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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I share 3 suggestions for Contact Centre Leaders to transform into Customer Experience Leaders in 2019.

First things first

I sometimes hear Contact Centre leaders say that their senior or functional management doesn’t support their Centre.

If you work at a cult status company like Zappos you’re clearly fortunate.  Your high level of Customer Experience (CX) ambition is aligned to and reinforces that of your company.

It’s a virtuous cycle.

But what if you’re the Centre Manager in a company where your purpose isn’t seen as mission-critical.  Where management doesn’t meaningfully embrace Customer centricity.

That’s a different scenario.

Sure – you can’t control the level of CX ambition in your company.  But go ahead and pursue your personal CX ambitions – even if they don’t align to the current CX ambitions of your company.

John Maxwell writes “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”  Don’t settle for becoming an outcome of your culture. Consider yourself a driver of your culture.

I think that’s putting first things first.

Suggestion #1 – Get involved with the Customer Experience (CX) Vision

Not every company decides to pursue a CX strategy.  At the end of the day it’s a business decision.

And don’t let the false use of lingo in companies fool you.  Rebranding everything as ‘Customer Experience’ when it used to be called ‘Customer Service’ doesn’t make it so.

They’re different things.

Window dressing doesn’t equate to strategy.

A Customer Experience strategy – a big topic – addresses:

  1. What kind of experience you intend to deliver to Customers
  2. The objectives, goals & metrics you set to measure success
  3. The outside-in perspective of the Customer to ensure your aim is true
  4. The ways you plan to engage everyone within the organization to deliver
  5. The long- and short-term actions you take to achieve your objectives

I’ll cover CX Strategy more in a future article.

10 CCXP Exam Practice Questions for Customer Experience Strategy

 

But for our purposes today let’s look at Point #1 -what kind of experience you intend to deliver.

Because this is where your CX Vision lives.  It describes the intended experience in vivid and compelling terms so that everyone knows what that experience should look like and feel like.  In Service Design it might be called your Value Promise.

If your company has a defined Customer Experience (CX) Vision in place, life is good.  You’re in a great position to align your quality program & performance standards to that vision.

No more excuses to use weak standards like ‘Use the Customer’s Name 3x’.

From Contact Centre Management to Customer Experience Management – do you have what it takes?

What if your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place?

If your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place, then it isn’t likely to have a CX Vision in place either.

But hey – don’t let that stop you.

Sometimes Contact Centre Leaders need to shape their own destiny.  You can and should put together a strong Service Vision.

By the way, I tend to be very particular with terminology here.  I don’t call this a Customer Experience Vision.

The reason is simple.

A CX Vision by definition and application incorporates the entire organization and its ecosystem.  If your scope of authority extends only across the Contact Centre or Customer Service function, it’s better to be precise and call it a Service Vision instead.

Because it’s not organizational in scope.

But, over time and with your influence, a great Service Vision can readily evolve into an organizational CX Vision.

So think big when you craft it!

And the Service Vision often does double-duty for how we treat each other.  It doesn’t just have to be for Customers.  It can be for Employees too.

Sometimes I use the analogy of ice cream.  What ‘flavour’ of service do we deliver around here.

Coming up with your Service Vision

To come up with your Service Vision it helps to look  at what your company says about itself.

This is where I begin when I’m designing a Mystery Shopper research or Quality Assurance program.

Read your company website.  The company vision, mission and values can often be found there.  What’s your purpose?  Who are your intended Customers?  What role do you play in their lives?

Articulate how your company describes itself.

Next, look at your company’s brand attributes & values.

What kinds of promises does your company make to current and prospective Customers when they use your products & services?  What do your ads say?  What kind of images are used?  What kind of lingo appears in marketing communications?

Articulate the brand promises your company makes.

Now you can put these findings in front of the people who work in your Centre.  What do they think?  Does it ring true?

Your goal is to develop and codify a Service Vision (a statement), which is often supported by a focused set of 3 – 6 Service principles.

And by going through this process you’ll be better equipped – when the time comes – to help other departments and functions work through their CX Vision.

That’s influence!

Just imagine

When anyone asks your Contact Centre Agent what kind of service they deliver around here – they can tell you.  And specifically how they apply the vision & principles to their daily interactions.

Easy to talk about – but it’s the doing that sets you apart from others.

In closing, the CX Vision, the Service Vision and CX Strategy are big topics.  They’re worth taking the time and effort to read, study and discuss at a much deeper level than is presented in this short article.

But I’ve found over the years, the best CX & Service strategies begin with a solid vision.

 

Suggestion #2 – Please don’t call a horse an apple

It’s wearying to see how many Contact Centres have rebranded themselves as Customer Experience Centres and how many Contact Centre job titles have been changed to incorporate ‘Customer Experience’ into the title.

But you can point at a horse and call it an apple all day and that won’t make it so.

This type of rebranding exercise pollutes everyone’s understanding of what CX really is.  Because CX – by definition & application – must incorporate the organization as a whole.

Sure – your Contact Centre has some impact on the overall Customer Experience for those Customers who choose to use your resources. 

But their overall perception of your company is influenced by so many (other) factors and is fluid over time.

McKinsey writes that Customers think in terms of their journeys, not in touchpoints. That can be hard for Contact Centre leadership – in charge of large and labour-intensive touchpoint – to take onboard.

Especially when for years we’ve all been taught that the Contact Centre is the most important touchpoint in the company.

It’s helpful for Contact Centre people to understand that they’re a subset of a subset in the world of CX.

First comes CX which covers the entire organizational ecosystem.

Then within that ecosystem you have the Customer Service function – most easily viewed as the human to human interactions Customers have with you.

And within the Customer Service function you have the Contact Centre.

If I were training my Agents today I’d spend time sharing key Customer journeys.

Why did the Customer contact us?  Where did they come from? Where are they likely to go next?  What’s our role and opportunity in this experience?

When Contact Centre people stick their flagpole into the ground and claim they are Customer Experience, they do a big disservice to every other employee and stakeholder in the organization.

Ultimately, the smart use of Customer research allows you to evaluate the importance of the Contact Centre touchpoint to the Customer across key personas and journeys.

We talk about research next.

 

Suggestion #3 – Build your Customer Research Know-How

You’d hope that the Contact Centre leaders would be experts in Customer Research know-how.

That they’d jump at every opportunity to understand the needs, expectations and wants of their Customers.

That they’d bang on the doors of their Service Quality department and ask to be a part of the research programs undertaken.

That they’d be open to learning the (sometimes) harsh truth about what Customers have to say.

But one potential barrier I’ve seen often is this one.

When senior management has unrealistic expectations around quantitative outcomes, Contact Centre leaders may not be so keen to let poor results & findings see the light of day.

I met one Contact Centre leader who was so terrified of an upcoming management meeting on their Contact Centre survey results they called in sick for the presentation.

Fear is a terrible way to motivate change and when Customer research is seen as ‘scary’ that inhibits the desire to learn more about research.

Another potential barrier I see is this one.

Research is a fascinating but complex topic.  It involves a lot of what I call ‘First Principles’.

First Principles are the essential knowledge you need to understand the topic with some level of mastery.

In Customer Research that includes essential knowledge around topics like –

  • The role of qualitative research
  • The use of structured vs. unstructured data
  • Descriptive, predictive and outcome metrics
  • Forms of ethnographic research
  • Relationship vs. transaction survey practices
  • The role of statistical viability
  • Basic research terminology – mode, median, average,
  • More research terminology – correlation, regression, causality
  • Service & experience design research

To learn and understand these concepts take time and effort. But the payoff is tremendous.

In an era where more information and data is produced than at any other time in human history, dusting off those old statistics books and re-mastering quantitative & qualitative research matters.

Experience design is based on qualitative research methodologies in particular.

Get your Customer Research know-how up to speed.  It helps you make sound sense of  how you can understand Customers better.

In closing

Of course I could have had 13 suggestions – or 5 suggestions or 11 and so on.

But after some thought to my own personal experience, what I’ve learned working with Clients and the amount of time and effort required, I hope that these suggestions resonate with you and are helpful.

Here’s to all your CX ambitions for 2019 and thank you for reading!

How to learn more about Customer Experience and prepare for certification

Daniel

How Team Leaders can talk like Leaders

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

It’s all about the conversations

When you’re managing or leading a team, it’s all about the conversations.

Some of my closest peers use the term ‘high frequency and high quality’ to describe the vital role of conversations with Team Members and that’s such a great way to put it.

Radio Frequency diagram

The challenge for Team Leaders is that  they either don’t know about the many different kinds of conversations at their disposal or they haven’t grown confident in the use of the conversations.

Some Team Leaders will tell you they don’t have time to have conversations with their Team Members which is a different challenge altogether.

There are many conversations in the Team Leader’s repertoire

Every Team Leader has a repertoire of conversations to choose from and use at the appropriate times and for the appropriate purposes.

In no particular order we share a few of these conversations here:

  • Praise
  • Gratitude
  • Monthly Team Reviews
  • Sincere & specific conversations about what went ‘right’
  • Sincere & specific conversations about ‘what did not go right’
  • Performance reviews
  • Manager as ‘boss’
  • Manager as ‘person
  • Transactional coaching
  • Individual monthly reviews
  • Poor performance
  • Personal advice (when asked for)
  • Manager as ‘Leader’

There’s a lot to talk about.

So how can a Team Leader talk like a Leader?

The simple advice is actually quite practical and links specifically back to the organizational or departmental Vision, Mission & Values.

Senior management wants the essence of the organization to cascade throughout every department and level.

So it can befrustrating for a CEO or VP of Customer Experience (etc.) to find that the folks answering the phone or serving at the Counter don’t have a basic understanding organizational goals, vision, mission and values.

While it’s to be expected that the senior folks incorporate organizational essence into their daily work, it often fails to appear in the conversations that take place between Team Leaders and the Frontline.

Vision, Mission & Values – this isn’t purely theoretical stuff

When we teach the Vision, we help people understand that this is a point in time in the future (as in our organization aims to become…).

Of course this is highly simplified for this article but still very clear.

In a recent class one of the students wanted to use Korean Airlines as a case study and here is their Vision:

The Mission of Korean Airlines

To be a Respected Leader in the World Airline Community

While the calibre of the Vision Statement is open for discussion, we decided that this indeed represented a point of time in the future – a point in time when all the dreams of Korean Air would come true.

When we teach the Mission, we help people to understand that this is what we do ‘every day’.

For example, if we are a Call Centre, we may seek to listen and solve the enquiries of our Customers in a positive manner – and that’s something we do every day – not just on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

We then went to the Mission Statement for Korean Air which is:

Excellence in Flight

While the calibre of the Mission Statement is open for discussion, we decided that excellence in flight was something that was supposed to happen ‘every day’.

We then went to Zappos to visit a few of their well-known Core Values – 3 of which are listed below:

Core values are supposed to guide our behaviour at work and when well designed they can be very inspirational.

So what do we mean by the Language of Leadership?

Cindy – I really liked the way you incorporated empathy into your email to Mr. Lawrence. That supports our mission to provide excellent service ‘every day’.

Tom – one of our core values is Teamwork – and by staying back last night to help Tanya finish her report on time you helped bring that value to life. Thanks Tom.

Alex, for the next Guest who checks in, be sure to remember to ask them if they have their loyalty card so that they can enjoy the additional benefits of staying with us – that supports our vision to be the most trusted provider of hospitality solutions for our Guests.

It’s a terrific moment when Team Leaders begin to speak like leaders.

In closing

Managing people well involves having a lot of different types of timely and effective conversations with them.

And every potential conversation in the repertoire has its own purpose.

But to speak like a leader, just look to your organizational and departmental vision, mission and values and aim to bring them to life in your conversations with others.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

Daniel Ord

No – your Team Member does not have an attitude problem

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

  • Their Productivity
  • Their Quality
  • Their Attitude

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

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

Does your Staff have an attitude problem?

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

But is this true?

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

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

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

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

Every job requires a certain set of attitudes to succeed.

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

What are some common Frontline attitudes?

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

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

Nobody is a superstar at every attitude.

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

Some we learned from trusted teachers and mentors.

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

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

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

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

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

Know what levels of attitude you need

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It could be that they –

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

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

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

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

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

In closing

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

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel & M&C Class

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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

Tin Man, Scarecrow: What’s that? 

Cowardly Lion: Talk me out of it! 

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

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

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

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

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

Have you ever worked with a CX Champion?

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

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

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

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

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

Success always has a thousand parents.

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

It’s like dancing in mud.

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

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

Without a CX Champion – your internal CX team will struggle

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

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

Really?

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

A lesson that should have been already learned

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

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

I remember this time well.

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

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

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

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

Are corporate memories really that short?

Maybe there was a reason Dorothy met the Lion last

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

Dorothy first meets the Scarecrow – the brains.

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

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

In this new age, courage matters.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel