vision instead.

Because it’s not organizational in scope.

But, over time and with your influence, a great Service Vision can readily evolve into an organizational CX Vision.

So think big when you craft it!

And the Service Vision often does double-duty for how we treat each other.  It doesn’t just have to be for Customers.  It can be for Employees too.

Sometimes I use the analogy of ice cream.  What ‘flavour’ of service do we deliver around here.

Coming up with your Service Vision

To come up with your Service Vision it helps to look  at what your company says about itself.

This is where I begin when I’m designing a Mystery Shopper research or Quality Assurance program.

Read your company website.  The company vision, mission and values can often be found there.  What’s your purpose?  Who are your intended Customers?  What role do you play in their lives?

Articulate how your company describes itself.

Next, look at your company’s brand attributes & values.

What kinds of promises does your company make to current and prospective Customers when they use your products & services?  What do your ads say?  What kind of images are used?  What kind of lingo appears in marketing communications?

Articulate the brand promises your company makes.

Now you can put these findings in front of the people who work in your Centre.  What do they think?  Does it ring true?

Your goal is to develop and codify a Service Vision (a statement), which is often supported by a focused set of 3 – 6 Service principles.

And by going through this process you’ll be better equipped – when the time comes – to help other departments and functions work through their CX Vision.

That’s influence!

Just imagine

When anyone asks your Contact Centre Agent what kind of service they deliver around here – they can tell you.  And specifically how they apply the vision & principles to their daily interactions.

Easy to talk about – but it’s the doing that sets you apart from others.

In closing, the CX Vision, the Service Vision and CX Strategy are big topics.  They’re worth taking the time and effort to read, study and discuss at a much deeper level than is presented in this short article.

But I’ve found over the years, the best CX & Service strategies begin with a solid vision.

 

Suggestion #2 – Please don’t call a horse an apple

It’s wearying to see how many Contact Centres have rebranded themselves as Customer Experience Centres and how many Contact Centre job titles have been changed to incorporate ‘Customer Experience’ into the title.

But you can point at a horse and call it an apple all day and that won’t make it so.

This type of rebranding exercise pollutes everyone’s understanding of what CX really is.  Because CX – by definition & application – must incorporate the organization as a whole.

Sure – your Contact Centre has some impact on the overall Customer Experience for those Customers who choose to use your resources. 

But their overall perception of your company is influenced by so many (other) factors and is fluid over time.

McKinsey writes that Customers think in terms of their journeys, not in touchpoints. That can be hard for Contact Centre leadership – in charge of large and labour-intensive touchpoint – to take onboard.

Especially when for years we’ve all been taught that the Contact Centre is the most important touchpoint in the company.

It’s helpful for Contact Centre people to understand that they’re a subset of a subset in the world of CX.

First comes CX which covers the entire organizational ecosystem.

Then within that ecosystem you have the Customer Service function – most easily viewed as the human to human interactions Customers have with you.

And within the Customer Service function you have the Contact Centre.

If I were training my Agents today I’d spend time sharing key Customer journeys.

Why did the Customer contact us?  Where did they come from? Where are they likely to go next?  What’s our role and opportunity in this experience?

When Contact Centre people stick their flagpole into the ground and claim they are Customer Experience, they do a big disservice to every other employee and stakeholder in the organization.

Ultimately, the smart use of Customer research allows you to evaluate the importance of the Contact Centre touchpoint to the Customer across key personas and journeys.

We talk about research next.

 

Suggestion #3 – Build your Customer Research Know-How

You’d hope that the Contact Centre leaders would be experts in Customer Research know-how.

That they’d jump at every opportunity to understand the needs, expectations and wants of their Customers.

That they’d bang on the doors of their Service Quality department and ask to be a part of the research programs undertaken.

That they’d be open to learning the (sometimes) harsh truth about what Customers have to say.

But one potential barrier I’ve seen often is this one.

When senior management has unrealistic expectations around quantitative outcomes, Contact Centre leaders may not be so keen to let poor results & findings see the light of day.

I met one Contact Centre leader who was so terrified of an upcoming management meeting on their Contact Centre survey results they called in sick for the presentation.

Fear is a terrible way to motivate change and when Customer research is seen as ‘scary’ that inhibits the desire to learn more about research.

Another potential barrier I see is this one.

Research is a fascinating but complex topic.  It involves a lot of what I call ‘First Principles’.

First Principles are the essential knowledge you need to understand the topic with some level of mastery.

In Customer Research that includes essential knowledge around topics like –

  • The role of qualitative research
  • The use of structured vs. unstructured data
  • Descriptive, predictive and outcome metrics
  • Forms of ethnographic research
  • Relationship vs. transaction survey practices
  • The role of statistical viability
  • Basic research terminology – mode, median, average,
  • More research terminology – correlation, regression, causality
  • Service & experience design research

To learn and understand these concepts take time and effort. But the payoff is tremendous.

In an era where more information and data is produced than at any other time in human history, dusting off those old statistics books and re-mastering quantitative & qualitative research matters.

Experience design is based on qualitative research methodologies in particular.

Get your Customer Research know-how up to speed.  It helps you make sound sense of  how you can understand Customers better.

In closing

Of course I could have had 13 suggestions – or 5 suggestions or 11 and so on.

But after some thought to my own personal experience, what I’ve learned working with Clients and the amount of time and effort required, I hope that these suggestions resonate with you and are helpful.

Here’s to all your CX ambitions for 2019 and thank you for reading!

How to learn more about Customer Experience and prepare for certification

Daniel

Implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I talk about implementing appropriate Contact Centre Wait Time Metrics and strategies.

It’s not about the know-how – it’s about implementing that know-how

I’ve been teaching advanced Contact Centre operations for nearly 20 years.  And there’s a lot of knowledge to pick up.

So I thought it might be helpful to share some implementation tips to help Contact Centres take their know-how and bring it to life.  Because at the end of the day it’s not the know-how – it’s the implementation.

In this short article I’ll address Contact Centre Wait Time metrics and strategies.

In future articles I’ll address other aspects of operational implementation including KPI selection, forecasting and quality.  I can envision a mini-series here.

One other note – this article is written for those who’ve been through a rigorous operations course.  So I’m speaking directly to those equipped with the know-how.  If you’ve not been through a rigorous operations course I hope you find this article helpful to some degree.

And if you find yourself saying you don’t agree, or you don’t understand – that’s usually because of a lack of know-how, not a lack of intelligence, passion or desire.

In this industry we simply don’t know what we don’t know if we don’t make a concerted effort to fill the gaps in our know-how.

Now on we go.

Wait Time Metrics

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle in 60 minutes or less you’ll use Service Level.

For Customer contacts that you’ll handle after 60 minutes you’ll use Response Time.

Because of the confusion around Service Level and related Wait Time metrics let’s hold off on Response Time measurements for a future article.

As operations experts know – the way you define, measure and plan for performance between Service Level & Response Time contacts is completely different and it doesn’t do either justice to ‘mix them together’.

 

Service Level

1. Ok first things first – set your Service Level

You’ve got to set a Service Level for your Centre.  No Service Level?  Then it’s time to set one.  Because you can’t plan and staff to a moving or non-existent target.

If you’re using an ACD you’ve got to be using Service Level – it’s that simple.

Remember there is not an industry standard for Service Level.

What works for Organization A is not going to work for Organization B.

Even within a single organization you may find up to a dozen different Service Level objectives depending on the nature of that Customer queue and the types of Contacts handled.

Because Service Level is a major driver of your labor budget, it is typically reviewed annually – at the normal annual budget cycle.  Avoid changing your Service Level frequently – that will make life difficult for everyone.

Annual reviews – with the right mix of senior Participants – works well.

 

2. Ok – now decide what interval you’re going to use for measurement

Service Level performance is always measured on an interval basis.

Typically at 30 minute intervals but if your contacts are long then at the 60 minute interval basis.

If you have a very small Centre or Queue – with just a few Agents – an hourly or even shift basis may be enough for you.

But if you have a larger Centre or Queue  you should be measuring to the 30 minute interval. Very large Centres and those that pursue a significant cost efficient strategy measure down to the 15 minute interval.

If you’re only reporting a daily or weekly average – for example to give to the bosses – you’re going to have to add an additional set of internal measurements & reporting around intervals.

Because the Customer Wait Time experience, the Agent Occupancy experience and your best bet for cost efficiency live within interval management – not with daily or weekly (or heaven forbid) monthly averages.

Some Centres use a green/amber/red system to indicate interval performance across a day.

For example, you have run a 24 hour operation and you measure down to the half hourly interval you have 48 intervals to ‘get right’.

So define what a green interval looks like.  For example Service Level performance of 90% or above = green.  And carry on that logic for amber and red intervals.

Imagine how easy it is to look at a color coded representation of your Service Level performance that day by interval.  How many greens?  Ambers?  Reds?  Where do patterns emerge?  Because you can only fix what you can find.

And use cool graphical representations of Service Level performance to share with everybody in the Centre. It takes everyone in the boat, rowing in the same direction, to achieve Service Level.

It shouldn’t be a secret – it should be displayed everywhere.

 

3.  Choose a Service Level calculation formula

A lot of folks don’t realize that there are at least 4 different formulas out there to calculate your actual Service Level performance.

And that this formula has been input into your ACD.

So the question is always this.  Do you know what your formula is?  Are you happy with it?  Is it consistent across the organization to allow for some level of apples to apples comparison?

It’s an important decision.

Average Speed of Answer

Are you using Average Speed of Answer?  If so, why?

If you have an ACD, Service Level is the best and key metric to measure the Customer Wait Time experience.

Leading Centres don’t use ASA because it is an outcome of Service Level performance.  If Service Level goes down where does ASA go?  It goes up!

Learn to chase drivers – not outcomes.  Fix a driver and you automatically fix an outcome.

Where does ASA come into play?

Well it’s in the Erlang B calculation to calculate how many trunk lines you need for your Centre.  But that’s automatic.

And admittedly it’s easier to graph using ASA vs. Service Level.  Simply run Erlang C for your desired Service Level, identify the outcome ASA figure (let’s say 12.7 seconds) and use that for graphing.  It’s ‘equivalent’.

But if you have an ACD and you’re using ASA as a target or important metric stop, pause and ask yourself why.

It’s very ‘Jurassic Park’ and was in use in the days before ACDs were commonly installed.

 

Longest Wait Time

One Customer is going to experience a ‘Longest Wait Time’ even when you’re achieving your interval based Service Level.

Firstly – everyone should know what that is.  Because even if you’re achieving your 80/20 or 90/10 or 50/40 someone is going to wait a long time.

There are often widely different wait time experiences for Customers within a single half hour interval.  It’s good to be aware of that.  Particularly if you survey Customers on their wait time experience.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – whoever is reading your Readerboard and making decisions based on that data MUST know the Longest Wait Time for that interval.

The Longest Wait Time is an important piece of data for interpreting your Readerboard and making smart Service Level recovery decisions.

Fortunately Erlang C helps us calculate that piece of data for each and every interval.

And just like ASA, Longest Wait Time is an outcome of Service Level.  If your Service Level goes down your Longest Wait Time goes up.

But as I mentioned before – don’t chase outcomes, find and fix the driver(s) – in this case Service Level.

 

Abandonment Rate

There’s a lot of confusion around this metric.

Clearly, Centres that generate revenue – such as food orders or hotel reservations – care a lot their Abandonment Rate.  But they address that ‘care’ by setting very high Service Level objectives.  That means that Customers get answered so quickly they hardly have time to abandon – though of course an Abandonment Rate still exists.

For non-revenue generating Centres – and that’s most of them – Abandonment Rate is an outcome.  An outcome of Service Level.

If Service Level goes down, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go up.  Or when Service Level goes up, it is likely (though not assured) that Abandonment Rate will go down.

Smart Centres see Abandonment Rate as an outcome.

So rather than targeting it they examine it.  When do most people abandon?  What intervals experience higher or lower Abandonment Rate?  When do we play our delay announcements?  Should we move our announcements around?

Because Abandonment Rate is a human behaviour – not a mathematical behaviour.  It lies in the hands of the Customer.

We’re in control of (drum roll please) Service Level.  When we’re achieving Service Level by interval we’re accomplishing our mission. We’re delivering a consistent Customer Wait Time, Agent Occupancy and Organizational promise experience.

Trying to chase abandoned calls is like trying to catch a greased pig at the county fair.

Getting a handle on Abandonment Rate in the Contact Centre

 

Service Level (again)

I like to say that Service Level has a Driving License and the other metrics are all passengers in the car.

So if Service Level turns left – they all turn left.  If Service Level turns right – they all turn right.

You get the idea.

And if it helps remember that there are only 3 drivers of Service Level for any interval.  They are:

  • Contact Volume
  • Average Handling Time
  • Agent Capacity

If you’re struggling to achieve Service Level for any interval or set of intervals your root cause lies within one of more of these 3 variables.

More articles on Operations soon and thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When good people follow bad Contact Centre process – a story

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I look at an example of how otherwise ‘good’ people follow bad Contact Centre process.

Sitting around our workshop table, one of the Participants – a former Contact Centre Agent from a Philippines-based BPO – shared.

“Dan – it starts like this.

QA walks over to our station and while we’re talking to a Customer they give us the time out sign.  That’s their signal telling us to wrap the call up quickly so they can conduct our side by side coaching session.

That time out sign approach is a little off-putting but you have no choice but to get used to it.  

After they settle in and connect their headset to our phone, they pull out a scorecard.  

And as I log back into the system and receive my next call, they quietly mark their paper while I’m talking.  

When the call is done, I log back out and they talk me through each tick-box they made.

Mostly I just hope that my score is a ‘pass’ because if it isn’t, they can just go on and on about my mistakes. 

So of course while they’re sitting next to me I do everything in my power to achieve a pass.

I never knew that there were ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ ways to do side by side monitoring.  Your course is the first time I heard this.

I only have my own experience to go by.  And it wasn’t a good one.”

There’s a lot that’s wrong in that story

At this point in our workshop, when the story gets shared, we’re talking about the power of the side by side method for monitoring & coaching.

The relationship building, the power of personal connection – the time to build trust.  The opportunity to make the time to spend with the people who work for you.

But in the many years I’ve taught this method – admittedly one of my favorites – I find that very few either practice it (we have no time!) or they practice it in a way that damages the relationship – not strengthens it.

There are a few things wrong in this story – and practices like these are more common than you’d think.

  • Using hand signals to summon people is rude – these should be reserved for animals – not human beings
  • Using a scorecard at a side by side session makes no sense – talk about frightening
  • Everyone’s faking it here – especially the Agent who is put in a no-win situation
  • The entire point of helping someone do ‘better’ has been lost
  • The focus on what went ‘wrong’

But the QA person in this story isn’t the villain

It’s easy to say – oh – the QA person you’re describing is the singular villain in this story.

But you’d be wrong in most cases.  Because what happens is this.

Good people readily conform to and carry out bad processes.

To ‘fit in’, to ‘get the job done’ to ‘show they’ve got the stuff’ for advancement & promotion.

And to be fair –  it may be the only way they know because that’s all they’ve ever experienced or been taught.  I see this a lot in the Contact Centre industry.

Even former Agents – who disliked everything we’ve just talked about – will readily jump in the saddle and carry on a legacy process that’s broken.

The villain in this story is the bad Contact Centre process.  In this case around side by side monitoring & coaching.

 

It’s not so great from a values perspective either

As a side observation to this story there’s an impact on ‘culture’ here too.

It’s likely that this Philippines-based BPO has the word ‘respect’ in their core values and if not ‘respect’ then something similar and equally lofty sounding.

We ‘respect’ each other, we ‘respect’ our Customers’, etc.  The posters are everywhere.  And here are pictures of all of us on our annual Team building showing our respect for each other.

But culture is nurtured through the actual behaviours of people at work.

Especially those in leadership and professional roles.

Summoning people with hand gestures and scoring them when they’re trying to serve a Customer aren’t really brilliant examples of respect.

So if you’re after building a ‘culture’ (and today who isn’t) it’s a worthwhile effort to filter your processes – and they way they’re executed – through the lens of your values.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

Is the Contact Centre industry really that mature?

I once received a comment from a reader who said – “Dan, why do you constantly write about the Contact Centre industry?  It’s a very mature industry already.”

And that comment made me think.  Sure – it’s a mature industry.

But do we always run it in a mature way?

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact Centre KPIs & The Green Jaguar

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share the true story of my former boss, her green Jaguar automobile and how they taught me lessons about Contact Centre KPIs.

The background

Back in the early 90s I landed my first VP Operations role running Call Centre & Warehouse operations for an American entertainment company.

I had not come up through the ranks.

I was the VP Finance and I was offered the VP Operations job after the existing VP Operations resigned.

So I went straight from numbers, financials & analyses to operations.

At that time we didn’t have easy access to reliable Call Centre training – especially in operations domain.

The entire management team, including my boss the Executive VP, had to figure out how to run a large and growing Call Centre without any formal education or background in the industry.

Call Centres are very unique environments and cannot be understood purely from an intuitive or gut level.

There are some very real and complex mathematical realities which need to be mastered to perform well.

But I didn’t know those lessons and my boss at the time most certainly did not either.

We built our Los Angeles-based Call Centre from the ground 

One of the milestones of my career was watching a brand new Call Centre being built from the ground up.

Engineers were consulted, building crews were brought in, technology folks began to install, people began to be hired and it was all very exciting.

The Centre was located in a small beach town about 20 miles from the company’s chic and shiny Santa Monica based headquarters.

That gave our pioneer team a sense of independence and also some welcome distance from corporate ‘politics’.

My boss – the Executive VP

My direct boss was a life-long record company executive.

She stood about 6’1” (186 cm), wore big statement jewellery and could do multiple currency calculations in her head.

I loved her but feared her just ‘enough’ – others feared her more.

Every year she also got a new company car – and in the year our Centre went live it was a shiny green Jaguar sedan.  Gosh I loved that car.

Our new Centre was a single story building with glass windows all around.  That allowed us to see cars pulling in and out of the driveway.

And soon you will see how important this was to this story.

When the Centre opened

Our formal launch day was set.

And about 3 days beforehand my boss called me and asked if she could drop by on opening day to see the live operations.

She wanted to see people taking calls and experience what she and the Board had ‘gotten’ after spending so much money.

My answer was of course – yes, come on over.

Was there really a choice?

This is when things got a bit messy

One of the lessons I share now in my training is never let your boss walk unescorted through your Call Centre.

It’s too easy to draw incorrect conclusions based on what you see – a lot of what goes in a Centre is actually invisible!

But I let her go unaccompanied out into the Centre and here is what happened.

Armed with a little notebook, she walked around and observed each and every one of the 60 or so Agents we had in place at launch.

If the Agent was talking on their headsets or typing on their keyboards she was pleased and walked on by.   If they weren’t doing anything she wrote down their name on the notebook.

When her 6+ foot frame appeared in my doorway, she wasn’t very happy.

“Daaaaan” she drawled in her Southern accent, “You’ve got a big problem.

“You’ve got a lot of lazy people out there not doing anything.  So your interviewing skills must not be all that great.  And I’d say you’re also overstaffed.

“If you don’t fix this we are going to have a serious problem – do you really think we’re made of money?”

With that, she turned, went out, got into her car and drove back to Santa Monica.

A surprise visit

A week later, at about 10:00AM, the Receptionist ran into my office and blurted out “She’s here, she’s here!”

She had spotted the green Jaguar pulling into the front drive through the windows.

So I did what any fast thinking VP Operations would do.

I ran out to the floor, grabbed the first 3 Agents I could reach and said “You, you and you, sign off and go hide in the pantry!”

As they ran around the corner in walks my boss.

She looked at me for a moment and then strode right into the Call Centre floor.

And what did she see?

Here’s what she saw

As any good Call Centre person knows, when I pulled through 3 folks off the phone, the Occupancy rate for all the remaining folks immediately shot up.

Welcome to the Power of One.  Everyone was either talking or typing.

She wandered around the Centre for about 20 minutes in total and this time I made sure I went with her.

As she headed back to the front lobby she turned to me and said “Good”.  She then walked out, got into the car and drove off.

Here’s what was really happening 

You need to know more than just the individual definition and purpose of each KPI.

The most interesting part about Contact Centre KPIs is how they interrelate and interact with each other.

Contact Centre KPIs aren’t just dials on a dashboard to be monitored and tracked in isolation.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

So I came up with what I call ‘The Chicken Dance’ – based directly on the story of my boss and her green Jaguar.

And this has always been one of my favourite teaching moments.

To do the Chicken Dance, you start by raising your arms up so that they are parallel to the floor.

Ok here goes –

When I pulled the 3 folks off the phone – the Service level went down (flap down).

That means the Occupancy went up (flap up).

– Quality potentially began going down as the call queue grew (flap down).

– Abandonment rate likely went up as the call queue grew (flap up).

– Available time for the Agents went down (flap down).

– In the short run AHT might go down but as time goes by AHT goes up (flap up).

– Customer Satisfaction with wait time goes down (flap down).

-and # of Calls Handled per Agent went up (flap up) – but not because they were more productive!  Because we were understaffed at that time.

I dedicate The Chicken Dance to my former boss in Los Angeles

Since I introduced the Chicken Dance in my classes way back in 2003, thousands of people have sat in a training room or hotel conference room and watched me perform the dance.

I think that this has been a fun and useful way to convey the complexity inherent in Call Centre operations.

Operations training doesn’t need to be dry and boring.

It should be interesting and useful and be easily linked to the Employee experience and the Customer experience as well.

People should be able to ‘speak’ its unique language with ease.

So in closing, I dedicate the Chicken Dance to my boss with the green Jaguar.

And I thank her for the wonderful 8 years I had working with her and gaining such wonderful experience that I share with students to this day.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

Dear Contact Centre – please stop tai chi’ing your Customers

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I warn against tai chi’ing your Contact Centre Customers when they need your help.

There are many odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre industry

There’s a long list of odd approaches to achieving productivity in the Contact Centre.

One of my least favorites is what I call tai chi’ing the Customer.

If you’re familiar with the formal practice of Tai Chi it originated in ancient China and is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body.

When I lived in Los Angeles I practiced tai chi to manage my own personal stress and reduce blood pressure.

But in the Contact Centre it’s not a good thing and here’s what it sounds like –

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti.   It’s all on the website.  Just visit abc.com and you’ll find everything there.

 Short, sweet , unhelpful.

But it kept the call short!

It’s tai chi’ing when you push someone to self-help without offering to help first.

Designed journeys have exception handling too

Sure – perhaps a particular Customer journey was designed in such a way that the Customer would have ideally gone to the website first.

But when you offer multiple channels, you’ve made an implicit promise to honor the Customer regardless of which channel(s) they decide to use.

When I work with students in Customer Experience courses I explain it this way –

“When your Customer wakes up in the morning they have a choice.  A choice in how they interact with you.

They could call, email, text, or drop in on your Service Centre as they’ll be in town running errands anyway.

No matter what choice they make, we honor them and help get the job done.”

Journey mapping practitioners recognize that some percentage of voice calls come in after Customers tried self-service first.

And that happens when the self-service option failed to deliver the desired information or required too much effort.

Referred to as containment this is a measure of the percentage of enquiries  fully resolved within a particular channel.

And it’s never 100%.

So for a Customer to be tai chi’ed on a voice call – right back to the self-service channel that had failed in the first place – is clearly not an award winning strategy.

The danger of measuring service through compliance measures

We worked with a large educational institution on their Contact Centre Mystery Shopper program.

To allow for trending,  the compliance standards used for measurement had not been refreshed or updated for years.

And sure enough, all the greetings, closings and using the Customer’s name ‘two times’ were achieved and generated high percentage scores for the program.

They were all happy.

But during our analysis of the conversations, we picked up on the extensive use of Tai Chi by the Agents.

Though we reported it in our findings the management wasn’t that interested.

Later on when we checked, we learned that the Tai Chi approach was a directive from Contact Centre management to keep the calls short.

Ah ok.  We had simply picked up on what the Agents had been asked to do.

Another weird way that productivity rears its head in the industry while damaging the Customer Experience.

How about a version like this?

Good morning this is Andrew, how may I help you?

Hi Andrew, Siti here. Can I ask how to apply for the scholarship?

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

(A bit of to and fro to address Siti’s needs)

Ok Siti – have you viewed our website before? 

Ah ok – no worries – let me show you where, in future, you can easily reference what we’ve been taking about on this call.

What if Customers fed back that the website did not provide an easy reference?

No problem.

Because this becomes business intelligence to be funneled to the CX Team for action so the website can better meet its purpose.

Thank you for reading (and please – no more Tai Chi!),

Daniel

When you coach you’re either helping or keeping score

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

When you coach you’re either helping or keeping score.  In this short article I explain the difference between the two.

We measure everything!

In the Contact Centre industry we tend to be obsessed with measuring things.

From Occupancy rates through to Net Promoter Score we have dashboards and dials for everything.  (Even though not everything matters.)

And we have a whole special set of measurements reserved just for Contact Centre Agents.

When we’re able to influence and guide our Agents to better Productivity, Quality & Attitude, life is good.

And measuring progress quantitatively along the way is fine.  It’s really important to let people know how they are doing.

Measuring Quality

One of the most important processes in the Centre is Monitoring & Coaching.

We monitor Customer interactions, document our findings and talk to the Agents about their performance.

Great Monitoring & Coaching improves Quality, drives better Customer Satisfaction and delivers higher Employee Engagement.

It’s a multivitamin process with lots of great benefits.

But only when it is well designed.

There are many questions to answer to create a great Monitoring & Coaching process

The Monitoring & Coaching process is more complex than it first appears on paper.

  • Who should monitor interactions?
  • How often should we monitor?
  • What do we monitor for?
  • Who makes the rules for defining and calibrating Performance Standards?
  • How often should we listen, how should we listen, what do we listen for?

And when it comes to Agents –

  • Who should talk to Agents?
  • With what frequency should we talk to Agents?
  • What is the role of Quality Assurance?
  • What is the role of the Team Leader?
  • When or how should a score be involved?

Wow – there’s a lot involved.  But there are some answers too.

Let’s focus in on the use of scoring.

What is the role of the Scorecard?

Let’s zoom in questions around scoring.

  • What is the role of the Monitoring ‘Scorecard’?
  • Do I have to use it every time I speak with my Agent about their interaction?
  • Do I as a Team Leader use it or does Quality Assurance use it?

You’re either helping or you’re keeping score

In our Client work, we find that both Team Leaders and Quality Assurance have an unhealthy attachment to the scorecard.

Every quality discussion with an Agent involves a score.

Even side by side sessions – the rare times they seem to be conducted – involve a scorecard.

Isn’t this all rather disheartening and unnecessary? And typically all the Agent wants to know is the score.  Or ‘did I pass or not pass’?

That’s not a formula for improvement.  And a sure sign there is confusion between helping or keeping score.

What do we mean by that?

Scorecards are wonderful tools for gathering quantitative data.

Providing a developmental summary of scores across randomly selected interactions can be a great tool for Agent performance trending.

Here’s your trend here.  Here’s your trend there.  The big picture of performance and what contributes to it.

But scoring on a day to day basis in the Centre can inhibit growth.

Imagine your Agent comes to you and says –

“Boss, I’d like you to help me with my communication skills. Can you sit with me and listen to a few of my calls and give me your thoughts?” 

You reply, –

“Sure, give me a minute to get my scorecards – I’ve got to score everything I hear and that we talk about – be right there…”

I don’t think you would say this.

Even writing these lines makes me cringe.

The role of a Coach within the context of transactional coaching is to help their Agent get better and better at what they do.

Since when did helping someone get better involve a score?

Scorecards don’t change behaviour

A Scorecard is a judging tool.

It tells you how you did.

Just like watching the scores presented by Olympic Judges after the skater has skated, or the diver made their dive.

They tell you how you did.  But they aren’t designed to help you get better.

It makes me sad when Quality Assurance people tell me that all they do is issue scorecards and hope that Agent quality performance improves.

Dream on.

But helping people changes behaviour

What the best coaches do is sit with their folks – on a regular basis – and help them get better.

They understand that helping is something they do for their people.

“Here’s where you did well.  Here’s where you can improve.”

With no score attached. And why would you need one?

And the more you help someone – the better they will score when the time comes.

In closing

When people ask me how many interactions they should monitor I ask them to rephrase the question.

“How many interactions will you monitor for scoring purposes and to provide trending?” 

“And how many interactions will you conduct to help your Agent get better?”

Then add the answers to these two questions together to get your answer.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel