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What to look for when you hire a new Contact Centre Manager

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International 1 Comment

In this article I share what to look for when you hire a new Contact Centre Manager.

Our scenario – you need to hire a new Contact Centre Manager

Let’s say you’re the new Chief Customer Officer and you need to hire a new inbound Contact Centre Manager for your existing 200 seat Centre.  You’ve been given a mandate to implement a CX strategy and you have a small CX Team at hand.

You don’t come from the Contact Centre industry yourself.  But as a CX professional you understand the value of the Contact Centre.

Your overall business is in good financial shape though the Centre has been somewhat neglected for the past few years.  And tech-wise the Centre has the basic building blocks though there’s room for improvement.

You’ve learned from past experience that the number of years of experience held by the Contact Centre Manager doesn’t correlate to mastery of the job role.  You need someone who ‘knows’ the Contact Centre – not just someone who has spent a lot of time in one.

So the essential question is this – what do you look for when you hire a new Contact Centre Manager?


The key domains of know-how required

The job of a Contact Centre Manager is a rich and full one.  And that’s because there’s a lot to know to succeed.

I recommend the following key domains of know-how when looking to hire a new Contact Centre Manager.  Or when you’re looking to upskill a current Manager or Management Team.

1.  Operations & Technology

Includes Centre design, forecasting the workload, calculating staff and resource requirements, selecting the right metrics and ways to measure those metrics, understanding the interrelationships between metrics, understanding the underlying dynamics of the Centre, channel management and the ability to articulate the impact of business decisions on the operation.

In this domain I’d include essential & evolving technology knowledge.  That’s because of the significant impact any technology choice has on the operation with cascading impact on Customers, Employees & the Organization itself.

When I’m asked which domain should come first in the hierarchy I always recommend Operations.  That’s because so much of what happens in a Centre, from how people are managed through to how Customers experience the Centre, flows from strong operations management practices.

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

2.  People Management (or the broader ‘Employee Experience’ if you prefer)

This domain includes organizational design, strategic resource planning, hiring & selection, retention & attrition management, training & development, performance management, compensation & incentive strategies, coaching and employee engagement, satisfaction & motivation, career & skills pathing and succession planning.

In this domain, I’d specifically include the design and implementation of the monitoring & coaching process.

For organizations that are evolving into Employee Experience – a big topic today – I’d recommend adding those competencies to this domain.

3.  Leadership & Business Management

From a leadership perspective, this domain includes competencies around the vision, the mission, values (or principles) and development & execution of strategy in the Centre.  It also includes how to build healthy cross-functional relationships and put the Centre front and center on the organizational radar screen.

From a business management perspective, this domain includes the ability to make credible business cases, calculate Contact Centre budgets, calculate ROI and understand change management project management.  I’d add that it’s vital that the Contact Centre Management bring strong financial and analytical skills to the job role.

In my experience, very few Centre Managers have a strong grasp of how to correctly calculate a Contact Centre budget.

If I were conducting a hiring exercise for a Contact Centre Manager I’d ask the candidate to walk me through how they budget for a Centre.  You’ll learn a lot about how much they know (or don’t know) about a Contact Centre operation.

4.  Service Management 

Service Management is the art & science of delivering value to Customers through any channel or combination of channels.  Often times the Contact Centre is at the heart of the Service Management function.

Service Management includes know-how around developing and implementing a Service Delivery Vision, the selection & definition of relevant Quality standards, Quality assurance practices, Customer research practices including service monitoring, Customer communication strategies and the nurturing of a service culture.

And of course it includes a strong & practical understanding of the specific service and relevant sales skills for each channel in use.

The skills for handling a Customer email are different than those for handling a Customer live chat for example.  Omnichannel service requires a different approach than multi-channel service.

And yes – your ever evolving mastery of what are commonly called ‘digital’ channels goes here as well.  That incorporates chat, messaging and to some degree even chatbots as there should be a solid bridge between chatbot-assisted and Agent-assisted service.

I think some folks confuse Service Management with Customer Experience Management.

Service Management very specifically relates to Customer interactions with the brand.  It’s a subset of the overall Customer Experience.

Customer Experience includes product, pricing and every single aspect of the organization from the way the bill looks to how fresh the chicken is in the restaurant.   It’s so much more than a call to the Contact Centre.

With that said, let’s look at the last domain of know-how – Customer Experience Management.

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


5.  Customer Experience Management 

There is a ‘real’ Customer Experience Manager job role out there.

And the Contact Centre Manager role is not that role.

The Contact Centre Manager job role – by its very nature – only involves some subset of all Customers (never all Customers), at some point of time (not all points in time) in that specific Customer journey (not all Customer journeys).

If it was really true that the Contact Centre Manager job = the Customer Experience Manager job then why not rebrand every Customer Experience Manager as a Contact Centre Manager?

Because that’s what’s implied. It would have to work both ways to be true.

So you honour the Contact Centre profession when you keep the phrase Contact Centre in your job title. Not when you decide to jump on the rebranding of everything as CX bandwagon.

Sure – the Contact Centre has impact on those Customers who experience that touchpoint. But it’s not the same thing as the perception the Customer has of the entirety of their experience with your brand.

Once you get that – and master your understanding of and contribution to the overall CX – you become a better Contact Centre Manager.

So after that big build up, what does the Contact Centre Manager need to know about CX?  From my perspective, the more the better.

But we need to be careful here.

While having our Contact Centre Manager understand CX as a business discipline is important and helpful to our CX efforts, let’s remember the Contact Centre Manager already has a full-time job.

Just relook at domains of know-how we covered so far.

So it’s likely that much of the actual ‘work’ of CX will be done by the CX Team.

That’s because the CX Team is in the best position to handle activities like VOC research, developing the CX strategy, cross-functional journey mapping. implementing organizational accountability measures and the like.

The CX Team has a higher elevation across functions as well as a broader mandate.

I think that in real life, the Contact Centre Manager has a lot to learn from the Customer Experience Manager with regard to CX.

And I think that the Customer Experience Manager has a lot to learn from the Contact Centre Manager as well.  The Customer Experience Manager will benefit from the rich experience, know-how and Customer insight residing in the Contact Centre.

Ultimately, both roles will work closely together for the benefit of the Centre and the Organization.

CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry

You don’t have a CX Team?  I see that all the time.

Then it’s likely that you have a ‘Service Quality Team’ or variation.  As is implied in the name, a Service Quality Team tends to focus on service – including research and analytics, high level complaint management and targeted improvement efforts across the organization.

But again – avoid confusing a Service Quality Team with a Customer Experience Team.  The mandate and activities are different – as well as the scope of authority.

For Contact Centre Managers (or anyone) that wants to develop competency in Customer Experience – I recommend the CXPA 6 Competency Framework as a basis.

In that framework, the essential domains of knowledge for CX are CX Strategy, Voice of Customer, Experience Design, CX Metrics & Measurements, Governance and Customer-Centric Culture.

To those domains I add Maturity Analysis & Implementation Strategy as well because I think that’s important.

10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions for Customer Experience Strategy


Of course there’s more to consider

Of course when you’re selecting your Contact Centre Manager you will also look at their past track record of success and their ‘characteristics’.  Such as how well they seem to ‘fit’ your culture.

But know-how is an obvious and critical component in the selection process.  And it often takes a backseat to how much ‘experience’ the candidate has.  That’s definitely the wrong way to go.

The key to success will always be KNOW-HOW + EXPERIENCE with DEMONSTRABLE SUCCESS.


In closing

I hope this article has been helpful.  It’s a big nut to chew on for sure.  And each heading and domain could be an article or set of articles on its own.

But I hope the high level overview is useful for you.

Thank you for reading!


With one foot planted solidly in the Contact Centre industry (29 years!) and the other foot firmly planted in the CX industry I have the ability to connect the dots for people in the Contact Centre that want to understand CX and for folks in CX who want to understand the Contact Centre.

I’m one of 6 Trainers in the world designated as a Recognized Training Provider by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and I help people learn more about CX and prepare for their CCXP Exam.

[email protected]









Whatever happened to First Contact Resolution?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

Last week I was judging Contact Centres

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

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

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

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

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


First Contact Resolution is a multivitamin KPI

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

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

FCR helps you to:

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

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


But it’s always been hard to measure

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

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

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

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

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

Push-button KPIs

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

Push the button and get your Service Level.

Push the button and you get your AHT.

Push the button and get the Occupancy rate.

You get the general idea.

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

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

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

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

Common data sources for First Contact Resolution

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

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

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

I think of it like making a stew.

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

It’s a robust but complex process.


So how can we address some of this complexity?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

But be careful.

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

And here I always suggest you do some qualitative research.

Bring in some real Customers.  Buy them lunch.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

But I disagreed.

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

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


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

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

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

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

That’s a touchpoint perspective.

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

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

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

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?


Customers think in Journeys – not in Touchpoints

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

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

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

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


Have your Agents been trained on Customer journeys?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Should you pursue First Contact Resolution?

My personal belief system around First Contact Resolution is this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In closing

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!




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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Short, sweet , unhelpful.

But it kept the call short!

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

Designed journeys have exception handling too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s never 100%.

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

The danger of measuring service through compliance measures

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

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

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

They were all happy.

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

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

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

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

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

How about a version like this?

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

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

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

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

Ok Siti – have you viewed our website before? 

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

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

No problem.

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

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


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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

If you want to conduct a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper there are some do’s and don’ts you need to know.

A Customer Experience based Mystery Shopper program involves a lot more than just tacking on the phrase ‘Customer Experience’ in front of ‘Mystery Shopper’.

The Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Award

Some time back one of the local Awards Clubs introduced a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Award into its portfolio.

Organizations could apply for the Mystery Shopper program and potentially win an award.

Cool I thought – it would be interesting to see what a Customer experience-based Mystery Shopper Award looks like as per a global Mystery Shopper provider. 

I got my wish

A short time later, I was helping a hospitality Client set up their Quality Assurance program.

A group of 20 senior folks were gathered around a conference table and we talking about how to select & define quality standards.

Then the head stopped and asked –

Hey Dan – did you know that we entered the Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Award this past year?

No I said – how did it go?

Well – we aren’t so sure. Because in this workshop I’m getting a sense of the complexity that goes into setting & measuring quality – but I’m not so sure it was this rigorous in our Awards entry.

He continued…

I have the final report from the Mystery Shopper provider here on my laptop – can we flash it up and talk about it?

But of course!

The cover slide whirred up on the screen.

Opening slide – very formal – The Customer Experience Mystery Shopper Report.

We were all ready. And then, next slide…

THE GREETING – score 98%

What? The Greeting? Oh – ok. Hmmm.  Anyway 98%.

 Then the next slide…


Oh…really?  This is a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper?

And it carried on from there.

Slide after slide after slide reported a compliance measurement.

Even the Hold Technique was featured.

As we hit slide 20+ someone in the room turned to me and said  – So Dan — you look a bit pale – what do you think?

Well it was an easy question to answer.

Well guys.

What you have here is a wonderfully presented compliance report – but I haven’t seen anything yet that even remotely measures or talks about the Customer experience.

And the room agreed.

Finally ‘Customer Experience’ appeared

As we carried on viewing the deck, there was a final measurement slide that said CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE.  It was a single slide.

Score – 58%.

But the legend was unclear as to how the score was derived.  That started a lively conversation – where did 58% come from?

We guessed that perhaps this was the personal score or viewpoint of the Mystery Shopper.

If so that’s a big issue.

Because Mystery Shoppers aren’t real Customers.  Once you pay and instruct someone to execute a certain scenario they’re not a real Customer.

Sure – their personal opinions can be a source of insight.

But one slide with the opinion of the Mystery Shopper is not a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper program.

There’s a lot of valid compliance-based Mystery Shopper work

Let’s put something on the table right now.

If the first thing that comes to your mind when planning a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper program is THE GREETING – then you’re on the wrong track.

But there are certainly valid reasons to conduct compliance-based Mystery Shopper.

They’re used extensively in the banking & finance industry.

Especially for ensuring regulatory compliance.

In the Public Sector, compliance-based programs provide a basic ‘minimum-standard’ dipstick.

While it’s rare to see a Public Sector program skew heavily to the Customer experience compliance based programs ensure a level of essential service is provided.

Another example of a smart compliance program is ensuring that things work the way they are supposed to work.

That when a certain telephone number is dialed at a certain time of day – that the call goes to the right place.

You’d be surprised how many times it doesn’t.

Or when a certain set of IVR options or digital instructions are followed, that the Customer ends up where they were supposed to.

As channels proliferate and overlap, it’s important to ensure that channel mechanisms work the way they are supposed to.

I sometimes call these the Omni-channel Mystery Shopper program.

So what does a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper look like?

There is no one single model – that’s the beauty of deep dive research – and we share a few models here from our work with innovative Clients.

Let’s start the discussion with brand

Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy says that a brand is perception – nothing more, nothing less.

It’s what you think and feel about that company.  An opinion, a viewpoint, an expectation.

So the Customer experience is the journey the Customer has with your brand.

When you look at it like that – then opening the Mystery Shopper conversation with a brand discussion makes a lot of sense.

If your brand proposition incorporates things like trust, accuracy or ownership – then these values can be codified and studied during the Mystery Shopper journey.

Then the gaps between the brand and the Customer experience can be identified.

One of our favorite brand-based programs

One of our favorite Customer Experience Mystery Shopper programs was with a high end hotel.

The GM & Team wanted to focus exclusively on brand values.

So we designed everything to effectively measure the success in bringing brand values to life.

All the scenarios were designed around brand values. And rather than scores we documented the measures of success.

I share this example in many of my talks and workshops on Customer experience.

The study of emotion is a must

One of my favorite things about the rise of Customer Experience is the inclusion of emotion in business discussions.

For too long, Customers – and Employees – have been discussed as batches or ‘segments’ that are expected to behave and perform in certain ways.

If they follow ‘your rules’ – then they can get what they want or what they need.

But if you read any established Customer experience authority you’ll note how quickly the topic of emotion comes up.

Bruce Temkin argues that more than 50% of the Customer experience is driven by emotion.

So in our work designing Customer Experience Mystery Shopper programs we always talk about emotions.

If you don’t know what emotions you are trying to evoke – how will your Frontliners know?

Testing emotion is one of the best things you can do in a Customer Experience Mystery Shopper program.

We like The Diary approach to recording thoughts & feelings 

For a well known theme park, we conducted a series of lengthy (6 – 8 hour) Mystery Shopper visits that incorporated thoughts & feelings.

Structured in a diary format and supported by photographs, each final report was quite lengthy.

After each visit we were able to boil down observations across the journey into a number of themes.

We then cross referenced all the themes across all the visits.

Mystery Shopper research is a deep dive qualitative research methodology – and lends itself beautifully to this kind of study.

The report became legendary and we still have company management write to us now and then on how useful the approach had been for them.

There are 3 aspects to a Customer Experience

Forrester teaches a very useful way to look at ‘a’ or ‘the’ Customer Experience.

Is the experience ‘effective’ – i.e. does the job get done.  Examples could be opening a bank account, making an insurance claim, getting tech support, hiring a venue for an event.

Is the experience ‘easy’ – how much work did the Customer have to put in to get their solution.  Examples include being transferred around, repeating needs multiple times, having to visit multiple channels to get help.

Is the experience ’emotional’ (in the right way of course) – did the Customer leave feeling respected, relieved or reassured?

We’ve found that designing Mystery Shopper work around the 3 ‘E’s to be very helpful in stimulating dialogue and insight.

At the very minimum

At the very minimum – if you are ready to use Mystery Shopper as a Customer experience tool, consider upgrading your measurements beyond compliance standards.

Sure – compliance standards are easy to measure.

But they have very little to tell you with regard to the thoughts, emotions, ease and ‘success’ of the experience.

Adding the phrase ‘Customer Experience’ to something doesn’t make it so.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel Ord and Marcus von Kloeden



Customer Experience lessons we learned and apply in our Art Gallery

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

We opened our Art Gallery in 2011

We’ve learned a lot of Customer Experience lessons in the 7 years since we opened our art gallery, The Art Club Singapore.

Fred Gowland

After months of set-up, crafting our mission and developing our Artist roster, we held our first gallery reception in Singapore on October 2011, featuring California Artist Fred Gowland (shown in photo).

Owning both a CX/Service consultancy, OmniTouch, and an art gallery, The Art Club Singapore, is not as dissimilar as it might sound on paper.

It’s clear that both great service and the consideration of an artwork to purchase are emotionally rich activities.

We learned to apply Customer experience lessons in our work at The Art Club Singapore and in this article, we share some of those lessons.

The (6) Customer Experience Competencies

The Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) has defined 6 competencies for mastery in Customer experience.

The Missing World, Giada Laiso

In this article, we share our learnings via the (6) competency framework.

Our reasons for using the 6-competency framework approach are simple:

  1. We wanted to work through the mental exercise of applying the (6) competencies to a real business – our gallery
  2. We wanted to help the Reader ‘digest’ the (6) CX competencies for their own use and benefit

(Photograph shown, The Mising World, Italian Artist, Giada Laiso)

The (6) competency areas defined by the CXPA are:

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


In this article, we cover our learnings across the first 2 CX competency areas.

#1 – Customer Experience Strategy

From the beginning, we knew what we did not want our Customer experience to be.

We did not want to be a stereotypical gallery with white walls, antiseptic displays and fashionable assistants.  We found that approach to be intimidating and ‘unhelpful’.

Particularly in our local market where art appreciation and widespread collecting was still in a developmental stage.

That allowed us to focus on the kind of experience we did want for our Customers.

We began with the company name, The Art Club Singapore.

The Art Club Singapore

The ‘Club’ was important to us because it represented a space where people could come together to share –

  • Eagerness to explore art
  • Enjoyment to socialize in a home-like space
  • Joy of just being themselves without the pressure of purchase

The logo

Once we had the gallery name, we worked through the design of the logo.

The Art Club Singapore

The logo was designed to represent the three stakeholders involved –

  • Red for the creative Artists that are often misunderstood in their work.
  • Blue for the people that want to appreciate art but may not know where, when, why and how to go about it.
  • Green for the Art Club Singapore that brings the circle of Artists (red) and Art Appreciators (blue) together.

The process of creating the gallery name and the logo helped us clarify the role we wanted to play in the lives of our Customers.

We further refined our intended experience through the following guidelines which have served us well:

Dietmar Gross

For our Artists

  • We would only show the work of professional, full-time Artists, known in their own markets
  • We would show work from Artists based in the Americas, Europe and Australia that we had collected ourselves and who we knew personally

(Briefwechsel, Oil on Belgian canvas, German Artist, Dietmar Gross)

For our Guests

  • We would use our space for public education, benefits and art talks as well as Artist shows
  • We would provide a place where experienced Collectors would mingle with folks who had never attended a gallery event before

The Art Club Singapore

For our Collectors

  • We would provide an eclectic collection of pieces across countries, mediums and Artists in an atypical gallery space
  • We would provide access to the Artists to allow them to immerse themselves in the Artist’s story

After we crafted our name, logo and guidelines we shared them across our small group, our Artists, our Partners and publicly with our Guests & Collectors through social media and marketing communications.

The Mission Statement

Next came our Mission Statement.  The Art Club Singapore, where Art & People meet

The Art Club Singapore

The Mission made it clear to us what we were supposed to ‘do’ or provide every day and we consider it to be an integral part of our Customer Experience strategy.

If I had to sum it up – our Mission Statement = our Customer Experience Strategy while our name, logo and guidelines represent our ‘Corporate Strategy’ and brand.

The Customer Experience Strategy really matters

When it comes to the Customer Experience strategy, it was helpful for us to put first things first.

Who were we, the our intended Customer experience and what ‘purpose’ would we refer to as we evolved over time.

Ingela Johannson

Of course, as a small business we had a major advantage.

We didn’t have hundreds or even thousands of Employees to immerse in our intended Customer experience.

But the process we went through and the learnings gained from doing it right are relevant to anyone pursuing Customer experience as a business strategy.

(With Swedish Artist, Ingela Johansson)

Now let’s turn to Competency #2 – The Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding.

#2 – Voice of the Customer, Customer Insight & Understanding

While our Customer Experience strategy was clear to us – tying that to who our Customers were and what gallery Customers really want from their visit was an ongoing learning experience.

The Art Club Singapore

We stepped back and used our CX/Service consultancy credentials to look at the entire gallery experience.

How Customers would learn about us, what would entice them to come to a talk or event.

And perhaps most importantly, how could we orchestrate a gallery event that exceeded their expectations.

And result in them telling more people about us?

(Photo of Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Teo viewing our donation to charity)

Who were our Customers?  The role of Personas

Within months of launch we were able to document our Customer Personas.

The Art Club Singapore

Here are some of the Personas we identified:

  • The Cultured Expat

Married couple, 40s – 60s, very comfortable with their own taste, had purchased art before, looking for an experience not just a ‘purchase’

  • Students / Early working years

20s through early 30s, sought ‘date night’ events, sought a chance to brush up their art viewing skills, appreciated being treated with respect

  • The Professionals

    The Art Club Singapore

30s through 50s working professionals, looking for a new experience, like to learn, interested in refining their art viewing skills, very practical

  • The Gallery event mainstay

All ages, attend all gallery events, catch up with other ‘regulars’, food & drinks matter

  • The Socialite

Generally female, already a collector, events were a chance to dress beautifully, good in a crowd setting, loves being in photos, great with social media

The Art Club Singapore

We continued to refine our Personas based on observation, listening, asking questions and studying our ongoing email correspondence and social media posts.

Even Guest Visitor books provided a lot of rich commentary as to what people enjoyed about their visit with us – we learned to have those prominently featured at all events.

This was an important learning for us because we found people tend to be super direct and specific when signing a Guest Book whereas that same person may be more ‘polite’ in a face to face discussion.

Ethnographic Research

Daniel Ord, The Art Club Singapore

Ethnographic research – which refers to observing Customers in their natural setting – was easy for us as the Guests entered ‘our’ environment.  We simply had to watch and compare notes at the end of the evening (sometimes that was 2AM!).

Examples of Customer Insight that we picked up from our Guests included:

The cultured expat persona was interested in having you come to their home and provide design advice as well as ensure the end to end hanging and arranging service.

They also typically had a home in their country of origin packed with art but were keen on smaller pieces they could display in their current home in Asia.

The Art Club Singapore

We learned that Students /early working years persona were eager but had limited ‘self-confidence’ in how to look at a piece of art and interpret it.

Some useful tips and advice went a long way with this group – as well as the free art lectures.

From our local Guests we learned that certain subject matter, including some animals and depictions of human faces, were considered unlucky.

Fred Gowland, Green Fox

With one series of Foxes done by Fred Gowland we were told that the term ‘fox’ was a colloquialism for a husband-stealer.

It seems that a married woman might not want a fox in her home!

What would our Guest go through?  The role of the Journey

Again, our CX/Service consultancy background served us well.

Arman Fernandez, The Art Club Singapore

We understood that the Customer journey for an art gallery event did not begin when our Guests walked through the door.

It began with receiving our invite, marking the calendar, figuring out how to reach our venue and even what to wear (maybe especially what to wear!).

We realized that each event needed to be unique – so we gave each event its own theme.

  • Travels of Fred Gowland – paintings created through extensive travels of the Artist.
  • Raise the Pink Lantern – An event focussing on the LGBT community in Singapore.
  • The Monk wears Prada – Paintings of Buddhist monks exploring urban Singapore
  • Masterful European Bronzes – A Society Collection

(Bronze shown, La Mandoline, French Artist, Arman Fernandez)

Where the event was a lecture we came up with a new offshoot of our logo, so our Guests would know that the next event was specifically a lecture.

The Art Club Singapore

Even though we had a clear curatorial direction –  the Artists and types of work we wanted to show – the Voice of the Customer encouraged us to try new things and expand our offerings in new ways.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel Ord, Marcus von Kloeden, The Art Club Singapore

Daniel and Marcus – Co-Founders, The Art Club Singapore / Owners, OmniTouch International


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!