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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

Terror in the Boardroom – and the impact on your Mystery Shopper research

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

I met up with a friend who works in another Mystery Shopper research firm.

We like to compare notes on Mystery Shopper research and share practices that enable great outcomes.

Over a recent coffee we talked about how senior leadership, and their reactions to Mystery Shopper results, have a direct link to the success of the program.

Terror in the Boardroom

My friend shared this story.

Dan – here’s what happened…most of the Mystery Shopper results were ‘ok’.

Nothing spectacular, but for an organization of their scale, the essential compliance KPIs were being met.

But one of their Customer touchpoints really struggled with their turnaround time commitment.

Rather than receiving a reply within 2 – 3 days, reply time-frames ranged from one week to no reply received within the time-frame promised.

We knew what we were getting into when we took the program.

But even we were taken aback when – after submitting the final results – the Client asked us to edit out the poor results.

And not just once – we had to redo the complete deck and set of reports three times before they were satisfied. 

Later on a Service Quality Manager told us what happened.

The Blame Game

When senior management saw the poor results for turnaround time, they yelled at the Participants and launched into assigning blame.

Of course, the Participants were stunned into silence.

And the unspoken message came across loud and clear.

It’s safer to hide bad results then to risk angering Senior Management.

Clearly a company culture issue.  And one that kills any chance at systemic improvement.

Avoid Terror in the Boardroom

It’s sad to see a viable Mystery Shopper program go down in flames due to fear of Senior Management.

The Mystery Shopper Agreement

I’d suggest is asking Senior Management sign a simple agreement when the Mystery Shopper program is approved.

Perhaps something like this:

The purpose of our Mystery Shopper program is to ________.  It’s likely we will uncover things that we want to hear – and things that we don’t.

We will resist the natural urge to cleanse results to make them look better.

We can only get better if we truly know how we’re doing – and for CX-based Mystery Shopper programs, how our Customers are experiencing us.  

With this in mind, we will take the good with the bad, the great with the not so great, look at results in perspective – and use them to help us move forward. 

Let your Research Partner present findings

Mystery Shopper Research Partner

Your Research Partner is in the best position to share methodology, compare and contrast findings with other organizations and give specific examples of both the good and not so good results with ideas for improvement.

The Research Partner operates outside the politics of the organization.  That brings an important level of objectivity and credibility to the process.

When the Research Partner doesn’t present – it’s left to someone within the organization to share findings

But when findings are presented ‘in-house’, a lot of context, examples and recommendations go missing.

And the politics can be more ‘highly charged’.

We hope these few words on Mystery Shopper research are helpful to you.

Avoid terror in the boardroom!  And thank you for reading,

Daniel

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 your call quality doesn’t deliver on Customer experience

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Call quality in today’s Contact Centres hasn’t improved enough to keep up with today’s Customer expectations.

Recently we released a new training course – “How to have Great Conversations with your Guests & Customers”.

Within days, we received a number of inquiries from banks, hotels and even two shopping centres.

While the industries were different, the inquiry was the same.

“Dan – we’ve got the Team to a level of standardization and compliance.

But despite that fact that we are an amazing company in our industry, we still have to urge (push, pull, scream) to get our Frontline staff to engage in conversation with our Guests & Customers.”

That got us to thinking – why isn’t call quality getting better?

Why do Team Members in hotels & retail environments sound so robotic?

The call mix has changed

What Customers called about 10, 5 or even 2 years ago has changed.

In a North American study, 41% of voice-calls received in Contact Centres were driven by failures in other channels.

So voice-based Centres are transitioning into channel-resolution Centres.  Working to solve more complex and challenging inquiries than ever before.

When you’re dealing with more complex inquiries, the stakes are higher.

A nice tone of voice and saying the Customer name two times isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Proportionally calls related to difficult situations have gone up

Ask any mid to long time Contact Centre Agent about the behavior of Customers today.

They will tell you that their Customers are more demanding.

Your longer-serving Agents might feel that organizational performance has declined over time.  A direct result given the increase in the volume and intensity of difficult situations.

That’s an important leadership challenge that needs to be addressed before the Centre shifts into ‘all Customers are jerks’ mode which is an experience killer.

If you’re an Agent who thinks Customers are jerks, your call quality is bound to suffer.

Contact Centres as an industry remain siloed

Unlike industries such as health-care, law, accounting and the like, Contact Centres are deeply tied to their vertical organization with rew ties to the ‘horizontal industry’ at large.

This means that the folks running the Centres might not have the necessary knowledge, skills and exposure to run multi-channel or omni-channel environments.

Once a Contact Centre has managed to achieve a ‘base-level’ of performance around Operations & Quality, a Business As Usual inertia sets in.

A sense that ‘we’ve done it, we’re there – so for heaven’s sake don’t rock the boat by changing anything now’.

So what is this mysterious Wow Factor everyone talks about?

You still hear the terms, Wow Factor, Go the Extra Mile, Customer delight – but it’s very seldom that Contact Centre leadership can define it well.

How can an Agent deliver this mysterious Customer Delight factor if their bosses can’t even define it?

No – this is not an Agent attitude problem.

This is a management failure.

And the lessons of Customer Experience teach us that consistent (good) performance beats isolated Wow Factors every time.

That doesn’t mean ignore Wow.  It simply means that you have to get the consistency right before you design the Wow.

You can’t build a house with Legos

Of course behaviors like tone of voice, etiquette and courtesies matter – but they are expected and don’t really provide differentiation.

When you listen to calls across organizations in the same locale or region, it all sounds pretty much the same.

Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy calls it the ‘blight of the bland’.

I love that term, despite its inherent negativity.

What you get these days when you call a Contact Centre is truly bland – not great, not bad – serviceable.

I’ve yet to meet a Contact Centre Manager who promotes the mantra of ‘Let’s be Serviceable!’

So why is this so common?

Primarily because most Centre leadership and Quality Assurance Teams focus heavily on the compliance standards like ‘fillers’ and ‘use the Customer’s name 3 times in a conversation’.

Agents become compliance driven – because that is what their bosses tell them they want.

And it’s what they hear their bosses talk about every day.

It’s unreasonable and illogical to expect Agents to suddenly dig deeper into their souls and find a way to ‘wow’ Customers when their ‘Quality life’ revolves around tick-marks on compliance-based behaviors.

Recently a senior executive said to me – “We are the most famous hotel in a famous country – surely my Staff can find something to chat about with the Customer!”

While on paper that sounds reasonable, at the Agent level we can’t operate on wish fulfillment.

It’s like expecting flowers to bloom in the desert.

So what can differentiate?

In today’s CX environment, the standard bundle of KPIs that exist in many Centres continues the blight of the bland.

To be differentiate, we find that there are 3 common things – across industries – that Agents can bring to life in their conversations.

The ability to deliver any of these involves a variety of other competencies including listening, empathy, confidence, product knowledge and the like.

  • Relevant opinions

    Imagine you call for a dining reservation in the restaurant of your hotel and after a brief but valuable conversation, the Agent provides their informed ‘opinion’. “In my opinion sir, you’d be happier in the La Sala restaurant as it carries a wider selection of dishes as compared to our La Marina restaurant which is exclusively fine dining and for which options are more limited…”

  • Appropriate Recommendations

    Recommendations are linked to opinions but stronger in depth & intensity.

    “Sir, thanks for answering all my questions. Based on your situation I’d recommend that you take the XX version of our product – while it’s a bit lower than our higher end solution – it will serve you well based on the parameters we spoke about. It’s always superb to hear a Contact Centre Agent use the phrase “I recommend” appropriately (i.e. after careful listening and weighing of options – not simply pushing a product or service).

  • Conveyance of Emotion

    There are so many definitions and descriptions of this important topic and it’s a topic we never tire of studying. One of the best and simplest definitions I’ve seen is this – “The Guest or Customer leaves the interaction feeling better than they did entering it.” 

When it comes to creating a positive emotional experience with a Customer (or at the very least mitigating a negative experience), it’s important to understand that it’s not achieved by tacking on a new KPI such as “Small Talk”.

It’s a matter of rethinking the entire conversation and learning how to identify solid opportunities to express opinions, recommendations and trigger emotions.

Some time back we did a Mystery Shopper which involved asking Agents about the various attractions to be found in a resort.

The question was this – “Can you tell me about the Aquarium?” .

The answer was, “It has fish”.

You can’t build a house using Legos.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

There are some odd approaches to achieving Contact Center productivity.

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

Here’s what it sounds like –

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

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

Sure Siti.

It’s all on the website.

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

Oooh ah – punch – go away – ack!

Short, sweet – unhelpful.

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

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

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

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

 

Designed journeys have exception handling too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

There is a danger when measuring service through a compliance lens

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

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

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

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

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

Unfortunately, that finding was considered incidental at best.

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

 

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

 

How about a version like this?

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

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

Sure Siti. Happy to help with that!

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

Ok Siti – had you viewed our website before? 

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

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

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

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

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Some tips on how to write a better email

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

 

Email is a visual form of communication

Your Customer will see your email before they read it.

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

 

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

Aren’t cook books gorgeous?

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

It’s better than meditation.

Now transfer that design logic to your email –

·      Is it pleasing to look at?

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

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

·      Could a visual image help make a point?

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

 

The best emails sound like the spoken word

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

 

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

Some phrases that should be banned immediately?

“We regret to inform you…”

Now how lame is that.

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

 

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

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

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

Nobody talks like that.

Obviously, writing a letter is different.

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

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

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

How bossy is that?

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

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

Is there any appreciation here?

No.

Can you feel the warmth?

I can’t.

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

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

How negative is that?

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

 

Learn the art of interpretation

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

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

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

 

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

Interpreting emails is the same.

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

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

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

What I learned judging the Gulf Digital & Customer Experience Awards

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

What I liked about the Awards format

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

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

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

What impressed me –

The breadth of Awards categories

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

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

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

There was literally something for everyone.

Project & campaign-based entries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After all CX is a journey and not a destination.

The transparency of the process

The Awards judging process is elegant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wow – talk about real learning.

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

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

In closing

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

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

www.singaporecxawards.com

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

Daniel & M&C Class

The Art of Conversation in a service setting

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

So we spent a few days visiting appliance dealers.

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was so easy and my expectations were far exceeded.

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

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

 

The German apprenticeship system

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

And the answer was – the German apprenticeship system.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that’s rarely the case.

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

 

Times are changing

Sure – a lot is going digital.

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

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

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com

 

 

How to conduct (and not conduct) a Customer experience Mystery Shopper

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

Adding the phrase ‘Customer Experience’ in front of something doesn’t make it so.  And this applies to Mystery Shopper research.   A Customer Experience Mystery Shopper is something very particular and special.

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

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

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

A group of 20 senior folks were gathered together in the conference room, and we were in the midst of selecting & defining quality standards when one of them stopped and asked –

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

No I said – how did it go?

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

He continued…

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

But of course!

The cover slide whirred up on the screen.

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

We were all ready. And then, next slide…

THE GREETING – score 98%

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

Then the next slide…

GET THE CUSTOMER NAME – score 97%

Oh…really?

And it carried on from there.

Slide after slide after slide reported on a compliance measurement – even the Hold Technique was featured.

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

Well it was an easy question to answer.

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

And the room agreed.

Interestingly – in this report there was a final measurement slide that said CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE (yes – that’s right – a single slide).

Score – 58%.

But the legend was unclear as to how the score was derived.

After some discussion around the table we guessed that perhaps this was the personal score or viewpoint of the Mystery Shopper.

So let’s put it on the table right now.

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

 

There’s a lot of compliance-based Mystery Shopper work going on out there

There are certainly some valid reasons for having a solid compliance-based Mystery Shopper program.

They’re used extensively in the banking & finance industry – especially for ensuring regulatory compliance.

In the Public Sector, compliance-based programs provide a basic ‘minimum-standard’ dipstick – that provides high level assurance that when an email gets sent – it receives a reply.

Or when a telephone call is placed, some kind of basic response – along with basic courtesy – is provided.

While it’s rare to see a Public Sector program skew heavily to the Customer experience (now there’s an opportunity I’d love to be part of!) compliance based programs ensure a level of essential service is provided.

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

That when a certain telephone number is dialed at a certain time of day – that the call goes to the right place (you’d be surprised how many times it doesn’t).

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

As channels proliferate and overlap, it’s really important to ensure that channel mechanisms work the way they are supposed to – the omni-channel Mystery Shopper program.

It’s not right to say that compliance-based programs are ‘bad’ while CX-based programs are ‘better’.

It’s always about defining what you want to learn and then figuring out the best way to learn it.

But there’s a big opportunity in putting together a solid Customer Experience-based Mystery Shopper program.

And no – adding the word Customer experience in front of something doesn’t make it so.

 

If you are considering a compliance-based Mystery Shopper program ask yourself – what am I going to learn from this program that I couldn’t learn from my own Team Members?

Assuming that you’re not conducting Mystery Shopper because you have to (such as described earlier for the finance or Public Sectors), I’d ask myself a very simple question before starting.

What am I going to learn from this Mystery Shopper program that my own Team Members – both Management & Frontline – wouldn’t have already picked up on? 

Once, when I met with a fancy hotel chain, the resident Trainer told me (in a very proud tone) that their Mystery Shopper – apparently a hotel expert who traveled the world – had picked up that the wheels on the room service trolley were squeaky.

And before I could think (and perhaps keep my mouth shut) I blurted out – why would you pay someone for that? 

Shouldn’t your Room Service People & Supervisor pick up on that? 

What kind of culture exists around here if your own Team Members wouldn’t find and fix such matters on their own?

At the end of the day, if the Mystery Shopper program looks and feels ‘police-based’ it will be wildly unpopular – and that makes improvement efforts very difficult.

Because when a program has limited credibility – it automatically has limited impact.

The key is always to define the purpose – a set of objectives for the program – that will resonate with Stakeholders and set the Organization up for future success.

 

So what does a real Customer experience-based Mystery Shopper program look like?

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

Let’s start this discussion with the brand

Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy says that a brand is perception – nothing more, nothing less. It is what you think and feel about that company: an opinion, a viewpoint, an expectation.

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

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

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

The gaps between the ‘brand’ and the ‘Customer experience’ can be identified for further action.

One of favorite Customer experience-based Mystery Shopper programs was with a high end hotel where the GM & Team wanted to focus exclusively on brand values. So we designed everything to effectively measure the success (or gap) in bringing brand values to life.

It was a privilege to work with such forward thinking management and I share this example in many of my talks and workshops on Customer experience.

 

And what about emotion? If you’re executing a real Customer experience-based Mystery Shopperprogram then studying the emotion is a must

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

For too long, Customers (and Employees as well) have been treated as batches of numbers, or ‘segments’ that are expected to behave and perform in certain ways.

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

But if you read any established Customer experience authority you’ll note how quickly (and powerfully) the topic of emotion comes up – in fact Bruce Temkin argues that more than 50% of the Customer experience is driven by emotion – so how can that be ignored?

So in our work designing Customer-experience based Mystery Shopper programs we always talk about emotions.

During the course of booking a dining reservation what emotion do we want to ‘bring out’? It’s definitely not using the Customer’s name 2 times!

Let’s be frank – if you don’t know what emotions you are trying to evoke – how will your Team Members know?

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

 

We also like The Diary approach to recording thoughts & feelings over the course of the journey

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

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

But after each visit was done, we were able to boil down observations across the journey into a number of themes.

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

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

What was also great about this program was that no score was assigned.

It was about designing an observation through the eyes of a ‘stand-in’ Customer to document the Customer journey.

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

At the very minimum

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

Sure – compliance standards are easy to measure.

But they have very little to tell you with regard to the thoughts, emotions, feelings & Customer journey.

With compliance standards, you can get excellent marks and still deliver a lousy experience.

And just adding the phrase ‘Customer Experience’ to something doesn’t make it so.

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

[email protected] / www.omnitouchinternational.com / (65) 9838 2353

 Daniel Ord