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Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s time to talk about that old favorite – Average Handling Time also known as AHT.

So put your feet up on the couch and tell the Dr. – for heaven’s sake, why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

 

The more you talk about AHT, the less you talk about Quality

I have a theory that’s been proven out over the years.

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret)  about AHT – the less they talk (or fret) about Quality.

Sure – Quality gets lip service (who’s going to bash Quality?) – but it’s AHT that reigns supreme.

And for some inexplicable reason, it’s almost always about the Agents.

Yeah – you know – those Agents who brush their teeth in the bathroom mirror every morning and plot how to sabotage AHT.

Hmmmm (they say to themselves) – how could I drag the calls today?” 

“A few more holds and a bit of nonsensical small talk and I’m sure I can knock AHT out of whack.”

Really?

Any Quality Assurance professional will tell you a simple truth

AHT flows from Quality.

It’s an output…a byproduct…an emission.

You know those Monitoring Forms with the checklists and standards that QA likes to hand out to let you know how you’re doing with regard to Quality?

Those Forms dictate your AHT.

Want Agents to use the Customer’s name 3x? Ok – that’ll be about 15 seconds.

Want Agents to say “Is there anything else I can do to help you today (and mean it)?” – that easily adds 7 more seconds.

Need Agents to conduct 2 levels of verification – yup – takes time.

Are you fearless enough to put First Contact Resolution on your Form? Well that’s gonna cost you too (in time that is).

If your Agent scores 100% quality on their call and you still have to talk to them about their AHT something’s wrong with the Form or something’s wrong with your Quality process.

As I like to say when I transition into ‘guru’ mode – when your Agent achieves Quality – and it just feels right – then AHT will be what it will be.

AHT flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from AHT!

Did you ever order chocolate lava cake for dessert in a restaurant? It’s delicious.

But the menu often says “please order early, or just be aware it will take about 20 minutes for us to make you this delicious chocolate lava cake”.

I’ve never seen it happen that a Diner bangs the table and says – “Hey, Chef baby – make me one of those delicious chocolate lava cakes in 10 minutes – you hear? ”

So what’s the best way to correct AHT at the Agent level?

The best way has always been – and it will continue to be – conducting root cause analysis at the Agent level.

Watch the Agent at work, listen to calls, correct what needs to be corrected (sometimes it’s a piece of equipment, sometimes it’s knowledge or skill).

When you fix Agent Quality – you automatically fix AHT.  It’s an outcome – not a driver.

Of course having a guideline helps.

AHT lends itself beautifully to measurement as an ‘acceptable range’.

For example an ‘acceptable’ range for your Centre AHT in the mornings might range from a low of 3 minutes to a high of 6 minutes.

I’d set my ‘acceptable’ range based on my high performers in quality – if your call is great quality-wise – then by default the AHT is acceptable. (if it isn’t something is broken in how you measure quality).

Armed with a range, you can track performance across your Team Members and identify outliers – for example those who are consistently above or below the acceptable range for that time period.

This approach allows you to focus in on folks who may have some barrier in their way.

Do remember though –

Acceptable ranges are not consistent throughout the day – most Centres see longer AHT in the night hours as compared to the morning hours (for example).

You have to adjust your ranges based on your call mix, Customer mix and the like.

If you’re in WFM or Process AHT matters

Of course – if you are in WFM or you are in Process improvement and/or Customer journey mapping, AHT is super important.

And WFM folks tend to understand that the biggest improvements in AHT come from technology and process improvement.

When you look at all the factors that ‘drive’ AHT, Agents themselves have only minor control over AHT – namely applying their knowledge, skills & abilities as trained and coached.

Industry-wide AHT for voice calls is going up

As the world increasingly becomes digital, Customers reach out to voice channels when their issue is complex or they are confused or unhappy with something.

Coupled with the digitization of ‘simple’ inquiries the outcome is clear – while voice volumes may be ‘stabilizing’ in volume for some Centres, AHT continues to climb.

Feel better? I do

In an era of Customer experience, it won’t do you or your Team Members any good to have an artificial clock ticking in their ear while trying to listen, empathize and resolve a Customer call.

If you’re a Manager or Team Leader who still harps on individual Agent AHT it’s time to rethink your value.

It’s not 1973 anymore.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Here’s some advice to become an industry award winner this year

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Your best chance at winning an award has to do with both the content of your entry and the style of your presentation.

When Awards seasons rolls around each year for Contact Centres & Customer Experience, I hear the same questions around ‘who’ will win the industry awards and ‘what’ they did to win awards.

One question that I hear a lot sounds like this –

Don’t the folks who ‘naturally’ present well have a better chance of winning than those of us who feel nervous presenting to a panel of Judges?”

It’s a fair question and I thought I’d share my perspective about Award winners coming from the judging point of view.

Yes – presentation matters

Judges are human beings.

And as human beings they respond well to a clear engaging manner, tone and body language.

In an industry based on communication & Customer experience, it’s understood that Candidates will serve as role models for communication & experience.

So do great presenters gain an edge over those that don’t present so well?

Absolutely they do.

I was watching a reality TV show last night where the Contestant managed to get the Judges smiling, laughing and exchanging glances with each other during their presentation.

Superb.

When I mentor Candidates for Awards I advise them to leave the Judges feeling better than when you walked in.

At the end of the judging day, after seeing so many Candidates, there are always certain folks that stand out in your mind. And it helps to be one of them.

Yes, content matters too.  And with expert Judges, even more than presentation.

I read a short post from a well respected Customer experience guru recently.

He had been invited to be a Judge at a Customer experience event in the UK.

His post was along the lines of –

“The Candidates were all very proud of what they had done. But from a CX maturity point of view, what they had done wasn’t all that impressive…”

That post really resonated with me.

Folks working in Contact Centres, Customer Service & Customer Experience talk constantly about how fast the industry is moving and how important it is to keep pace with Customer expectations.

But is the content shared during the judging process experimental? Or is it expected?

By now, Judges expect that you’ve got your process house in order.

The key now is to share what’s new, what’s different, what you’re trying now, what’s worked and what hasn’t.  This is the stuff Judges want to hear.

Imagine a simple matrix that measures Presentation quality on the vertical axis (from low to high) and Content quality on the horizontal axis (from low to high)

In the blue box we see –

Great presentation skills but expected or even less than expected content.

For example, it’s great that you do transaction coaching – shouldn’t everyone?

If you’re doing transaction coaching, tell us how it aligns to organizational goals and overall CX strategies.

Tell us how you continuously improved the process to make it more efficient and more effective over time.

Folks that operate within the blue box tend to be super happy with themselves and their organizations and that’s a great thing.

But being happy with yourself doesn’t mean you’re Award winning.

In the yellow box we see –

Less than stellar presentation but more than expected content.

As a Judge, I always assign more weight to content than I do to presentation skills.

In an industry as dynamic as ours, its those who try new things (and perhaps fail), that impress much more than those who are just getting the basics right.

To help me differentiate on content I also look a lot for those who face and work ‘outwards’ vs. those who work or face ‘inwards’.

Inward looking Candidates focus on their Centre (or department) and what happens in the Centre. There’s typically a lot of discussion on KPIs.  It becomes very touchpoint focused.

Inward looking Candidates talk less (if at all) about the Centre as part of a larger eco-system or as a key contributor to overall organizational purpose & objectives.

You don’t hear much about the linkages between the Centre and the Organization at large.

You don’t hear enough about journeys.

Outward looking Candidates talk about their role within the larger organization and share their wins (and failures) in achieving organizational purpose & objectives.

In particular I look for thought leadership and the breaking down of organizational silos.

You hear a lot more about journeys.

In the world of Customer experience, none of us is an island.

It’s exciting to listen to and interact with outward facing folks who seem to understand that.

 

Today people throw around the words ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’ willy nilly and often without context.

But when you listen to Awards presentations you seldom hear much that sounds innovative or disruptive.

Perhaps there is a misguided perception that it is better to play it safe.  But that makes for a dull presentation.

 

 In the red box we see –

The Winners – or at least those who deserve to win.

Memorable presentation combined with inspiring content.

 

 

 

 

 

In the green box we see –

Individuals & Centres who were pushed into the Awards process.

Some Organizations just throw in a bunch of Candidates with the hope that they just might win an Award.

We also see the Candidates & Organizations that waited till the last minute to prepare.   To Judges, this lack of preparation is blatantly obvious.

As the years go by, the gap between high performing Awards entrants and low performing Awards entrants is widening.

In short, the good Candidates are really good, while the not so good Candidates can feel achingly behind.

This is one reason why I always advise individuals to try and work for the very best organizations that they can.

The odds of learning and growing are always better when you work for a better organization.

In closing

I heartily support entering a quality Awards program.

I think that the process of entering makes you smarter and better.  And that the more seriously you take the process, the more you get out of it.

But as you prepare for Awards season – hopefully months in advance – consider the role of Content and the role of Presentation.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

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[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

You can’t have Customer Experience without having some courage too

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Organizations aren’t courageous, people are. And Customer experience takes courage.

Cowardly Lion: All right, I’ll go in there for Dorothy. Wicked Witch or no Wicked Witch, guards or no guards, I’ll tear them apart. I may not come out alive, but I’m going in there. There’s only one thing I want you fellows to do. 

Tin Man, Scarecrow: What’s that? 

Cowardly Lion: Talk me out of it! 

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

In the Wizard of Oz, the Cowardly Lion hopes the Wizard will give him courage – only to learn by the film’s end that he had it all along.

Lucky fella – he just needed a bit of coaching & self-discovery.

But in the real world – especially when it comes to Customer experience (CX) – courage isn’t so easy to come by.

And without courage, all the brains and heart in the world won’t propel your organization to CX success.

Have you ever worked with a CX Champion?

A lot’s been written about what CX Champions do.

But what’s less considered is the sheer amount of courage (and stamina) it takes for CX Champions to –

  • Challenge cultural norms & group think
  • Break down organizational silos & redefine measures of success
  • Change processes & the way people work, both individually and together

I always find it interesting when – 1, 2 or 3 years down the line – a successful CX Champion is interviewed or writes an article that documents the success of their CX leadership.

The whole company is in love with this person – thousands of likes or views.

Success always has a thousand parents.

But consider this person’s first month on the job – or fourth or sixth.

It’s like dancing in mud.

Common business folklore says you’ve got about 9 months to achieve tangible results – the length of a pregnancy.

But because CX is as much a change initiative as it is a business strategy – and change – especially in mid to large sized organizations – never happens easily – and results are more likely to come 18 months and onward (that’s two consecutive pregnancies if you’re counting).

Without a CX Champion – your internal CX team will struggle

It’s tempting to think you can throw together a team of existing employees and they’ll figure CX out.

Not so long ago we got a request from a huge Singapore company to send us copies of all of our reports because they were looking for CX vendors and were going to use report samples to make the decision.

Really?

With the heavy gravitational pull of organizational culture – and don’t underestimate it – it’s not easy existing Team Members to rise to the level of courage required to drive change.

A lesson that should have been already learned

Go back in time – perhaps 10 – 15 years ago in Asia – earlier in the U.S.

Look at the first implementations of full scale Contact Centres or CRM strategies in mid to large sized organizations.

I remember this time well.

Organizations that attempted these very big and new things – with existing Team Members in charge – really struggled.

In many cases they pursued incorrect objectives & strategies for years – only to finally fix things with the strategic hire of someone from the outside who knew what they were doing.

Other organizations got off to a good start – but their Champion was woo’d away by another organization. For these cases you could almost hear the air escaping from the tires.

Given the valuable lessons that should have been learned from past Contact Centre & CRM initiatives, why would organizations put themselves through this all over again with CX?

Are corporate memories really that short?

Maybe there was a reason Dorothy met the Lion last

I don’t know if there was a reason that the author of the Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, introduced Dorothy’s companions in the order that he did.

Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow – the brains.

Then the Tin Man. His song and dance immediately touched the hearts of Dorothy and the Scarecrow.

But funny enough, it’s only as I’ve gotten older that I’ve come to really appreciate the role of the Cowardly Lion.

In this new age, courage matters.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

 

Dear Contact Centre Agents – please stop pushing Customers to self-help

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article examines the Customer experience impact of pushing Callers to self help options as a method to improve Contact Center productivity.

There are some odd approaches to achieving Contact Center productivity.

One of my least favorite is what I call Tai Chi’ing the Customer.

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.

Go to abc.com and you’ll find everything there.

Oooh ah – punch – go away – ack!

Short, sweet – unhelpful.

It’s Tai Chi’ing when you push someone to self-help without offering to help first

Can you imagine you’re sunning at the local swimming pool and you see someone struggling to stay afloat in the deep end?

Look! (you shout) Just grab that orange floaty thing a few meters from you and you’ll be fine!

Unlikely – I assume you’d jump in an help – wouldn’t you?

 

Designed journeys have exception handling too

Sure – perhaps the digital journey had been planned such that the Customer would have utilized the website.

After all the concept of opti-channel refers to the best channel for a particular Customer performing a particular task.

But when you offer multiple channels, you make a promise to honor the Customer regardless of which channel (or channels) they decide to use.

When I work with students in CX 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 anyway.

At a big picture level, we have to honor them and help get the job done.”

Astute journey mapping experts will recognize that in the case of self-service (website, online FAQs and the like), some ratio of the voice calls received in the Centre will have placed by Customers after trying self-service first – and where the self-service option failed to deliver the desired information (or might have required too much effort to find).

So 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.

 

There is a danger when measuring service through a compliance lens

We had been working with a large institution on their Mystery Shopper program.

To allow for trending period over period (in this case years) – compliance standards for measurement had not been refreshed or updated for years.

So – when tabulations were done, the scores were (as expected) good.

All the greetings, closings and using Customer names ‘two times’ needed to generate and show off great results to senior management.

But during analysis of the conversations, we had picked up on the extensive use of the Tai Chi approach (that’s what good Mystery Shopper providers do).

Unfortunately, that finding was considered incidental at best.

If this had been a real Customer experience-based Mystery Shopper program, the measurements would have been different – and learnings around the use of Tai Chi to handle Customers would have been embraced and action-ed differently.

 

As I say widely and often these days – if your Mystery Shopper program delivers the results you had hoped for or expected you’re probably doing it wrong.

 

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 – had 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.

Of course, if the website does not provide an easy reference – this becomes business intelligence that can be aggregated and funneled to the CX Team for review and enhancement of that touchpoint.

And it’s the reduction of a future call that makes the big difference in your Contact Centre productivity.

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

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

The risks of channel blending in a Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article is about the risks inherent in channel blending in Contact Centres.

Channel blending is defined as having Agents work on different types of contacts coming in – simultaneously.

This is a different scenario than having multi-skilled Agents handle different types of contacts coming in – but at different time intervals.

These days with more channels of communication – channel blending seems like a logical approach to improve productivity.

But there are risks inherent in channel blending that Contact Centre management need to factor into planning decisions.

 

If you don’t know already – please learn your Erlang C

Yup – your Contact Centre Agents have Available time.

Available time results from the dynamic of random contact arrival – with the outcome that at some times your Agent is ‘occupied’ while at other times they are ‘available’.

The following formula applies:

Occupancy Rate + Available Rate = 100% for any given period of time

So if your Agent is 85% occupied that means they are experiencing a 15% availability  rate over the same period.

Let’s do some math using an hour as time basis:

  • 85% Occupancy x 60 minutes = 51 minutes of being occupied
  • 5% Available x 60 minutes = 9 minutes of being available

But those 9 minutes – spread over the course of an hour – come in bits and bursts.

5 seconds here…42 seconds there…1 minute here and so on.

So the question is – does it really work to ask your Agents to handle other contacts at the same time during these bits & bursts of Available Time?

Obviously, when Occupancy rates are very low, it makes sense to switch attention to other work.

But in Contact Centres which aim to achieve Service Level interval after interval, Occupancy rates don’t fluctuate wildly.

 

Channel blending – handling multiple channels of contact at the same time 

Can Agents viably handle channels such as Live Chat or Emails while logged in to handle Voice calls at the same time (or over the same time period)?

Smart practitioners and organizations that pursue Customer Experience say no.

It all sounds so good on paper so why not?

It’s simple.

Quality and the Customer Experience (and all that goes with it like First Contact Resolution) will suffer in this scenario.

Try writing a clear and well presented reply to a Customer email while being interrupted any number of times by Voice calls.

Try jumping back and forth between a Live Chat (or three) and a Voice call and ensure you handle them all well.

Now try doing this hour after hour, day after day, month after month.

I watch a lot of industry recruitment videos and in these videos you hear about the need for a Contact Centre/Customer Service professional to listen well and give their undivided attention to the Customer. To create a memorable and positive experience to build loyalty and trust.

All noble stuff.

But the implementation of channel blending (as defined in this article) flies directly in the face of great Customer Service and is a bit hypocritical at the end of the day.

 

Wikipedia gives us this gem for multi-tasking

Human multi-tasking is an apparent human ability to perform more than one task, or activity, over a short period of time.

An example of multi-tasking is taking phone calls while typing an email and reading a book.

Multi-tasking can result in time wasted due to human context switching and apparently causing more errors due to insufficient attention.

Jeff Toister, a Customer Service expert, writes –

Multi-tasking and Customer Service don’t mix.

  • We can only process one conscious thought at a time
  • Multi-tasking slows us down
  • We make more errors when we multi-task

I recommend reading Jeff’s full article on the topic at the link below – it’s a winner.

http://www.toistersolutions.com/blog/2014/5/19/one-thing-that-makes-multitasking-five-times-more-dangerous

Wikipedia carries on with the origin of the term ‘multi-tasking’:

The first published use of the word “multi-task” appeared in an IBM paper describing the capabilities of the IBM System 360 in 1965.

In this context, “multi-tasking” refers to the ability of a computer to apparently process several tasks, or computer jobs, concurrently.

The term has since been applied to human tasks.

 

It’s not about the attitude of your Frontline Team Members

Recently I met a Contact Centre Agent at a workshop and she said that yes – it had been hard to handle multiple channels at the same time – but she seemed to chalk it up to attitude.

‘Dan – it was hard – especially at the beginning. But I have a correct attitude so I really tried and got used to it over time…’

But let’s take that argument a bit further.

For those who struggle with handling multiple channels at the same time does this mean that they don’t have the right attitude?

Her statement made me sad because I had to wonder – how many others out there in the industry are blaming attitude on their failure to achieve ‘success’ in channel blending.

 

The world has changed

Most Contact Centres recognize that their call mix has changed radically over the past years.

Nowadays the voice channel is not the ‘first choice’ for most and tends to be utilized for only the more complex or challenging situations.

This means the Agent job role has become even more difficult than it was before (just ask an Agent).

 

Organizations that focus on Customer experience allow their Agents to deliver on the Customer experience – especially when faced with increasing complexity.

 

Channel blending is not about being Omni-channel

Omni-channel is about the Customer experience.

Being able to maintain a seamless, ‘single’ conversation with a Customer across multiple channels of communication.

But being ‘Omni-channel’ – a Customer experience strategy – is not the same as Channel blending which damages the Customer experience (as well as the Agent experience).

Does it make sense to train Team Members across different channels of communication?

Absolutely!

This is where the work can get really interesting for the Agent and the planning gets much easier for the Centre.

Handling different channels, at different scheduled intervals, is a sign of healthy forecasting & scheduling.

Channel blending, though beautiful on paper, is a misguided attempt to achieve productivity.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

You have to make yourself uncomfortable to become comfortable

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

When you own a business, you have no choice but to put yourself into situations that you find uncomfortable – personal growth is part of the territory.

 

Owning a business means you have to face a lot of things that might make you uncomfortable.

Depending on your personality and background that can include things like:

  • Networking events (not my personal favorite)
  • Presenting (my personal favorite)
  • Writing (blogs, proposals, reports)
  • Selling

If you work in a big company, you can avoid networking or selling or any number of uncomfortable things for years if you choose to – especially if your day to day job doesn’t rely on that particular ability.

 

Of course I can hear some folks say – “But Dan, I have to network with my peers at work…” or “Dan, I do have to convince (or sell) my boss that I have a good idea if I want it to get funded…”

These comments may be true.

But it’s unlikely that your company held back your paycheck at month end because you didn’t network with your peers – or that time you failed to develop a convincing presentation for your boss.

It can be too easy to stay comfortable.

Owning a business is different

No business owner starts out having it all together – you’re always a work in progress.

When you own a business – and particularly when you have a vision or purpose for what you do – you make frequent and conscious decisions to get uncomfortable.

Selling, networking, writing, public speaking…whatever it happens to be.

But the cool part is this.

Through repeated exposure, persistence – and yes, some failure – you get more comfortable.  And the personal growth is amazing.

People that know me well, know I’m shy in social situations.

But workshop participants – especially in large scale auditoriums or halls – tell me I’m fun to watch on stage.

Speaking for large audiences was a very specific ‘discomfort’ zone that I decided to work through.

And now, large scale presentations are one of my favorite things to do.

Come on in – make yourself uncomfortable

If you work at a big bank (or big telecom or big insurance company or in the civil service), you should ask yourself a simple question –

How often do I actively put myself into the zone of being uncomfortable?

If the answer is rarely or never, that’s most definitely not an indicator of a life well-lived or a meaningful career pinnacle reached.

It’s a sign that your personal growth has stagnated – and that you’ve allowed it to stagnate (it’s not your Employer’s fault – don’t even go there).

I found the video below interesting and I hope you do too.

http://www.businessinsider.sg/harvard-psychologist-best-way-fakeing-confidence-presence-amy-cuddy-2016-2/?r=US&IR=T

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Stop blaming poor organizational behaviour on national culture

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s not ok to blame poor organizational culture on national culture.

One of the great things about working in many different organizations, across many countries & regions, is that you get to see a lot of organizational culture up close and personal.

Whether in KL, Colombo or Frankfurt, the first morning of a scheduled training session is always interesting.

·      Will all the Participants turn up? Will they turn up on time?

·      Will Management turn up? If so, who – and how long will they stay?

·      Does Management all sit together? Or do they integrate into the group at large?

·      What does the energy feel like before the session begins?

·      Do Participants talk to each other or do they stare at their mobile phones?

·      Who is in charge? Is the ‘leader’ present?

·      How does management speak to staff? As adults? Or like children?

 

What a Trainer or Consultant sees and experiences on that first morning of a session – before introductions have been made – should be the ‘best’ in organizational culture.

Why?

Because it’s not work.

Because Participants are there to learn and grow.

Because the gap or opportunity is so significant, an external Provider was asked to come in.

 

On a recent drizzly morning in _______ (fill in the country).

 

On a recent drizzly morning session in ________(fill in the country), half the Participants had not arrived by starting time.

To this, the HR Representative said, “Well you know we _________(fill in nationality here) like to sleep in.”

Or “we’re always late in ______(fill in country)” or “when it rains you know how it is in ______(fill in country).”

But over the years I’ve been conducting sessions, I find that what really matters is which organization you’re working with – not which country you happen to be in.

In countries which are notorious for staff absenteeism and tardiness, I’ve worked with organizations where people simply aren’t late and where organizational culture does not tolerate lateness.

In countries which have a reputation for staff timidity and reserve, I’ve worked with organizations where people laugh and chat and catch up with each other before the session begins.

In countries where traditional management hierarchy is revered and rarely questioned, I’ve worked with organizations where management and staff intermingle and work together.

Great organizational culture always ‘trumps’ national culture.

The way the Employees at Company X behave and carry themselves is quite different than the way Employees at Company Y behave and carry themselves – even though their offices are in the same building.

 

Blaming poor behavior on country or national dynamics is just lazy

When HR, or management, or leadership, blames poor behavior on country or national dynamics – then it’s unlikely that you’ll see a great culture at that organization.

The happenstance of being born in X country doesn’t guarantee a life of tardiness, timidity or futility.

Individuals always have a choice.

A choice to be on time, a choice to speak up and even – as the case merits – a choice to find employment with an organization with a better culture.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Some tips on how to write a better email

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

The ability to write a great email is complex skill – not simply the competency to read and write.

There’s a lot more to writing an effective Customer email than many folks realize.

In this short article let me share just a few quick tips to help you craft a better Customer email!

 

Email is a visual form of communication

Your Customer will see your email before they read it.

And while there is a well regarded list of design principles that can help, I’d suggest an overall approach that is even easier.

 

The very best emails look like recipes from a cook book.

Aren’t cook books gorgeous?

I don’t cook, but I can happily flip the pages of a beautiful cookbook for hours.

It’s better than meditation.

Now transfer that design logic to your email –

·      Is it pleasing to look at?

·      Is there plenty of white space so the eyes can rest?

·      Are points listed clearly in chronological or bullet point format?

·      Could a visual image help make a point?

When your Customer opens up your email, it shouldn’t feel like a homework assignment.

 

The best emails sound like the spoken word

I’ve never understood why the moment folks get behind a keyboard, they turn into lawyers.

 

Out come the ‘over the top’ words and phrases that normal people never use in their daily lives.

Some phrases that should be banned immediately?

“We regret to inform you…”

Now how lame is that.

Firstly, is there any regret?  Did that sender cry while they were typing?

 

If there weren’t tears on the keyboard, well there wasn’t any regret.

In addition, who uses the word ‘regret’ in their daily life?

“Hi honey, I regret to inform you I won’t be stopping by the grocery store tonight.”

Nobody talks like that.

Obviously, writing a letter is different.

But it should be understand that letters and emails are different forms of communication with letters being the more formal of the two.

The best emails sound like the (professional) spoken word.

Another phrase to deep six is this one – “We would greatly appreciate if…

How bossy is that?

“We would greatly appreciate (you idiot), if you would fill up the form.”

“We would greatly appreciate (you idiot), if you would queue over here.”

Is there any appreciation here?

No.

Can you feel the warmth?

I can’t.

This phrase – using Transactional Analysis logic – is parental in nature – it involves talking down to your Customers.

How about this phrasing – “We can’t send you your package until you send us your updated address (you idiot).” 

How negative is that?

What about this instead – “So that we can send you your package quickly, may we ask for your updated address? Thank you!”

 

Learn the art of interpretation

The very first step in email writing is to interpret the incoming email.

Your fingers shouldn’t get near the keyboard until you are able to articulate both the TONE and the CONTENT of the email that you received from your Customer.

I look at email interpretation a bit like I look at the popular TV show “CSI”.

 

In CSI, detectives sift through clues to figure out what happened.

Interpreting emails is the same.

Spending a few minutes in precious interpretation – so that you can craft a robust reply – pays off in the avoidance of unnecessary repeat contacts.

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

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

What I learned judging the Gulf Digital & Customer Experience Awards

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

An innovative industry deserves an innovative Awards – and I’m privileged to have been involved as a Judge & Chairman.

In January I was in Dubai where I participated in the judging process for the Gulf Digital & CX Awards.

I was honored to act as the Chairman for the Contact Centre & Customer Experience categories as well.

Here I share my observations on the Awards process itself – and why I was so impressed with the Awards International format.

There is definitely a lot of great work going on in the Gulf Region – with some organizations well into their 3rd or 4th year of a concerted CX strategy and implementation.

What I liked about the Awards format

By any measure, a successful CX strategy involves a variety of innovations – both sustaining & disruptive – across the entire organization.

But most Awards programs I’ve seen run the same format year after year, or are run as an add-on to a conference.

But I believe that an innovative industry deserves an innovative Awards – and it was time for something new.

What impressed me –

The breadth of Awards categories

With more than 25 categories ranging from the best Employee Experience, not less than 6 Digital Experience Awards, Contact Centre, multiple Customer Experience awards and more, organizations had the opportunity to put forth projects & candidates across the breadth of what it takes to achieve CX at the organizational level.

I noticed that some organizations entered multiple categories – Digital, CX, Employee Experience.

Other organizations focused in on specific categories.  For example an HR Department entered the Employee Engagement & well-being categories.

There was literally something for everyone.

Project & campaign-based entries

Unlike Awards programs that feature annual ‘Best of the Best’ categories, the Awards International program encouraged entry by project or campaign.

For example in Contact Centre judging, I saw projects related to the implementation of Live Chat, specific call reduction strategies and even networking of sites across the Public Sector.

With regard to CX judging I saw projects related to the set-up and administration of CX governance committees, delivery of experience by segmentation & personas and extensive VOC activities.

This approach allowed smaller organizations to compete (sometimes successfully!) with larger organizations for the Award.

There was none of this ‘category by size’ grouping that makes some Awards programs so repetitive with the same categories being announced over and over.

Encouraging and recognizing project or campaign based accomplishments is at the heart of CX because so much is going on over such a long period of time (years in some cases).

What a small hotel chain can achieve with a digital strategy, or an employee engagement program, can readily compete with that of a large bank or telecom.

In fact some of the Winners were SMEs which was very heartening to see.

In the world of CX we can all learn from each other.

After all CX is a journey and not a destination.

The transparency of the process

The Awards judging process is elegant.

50% of the score is awarded based upon the written submission.

All submissions are placed online and judged online making it easy for Judges to work from anywhere.

And all results, including scores & comments, are provided to the Awards entrants when the judging process is finished.

The remaining 50% of the score is based upon the Face to Face presentation made by the Awards entrant to a panel of Judges.

These Judges are the same ones who judged the written submission.

All the comments and scores for the Face to Face judging are provided to the Entrants upon completion of the process.

It’s all highly automated and transmitted to Entrants when judging is completed.

Most Face to Face judging sessions – of about 30 – 45 minutes each – are open for viewing by an outside audience.

So if you have attended the Awards to cheer on one of your colleagues, you can decide which Face to Face sessions that you would like to sit in on and learn best practices and success factors from other Entrants.

Wow – talk about real learning.

In other Awards, most Face to Face judging sessions are conducted in great secrecy and behind closed doors.

This is a rather dated model in an era when everyone is taught to keep learning and relearning – and learn from each other.

In closing

In closing for this article, thank you to Awards International – you have developed a truly professional and robust Awards model for the world of CX.

And the 2017 Singapore & Regional Digital & Customer Experience Awards is up!  We’re proud to be a Founding Partner.

www.singaporecxawards.com

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel & M&C Class

The Art of Conversation in a service setting

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

The ability to carry on a conversation in a service setting is a fine art.  A great conversation evokes the right Customer emotions.

(The sign in the photo is German word for dishwasher).

This past Christmas, the dishwasher at my mother-in-law’s house in Germany broke down.

So we spent a few days visiting appliance dealers.

I grew up in the U.S. and have lived the last 17 years in Asia, so my expectations of sales & service finesse at big box appliance stores is low.

 

In the big box appliance store in Germany they evoked my emotions with a great conversation

In the store a young lady approached us to see if she could help.

When she heard my American-accented German she switched immediately to English.

As I stood there silently analyzing the interaction, I realized that her competence went well beyond knowing her products & services.

It was marked by her ability to carry on a conversation with us.

Full and complete sentences, clarity, responding to input, articulating responses, a calm unrushed demeanor – wow.

I left the experience knowing more about dishwashers than I had expected.  And we knew which dishwasher was going to be ‘right’ for Mama.

It was so easy and my expectations were far exceeded.

The fact that the conversation was not held in her mother tongue was just an added bonus.

After years of working overseas, I don’t accept that someone can’t carry on a conversation because it is not in their mother tongue.

 

The German apprenticeship system

As we left the store I turned to my partner and asked – “so why is it that here in Germany, pretty much every time we  interact with a retail staff, a restaurant staff or a hotel staff that the experience is so, well, competent?”

And the answer was – the German apprenticeship system.

It seems that in Germany, before you can work as a hairdresser, waiter, retail clerk etc. you complete a formal apprenticeship program.

This means that you study and do on the job training for some period of time before you are considered ‘competent’ to do the job.  The time-frame for an apprenticeship typically runs 2.5 – 3.5 years.

So for most jobs this means that it is not just a job but a profession.

My mind goes immediately here to the Contact Centre industry where Agents are likely trained for 2 – 4 weeks, thrown on the phone and never trained again.

I’m not an expert in the German apprenticeship system – and I’m reading up on it all the time.

But each year I spend on average 3 – 4 months in Germany, and the retail and call centre experiences that I have there are in stark contrast to the experiences that I have back in Asia.

Something is definitely different and it shouldn’t be chalked up so easily to cultural differences.

Here is an interesting article on The Atlantic (2014) called, “Why Germany is So Much Better at Training Its Workers” which compares and contrasts the German and U.S. systems for workforce development.

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/why-germany-is-so-much-better-at-training-its-workers/381550/

 

Competence in the service industry – the ability to carry on a conversation

Farmers grow things, tailors make clothes, bakers make bread – but in service we produce conversations.

When I run courses in quality or service, I remind the Frontliners that every day they produce conversations.

That’s their product, their output – that’s what they’re paid to do.

So in the same way we expect the tailor to make a nice fitting suit, or the hairstylist to give us a terrific cut, it’s valid and reasonable to expect a high quality of conversational ability from a Frontliner.

In Asia, many organizations believe these conversations should be highly scripted, or the staff is trained to adhere to a strict list of compliance behaviors in the hopes that these will magically coalesce together to create a conversation.

But that’s rarely the case.

And to be fair to the Frontliners – faced with the prospect of either going off-script or missing out on their compliance measurements – they retreat into polite silence – or act at best as ‘Google on 2 legs’ simply answering questions.

 

Times are changing

Sure – a lot is going digital.

But human interaction through voice, face to face – and even channels such as email and social media – are more complex and important to the overall experience.

The young lady in the big box store in Wiesbaden taught me that competence is beautiful – and that in service – the ability to carry on a conversation is where the power to create a great experience lies.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com