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Can your Contact Center Agents compete with a robot?

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If I were employing Contact Center Agents today, I’d be asking how my training and development processes helped my Agents be better than a robot.

A lot of Contact Center management complains that they can’t recruit or hold on to their Contact Center Agents.

But I think that the smart Contact Center Agent has a fair question to ask.

“Dear Boss…I’m aware that you guys are doing everything you can to off-load voice calls to self-service options.  So if you want me to stay with you there’s something I need to know.  How are you going to prepare me to be better than a robot?”

Now I’m one of those people that believes that, at critical moments, a person is going to want to talk to another person.

And with the growth in greying populations around the developed world, we’re still looking at demand in voice-based service for some time.

So now’s the time to prepare your Agents for what’s coming.

It’s an interesting industry – but Contact Center Agents don’t know that

The Agent recruitment videos that I watch on YouTube look like they came from the same cookie cutter –

  • You’ll need to have empathy!
  • We’ll give you a buddy to work with!
  • Look – we have a pool table!

I’d love to see an Agent recruitment video that said –

  • Our Centre is at the heart of our CX strategy – and we will teach you all about CX and your role in it.
  • There’s a lot of technology & operations going on here – and we’ll teach you all about it.
  • The world is changing – so we’ll help you to be come better than a robot.

Liz Ryan advises –

It’s time to leave a job when a half-year has gone by and you haven’t learned anything new.

That advice doesn’t just apply to the big bosses.

Take your Contact Center Agent development seriously

When I was running large Centres in the U.S. back in the 90s, we purposefully hired our Contact Center Agents from places like McDonalds and Burger King.

By and large they already had the right attitudes.

Our job was to equip them to become better versions of themselves.

A few years later, when a big corporate restructuring came along, we had to let go hundreds of our Agents over the course of a few months.

It was tough, and emotionally draining.

But over those few months we were proud that each and every one got a new job.

Every Friday afternoon, we would take Polaroids of the people that were leaving that week, and stage a candlelight ceremony to commemorate their being with us and then moving on.

We all cried.

In that early Contact Centre era, some of the processes we take for granted today were still immature

In those days, we didn’t have a lot of QA.

Our training could have been better.

As a result, our folks probably weren’t very good at saying the Customer’s name two times or asking for further assistance at the end of the call.

They would probably have failed some of the current assessments that I see so often today.

But because we didn’t script them, they were forced to learn the fine art of conversation.

How to sell, how to calm, how to influence.

Even how to stay calm during large scale fluctuations in volume – a powerful self-management skill.

Our secret to success – and we were very successful in our day – was the caliber of our Team Leaders.

These direct Line Managers were the heroes who made our operation tick.

In closing

The world is changing.

But the need for people to learn and grow to succeed hasn’t.

Are you preparing your Contact Center Agents to be better than a robot?

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

 

How to write a Tender for Contact Centre Outsourcing

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this special 1 day session we will help you write a Tender for Contact Centre outsourcing.

Choosing the right outsourcer for your Customer contacts is one of the most important decisions you will make.

And every outsourcer is different.

Some outsourcers have very specific niches they serve and they don’t perform very well outside of those niches.

Some outsourcers act as strategic partners while others just do what they’re asked to do.

Quality and the ability to deliver on your Customers’ expectations varies widely across different providers.

And the person or Team that manages your program might be a Contact Centre expert – or again they might not.

It can be hard for a layman to tell.

So it’s important to develop a Tender document that helps you hone in on your specific objectives.

And that helps you select the right outsourcer for your program.

The challenge is that the folks who have to develop the Tender and select the provider may not be Contact Centre experts

Many of our Clients & Friends have come to us with serious concerns about their outsourcers.

They also say they don’t have enough mastery of the Contact Centre environment to ask the right questions.  Or to know when they are getting what they should.

To address this need we have developed a special 1-day session to help Participants develop a Tender document for Contact Centre outsourcing.  And from there evaluate submissions.

In our 1-day workshop we will –

  • Establish the ‘right’ KPIs against which to measure outsourcer delivery
  • Understand how different channels of communication work – independently and together
  • Understand who is responsible for ‘what’ in the outsourcing relationship
  • How to handle rapid change in Customer communication channels
  • Know what to look for to determine if your Outsourcer is the right ‘fit’

Over the course of the day, we will work through a solid template for developing a Tender for Contact Centre Outsourcing.

We will also discuss what the ‘best’ answers look like when comparing different outsourcers.

Simply go to our Public Programs page here to register.

Public Programs

Or simply drop me a line to [email protected]

Thank you!

Daniel

[email protected]https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel & M&C Class

Stop outsourcing your happiness

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Its tempting to play the if/then game with your happiness.  If my boss gives me this, then I’ll give my boss that.

But when you outsource your happiness you’re bound to lose.

Cultural transformation

I have fun running cultural transformation workshops for people who work at big companies.

One of the things we discuss are barriers at work.

What’s ‘holding me back‘ from delivering on my company’s values or vision.

What I appreciate most about this exercise is the honesty that you get.

You’ll learn that most people at work aren’t asked ‘what’s holding you back‘.

It’s usually phrased as ‘why haven’t you hit your KPI’ which is obviously a different question.

Outsourcing happiness

During the debrief of barriers, it’s common to hear something like this –

‘Well Dan’ they start.  

‘As you know happy Employees equate to happy Customers…  

…so if our bosses only would (increase our incentive, change our shifts, fill in the blank) we would be happier and then everything would be better…”

At this point they usually laugh a bit and look at me expectantly.

But I’ve heard this one before.

And my response is consistent.

‘Are you sure you want to outsource your happiness? 

Because it sounds an awful lot like you’re looking to strike a deal and its your happiness that you’re putting up as table stakes.

If you give me this, then I’ll give you that.  

But will you really?  

Are you going to live up to your side of the bargain?

If your bosses increase your incentive or (fill in the blank) they have every right to expect you to sign on the dotted line, head back to work and forever serve as a poster child for happiness.

I didn’t know that happiness could be sold so cheaply.

Your happiness is your responsibility – thank goodness!

Once you begin outsourcing at work, it spills over into your personal life as well (and vice versa).

‘If only my child gets into a good school…’

‘If only I could live in a better postal code closer to the sea…’

‘If only my partner would lose a few pounds…’ (oops!)

No one knows how to make you happy better than you.

And certainly no one is going to take better care of your happiness then you.

Avoid outsourcing your happiness.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to plan a better Workshop

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

You can run a better Workshop at your organization by following a few simple steps.

Every year, organizations plan workshops for their Employees – sometimes for a select few, other times for the Team at large.

A better Workshop has the potential to influence, inspire and provide clarity.

But one that is less well-run wastes time, money and impacts management credibility.

Here we share a few tips that will help your Workshop Leader deliver a better experience for your Participants.

1. Write a ‘Mission Statement’ for your Workshop

As with any important project, develop the Mission Statement or set of objectives early in the planning.

Of course you will tinker and tailor with the Mission Statement as you gather more input – but it’s a super important thing to begin with.

A great Mission Statement informs decisions ranging from selection of  content through to the seating arrangement.

Simple examples of mission statements are:

  • ‘As a result of this workshop we expect participants to better understand our current reasons for change and help them work through their Denial & Resistance phases…’
  • ‘After this workshop, we want better integration and bonding between those members of our Team who are newly hired and those who have been with us for some time…’
  • ‘We want participants to leave with a solid definition of Customer Experience, what it means, how it ‘works’ and how to bring it to life in their own work environment.’

Whether your Workshop Leader is the ‘main event’ or is one of several Speakers, understanding the Mission of your workshop helps.

2. Describe the expected audience in as much detail as practical

Audience composition matters.

If the audience is a mix of management and Front-line Team Members, its not appropriate to cover topics like ‘how to motivate staff’, or ‘how to improve staff performance’.

These are better reserved for a management-level audience only.

On the other hand, topics like “Stress Management”, “How to Enhance your Personal Brand” or “How to bring Customer Experience to Life’, can be quite relevant for a mixed level audience.

Be as specific as you can be.

For example –

The audience will consist of 10% senior management from all divisions, 30% middle management from the Sales & Marketing groups and 60% from the Frontline split evenly between Shops & Contact Centre.

3. Share the seating strategy

How seating is arranged and who sits where has a big impact on the success of a workshop.

If the setting is lecture style, such as in an auditorium, the Lecturer may decide to proceed with a one-way presentation (in the Ted Talks style).

Alternatively, they might break down the audience into sub-groups.

After all, a group of 100 is really nothing more than 20 sub-groups of 5 people each.

If there is to be group or table seating, define who is supposed to sit at which table.

If one of your objectives is to get folks to know each other better, avoid situations where management all sits together and staff all sits together.

Seating plans can be predetermined by the organizer or, if preferred, the Lecturer can help to establish the seating assignments.

The key is to let the Lecturer know the seating strategy ahead of time.

Workshop Leaders have a variety of effective and respectful workshop strategies to get participants to rotate to new locations if needed.

4. Define the role of the ‘Big Boss’

The role of the ‘Big Boss’ or bosses should be clarified before the start of the workshop.

Typical roles of the Big Boss in a workshop are to:

  • Address the audience at the beginning with the objectives of the Workshop and the desired outcomes from the Workshop
  • Share latest organizational news and updates
  • Reinforce the Vision and/or purpose of the workshop
  • Introduce the Speaker or Speakers
  • Observe participant reaction to the Workshop

Big Bosses should walk in prepared to deliver on their role and ideally ‘stick’ to that role and not improvise on the spot.

A Big Boss can easily take over the workshop if you’re not careful.

In a recent event, the senior management had to quietly ask the Big Boss to leave as their presence (and poor introduction) created a lot of fear in the room.

5. Let your Workshop Leader know how much time they will have

If one of the workshop objectives is to allow participants a chance to get to know each other, it’s likely that a long lunch and long tea breaks will be encouraged.

The workshop might be held on a weekend and so ends earlier than a normal working day.

Once introductions, tea breaks and lunch have been factored in (along with starting and ending times), your Workshop Leader will know how much ‘real’ time they will have for delivery.

While Workshop Leaders are obviously good at time management, there is a big difference between having 4.5 hours to present and. 6.0 hours to present.

6. Share the evaluations & feedback with your Workshop Leader

Successful Workshop Leaders learn from every session they conduct – whether its the 5th time or the 50th time they are presenting.

They appreciate the feedback.

Thank you for reading and here’s to better Workshops!

Daniel

No – your Team Member does not have an attitude problem

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s tempting to blame performance issues on attitude – but there is no such thing as an attitude problem.

When you’re responsible for leading and managing a group of Frontline staff, there are three things that you want:

  • Their Productivity
  • Their Quality
  • Their Attitude

We call this “P,Q & A” and when your Frontline is delivering on all three of these dimensions life is good.

Let’s focus on the “A” or Attitude dimension for this article.

Does your Staff have an attitude problem?

It’s quite normal to hear a Team Leader or Manager say “My Staff has an attitude problem.”

But is this true?

There’s no such thing as an ‘attitude problem’ because there are so many different attitudes at play in any job role.

If in the old days, a  Manager came into my office and said they had a staff with an attitude problem, I’d ask them to tell me specifically which attitude was the problem.

If they didn’t know which attitude, I’d suggest that they consider that – and come back later for another chat.

Was I being overly harsh?  I don’t think so.

Every job requires a certain set of attitudes to succeed.

As the boss, it’s our job to know the attitude requirements for any job role we manage.

What are some common Frontline attitudes?

Here are some common attitudes for the Frontline.  Of course be sure to formalize a definition for each one and add or subtract the ones that are relevant for you –

  • Adaptability and Flexibility
  • Attentiveness
  • Positive Attitude
  • Consistency
  • Confidence
  • Control
  • Goal-orientation
  • Teamwork

Nobody is a superstar at every attitude.

Some attitudes were inculcated in us through how we were raised.

Some we learned from trusted teachers and mentors.

Others were learned from role models, siblings and friends we admire.

Attitudes evolve and develop over time and with the right guidance.

Haven’t you ever looked back at your own career and sighed at how you lacked a particular attitude at some point – and how that impacted your work?

When helping someone develop an attitude the goal is that they end up making a conscious choice to ‘adopt’ the attitude.

To begin to believe in it for their own personal success.

Know what levels of attitude you need

When I conduct interviews, I find that some Candidates aren’t aware of some common workplace attitudes.

This is not meant to be judgemental.  It has so much to do with their own personal exposure.

I have to decide, in advance, which attitudes I’m willing to cultivate over time versus which attitudes I require from the get-go.

So before the interview, I list out the attitudes required for success in the job role and give a ‘minimum rating level’ for that attitude at hiring.

As an example, on a scale of 1 to 6 (with 6 being highest), my attitude criteria for hiring might be:

  • Adaptability and Flexibility – I look for a (5) at hiring
  • Attentiveness – I look for a (4) at hiring
  • Positive Attitude – I look for a (4) at hiring
  • Consistency – I look for a (3) at hiring
  • Confidence – I look for a (2) at hiring

Of course as time goes by, I expect to see higher levels of performance in the selected attitudes.

And that means I’ll need to provide regular discussion, coaching and feedback.

It’s not fair to leave people to figure it out on their own.

It’s important that Team Leaders and Manages have conversations about attitude with their staff

Managers don’t have enough conversations about ‘attitude’ with their staff.

It could be that they –

  • Don’t know the attitudes expected for the job role they manage
  • Aren’t sure it’s ok to talk about attitude(s)
  • May not know that the best way to build attitude in someone is to positively influence the individual

One litmus test comes up at the annual or bi-annual Performance Review exercise.

In most organizations, a few different Attitudes are included in the Performance Review with scoring such as ‘Exceeded Expectations” and “Met Expectations”.

If the staff undergoing the Performance Review has strong disagreements or concerns about the attitudinal ratings by their  Manager or the Manager is grasping at straws to justify their attitudinal ratings – there’s a problem.

Attitude ‘scores’ at performance reviews should never be a surprise to anyone.

In closing

The next time you hear someone say, my staff has an attitude problem – feel free to politely correct them and ask “which attitude are you referring to?”.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel & M&C Class

What resilience looks like – what I learned training persons with disabilities

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

I’ve had the privilege of training persons with disabilities to become Contact Centre Agents – and I’ve learned a lot about what resilience looks like

resilience
rɪˈzɪlɪəns/
noun
  1. 1.
    the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

Employers talk a lot about resilience these days.

Commonly described as the capacity to deal with life’s daily pressures, resilience is valued as much as a great attitude or killer resume.

Because today work is uncertain.

And Employers need people with the moxie to stick with things.

People who tap on their internal resources and deal with the ebb and flow of life at work.

But a lot of folks make complaining about work a national pastime.

“The boss is terrible, no one knows what’s going on, the pay rises are so low, everyone gets better benefits than us…”  

The list is long.

What if you were disabled?

Excerpted from the Singapore Straits Times, June 12, 2016:

In a survey released last month by Singapore philanthropic house Lien Foundation, findings suggest that Singaporeans are tolerant towards, rather than accepting of, those with special needs.

64 per cent of the more than 1,000 people polled saying they believe Singaporeans are willing to share public spaces but not interact with the special needs community.

And a survey of 1,000 people with disabilities, released earlier this month by the National Council of Social Service, found that 62 per cent do not feel they are included, accepted, given opportunities to contribute or reach their potential by society.

I train up persons with disabilities to prepare them to work as Contact Centre Agents earlier 

With our assistance, most begin looking for jobs right after completing their program with us.

A few of our students had been employed earlier and they shared stories of their past job experiences.

“Anne” had been hired into a large Contact Centre (prior to our training).

She was assigned to a Team.

But rather than sit with the Team she was asked to work on the ground floor.  Her Team was located on the second floor.

Later on she found out that the seating arrangement had been orchestrated to allow the company to claim a government subsidy.

In her first week at work she was not formally introduced to the other Team Members in her Team.

Over the next months, she was not invited to participate in Team activities.

She told me that she felt that her disability made others uncomfortable – including her new boss.

And her own natural reserve held her back from expressing how she felt to her boss.

Her one year contract was not renewed – and no explanation was provided to her as to the reason.

Ultimately, after joining the Contact Centre Professional Training, Anne found a new position working in the hospitality sector.

She tells us she is happy and that she feels well integrated into her new place.

A number of our students experienced a traumatic accident which resulted in the loss of a limb or the loss of the ability to walk

For these folks, disabled ‘later in life’, the first challenge was to overcome the trauma and recovery associated with the accident.

Then came the changed the second challenge.

The social reality of trying to reintegrate back into society.  And the desire to get back to work and fulfill their potential.

Everyone has a story

OmniTouch - Photo 117Work today can be tough.  And everyone has a story.                                                      But folks with disabilities – the ones I see turn up to class day after day to actively learn new knowledge & skills – deserve our consideration.

Never have I seen participants so motivated to learn, so friendly and courteous.

They were eager to work and use their new skills in their new jobs.

They are resilient indeed.

Thank you for reading!

Marcus

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why your call quality doesn’t deliver on Customer experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Call quality in today’s Contact Centres hasn’t improved enough to keep up with today’s Customer expectations.

Recently we released a new training course – “How to have Great Conversations with your Guests & Customers”.

Within days, we received a number of inquiries from banks, hotels and even two shopping centres.

While the industries were different, the inquiry was the same.

“Dan – we’ve got the Team to a level of standardization and compliance.

But despite that fact that we are an amazing company in our industry, we still have to urge (push, pull, scream) to get our Frontline staff to engage in conversation with our Guests & Customers.”

That got us to thinking – why isn’t call quality getting better?

Why do Team Members in hotels & retail environments sound so robotic?

The call mix has changed

What Customers called about 10, 5 or even 2 years ago has changed.

In a North American study, 41% of voice-calls received in Contact Centres were driven by failures in other channels.

So voice-based Centres are transitioning into channel-resolution Centres.  Working to solve more complex and challenging inquiries than ever before.

When you’re dealing with more complex inquiries, the stakes are higher.

A nice tone of voice and saying the Customer name two times isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Proportionally calls related to difficult situations have gone up

Ask any mid to long time Contact Centre Agent about the behavior of Customers today.

They will tell you that their Customers are more demanding.

Your longer-serving Agents might feel that organizational performance has declined over time.  A direct result given the increase in the volume and intensity of difficult situations.

That’s an important leadership challenge that needs to be addressed before the Centre shifts into ‘all Customers are jerks’ mode which is an experience killer.

If you’re an Agent who thinks Customers are jerks, your call quality is bound to suffer.

Contact Centres as an industry remain siloed

Unlike industries such as health-care, law, accounting and the like, Contact Centres are deeply tied to their vertical organization with rew ties to the ‘horizontal industry’ at large.

This means that the folks running the Centres might not have the necessary knowledge, skills and exposure to run multi-channel or omni-channel environments.

Once a Contact Centre has managed to achieve a ‘base-level’ of performance around Operations & Quality, a Business As Usual inertia sets in.

A sense that ‘we’ve done it, we’re there – so for heaven’s sake don’t rock the boat by changing anything now’.

So what is this mysterious Wow Factor everyone talks about?

You still hear the terms, Wow Factor, Go the Extra Mile, Customer delight – but it’s very seldom that Contact Centre leadership can define it well.

How can an Agent deliver this mysterious Customer Delight factor if their bosses can’t even define it?

No – this is not an Agent attitude problem.

This is a management failure.

And the lessons of Customer Experience teach us that consistent (good) performance beats isolated Wow Factors every time.

That doesn’t mean ignore Wow.  It simply means that you have to get the consistency right before you design the Wow.

You can’t build a house with Legos

Of course behaviors like tone of voice, etiquette and courtesies matter – but they are expected and don’t really provide differentiation.

When you listen to calls across organizations in the same locale or region, it all sounds pretty much the same.

Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy calls it the ‘blight of the bland’.

I love that term, despite its inherent negativity.

What you get these days when you call a Contact Centre is truly bland – not great, not bad – serviceable.

I’ve yet to meet a Contact Centre Manager who promotes the mantra of ‘Let’s be Serviceable!’

So why is this so common?

Primarily because most Centre leadership and Quality Assurance Teams focus heavily on the compliance standards like ‘fillers’ and ‘use the Customer’s name 3 times in a conversation’.

Agents become compliance driven – because that is what their bosses tell them they want.

And it’s what they hear their bosses talk about every day.

It’s unreasonable and illogical to expect Agents to suddenly dig deeper into their souls and find a way to ‘wow’ Customers when their ‘Quality life’ revolves around tick-marks on compliance-based behaviors.

Recently a senior executive said to me – “We are the most famous hotel in a famous country – surely my Staff can find something to chat about with the Customer!”

While on paper that sounds reasonable, at the Agent level we can’t operate on wish fulfillment.

It’s like expecting flowers to bloom in the desert.

So what can differentiate?

In today’s CX environment, the standard bundle of KPIs that exist in many Centres continues the blight of the bland.

To be differentiate, we find that there are 3 common things – across industries – that Agents can bring to life in their conversations.

The ability to deliver any of these involves a variety of other competencies including listening, empathy, confidence, product knowledge and the like.

  • Relevant opinions

    Imagine you call for a dining reservation in the restaurant of your hotel and after a brief but valuable conversation, the Agent provides their informed ‘opinion’. “In my opinion sir, you’d be happier in the La Sala restaurant as it carries a wider selection of dishes as compared to our La Marina restaurant which is exclusively fine dining and for which options are more limited…”

  • Appropriate Recommendations

    Recommendations are linked to opinions but stronger in depth & intensity.

    “Sir, thanks for answering all my questions. Based on your situation I’d recommend that you take the XX version of our product – while it’s a bit lower than our higher end solution – it will serve you well based on the parameters we spoke about. It’s always superb to hear a Contact Centre Agent use the phrase “I recommend” appropriately (i.e. after careful listening and weighing of options – not simply pushing a product or service).

  • Conveyance of Emotion

    There are so many definitions and descriptions of this important topic and it’s a topic we never tire of studying. One of the best and simplest definitions I’ve seen is this – “The Guest or Customer leaves the interaction feeling better than they did entering it.” 

When it comes to creating a positive emotional experience with a Customer (or at the very least mitigating a negative experience), it’s important to understand that it’s not achieved by tacking on a new KPI such as “Small Talk”.

It’s a matter of rethinking the entire conversation and learning how to identify solid opportunities to express opinions, recommendations and trigger emotions.

Some time back we did a Mystery Shopper which involved asking Agents about the various attractions to be found in a resort.

The question was this – “Can you tell me about the Aquarium?” .

The answer was, “It has fish”.

You can’t build a house using Legos.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

How Mystery Shopper Research contributes to the Customer Experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share how Mystery Shopper Research contributes to the Customer Experience by looking at the first dimension of Customer Experience.

It’s great to see everybody studying Customer journeys

Customer journey review has a powerful impact on the decisions you make around serving Customers.

And Mystery Shopper researchers have been studying Customer journeys for years.

Let’s see where Mystery Shopper fits into the Customer Experience.

There are 3 dimensions to the Customer experience

An article on Customer Experience triggered this article on Mystery Shopper research.

Bruce Temkin wrote that there are three dimensions to consider when studying a Customer experience –

  1. The actual experience – what really happened
  2. The Customer’s perception of the experience – how the Customer perceived the experience
  3. The Customer’s reaction to the experience – what the Customer does after the experience

The achievement of the perfect Customer experience occurred at Dimension #2 – the Customer’s perception of the experience.

And that makes absolute sense.  Because as we know, perception = reality.

Dimension #3 – the Customer’s reaction to the experience – is where the Return on Investment lies.

Reactions like brand advocacy, telling X number of other people and posting positive reviews on social media.

“The perfect Customer experience is a set of interactions that consistently exceed the needs and expectations of a Customer…

While the outcome of delivering great customer experiences will hopefully turn many Customers into advocates, I don’t think an experience is any less great if a Customer keeps her satisfaction to herself.”

I think Mystery Shopper is a brilliant tool to assess Dimension #1 – the actual Customer experience – or what really happened.

So what really happened?

Mystery Shopper tells you what ‘really happens’.  Not what you hope will happen or not what you think happens.

Because what really happens drives the Customer’s perception of what happened.

You can measure simple compliance aspects – the plasma screens were working, the flowers were fresh, the name tags were worn, the live chat session was picked up quickly.

Or you can evaluate more complex behaviours – empathy was demonstrated, the upsell attempt was well executed, the ambience was warm.

You can evaluate simple journeys – like buying a mattress.

Or more complex journeys like making an insurance claim.

If things work the way you designed them to work, you generate better Customer emotion, perception and memory.

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

But things don’t always work the way you think they do

Sometimes, the actual experience doesn’t work the way senior management thinks it does.

For example, the calls didn’t get picked up, the emails were not replied to, the service quality was not up to standard.

Or to get digital, the FAQ system didn’t load, the ecommerce process failed, the online submission got stuck, the IVR sent the call to the wrong queue.

Too often assumptions are made about ‘how well’ things are actually working.

I remember a very memorable Mystery Shopper program where not a single email was replied to within a 2 week despite a 3 day turnaround promise.

Sometimes the bad news is hidden out of fear

It’s a bad scenario – but it happens a lot.

Internal Employees ensure that data is ‘scrubbed’ before it is presented to senior management.

That’s because, the fear of senior management reprisal is so strong that the cultural belief is that it’s better to mask bad results than deal with the senior fallout.

Not a great recipe for Customer Experience.

Three examples of what was ‘really happening out there’ which ended up surprising everyone

In this last section we share three  examples of what we uncovered with Mystery Shopper research:

A software company

We were conducting Mystery Shopper Research on the email touchpoint of a global tech company. We were writing emails in Chinese to test their China operations team.

After 3 days we had not received a single reply. This was strange because the promised turnaround time was 24 hours.

We alerted the Client who then alerted their internal Operations folks.

It turned out that because of an incorrect setting in the webserver, the Chinese language emails had been inadvertently forwarded to the U.S.

And the U.S. team had not actioned on their side to ask why they were receiving these emails in Chinese.

A Telecoms company

We were conducting a review of Customer service enquiries for the prepaid services of a well known mobile company. We had been instructed to press a certain sequence of options on the IVR menu.

All options ‘read out’ correctly as we pressed each button but when we reached the last option the phone line was automatically disconnected.

We reported this to the Client within two days of discovery but the intelligence wasn’t action-ed.

A couple of months later, we were presenting the results to the Board.  When we shared the finding about the IVR, a very senior person at the table told us that this was impossible and such a thing would never happen at their company.

A member of the audience grabbed the high tech speakerphone on the conference table, pressed the sequence we had cited and oops – the call was disconnected.

Of course the room went silent so we diplomatically pulled the attention back to the presentation at hand.

Now that was a stressful moment.

A beer company

We were engaged to test the promotional capabilities of brand ambassadors for a European beer brand.

If the brand ambassador mentioned just one or two ‘promotional’ phrases to the Customer s part of the Guest ordering a beer, they received an on-the-spot gift voucher as a reward.

At the start of the program, the Client was convinced that their top-down training and campaign mechanics had been widely disseminated across the Team.

But early into the program, the scores on sharing the promotional messaging came in significantly lower than expected.

This finding triggered innovative discussions on how to better get the brand message out to the Team.

We were impressed because this was the right way to receive the message – not allocate blame – but find solutions.

Follow-up Mystery Shopper work validated that the new innovations had worked.

In closing

Here I’ve shared just 3 simple examples of how professional Mystery Shopper research can be used to validate Dimension #1 – what really happened with the Customer experience.

Armed with accurate Dimension #1 intelligence, the organization can ensure that it has put everything into place that it needs and wants to create a particular experience for its Customers.

From there, VOC programs, VOE programs, Unsolicited Feedback and Ethnographic Research can take over for Dimension #2 – the Customer’s perception of the experience.

And of course, from there, we hope that the Customer will bring us ROI through the actions taken after the experience such as referring us to others.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

To the Contact Centre industry – are we living in a siloed world?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s common for Contact Centre practitioners to complain about the siloed thinking that exists in their organizations.  And any CX professional is going to bring up siloed thinking when they talk about the challenges of implementing Customer experience strategies.

But in this short article I consider a different perspective.

The perspective that the Contact Centre industry itself

Really?

Last week in an operations class, we had a lively chat about the value of Contact Centre tours.

Alice shared,

“Yes Dan, you’re right. I went with two other colleagues on an official Contact Centre tour here in Singapore and every time we asked a question we were that information was confidential.”

“You asked about Available Time right?”

“Yes we did.  We wondered at that time – before taking operations – if there was some industry standard for Available rate. They told us that their Available Time level was confidential.”

At that, our entire group burst out laughing,

Since when was Available Time – which can be easily guessed at or calculated with Erlang C – a confidential statistic?

Sometimes I’m not sure whether to laugh or sigh in despair.

Breaking down silos

Contact Centre professionals have complained for years about how tough it can be to build cross-functional relationships within their organization.

Marketing keeps releasing promotions without informing the Center.  Operations changes their procedures.  Legal changes terms & conditions and so on.

But the role of senior levels in the Contact Center is to work up and out.

To educate organizational management and cross-functional management on the Contact Center value proposition.

To their credit – some Contact Center leaders have done just that.

Improve the visibility and value of their Center throughout the organization.

Better communications, more supportive colleagues and enhanced morale for Centre employees who understand that their work is valued and has purpose.

On the other hand – many have not.  And the internal reputation of their Centre remains mixed at best.

But at the Contact Centre industry level Centers remain deeply cut-off from each other

A phrase that rattles my nerves is when a senior executive – anywhere – tells us how ‘different’ they are from everybody else.

I’ve even had one tell me that they weren’t a Contact Center at all (they were).

On average, I meet anywhere from 75 – 100 Centers each year and though the vertical industry may be different (hospitality vs. healthcare – banking vs. consumer goods) it’s still a Contact Center.

But most Center Management staff that I meet have worked in perhaps one or two Centers in their career (to date) and their view of the Contact Center industry is rather narrow and deeply influenced by how their organization views the Center.

A simple test I like to conduct is this.

I ask Participants what industry they are in and the answer should beThe Contact Center industry.

That answered can then be followed by – “And yes – I work in the Insurance/Telecoms/Public Sector vertical…”.

It’s a simple and wonderful exercise to see how people view their role within their organization – as well as their view of the industry.

When you are a Consultant, you tend to see the some problems and opportunities over and over.

I had a case where one Center was struggling with upselling while there was another Center literally 1 km away that had sorted out upselling.

But the odds of these two Centers – operating within walking distance of each other – meeting up and sharing ideas is super unlikely.

What about the Associations?

Associations across countries (and I’ve worked with a few) have to first survive before they can flourish.

And in the the markets where we operate the most, the best way for an Association to survive is to offer Awards.

So while their official names (and promotional copy) may involve the phrase “Contact Center industry body” it’s probably more accurate to say “Contact Center awards issuing body”.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

Do the Associations launch more (valuable) industry-wide initiatives such as education, bench-marking and industry development (which involve significant and specialized resources to attract more Members and revenue)?

Or do they focus in on the Awards process – which certainly attracts a predictable core base of Awards seekers – and hope to achieve a surplus for that year which could potentially be channeled into more industry-wide initiatives later on?

Just a couple of days ago I had a Client write to me and thank me for connecting them up with folks in other organizations who are going through exactly the same channel implementation process.

She wrote further – “Dan, if you could organize a group of Team Leaders from different organizations that can meet to cross-share that would be great – we feel very isolated and would love to be able to bounce off ideas and learnings with others.”

When I wrote back I admit that I felt a bit guilty.

I said that while it was a great idea – and we certainly enable a lot of cross-sharing within our own students.

But we didn’t really have a mechanism yet in place for creating large group cross-sharing.

I wrote that they should contact the national Association as I felt that this would fall under their purview and it seemed relevant to a non-profit vision.

But I’m now seriously thinking about how to accomplish this on our own given the apparent gap that’s out there.

What about Contact Center tours?

I’ve been in the industry a long time – working in both the outsource and captive worlds.

Presumably because of my ability to present well I was almost always the one picked to conduct the tour for outsiders, Clients & prospective Clients.

For most company cultures, Contact Center tours are meant to show off and impress – and they are invariably highly staged.

In some cases Tour Members are not even allowed into the Center – they spend most of their time in a conference room receiving a PowerPoint presentation.

In my training work I remind my students that a lot of what happens in a Contact Center is invisible – you can’t see Quality, you can’t see Customer Experience, you can’t see Employee Engagement, you can’t see Leadership.

I’d love to attend a tour (and I’d pay for the privilege) where the Director tells us about all the big mistakes they made and how they fixed them.

A talk where they are willing to peel back the veneer and share the journey.

When the tours are arranged around Centers that have won Awards – well there is even more pressure on these folks to ‘look good’ and in some way justify their status as Awards Winners.

I am certain there are indeed Awards winners and Contact Center tour providers who open their hearts and minds to their audience.

But these will be the pleasant exception – not the rule.

Is your Service Level really classified information?

As a final point for this short article I have to wonder about who makes the decisions about what information is ‘classified’ and what information might be made available to Contact Center practitioners from other organizations.

The moment that a Center’s Available Time rate becomes confidential I worry about the ongoing health of our dynamic and inspiring industry.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

How to implement a Skills Training program that works

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

There are few things to remember when you want your Skills Training program to work.

Remember when it was always about Customer contacts by phone?

Sure – phone matters (we’ve become channel resolution centres after all) – but so does email, live chat and social media.

Video chat? Coming soon.

Chances are your internal Trainers don’t have the exposure or expertise to help your Frontline folks exceed Customer expectations across channels.

So, if you’re looking to bring in an external Training partner to drive Customer experience, what considerations should you look at to ensure a roll-out that works?

In this short article I share a few ideas.

Start with the Management Team FIRST

After you’ve established your objectives and selected your provider – the first group of folks that need to go through ‘training’ is the Management Team.

There is sometimes an implicit belief that the Managers know it already.

But that’s absolutely not true.

In fact, one of the reasons that you decided to engage an external provider was because your internal Employees didn’t have the exposure or expertise needed to deliver on rising Customer expectations.

Your Managers have a lot to learn – and decide – before any roll-out of skills training to the Frontline.

Will monitoring forms change? What attributes matter more, which matter less? Do templates have to be rewritten? Do Customer survey mechanisms need to be updated?

Can Managers articulate what Productivity, Quality & Attitude look like for the channel?

If not, then they’re not in any position to move your improvement initiative forward.

All these items can be discussed and considered openly when a Management training session (or two) takes place before a roll-out to the Frontline.

It’s embarrassing – but here are things that happen when Organizations don’t begin a skills roll-out with Managers first

Managers attend for the first 30 minutes or hour of the skills training and then slip off – and don’t think your Team Members didn’t notice.

They did.

If you’re not going to bother to attend the entire session it’s better that you don’t show up at all (unless you are there to to introductions of course).

It’s equally painful to have a session where the Managers sit together and all the rest of the Staff is spread out on their own.

Frontline Team Members express confusion during the skills training (when the bosses aren’t around).

In Email writing classes it is quite common to hear Team Members express frustration that their Managers focus heavily on things like grammar or spelling vs. how to really enhance email writing skills.

In Live Chat training, many Frontliners tell us that their Managers don’t give much advice at all – so they conclude (correctly in most cases) that their Managers actually don’t know where or how to help with Live Chat.

Team Members go back from training knowing more than their Managers do. And that’s a guaranteed recipe for a fall-back to the status quo – or the dreaded ‘business as usual’.

Because if the Managers weren’t part of the change process for excellence they’ll actually end up blocking the change (whether passively or actively).

Make decisions about Monitoring Forms, Survey Questions, Quality Assurance protocols, Templates and the like before you roll-out training to Frontliners

Training is just one piece of the channel puzzle.

When well done, it informs and inspires.

But after training your Participants will go back to work – back to their eco-system.

Ask yourself – did we update the eco-system to reflect new learnings and objectives?

Or are things exactly the same as they were before?

Still missing good coaching? Monitoring forms are lame or non-existent? Customer survey questions about the channel experience aren’t updated? Performance mechanisms haven’t changed?

The best people are still broken by a bad process.

If there is one thing that’s worse than not training at all – it’s to train but not review and update the entire channel eco-system.

This sets people up to fail.

One of our Clients who approached training as a ‘system’ and not just as an event called their program an “Email Makeover” for their organization – and everyone’s on board.

That’s how it is supposed to be.

Consider follow-up processes including Digital Contact Audit & Mystery Shopper

So you’ve organized your eco-system and you’ve trained all the Team Members involved.

Cool.

Want to see how it’s going? Ensure that Team Members are pulling together to implement change?

Consider a follow-up Mystery Shopper or Digital Contact Audit.

Make it known that this will happen – involve folks in the design of the Mystery Shopper or Audit.

It makes a huge difference to the success of your implementation.

I hope these few tips are helpful and thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com