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What lessons can Contact Centre folks learn from CX folks?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

What lessons can Contact Centre folks can learn from CX folks?

I’ve written extensively about what lessons CX folks can learn from Contact Centre folks.

Here’s a link to my earlier article:

CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry

Today I flip the perspective and ask – what lessons can Contact Centre folks learn from CX folks?

Because the nature of the work between the roles is different – no matter how much Contact Center folks rebrand themselves as Customer Experience.

And there are so many lessons Contact Centre folks can learn from their CX Colleagues.

Here goes!

 

Is the work done in CX and in Contact Centres really so different? Yes it is. The Customer Experience and Contact Centre Big Top

When people ask me about what it takes to run a successful Contact Centre, I like to use the analogy of a circus tent.

Imagine a traditional red & white striped circus tent up ahead of you. Lots of things are going on inside that big top.

As you enter the tent you’ve got the high-wire acrobats up overhead, the lion tamers over there and the clowns driving around in funny cars in the ring by the entrance.

There’s a lot going on in that tent. And it all matters. The Fortune Teller has her role. The Weightlifters have their role.

You get the idea.

Now imagine that your big top tent is your Contact Centre. There’s a lot going on inside the Contact Centre big top too.

You’d find Quality Assurance – that’s a specialized role.

And as we look around we find Workforce Management, Training, IT, Human Resources, Finance.  They’re all specialized roles too.

They’re all contributing to Contact Centre success.

And of course you’d have all the people that get the work in and out each day – the Agents, the Team Leaders, the Directors.

In a great Contact Centre all the disparate roles work in harmony together to achieve results. Everyone knows what everyone else does and has a basic understanding of each other’s contribution – even if they themselves don’t ‘do that’.

All under the direction of a skilled & knowledgeable Contact Centre Head.

But the Contact Centre tent isn’t the same as the CX tent. Sure – they’re pitched on the same turf. Your entry ticket gets you into both.

 

So what’s inside the CX tent?

Like the Contact Centre tent, there’s a lot going on inside the CX big top too.

I’m a CXPA Recognized Training Provider and a fan of the 5 CX Competency Framework required for CCXP Certification.

The 5 CX competency domains are:

·      Customer Experience Strategy

·      Customer Insights & Understanding

·      Design, Implementation & Innovation

·      Metrics, Measurement & ROI

·      Culture & Accountability

Where each competency requires a specific set of know-how to succeed.

Just consider VOC (Customer Insights & Understanding) alone. By the time you factor in qualitative & quantitative research, triangulation, prioritization & actioning of results you’re covering a lot of ground.

CX isn’t just doing one thing. And it’s not Customer Service on steroids.

And just like in the Contact Centre, the disparate CX roles work in harmony under the direction of a skilled & knowledgeable CX Head.

With the added caveat that CX is at play across the entire organization. All functions, all departments, all Employees, all Partners, all Vendors.

When I listen to people talk about their work and Customers  I ask myself – are they talking about the work done that falls within a department – like Customer Service or Marketing?

Or are they talking about work done across the organization – such as prioritization of Customer journeys to be studied, rollout of Experience Design know-how organization-wide or Culture building.

It may not be a perfect dividing line but it helps me decide if the conversation is about Customer Service (we handle omnichannel service) or Customer Experience (we’re use a few key Customer metrics to understand their relationship with our organization).

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com/cx-lessons-i-learned-judging-cx-awards-this-year

 

Ok, the tents are different. You made your point.  So what can lessons can Contact Centre folks learn from CX professionals?

CX Leader of the Year Awards Judge

I continue to be inspired by the level of CX work being done out there in the real world. I see this level both through judging I’ve been doing for various Customer Experience Awards as well as our own work with Clients.

CX Leader of the Year 2021

The lessons Contact Center folks can learn from CX professionals is tremendous. But for this article I’ve narrowed down to five points that really stand out for me.

Especially because of my background in the Contact Center industry.

1.   How to craft a CX Vision

I am endlessly blown away by the work that CX professional put into crafting a powerful CX Vision.

We teach the process and quite a few Clients have shared the outcome of their process with us – and it’s intensive and can take months.

Because it involves aligning to business strategy, brand values and Customer expectations.

And then blending all of these into a powerful statement that defines – specifically – what kind of experience we deliver around here.

It’s so much more than asking ‘what’s the industry standard for this or that’ – which seems to be a trap some Contact Center folks fall into.

Strategy flows from Vision – so getting that Vision right – and taking the time & effort to craft one that’s meaningful is something CX people do – and do well.

And if you’re a Contact Centre person lucky enough to work somewhere with a powerful CX Vision – you’ve got what you need to craft your Service Delivery Vision – one that can help you inspire the Service folks that work for you.

 

2.   Tie strategy to business results

Even after my 20 years of teaching in the industry, you’re still hearing consultants & practitioners debating whether Contact Centres are cost centers or profit centers.

I know it’s an important discussion – I’ve been in a few myself. I’m not minimizing the importance.

But really? 20 years? Why hasn’t more progress been made here? (and likely a topic for another article).

What the best CX folks are getting right these days is aligning the CX strategy they come up with to the overall business strategy.

And showing how and where their CX work can improve the business. And not at the ‘expense’ of Customers – but considering the Customer viewpoint.

What I still hear a lot in the Contact Centre industry is this – ‘what are the best practices’.  As if there was one playbook to use and everyone should use that same playbook.

And that playing to that playbook would be enough to be a great Contact Centre.

I think the additional question that would help would be ‘what are the principles or practices I can use to align our Contact Centre strategy with our organization’s business strategy to prove out how our work benefits the organization and the Customer.’

Asking that question can take some philosophical shifting – and a strong grasp of financial and ROI considerations – something that CX folks are getting better and better at.

And would be happy to help with.

 

3.   Start thinking in Customer journeys and not just in touchpoints

Contact Centres, by the nature of the work they do, become obsessed with what happens within that interaction.

Did we show empathy, did we solve the problem, did we use time well.

And mastering the Contact Centre touchpoint and delivering great conversations with Customers takes a lot of know-how and skill and it’s to be celebrated.

But if we think only in touchpoints and not in the totality of the Customer journey we’re missing the big picture. And how Customers think – which is in journeys.

Which is one underlying reason CX folks think & work at the journey level too.

So in addition to mastering that ‘touch’ the Customer has with us – such as that live chat or email – it helps for Contact Centre to consider what I call the Journey Perspective.

1.    Where did that Customer come from – and what motivated them to reach out to us? (the before)

2.   What does this Customer need from me right now in this touch? (the during)

3.   Where will the Customer likely go or need to go next – and how can I help them on their way? (the after)

I like to cover this when I teach touchpoint management because I think it’s important to use a broader Customer journey oriented ‘lens’ to consider what Customers are going through.

Over and above the single ‘touch’.

 

4.    Understand Voice of Customer Research practices & principles better

I was taken on a Centre tour a few years ago where the Director was so proud that the individual NPS scores given by Customers at the end of their calls were instantly flashed on large TV screens posted throughout the Centre.

All showing the Agent Names and the scores they had received so far that day.

Oh dear. (an article for another day)

Here’s another example.

When I ask Contact Centre folks the last time they invited in a small panel of Customers, bought them lunch and asked them questions about what they like or don’t like about Contact Centre service, they sometimes look at me like I’m speaking in tongues.

Bring in a real Customer to the Contact Centre? I’m not exactly sure why that would sound so outlandish. Just imagine how much you could learn.

What kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?

To be fair, VOC is a highly specialized area. And it has a pride of place in the CX big top.

But having an essential understanding of qualitative, quantitative methodologies and principles and practices can only help Centres perform better.

And make better decisions on how they use the data & insights that come out of VOC work.

 

5.    Build cross-functional support

When you listen to CX professionals share their stories – there a common narrative arc amongst many of them.

Let me see if I can narrate that typical arc here:

“I was the first person in my company to take on the CX role – it was brand new. I had to create my own job, determine my own priorities and consider how to achieve both short term and long terms results.

And in all these I had to align myself with other stakeholders in other departments, heads of functions, senior leadership, finance, the COO.

And now – 2, 3, 4 years later I’ve been successful. You know how I know? It’s not just that our Team size has increased – though it has.

And it’s not just that we’ve achieve some cool results – though we have

It’s the people are starting to come to me and our CX Team. To ask for help. To get our opinion on how to handle something better.

That’s been the true sign of our success in promulgating a CX mindset throughout the organization.”

Don’t you love that story? I do.

And I think Contact Centres can only achieve their vision & purpose better when they also build powerful cross-functional relationships too.

Not just to get the basics done – like forecasting or training. But to share how the Contact Centre can help support the efforts of other departments and the organization at large.

 

In closing

Because I stand with one leg firmly in the Contact Centre world and another leg firmly in the CX world I enjoy comparing, contrasting and understanding how the two disciplines can work together better – to make Employee & Customer lives better.

I hope this short article has been helpful.

Daniel Ord of OmniTouch with a Participant

Thank you for reading.

Daniel Ord

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

 

The risks of channel blending in a Contact Centre

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Yup – your Contact Centre Agents have Available time.

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

The following formula applies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Smart practitioners and organizations that pursue Customer Experience say no.

It all sounds so good on paper so why not?

It’s simple.

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

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

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

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

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

All noble stuff.

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

 

Wikipedia gives us this gem for multi-tasking

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

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

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

Jeff Toister, a Customer Service expert, writes –

Multi-tasking and Customer Service don’t mix.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The term has since been applied to human tasks.

 

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

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

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

But let’s take that argument a bit further.

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

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

 

The world has changed

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

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

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

 

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

 

Channel blending is not about being Omni-channel

Omni-channel is about the Customer experience.

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

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

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

Absolutely!

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

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

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

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com