Home Customer Service

Customer Service

My 6 Keynote Speech Topics for 2020

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short post I share my 6 Keynote Speech topics for 2020.

Every year I write new Keynote Speeches

Last year I delivered 4 Keynote Speeches at industry events.  Three in London (what a city) and 1 in Hungary (my very first time in Hungary which was cool).

And each was super fun to deliver and very well received.

As a Speaker, there’s a big difference between facilitating a 2 or 3 day workshop program and delivering a Keynote Speech.

In a workshop – the facilitation is what matters.  Because when a workshop is well facilitated, most of the actual talking is done by Participants.  Not by the Workshop Leader.

In a Keynote Speech, the scenario is obviously different.  You have perhaps 20 minutes – 40 minutes with hundreds of folks in attendance.

And the constraint on time drives creativity.  More stories, better stories – and stories that get to the heart of what it is you want people to remember about their time with you.

And of course humor matters a lot.  Because who likes sitting through a boring presentation?

My 6 Keynote Speech topics for 2020

Much of the work I do is customized for the Client or the Audience.

But when a Conference Organizer or Client contacts me, it helps to have a set of Keynote speeches on selected topics already written and ready to go.

So in no particular order, here are my Keynote Speech topics for 2020.

How is your approach to Customer Empathy?  Well done or Lucky Draw?

Great empathy doesn’t help if you can’t express it to the Customer.  Because ‘being’ empathetic and expressing empathy are two different things.

In this practical and humorous session you’ll get a chance to practice your own ability to express empathy.

And in the process, perhaps you’ll better understand why so many organizations struggle to deliver empathy in their Customer communications – especially in their Customer Service & Contact Centre functions.

Customer Service Lessons you can’t live without

While it’s true that Customer Service is a subset of Customer Experience – it’s an important subset for some and a critical subset for others.

After 20 years of teaching Customer Service, I’ve found that there’s a short list of lessons that every Frontliner – and their Managers – love learning.

From my fun but practical approach to Transactional Analysis through to how to Say No – this one’s for Customer Service heros and the folks that support them.

What we learned conducting CX-based Mystery Shopper on Chatbots

We combined our know-how around CX with our expertise in Mystery Shopper to deliver (to date) 4 Chatbot Mystery Shopper research programs for Clients.

In this Keynote Speech we share the drivers around the research, the parameters we used for the research and what we found out about Chatbots – from the Customer point of view.

What we’ve learned about conducting Mystery Shopper Research on Chatbots

5 Motivational Quotes and what they mean in real life

I had always been leery of motivational quotes in the past.

That was until I found my Mother’s notebook of handwritten motivational quotes in her desk drawer.  Shortly after she had passed away and we were cleaning out her house.

Thanks to a Client in Singapore, I developed this ‘motivational’ talk to help & inspire people to harness the power of motivational quotes.

While understanding that not every quote will resonate every time – and why that’s so.

One of my favorites – and for designed for all Participants.

What I’ve learned about Motivational Quotes

How to Improve Contact Centre Agent Productivity

This Keynote Speech topic – developed for a webinar that I delivered last year – addresses both the obvious choices that improve Agent productivity in Contact Centres and the not so obvious choices.

Because a lot of practices out there in the Contact Centre industry are outdated – and increasingly harmful to the Agent & Customer experience.

So we consider Agent KPIs – of course – but move on quickly to the key Management decisions that impact contact volume, channel usage and Customer satisfaction.

What kind of Experience does your Contact Centre deliver?

Yes – this is a topic from 2019 – and one of our most popular.  That’s why I’ve decided to keep it on the roster for 2020.

Drawing on case studies from our extensive Mystery Shopper research experience, I share specifically how some Contact Centres are getting quality right.  And how others have gone down a dark and sad road – both for Agents & Customers.

And of course I get to do my Kung Fu Panda impression which is always fun.

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

If we can be of help on Keynote Speech topics

Do any of these sound good for your event?  Would you like to have something written specifically for your event?

We’re experts in Contact Centres, Customer Service & Customer Experience – so chances are we’ve got a topic that will resonate with your audience.

And it helps to know that we deliver audience feedback results that have Organizers invite us back over and over.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected]

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!

Daniel

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]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Short, sweet , unhelpful.

But it kept the call short!

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

Designed journeys have exception handling too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it’s never 100%.

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

The danger of measuring service through compliance measures

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

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

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

They were all happy.

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

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

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

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

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

How about a version like this?

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

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

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

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

Ok Siti – have you viewed our website before? 

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

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

No problem.

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

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

Daniel

How to learn more about Customer Experience and prepare for certification

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article is about how to learn more about Customer Experience and prepare for Customer Experience certification.

I share my experience helping thousands of Contact Centre & Customer Service professionals obtain industry certification and how those learnings apply to Customer Experience certification today.

Customer Experience certification

If you decide to pursue the Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) Certification, there’s an important caveat.

You must apply to take the exam.

The following text is taken directly from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) website:

Eligibility
“Anyone with a bachelor’s degree and three years of full-time CX-specific work experience is eligible to take the exam. An alternate pathway to eligibility is a high school diploma (or equivalent) and five years of full-time CX-specific work experience.”

Preparing for the Exam
“The Certified Customer Experience Professional exam is a 100-question test administered at convenient testing sites around the world.  Eligible candidates should not need training or studying.”

That last sentence really struck me (highlighting is my own).

That last sentence implies that folks who successfully apply to take the exam will – by dint of experience – be able to pass the exam.

That there is no need to prepare for Customer Experience certification.

But passing a certification exam – purely by dint of experience – has not been my experience.

Let me explain.

Ten years of Contact Centre certification exams

Over the course of 10 years, I helped thousands of individuals around the world prepare to take the rigorous Call Centre Industry Advisory Council (CIAC) certification exams.

CIAC was comprehensive and targeted to the senior level.

The certification involved:

  • No book, no notes, proctored examinations
  • (4) domains of knowledge including Operations Management, People Management, Customer Relationship Management and Leadership & Business Management
  • 60 – 100 complex multiple choice questions for each one of the 4 domains of knowledge (so 4 exams in total)
  • Certification processes managed and awarded by a reputable non-profit association

And here’s what I learned from that long and rich experience.

The folks who attended our various workshops and subsequently passed the exams were smart, experienced leaders in the industry.

They were committed to growing and demonstrating their expertise.

And it didn’t matter whether they were from Hong Kong or Houston.

They shared that their ability to pass each exam was based on a combination of their experience + formalized know-how.

Both mattered.

The valued both, they benefited from both and they felt they could confidently apply both back at work.

Experience + Know-How.

I’d argue that this same formula applies to prepare for Customer Experience certification as well.

How I went from Contact Centre amateur to Contact Centre professional

The 3 Personas to prepare for Customer Experience certification

I see 3 Personas related to taking and passing a Customer Experience certification exam.

Persona 1:  A working professional who is likely to be approved to take the CCXP exam and who is likely to pass the exam without too much effort or study.

I’d argue that Persona 1 is the rare bird across the 3 presented.

I’d list many Consultants (including myself) in this group.

Persona 2:  A working professional who is likely to be approved to take the CCXP exam, but lacks exposure, experience or know-how around some of the competency areas.

Given the breadth of Customer experience know-how across the required (6) domains of knowledge that’s to be expected.

My advice for these folks is to review the competency blueprint and self-diagnose on areas of strength & weakness.

Books, webinars, articles, networking forums are all relevant solutions to close gaps.

And of course, if desired, a structured workshop that covers the competency blueprint.

Customer Experience is a big topic.  Using a structured framework for your learning helps.

If you simply watch 10 webinars, read 5 books and follow 20 Linkedin articles, without a framework, you may find the overall experience confusing.

Persona 3:  A working professional who is unlikely to be approved to take the CCXP exam, perhaps in Contact Centre or Customer Service (or other discipline!) looking to level up into Customer experience but lacks exposure, experience or know-how around competency areas required in the exam.

The person who works to proactively prepare themselves for the next step in their career.

In the Customer Experience world, they might be someone who’s currently in Customer Service or Contact Centre management, looking to make the move to Customer Experience.

My advice

My advice for these folks is to review the competency blueprint, self-diagnose on areas of exposure (or lack of exposure) and work with your boss to see how you can get real hands-on experience in that area.

And one of my favorite bits of career advice for this group in particular is:

Run to trouble.

By that I mean, step forward and see how you can help your Organization solve some kind of Customer experience problem.

There will never be a shortage of Customer Experience problems!

You’ll gain exposure and build a reputation as a problem solver.

And as with Persona 2, remember that a structured approach helps.

The volume of information and know-how around Customer Experience can be overwhelming – especially when you’re first starting out.

A structured workshop could be helpful to clarify competency areas and explain concepts – even if the actual certification process comes further down the road.

In the Customer Experience industry there is an added challenge

The tendency for organizations to rebrand job descriptions with the words ‘Customer Experience’ creates an added challenge.

Especially when the underlying job responsibilities and scope don’t change.

Someone once wrote to me that all Contact Centres should be rebranded as Customer Experience Centres.

I heartily disagree.

Yes – Contact Centres contribute to the overall Customer Experience – sometimes mightily so.

But in and of themselves they don’t represent the entirety of the Customer Experience.

You can point to a dog and call it a cat all you want. But that doesn’t make it so.

What you end up with are a lot of folks who have Customer Experience in their job title, don’t actually work in Customer Experience and who lack fundamental Customer Experience know-how.

Not a great hallmark for the Customer Experience industry.

It might be stretching it – but if you have Customer Experience in your job title, you’d best consider putting a recognized certification behind that.

In closing

I hope this short article has been helpful.

As with anything worth learning and doing – remember that it is about the journey and not just the destination.

We offer both a 2-day CCXP Exam Preparation Workshop and online CCXP Practice Quizzes that can help.

CCXP Practice Quizzes

All the very best in your Customer Experience journey and as you prepare for Customer Experience certification.

Daniel

Daniel Ord

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com/our-services/ccxp-practice-quizzes

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

 

What I learned judging this year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards (2018)

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This year I had the great opportunity to judge at the UK Complaint Handling Awards, covering the latest in complaint handling practices.

After my return from the event my colleagues and friends asked me, Marcus, what did you learn?

First, I had the chance to meet hundreds of people across various industries, including Telcos, Banks, Insurances, Utility providers and many Government agencies.

That’s always one of the great things about participating at an Awards event.

The complaint handling practices shared in this article come from my role as a Judge.

As a Judge, I had the chance to meet all the Entrants, read their written submissions and listen to their respective face to face presentations to the panel.

As a result I learned some of the latest complaint handling practices out there in award winning Organizations.

Across all the Complaint Handling Team Entrants, 3 important things stood out 

There were 3 key complaint handling practices that I picked up from interacting with all the Complaint Handling Teams.

To improve the Customer complaint handling ‘practice’ within their Organization, they focused on:

  1. Analysing data from the Customer point of view
  2. Improving internal & external processes to reduce complaint volumes & time
  3. Targeting the Ownership of the complaint

Let me give some more detail on each learning

1. Analysing data from the Customer point of view

The Complaint Handling Teams indicated that they analyzed thousands of recorded calls, reviewed piles of surveys and read through thousands of emails and contact forms submitted by Customers.

Their strategic purpose was clear – to understand their Voice of the Customer.

The Complaint Handling Teams told us that, though other departments and functions did their own sets of analyses, they felt that pure focus on the Voice of Customer was missing.

So they created their own analysis function.

Guess, how important is it to the Customer that you use their names three or five times during a call?

Isn’t it more important to listen and understand what their concern or matter is?

Entrants started to read between the lines – from the Customer point of view – and acted on what they learned.

2. Improving internal & external processes to reduce complaint volumes & time

Equipped with the results of their analyses, the Complaint Handling Team went to their Management to propose changes to processes or rules that caused Customer discomfort.

Some of the process changes the Complaint Handling Teams shared were –

 

They took out the Average Handling Time to measure the Agent’s performance.

Agents suddenly had the freedom to listen, to react and find with the Customer a solution.

Escalation processes decreased dramatically.  Agents started to become more personal in their conversations.

Frontliners & Agents were officially empowered.

They were given the power to decide on the spot what to do for the Customer instead of getting permission from their superiors.

That helped to ease processes for the customer and complaint could be resolved during one contact.

Adding empowerment to the job makes it more interesting, enjoyable and challenging as well.

Some Complaint Handling Teams introduced new technology into the Contact Centres to support staff members.

Technology was introduced to support Team members to read the Customer’s history, react proactively, share information with other departments and schedule follow ups.

Training around the new technology and processes was scheduled and conducted so Employees were prepared before using the newsolutions.

That eased the transition for the Customer and held back stress on the Employees.

Interestingly, many complaints stemmed from questions about bills and statements.

The Complaint Handling Teams shared they were in the process of breaking this big topic down into workable parts.

3. Owning the Complaint

The Complaint Handling Teams shared was how important the concept of ownership was to complaint resolution.

That took one of two forms.

The Customer gets either one point of contact to deal with them all the way through.

Or the Customer history is made available to everyone in the Organization, and they are tasked to work together to resolve the issue.

While technology supported or ‘helped’ it was the process and the people that put things into action.

This really impressed me.

In closing

This year’s UK Complaint Handling Awards (2018) have shown that Listen & Understanding the Customer’s Voice, more accessibility of data to Agents, simpler processes and taking ownership, lead to big improvements in Customer Experience.

Aside from the many KPIs, like NPS, that were presented, the most impressive part was the presentation was the gathered feedback from real Customers.

These Customers’ shared how impressed they were about the good care (“Ownership”), the easy processes (“History availability/System improvements”) and someone listened and heard their issues (Data analytics).

The Customers felt they were heard and more importantly helped.  They seemed to like using email to share their compliments.

In all cases, these simple changes reduced dramatically painful Customer Journeys throughout the organisations.

The Customer experience score for the organization went up dramatically.

I am glad to share that investment in data analytics, new processes and training in Frontline training have really paid off.

All the Complaint Handling Teams were able to demonstrate a financial ROI to back up their work.

They all retained Customers, gained new business and got promoted by their now happy Customers to others.

Isn’t this reason enough to start thinking on this?

Thank you for reading!

Marcus von Kloeden

Email Writing Tips for better Customer Experience – the Ritz Carlton, Santa Barbara

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we share specific email writing tips for better Customer Experience and Service Recovery using a real case study at the Ritz Carlton, Santa Barbara.

The Ritz Carlton Hotels.

From their webpage:

100 years of history. Countless rewards. With an unshakeable credo and corporate philosophy of un-wavering commitment to service, both in our hotels and in our communities, The Ritz-Carlton has been recognized with numerous awards for being the gold standard of hospitality.

Santa Barbara, California.

The city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara’s climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city is referred to as the “American Riviera”.

So, the expectations for service at the Ritz Carlton Bacara in Santa Barbara, California are understandably high.

The situation

On a recent holiday in the U.S. I spent time with my sister Diana who lives and has her business in Santa Barbara.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

One evening she turned to us and said – let’s have a leisurely dinner at The Ritz Carlton Bacara tonight – to which we all emphatically nodded yes.

The following day, my sister sent a detailed email to the Ritz Carlton to share on our experience.

The purpose of this article is not to complain about service.

I’m not a fan of articles where Customer Service experts write to vent frustration or unhappiness under the guise of promoting Customer experience.

My intention in this article is to share email writing tips for better Customer experience and Service recovery efforts.

The email exchange with the Ritz Carlton provided a perfect and personal case study.

Here is the email my sister (the Customer) sent

Good Morning,

I am writing because I felt compelled after a bumpy visit to the resort yesterday in Santa Barbara and I thought it would be helpful for your managerial staff to be made aware of so many missed opportunities for our visit to have been special.

I have family in town from Singapore and Germany and felt a visit to the Bacara would cap off their trip spectacularly.

I made reservations for the Bistro at 5:30 to enjoy a leisurely time outside during a typically slow time for restaurants.

An hour after the reservation was made, Stephanie called from the Bistro and left a message to inquire whether we would want inside or outside, which I appreciated.

I called back a few minutes after her message and couldn’t reach anyone in the Bistro for a few tries (the PBX call bounced back to the operator).

When I reached her, I verified that we would be outside and see her in an hour and a half.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

We parked in valet and entered the lobby where an absolutely spectacular floral arrangement greeted us. This was going to be great.

We reached the Bistro and the hostess stand was empty.

We waited a few minutes and Stephanie came up and greeted us and led us to our reserved table for four which was only set for three.

We sat and several minutes later the fourth setting arrived.

Approximately 10 minutes later bread arrived but no bread plates, so we waited another 10 minutes to give our order and at that point asked for bread plates.

Our Server was sweet but only came to the table a couple of times in the two hours we were there.

When we ordered our food, she didn’t ask about drinks, and on our side, we forgot to order them.

Risotto

The food came 45 minutes later, and the chicken/risotto dish was amazing (my visitors had this and they loved it).

I was beginning to get frustrated because of the wait times between visits to our table so we asked for the bill and a person we hadn’t seen yet brought it.

We decided that rather than leave straight away, we would have a drink/coffee in the bar and get a change of scenery.

At the bar the bartender told us that there is no coffee available at their bar but that they would get one from the restaurant.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

We settled in front of the fireplace in the lobby and 30 minutes or more passed without any word or visit from the staff, so we left.

I was so disappointed because I felt like there were so many missed opportunities to be treated like welcome guests.

I truly hope this beautiful setting can be matched by top notch service soon.

Thank you for the opportunity to share our experience,

Best,
Diana

Here is the reply from ae Food & Beverage Director

From: “Lawrence Teatree”  (names are changed)
Date: April 16, 2018 at 1:50:17 PM CDT
To:” <[email protected]>
Subject: Your stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Dear Mrs. XX,

Thank you for choosing to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and providing your honest feedback.

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize for falling short of meeting your expectations.

We have shared your feedback with the Bistro and Bar team to ensure the necessary guidelines are in place to improve the restaurant experience. I have also passed your comments to our Chef regarding the risotto! Thanks!

I do appreciate you giving us the opportunity to restore your confidence in Food and Beverage by speaking to me directly. Please let me know the best contact number and time to reach you, or you can call me at any time at 805 XXX XXXX.

Once again, thank you for your valued feedback and we hope to serve you again whenever your travels bring you back to Santa Barbara.

Lawrence Teatree
Food and Beverage
The Ritz Carlton, Bacara Santa Barbara

Here are email writing tips for better Customer Experience –  documented within the body of the reply 

The Subject Line

From: Lawrence Teatree
Date: April 16, 2018 at 1:50:17 PM CDT
To:” <[email protected]>
Subject: Your stay at The Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

With regard to the Subject Line, we were not hotel guests at the Bacara. We were clearly dinner guests.

The Subject Line made it clear that Alex had not read our email or that he was simply following standard (and robotic) protocols.

The Subject Line matters.  It should be well crafted.

The Opening

Dear Mrs. XX,

Thank you for choosing to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara and providing your honest feedback.

We did not stay at the Bacara, we were dinner guests. So, the Opening line is irrelevant at best, tone deaf at worst.

The Apology

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority and we sincerely apologize for falling short of meeting your expectations.

Lawrence is a Director of Food & Beverage.

Based on his title, the restaurant where we had dinner and the bar where we later tried to get coffee would both fall under his purview.

The email would have sounded a lot more personal if he referred to himself – “I” and not “we”.

For example:

I apologize that I and our Team fell short of meeting your expectations and that of your dinner Guests…

And by talking about himself and/or his Team, he would have demonstrated that he took ownership of the experience.

This Empathy statement would have sounded more human and sincere than “we sincerely apologize”.

If you need to use the word ‘sincere’ in a Customer communication, that’s already a red flag.

If you have to sincerely apologize, does that mean you have insincere apologies too?

The Corporate Speak

Now let’s get to the Corporate speak.

How does the following phrase help matters?

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority…

Is that so? Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority?

The entire reason the Customer took the time and effort to write a long and detailed email is because that didn’t happen for her.

He might as well have written –

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

Providing the highest level of hospitality is our number one priority, except obviously what happened in your case…

When you make a mistake – you apologize first.

You don’t couch the apology in ‘corporate-speak’.

This statement, coming at the opening of the Empathy Statement, reduced the impact and sincerity of the apology.

It sounded robotic and scripted.

The Content

We have shared your feedback with the Bistro and Bar team to ensure the necessary guidelines are in place to improve the restaurant experience.

The Customer was very detailed.

She shared no less than 10 observations about the experience across both the restaurant and bar.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

She took effort and time to help the Ritz Carlton improve and even references at the end of her email that “I truly hope this beautiful setting can be matched by top notch service soon.”

Lawrence’s reply did not address a single specific point out of the 10 raised – nor did he share any details of “ensuring the necessary guidelines are in place.”

Lawrence could have done so much to restore the confidence of the Customer.

While it may not be necessary to address each of the 10 points raised by the Customer, Lawrence could have better matched her effort.

He could have specifically shared what he was going to do with that information that had been given.

As an example – and with better service recovery in mind – he could have said –

With regard to the number of settings at the table when you were seated (3 vs. 4), we have asked the Team that takes our reservations to indicate clearly to our Servers, the number of diners expected and the preferred seating location.

The Ritz Carlton Bacara, Santa Barbara

I’m really glad you brought this to my attention.”

When you learn how to write an efficient & effective email, you learn that you need to address both the Tone of the Customer and the Content of the Customer.

This Customer deserved a better ‘Content Match’ than she received.  She put a lot of effort and detail into her email.

That was not reciprocated in the reply.

I have also passed your comments to our Chef regarding the risotto! Thanks!

This was a nice statement and showed that Lawrence read the email.

The Recovery

I do appreciate you giving us the opportunity to restore your confidence in Food and Beverage by speaking to me directly. Please let me know the best contact number and time to reach you, or you can call me at any time at 805 XXX XXXX.

This invitation to reach out to him is excellent and shows a personal touch.

The recovery would have been so much more effective if the overall email had been better.

The Closing

Once again, thank you for your valued feedback and we hope to serve you again whenever your travels bring you back to Santa Barbara.

The Customer is a long-term resident of Santa Barbara – making assumptions that all your Guests are tourists or visitors is not very welcome for locals.

Lawrence Teatree
Food and Beverage
The Ritz Carlton, Bacara Santa Barbara

In closing

If you attend to Customers by email, it’s important to –

Know what your brand ‘voice’ is – and confirm that it sounds human.  The days of Corporate speak and roboticism in email writing are over.

In this new world where chatbots and AI Assistants sound friendlier than a real human being does, humans should sound more human!

Understand  that email is a complex form of one to one communication.  Training and coaching really matter.

Ensure all your Customer channels are operating to the same, high standard.  

I hope this article has been helpful!

Daniel

Daniel Ord / [email protected]

How to be a better Service Quality Manager in 2018

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s a new year – and a great time for Service Managers to reflect on ways to deliver more value for their Teams & Organizations in 2018.

Here are some ideas.

More problem prevention, less problem solving

You’ve earned the right to be proud when your Service Staff competently handle Customer inquiries.

But you serve a higher purpose when you stop and ask yourself – why do we get these inquiries in the first place?

To solve that question requires courage.

The courage to get up, leave your desk, and traverse your organization to piece together the root causes of Customer contact.

Because for most Customer Care & Technical Support environments – the best contact is no contact.

The best Service Quality Managers work ‘up and out’ throughout the organization.  They don’t focus exclusively on their internal Staff performance.

More inspiration, less compliance

It’s so easy to get caught up in compliance.

Did Staff say the Customer’s name three times.  Did they wear black socks.

Sure compliance matters – but it’s not the stuff of Staff inspiration or culture building.

In the best circumstances, Service Quality Managers help design ‘what kind’ of experience to deliver.

Then using vivid language – written with adults in mind – they create a ‘statement of experience’ that links the day to day activities of their Staff to the kind of experience the organization aims to deliver.

But crafting an inspirational statement of experience – while important – is only one aspect of inspiration.

The best Service Quality Managers are also inspiring people.

What they speak about, the way they speak, the rituals they build into the lives of their Staff.

The best Service Quality Managers understand the impact of inspiration and harness it through how they behave and what they do. 

More ‘let’s try new things’, less ‘we have to do it the same way’

As the new year begins, some organizations will begin planning for Wave 12 of their Mystery Shopper program, or Wave 23 of their Customer Satisfaction survey program.

They will trot out exactly the same programs they’ve always run – with the refrain that ‘we need to keep things the same for trending analysis’.

With rapidly changing Customer expectations, delivery methods and opportunities to learn and grow, it doesn’t make much sense to keep looking at the past when your Customers live in the present (and of course the future).

Again, courage is required.

The courage to challenge senior leadership to be brave.

To set aside endless trending and really dig deep to learn.

To stop looking at only numbers and respond to what Customers want, need and feel.

The best Service Quality Managers keep updated on evolving approaches & practices in Customer experience and are willing to try new things to learn and grow their effectiveness.

More ongoing Staff development

In so many workshops, Participants tell me, “Dan, I haven’t attended a workshop, training or developmental program in (fill in the blank) years.

Many receive training at hiring and then, as the years roll by, they’re expected to organically ‘get better’ through repetition and tenure.

While I remind folks that they need to largely self-manage their own career these days – that’s not an excuse for organizations to forego Staff development.

The best Service Quality Managers understand that their Staff need to feel they are learning & growing to stay equipped and engaged.

More journey, less destination

Embedding daily, weekly and monthly rituals & storytelling practices, keeps Service & Customer experience front and center in the lives of your Service Staff.

Look deeply into the frequency and intention of your rituals.

A once a year ‘Service Week’ or participation in an industry Awards activity – on their own – won’t be enough to effect profound change.

Whether it’s the morning huddle or a weekly Customer sharing session it’s important to keep Customers front and center in the minds of your Staff.

If you commit to a monthly / quarterly Service ritual – then stick to it.

And use the ritual to focus on Customers – not organizational announcements.

The best Service Quality Managers know that meeting & exceeding Customer expectations is a journey, not a destination. 

They design & execute meaningful rituals that routinely bring Customers to life in the lives of their Staff & Organization.

I hope some of these ideas were useful for you.

Happy holidays!

Daniel

Daniel Ord

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Culture of Fear & Compliance are poor tools for delivering a great Customer experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

This article proposes that a culture of fear and compliance are poor tools for delivering a great Customer Experience.

In the markets where I work most often, compliance still rules in Customer interactions.

Say this, wear that – act like this, act like that.

One of my students – who had worked as a concierge in a high-end Singapore shopping centre – told us that every morning their boss would line them up and critique all aspects of their grooming.

He told us the experience was a fearful one – and Team Members would begin their shift with a nagging unpleasant feeling.

Another student shared that they had been instructed to say, “Will you allow me to put you on hold?” vs. “May I put you on hold?”

It was never made clear why this use of language was so important to the Customer experience.

But there was a team of eagle-eared Quality Assurance analysts who fixated on language use and tidings of woe to the Team Member who in some way mixed up the verbiage.

 

Sure, compliance has its place – but not when it takes on Darth Vader-like proportions

Recently I had a meeting with a high-end hospitality company.

The course under discussion was how to help Team Members better interact with high-end VIP Guests through conversational engagement.

The challenge was that Team Members were either silent, monosyllabic or overly formal in the presence of ‘high rollers’.

The position I took was that in order to create a better Customer experience for these Guests, it was going to be necessary to back-off a bit on the compliance – and by association the culture of fear.

Perhaps it was time to allow for greater flexibility.

The whole room went silent.

You would have thought I had just ordered a double bacon cheeseburger in a vegetarian restaurant.

All eyes turned to the Senior in the room.

After a long pause, the Senior intoned that compliance was the most important aspect of their Service delivery and with that, I knew the conversation was over.

A culture of fear had shown itself.

I worry that to this day, these folks would rather look at their shoes than engage conversationally with a Guest.

 

Branding & the Customer experience

It is completely understandable that an organization would aim to live its brand promise.

The right opening, the right phrases, the right ‘look’ all matter.

They have their place in overall quality initiatives.

The problem comes in when these behaviors – and discussion around these behaviors – crowd out discussion about what’s really important.

It is well understood that what matters most in CX delivery is the Customer’s perception or ‘feeling’ about what they went through.

Clearly no Customer is going to get all excited about your greeting – or the fact that your Staff’s socks matched the color of their shoes.

When it comes to compliance, there’s very little opportunity to differentiate the experience.

But if you really consider your brand promises – either explicit or implicit – along with your values, mission, vision and the like – there’s a lot of rich context to develop powerful CX standards for conversation.

Let’s ask

The moment the Team begins to ask themselves – ‘What can we do to exceed the Customer’s emotional expectations’ for this kind of visit, call, email, live chat and so on’ – well that’s where the magic lives.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord

 

 

 

 

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we talk about Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

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

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

A psychologist with a patient

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

A see-saw going up and down

Contact Centre Average Handling Time & Quality

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret) about Contact Centre 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.

A young man brushing his teeth“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.

Exhaust coming from an automobile tailpipe

Average Handling Time is an outcome

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 Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

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.

A guru floating in the air 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.

Contact Centre Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from Contact Centre Average Handling Time!

A delicious piece of chocolate lava cakeDid 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 Contact Centre 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.

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

A graph showing acceptable range

Contact Centre Average Handling Time 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 (Workforce Management)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

Children in front of a fun-house mirrorAs 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] / https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

A picture of Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord