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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]

 

 

 

 

 

 

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