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How to use the True Calls per Hour Calculation in the Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share how to use the True Calls per Hour calculation in the Contact Centre.

When you hear folks talk about Contact Centre productivity they’re usually talking about the Agents

Usually when we hear people talk about productivity they have their finger pointed firmly in the direction of their Agents.

“How can we get our Agents to be more productive?” they ask.

When we ask “What do you mean by productivity?” the most common answer is –

“How can we get the Agents to handle more calls or live chats per hour (day/week)?”

But Quantity Handled per Agent is and always has been a problematic measure

Productivity in a Contact Centre is not about how many calls or chats are handled.

This measure for Service Level based contacts has always been problematic.

There are very real mathematical realities at work that put the number of calls or chats handled outside the direct control of the Agent.  

When you stop and look at it, the key factors that drive contact quantity either up (or down) per Agent include:

  • The Service Level set (and its resulting Occupancy rate)
  • The health of the Forecasting, Staffing, Scheduling & Real Time Management process at the interval level
  • The size of the Queue  at any given time (known as the Pooling Principle)
  • The undeniable mathematics of random contact arrival (which is why we have Erlang C)

What you need to know about the Pooling Principle in Contact Centers

For Centres that have sorted this out and no longer target Agents on quantity handled – congratulations.

You’re well on the way to enhancing Agent and Customer Experience.

But let’s pause a moment.

Ok Dan (you might say).  Got it.  We don’t (or won’t) target Agents on Quantity Handled for Service level based contacts.  

But for planning, comparative and high level management purposes, is there some way we can analyze the quantity handled across different shifts, cities and even countries?

Well I’m glad you asked.  There is.

Let me show you how.


The True Pizzas per Hour calculation

When I teach this in workshops, I like to use the example of making pizzas in a Pizza Outlet.

See if you can answer the question posed in the picture below for our fictional Pizza Palace company.

What makes this difficult to answer is that our Delhi outlet is ‘busier’ than our Chennai outlet.

Perhaps our Delhi outlet is located on the ground level of a busy mall while our Chennai outlet is a bit off the beaten track in a low traffic area.

But we can’t possibly hold Prachi or Sangeetha accountable for how busy (or not) their outlets were – they’re not in the Sales & Marketing Team.

They were hired to make pizzas.

Got your answer?

Ok – let me show you how we ‘normalize’ the figures:

In order to correctly compare both Prachi and Sangeetha, you take what they actually ‘did’ (in this case how many pizzas they made) and divide that by the Occupancy rate they experienced at that time.

Once you normalize the data as you see above, we can calculate the ‘rate’ at which both of these people are working.

The use of the word ‘rate’ is important (think of a speedometer telling you your rate of speed).

Prachi is working at the rate/speed of 25.3 pizzas per hour.  (In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made).

Sangeetha is working at the rate/speed of 28.3 pizzas per hour. (In other words if her Occupancy rate had been 100% this is how many she would have made).

So now we can compare both of our pizza makers on the same basis because we have factored out the impact of the different Occupancy rates.

But could we have a problem?


Typically at this point in the discussion the topic of ‘Quality’ comes into the picture – hurray Quality!

What we don’t know (or haven’t figured out) yet

What we don’t know in this exercise (at least so far) is the appropriate or best ‘rate’ at which we should be making pizzas.

What is the ‘right’ rate that yields a delicious pizza. Because we want Customers to come back again!

And because higher isn’t always better. (that had to be said)

Studies must be done

Fast food companies are well known for doing very scientific time & motion studies on how many can be ‘done’ and still deliver the required level of quality.

Contact Centres could learn from their example.

It is very likely that Pizza Palace has conducted in depth time and motion studies.

For purposes of this article let’s assume that they discovered that a pizza maker operating at the rate of 22 – 25 pizzas per hour during the lunch hour was  ‘in the zone’.

By in the zone they mean that quality standards were achieved without any obvious loss or potential gain in productivity.

Now we can draw some conclusions about our pizza makers in the example.

Prachi is probably ‘doing fine’ – she’s operating at the upper end of the zone.  But we should still taste her pizza now and then for quality assurance purposes (otherwise known as monitoring).

On the other hand, Sangeetha is operating outside of the zone – on the high side.  We better go monitor her pizza to ensure quality hasn’t been compromised in some way.

Of course, if someone is ‘too fast’ it could be that a) they are in fact working too fast (and thus Quality falls – such as the taste of the pizza) or b) they could have made some kind of process or quality innovation that should be studied and replicated.


In the best Contact Centres…

In the best Contact Centres they don’t target Agents individually on the quantity of contacts handled (for Service Level based contacts – that caveat must always be there).

But when they want to do comparative quantity analyses they use the same normalization technique we used for pizzas.

Some of the conclusions I’ve seen Clients come up with using normalization include:

  • We know for Ireland/Germany/Singapore (name your market or city) that on a Saturday afternoon shift the right ‘rate’ of call handling that delivers on quality is about 12 – 15 calls per hour  (remember rates will vary across the course of a day)
  • We know that our night shift Team calls per hour achievement will always be lower than our day shift Team calls per hour achievement
  • We know that our calls per hour rate for Japan will always be lower than our calls per hour rate for India
  • We know that if we see variations in the rate we need to explore the underlying reasons (root cause analysis) and not just blame Agents. .

Notice that none of these learnings had to do with targeting individual Agent calls handled.

I mean come on – if you want an Agent to handle a lot of calls all you have to do is understaff.

But that decision comes with a whole host of disasters and that’s why most Centres don’t intentionally understaff even when they know it would raise the actual call handling rate of each Agent.

These examples have everything to do with high level planning and analysis.

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

In conclusion

If you seek to compare the ‘rate’ of contact handling for different times of day, for different shifts, for different cities or countries – an educated implementation and use of ‘True Calls per Hour’ can help.  This applies to Service Level based contacts only!

If in some way ‘quantity’ matters to you – for example the quantity of closures made per Agent or Team – then normalization works well because you’ve factored out the impact of Occupancy variations.

Simply targeting people to achieve a certain number of ‘closes’ is unfair – in the same way that targeting the number of calls or live chats per person is unfair.

Thanks for reading!


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.


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!


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!










What I learned running 60 classes on CX values and Culture for one Client

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article I share what I learned running 60 classes on CX values and Culture for one Client – a major telecoms provider in Asia.

Some background

Three years ago I won a Corporate tender to deliver a customized CX values and Culture workshop cross every single employee of a telecoms provider in Asia.

I’ll start by saying the Client was terrific and focused on Customer-centricity.  Their mission for the workshops was to promulgate their newly selected values across each and every member of the company.

We decided to develop and deliver 2 versions of a full day workshop.

One designed specifically for the folks that dealt with Customers – ‘the Frontline’.   People who worked in Retail, the Contact Centre or specialty roles directly serving the Customer such as the VIP Queue.

We designed a second version specifically for the folks that worked in background or support functions – ‘the Backline’.  People from HR, Marketing, Operations, Legal, Procurement, IT, Finance and the like.

We kept class sizes manageable to allow for interaction and scheduled about 60 runs over a 2 year period.

Each and every workshop was super well received – there wasn’t one group where people didn’t respond positively and well.

That doesn’t mean there weren’t any questions or concerns.  As you’ll see we wanted questions and concerns.

Here are some of the things I learned.


Help folks be proud of where they work

The Client Team I worked with was amazing.  Amongst the many contributions they made to the success of the workshops was to develop an in-house video that shared the history, some of the famous advertising moments, the accomplishments achieved and the awards won.

As we tabulated the comments and themes across the sessions we found a regular comment (paraphrased) to be:

Thanks for reminding me of what a great place this is.  I was proud to see our accomplishments across the years.

I know I know.  You’ve got an Awards case that shows off all your trophies.

I know I know.  They could see your achievements in the newspaper or the company newsletter or even featured in an industry magazine.

But part of successful culture change is this.

You don’t go into the room to tell folks how ‘bad’ they are or how ‘bad’ things are out there.  That’s not a really great way to motivate change.

We took the approach that the world is changing and what brought us here wasn’t going to get us there.  But that didn’t mean we couldn’t celebrate who we were and what we had accomplished and take that forward.

Lesson learned:  We work in a great place – let’s take some time to celebrate that.  Culture change is part of our success for the future – not a reflection of a failure from the past.


Buzzwords are less understood than you might think

We set aside part of the session to cover some terms and let everyone talk about what they meant.

Terms like Omnichannel, Big Data, Digital Transformation.  Even terms like Customer Service and Customer Experience.

I think in some companies it’s just assumed that people have a common understanding of terms like these.

But that’s just not true.

Participants shared that they weren’t really ‘fluent’ in buzzwords and appreciated going through what these things mean – and their specific relevance to their company and even their specific job roles.

I think shared accomplishments require a shared vocabulary.  What is our definition and meaning around Big Data?  What is our definition and meaning around Customer Service?

If you just throw around buzzwords without having defined specifically what they mean to you and your organization you just leave people confused.

Lesson learned:  Buzzwords are just that.  You need to contextualize their meaning for your ambitions and your organization.  In this day and age we’re all a little tired of constant buzzword bombardment.

What behaviours do Customer Experience professionals display?

Give people a chance to express their concerns

I think one of the smartest things we did was build a formal way for Participants to express their their concerns.

We used the term ‘barriers’. As in, what specifically, in your job role, holds you back from achieving these values.

Over the course of nearly 2 hours. Participants worked together, documented and then formally presented their barriers to the entire group.

The best part of being a Facilitator is just that – facilitation.  The point was to let the experts in the company – the people who worked there – talk about their work lives and the values they had been asked to consider.

People got heated, passionate and a few of the Presenters should consider a career in public speaking – it was that well done.

It’s a fascinating process to watch Marketing people talk to Finance people about their challenges.  And Retail people sharing with Contact Centre people about how theirs.  And then sharing their viewpoints with their colleagues.

From an analysis standpoint we gathered and aggregated very single barrier expressed across the totality of the workshops – and organized them by department.  By the time the sessions were done we had a master list of barriers which allowed for analysis, prioritization and action.

Lesson learned:  Don’t avoid talking about what is going to get in the way.  Bring the barriers front and center.


As a Facilitator share what the values mean to you

I made it a point to only ‘commandeer’ the session for about 45 minutes in the morning – immediately after the morning warm-up.

Rather than blah blah on how important values are (boring) I used that time to shared my personal opinion on each value.

And with each opinion I attached a story.

So if the value was – let’s say – ownership – I expressed what ownership meant to me and then shared a funny story on ownership (or lack of it) that I’d experienced in my work.  Something that brought ownership to life.

What I learned a long time ago is that while loyal long-term Employees are great – their worldview is very company specific which can be inherently limiting.

While the Client could have clearly used internal Facilitators to conduct the  2-year engagement, one of their main decision points was the need to expand the worldview of their Participants – and that required someone from the outside.

If you’re a Facilitator who gets to work in values-based programs – be brave – share your own worldview.

And even if you work at X organization try to find stories that help Participants expand their worldview.  You’ll have plenty of time to focus back on your own organization throughout other parts of the workshop.

Lesson:  Earnestness and preachiness don’t work really well in values driven programs.  Storytelling and treating adults like adults works a lot better.

10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions

Be realistic about what happens in a values-based workshop

At the outset I was clear about what I expected would happen to people as they passed through our day together.

My main job was to help them understand the values.  Through storytelling, humor and reflection help them grasp and feel why these values were important.

But the next two ‘steps’ belonged to the Participants.

After understanding comes belief.  What I call the “I buy this” step.

But I’m very clear with Participants.  No one can make anyone believe anything.

I can’t force belief compliance. 

I had a very interesting tender presentation with another organization where they specifically asked me how I could make their people believe the prescribed values (in one day).  They kept asking me – “How will you do it?”

I said I couldn’t.  Because that’s true.

Do you really want a room full of people at the end of the day who ‘fake’ enthusiasm and give thumbs up in the group photo only to then roll their eyes and go back to work in the same old way?  I didn’t get that deal – but I think I dodged a bullet there.

But with that said belief matters.

I wanted the our workshop day to flow in such a way that belief had every opportunity to be considered. I had an objective that by the end of the day, the believers would beconfident in their beliefs and those a bit further down the scale – those mulling it all over – would be willing to consider their depth of belief anew.

The final step – and the one that all organizations want – is action.

Once I believe in something – let’s say ownership – I act that way.  I make it part of who I am and what I do.

It becomes a choice.  That’s where the magic lives.

Lesson:  Don’t walk into a values-based workshop with the mindset that you can force, preach or cajole people to believe.  Different people have different motivations.  Design the workshop in such a way that you encourage the willingness to believe.


In closing

It was an honor and one of the highlights of my career to have been part of such an important journey.  And to meet so many hundreds of people who care.

Thank you for reading!



















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


10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions for Customer Experience Strategy

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short post we share 10 CCXP exam practice questions for the Customer Experience Strategy component of the overall CCXP exam.

CCXP = Certified Customer Experience Professional.

A quick look at the official CCXP Exam

The CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association) has identified six (6) Customer Experience competency areas for certification and each area is covered in the official CCXP Exam.

The (6) Customer Experience competency areas are:

  1. Customer-Centric Culture
  2. Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight, and Understanding
  3. Organizational Adoption and Accountability
  4. Customer Experience Strategy
  5. Experience Design, Improvement, and Innovation
  6. Metrics, Measurement, and ROI

There are currently 100 questions in the official CCXP Exam.

To learn more about the CCXP credential and the CCXP exam process please visit cxpa.org.

Our aim with sharing these practice questions

Our aim is to help and inspire folks who want to gain their CCXP credential or simply improve their understanding of Customer Experience as a business discipline.

That’s why we have developed a current bank of more than 150 practice questions with more underway.  We use these practice questions in our Customer experience training workshops as well as publish selected questions from time to time.

10 Practice Questions for Customer Experience strategy

In this section, we share 10 of our CCXP exam practice questions related specifically to the Customer Experience Strategy competency.

These 10 questions are designed to address specific know-how expected for the Customer Experience strategy competency and are written in the same multiple choice format found on the official CCXP Exam.

Read through each question and choose the answer that you think is correct – that’s either a, b, c or d.

Remember that the official exam is no books, no notes. So answer as best you can from your current knowledge & experience.  Don’t look up any answers!

Here goes – and good luck!


#1. If you want your Frontline Staff to ‘go the extra mile’ correctly, you should:

a. Give them as much leeway as possible to do what they think is right

b. Ask them to use the Customer experience strategy as a guide

c. Ask them to talk to other Service Staff to see what they do

d. Advise them not to go the extra mile because it tends to be costly


#2. When developing your Customer experience strategy, it is best to:

a. Consider the needs of your Customers

b. Look at what kind of Organization you are

c. Adopt practices from other leading Organizations

d. Consider both the needs of your Customers & what kind of Organization you are


#3. Which of the following least describes an Annual Operating Plan?

a. Describes the tactics that will be used

b. Involves budgeting

c. Involves resource allocation

d. Outlines the plans and strategies for the next few years


#4. The following are effective examples of communicating a Customer experience strategy except:

a. Scheduling a one-time per year Town Hall for Employees to discuss business results

b. Develop a small handbook to be given to each Employee to carry with them

c. Create a physical space that immerses Employees in the desired experience

d. The creative use of video to share the intended experience with Employees


#5. Choose the word that best applies to this statement.  “The best Customer experiences are not __________.”

a. Consistent

b. Intentional

c. Accidental

d. Relevant


#6. A shared Customer experience vision enables you to:

a. Align strategic initiatives across the organization

b. Increase prices for your products & services

c. Pay your Employees a little bit less than market value

d. Do away with core values


#7. A shared Customer experience vision is applicable for:

a. Employees

b. Employees and Partners

c. Senior management

d.  All organizational stakeholders


#8. You talked to your Marketing Department and they shared that the brand value that resonates most with Customers is that of being ‘small-town’ or ‘heartland’ in character.  Which of the following behaviors might be implemented in your Contact Centre as a result of this brand value?

a. Be professional

b. Understand how Customers use the mobile application

c. Be as efficient as possible

d. Feel free to chat with Customers


#9. Which of the following best exemplifies a shared Customer experience vision:

a. We will aim to deliver a differentiated Customer experience – each Customer, each time, everywhere we are

b. We aim to deliver the highest possible shareholder returns for shareholders

c. At ABC company, your satisfaction is our ultimate reward

d. Dedication to the highest quality of  service with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride


#10. Which of the following answers best addresses the statement, “It helps a lot if the Team developing the Customer experience strategy is ___________”:

a. Cross-functional

b. Certified in Customer experience

c. Has at least 5 years of experience in Customer experience

d. Defers to the CEO for the final decision

End of Quiz

Would you like to know how you did?

If you’d like to know if your answers are correct we’re happy to help.

We’ve intentionally gone ‘low-tech’ here.  There’s no need to register anywhere, set-up an account or pay to access the practice questions.

Once you’ve answered all (10) questions just drop an email to me (Daniel Ord) at daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.

Let me know the question # and the answer that you chose (either a,b,c or d).

You can use the following format in your email to me:

  1. a
  2. d
  3. c
  4. c (and so on for all 10 Practice Questions)

I always do my best to answer quickly!

Of course taking 10 CCXP practice questions won’t fully reflect the experience and effort that have gone into your Customer experience work and goals to date.

But in all these many years of running high level certification programs, we find that the more practice questions you take – and learn from – the better prepared you will be.

Thank you for reading!


Daniel Ord / daniel.ord@omnitouchinternational.com




How a group of Lifeguards brought Customer Experience to life at the Waterpark

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article we share how a group of Lifeguards  brought Customer Experience to life in a Singapore-based waterpark.

It was Marcus’ birthday.

So we decided to visit the Adventure Cove Waterpark for the day to celebrate and enjoy the rides.

Towels, swimming shorts and sunscreen were all packed.  And the morning sky was clear as we boarded the subway for Sentosa Island.

Some years back we had been engaged by Universal Studios to conduct extensive Customer Experience Mystery Shopper research which had included the Adventure Cove Waterpark.

And on this visit – which was purely personal – we noticed some positive changes.

In Customer experience you learn that every single Employee job description should contain specific  Customer Experience functions or activities pertinent to that job role.

These are usually referred to as Customer experience standards and will (of course) differ by job function.

And on this visit to the Waterpark we saw a terrific example in action.

Here is what happened.

Adventure River

In Adventure Cove there’s a very relaxing ‘ride’ where you recline in a big plastic inner tube and float around a long lazy river that meanders around the entire Waterpark for maybe 45 minutes or so.

And there are Lifeguards everywhere – stationed perhaps 50 – 100 meters along the entire river – which is great from a safety standpoint.

But years before, when we did our original Customer Experience Mystery Shopper research, the Lifeguards were silent and inert – doing their job yes – but not part of the show.


But yesterday the Lifeguards were different – in a good way

As we floated happily by on our inner tubes, so many of the Lifeguards smiled.  A couple asked how we were.

And one young standout lady, after asking us if we had eaten yet, gave us lunch recommendations (yes you do move that slowly).

When a family with children was in the vicinity, a few of the Lifeguards would pull out water pistols and open up a mock battle with the kids squealing and the parents laughing along.

What a difference it all made.

The Lifeguards were doing their job – yes.  Safety first.  But they had also become part of the experience.

And that didn’t happen by accident.  Someone – with great clarity – put the engagement with Guests into the Lifeguard job description.

Well done!

In closing

Take a moment and consider the opportunity. Have you put Customer experience standards into every Job Description in your organization?

Because good things happen when Customer Experience is everyone’s job.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel Ord





Shiny Toy Syndrome – thoughts on Technology in the Customer Experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share why I think shiny toy syndrome is an ineffective approach to improving the Customer Experience along with some thoughts on how to consider the role of technology in the Customer Experience.

Last year I spoke at a government event

Last year I was invited – along with other Speakers – to talk about technology change in the Contact Centre industry in particular.

On the sidelines I had a chance to catch up with the other Speakers.

Each one told me the same thing.

In the brief received before the event, they were instructed to incorporate the topic of drones into their talk.  Whether or not drones were part of what their profession, it was a mandated requirement to participate in the event.

And it was painful to watch as each Speaker grafted on a shiny toy slide or two at the end of their presentations.

It didn’t ring true and you could see the look of apology on each Speaker’s face as they tried to sound like futurist geniuses.

Shiny toy syndrome can blind you

Being anti-shiny toy syndrome doesn’t mean you’re anti- technology.

I can already hear some of the villagers gathering their pitchforks and torches to come burn down your Luddite castle.

It means that you’ve been around the block enough times to know that technology without purpose can be a mess.  Or that technology should be in the ‘service’ of something bigger.

The key is to put the technology in context.

In Customer Experience programs I like to talk through the following steps when considering the role of technology in the Organization.

1.  Your Customer Experience Strategy

I always begin with our Customer Experience Strategy.

Who are we?  What do we promise to our Customers either explicitly or implicitly?

Because ultimately our Customer Experience strategy will be the filter through which we make decisions on the kind of experience we are going to offer.  And that includes the role of technology.

It also unifies our thinking across disparate job roles and locations so that everyone knows what kind of experience we deliver around here.

Our North Star – a superb first step.

2.  What do Customers expect?

While we would have considered this in Point #1 – the Customer Experience Strategy – it’s worth blowing this out into a domain of its own.

Sometimes referred to as Customer Understanding, Customer Insight or Voice of Customer, understanding what Customers expect from us serves as a great guide to what we offer to them.

Obviously quantitative and qualitative research have a big role to play here.

And the good news is that important learnings around Customer Expectations have already been codified and are well understood.

For example, let’s look at Customer expectations related to a frictionless Customer Experience.

Don Peppers in his terrific book, “Customer Experience: What, How and Why Now” lays out the four attributes of a frictionless Customer Experience.

These are:

  • Reliability
  • Value
  • Relevance
  • Trustabiltiy

So if your Customer Experience strategy is heavily weighted towards delivering a frictionless experience, you’d work through these four attributes to establish how to bring them to life in your Organization.

And you’d look at the technology that helps you achieve these things – particularly at scale.

I read a wonderful case study for an insurance company in the U.S.

They allow Customers to make claims by shooting a short video on their mobile phone and uploading that directly to the claims department for approval.  Apparently approvals are issued within minutes.  Wow.

3. The role of Customer Journeys

If you’re rolling your eyes now I’m with you.

Some folks want to make Journey Mapping as complex as possible so that it seems beyond the grasp of mere mortals.

I’ve found that the difference between a successful journey mapping program and one that is not so successful is the calibre of the people included and their willingness to take action based on what they learned.

Because a pretty map is just that – pretty.  If that’s your goal just buy a painting.

There are a couple of things that are wonderful about Journey Maps.

Firstly, they cross functional boundaries – so they require cross-functional collaboration to serve a higher purpose.

Secondly, McKinsey noted years ago that Customers don’t think in touchpoints – they think in journeys.

When you mix that up with the ‘Peak-End’ construct (Kahneman & Tversky) on how Customers remember their experience you’ve got a compelling case for working through your most important Customer journeys.

And as you do your mapping, ask yourself.

Where would technology enable this journey?  Not just save cost (which is too often the catchphrase) but how can it create a new ‘opportunity’ for Customers that they never had before?

When you apply this mental discipline to the role of technology in your Customers’ lives you’ll find many more relevant opportunities than just saying “let’s buy a chatbot!”.

Read this marvelous case study shared by Bill Gates on how chatbots improved enrolment into higher education:

https://www.vox.com/2018/8/3/17639142/poor-kids-college-dont-enroll?linkId=55392932   (you will need to copy and paste this link)

4.  The role of Imagination

You can’t talk about technology today without talking about the role of imagination.

Think of something, prototype it, test it, try again till you find something that works.

Not everything is going to come out of the mouth of a Customer nor can everything be copied from somebody else.  Or, heaven forbid, look at ‘best practices’.

I think imagination at work is a trait that is highly under-rated.  And in many command & control style Organizations it’s actually squashed.

You shouldn’t win an industry award because you implemented a chatbot

I’m not a fan of shiny toy syndrome. I’m a big fan of technology.

And I’m a bigger fan of learning about the context of how technology created a better Customer Experience.

No – you shouldn’t win an industry award because you implemented a chatbot.

But perhaps you’re an Awards candidate if you can explain the context of what led you to the use of your chatbot and how that chatbot supports your Customer Experience strategy overall.

Thanks for reading!





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!),


Funny things Contact Centre Managers ask their Agents to do

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This short article provides a humorous and perhaps disturbing look at how Contact Centre Managers ask Agents to do funny things.

Especially in the context of interacting with Customers.

There’s a well understood process

There is a well understood process Organizations use to select which behaviours they want Agents to display during Customer interactions.

Sometimes called KPIs, Performance Standards or CX Standards, management selected behaviors let Agents know what matters most during Customer interactions.

Example behaviours include:

  • Tone of Voice
  • Branded language
  • Empathy
  • Product know-how
  • Objection handling

The potential list is infinite.

And the final selection of these core behaviours is based solidly on the organization’s CX strategy, Corporate strategy and/or Customer Service strategy.

A lot of work goes into selecting the right behaviours, keeping them up to date and making sure everyone understands the ‘why’ behind each one.

But that work pays off in multiples as relevant quality goes up and good things like experience and advocacy happen.

But some Centre Managers choose to circumvent the process

In what I think represents a misguided attempt to deliver ‘a Customer experience’, management sometimes asks Agents to do funny things.

Let’s start with one of my favorite examples.

At an Asian bank, Contact Centre Agents who logged in for the morning shift, were asked to say a version of the following at the end of their first call that morning.

“Mr/Mrs. XX, thank you so much for helping me start my day off so wonderfully.”


Sometimes it is hard to know where to begin on something as silly as this.

But let’s try.

First point of view – that of the Agent.

How many Agents would you guess supported the use of this behaviour?

Yup – none of them.  It felt odd and inauthentic.

That should have been the first clue that something wasn’t quite right.

It’s called Voice of Employee or VOE and is an important source of Customer understanding.

Secondly, let’s get practical.

What if the first Caller was angry?  Crabby?  Too little coffee intake as of yet?   Does the Agent still have to deliver the behaviour?

Another personal favorite

Another Asian bank – different country.

The Service Quality Team had engaged a ‘Customer Service Expert’ who convinced them that there was an industry standard for a smile.

A proper smile must show 12 teeth.

And they bought it.

And then they Mystery Shopped it.

Can you imagine the training session for the Mystery Shoppers?

“Ok guys – when the Banking Officer smiles at you be sure to count if 12 teeth are showing.”  

And can you imagine the final Mystery Shopper presentation to the Board?

“And ladies & gentlemen, we’ve got a problem – on average less than 7 teeth are showing and let’s not even talk about the  intensive dental work cases that we will report to you separately.”

This story is a little different

This story is a little different as it comes from Mystery Shopper research.

An international mobile handset manufacturer wanted to Mystery Shop their Frontline Agents.

The Mystery Shoppers were to dial in, ask a specific set of questions and record the conversations.

So far so good.

Because to Mystery Shop well you need to select and define the key behaviours to be measured as part of the program.

The Organization had a prepared list of behaviours which they turned over to us.

Behaviour #1 – “Was the Agent prepared and ready to take the call?”

So we asked – “Oh. How would a Mystery Shopper know if the Agent was prepared and ready to take the call?  

To which they replied – “The Mystery Shopper should be able to tell if the Agent was prepared and ready to take the call.  Score it.” 

Ah, ok.

The Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Program – are you on track?

And what’s up with this Small Talk standard?

Depending on your CX Strategy, your Corporate Strategy and your Customer Service Strategy, it may make perfect sense to implement a ‘Small Talk’ behaviour into your Agent set of quality standards.

Typically I see Small Talk expressed as “Have you had your lunch yet sir?” or “How’s the weather in Singapore today?”

An unrelated question added into the conversation with the intention to build rapport.

I’m not disparaging the standard.

If your organization went through the full and proper process of selecting and defining relevant standards and Small Talk presented itself – then by all means implement it.

But the Agents I meet tell me that the Small Talk standard was literally grafted on to their existing set of standards.  They felt they were being asked to do a funny thing.

When done right – appropriate small talk can elevate a conversation.

But when used at the wrong time, or in the wrong way – it sounds at best inauthentic and at worst – irritating.

Making it a compliance behaviour is almost guaranteed to be problematic.

At the end of the day you can’t capture the entirety of the Customer Experience in a single interaction

It’s well understood that the Customer Experience consists of the Customer’s perceptions across their entire experience with an organization.

And that sometimes that experience doesn’t even touch ‘Customer Service’ or the Contact Centre.

Of course, when it does touch Customer Service or the Contact Centre that interaction may have more emotional resonance than other types of interactions.

And that matters.

The management decisions described in this short article were not made by one individual.  A group or committee of smart people sat around a table, decided that these were good ideas and implemented them.

But grafting on Agent behaviours in the hope they deliver a positive Customer Experience shouldn’t involve Agents saying funny things.

Thanks for reading!


“Image © Matt Madd/Dentist” https://costculator.com/dentist/