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]

 

 

 

 

 

 

What kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short article I discuss the question – what kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?

It ties together two of my favourite topics – Customer Experience & Contact Centers.  And it’s the title of one of my best Keynote talks for various conferences around the world.

The Contact Center in the context of Customer Experience

The Contact Center is a touchpoint that only some Customers will use across some subset of all possible Customer journeys.

And for some organizations it can be less than 1% of Customers who utilize the Contact Center touchpoint at all.

Daniel Ord speaking on Customer Experience

Daniel Ord delivering a keynote on what kind of Customer Experience does your Contact Center deliver?

For example, imagine that on the spur of the moment you decide to stay in a hotel this upcoming weekend.

You ask a friend to suggest a place, you do some research online and finish by booking a reservation on your mobile phone.  No Contact Center involved.

But with that said, when a Customer needs the Contact Center, it can be a real moment of truth.

An experience that has significant ‘weight’ in their overall perception of the organization.

So not every Customer interacts with the Contact Center.  But every interaction with the Contact Center is really important.

The Contact Center is the formal living room in a house

Formal living rooms may sound old fashioned – but they’re still around.

When I was growing up we had a formal living room to receive and entertain special guests or to use for special occasions.

It’s a room that’s always perfect. It’s got the best furniture, the best art and it’s always spotless.  Because even though it’s not used everyday, it must always be ready.

And I think of the Contact Center within an organization in the same way. It’s the formal living room in the house of your organization.

Not every Customer will need to use it.  Nor will every Customer journey involve it.  But for those Customers who do come into our Center, it’s our job to always be ready for them with our very best resources.

So what kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?

Much of the subject matter for our keynote talk – and for this post –  is based on nearly 20 years of conducting Mystery Shopper research – especially for Contact Centers.

And most Centers have a list of ‘Quality standards’ they use to train Agents and measure their quality performance – and which they hope or believe will deliver a great Customer interaction.

Simple examples of Quality standards include:

  • Clarity in presenting the product or service
  • The level of Human Touch on display
  • The use of branded language
  • The conciseness of the email
  • The sales or upselling skill

The possible list of Quality standards is endless because there is no industry standard set of standards that work for every Center.  If that were the case, all Customers of all organizations would be happy all the time.  And obviously that’s not the case.

And what we’ve found in our research work with Clients is that there is a positive correlation between the sophistication behind selecting and defining Quality directives and the resulting Customer experience.

Or put more simply – when there’s more thought, effort and rigour put into selecting Quality standards – the resulting Customer interactions are better.  And Agents benefit from being treated like adults – and not compliance machines who have to do things like say the Customer’s name three times.

Let’s look at some example Quality standards now.

What to look for when you hire a new Contact Centre Manager

So what’s an example of a Quality standard that was impressive?

One of our most interesting engagements was as the Official Mystery Shopper Evaluator for the Singapore Government.  Which basically meant mystery shopping the quality of different government agencies for phone, face to face and email interactions.

And one of the standards set by the Singapore Government was amazing.  They practiced what they called ‘No Wrong Door’.  Let’s say the Customer had a personal taxation question but accidentally contacted the housing authority.

In most countries, the Contact Center Agent would tell the Customer that they reacehd the wrong place and perhaps give the number for the correct place to call – if that much.

But with No Wrong Door in Singapore, the Contact Center Agent will either arrange a connection to the right Agency or arrange for the right Agency to get back to the Customer directly.

And in a public sector setting that’s amazing.

Having lived in multiple countries, I sometimes joke that trying to get public service assistance through a Contact Center could be branded as ‘Every Door is the Wrong Door’.

That is unless you’re fortunate enough to live in Singapore.

 

What’s an example that wasn’t so great?

Isn’t it funny that we can sometimes come up with the not so great examples more easily than the great examples?

Here are three.

The ‘Ready to Serve’ Quality standard

The Client, a major mobile phone manufacturer, wanted our Mystery Shoppers to evaluate if the Contact Center Agent we reached was ‘ready to serve’.

Did you just read that twice?  So did we.

The question we had was this.  How is it possible for us to tell if someone was ready to serve?  In our opinion, that sounded like something a Team Leader should be doing internally.

We went back and forth with the Client to get some clarification.  But eventually our Client contact wrote us and said – “Look Dan, just ask the Mystery Shopper to do it”.  Which was shorthand for ‘we’re done talking about this.’

So we sat down and came up with our own logic for this Quality standard and moved on.

But here’s the thing.  If senior management selects a Quality standard that even they can’t explain clearly – how can we expect an Agent to bring that to life in their Customer interactions?

The ‘Tai Chi’ standard

For a University Contact Center, the Agents were instructed to immediately redirect the Caller to the university website if it turned out that the information was available there.  

Don’t answer the Caller question.  If it was on the website then send the Customer straight to the website.

I decided to call it the ‘Tai Chi’ standard because they really just tai chi’d Customers to the website!  And avoid answering the question.

And their rationale for this standard?

They had attended a seminar where the speaker told the audience they should focus on efficiency.  And to get people to use the website you have to force them to go to the website.

And you can just imagine the Customer Experience here.

After dialling, listening to the recorded announcements, punching through the IVR options, finally reaching a live Agent and asking their question – the Customer gets tai chi’d to the website.

Yikes.

The every Quality standard is measured as a Yes or No

For a few Centers we’ve worked with, management had decided that all or most of the Quality standards should be measured on a binary scale.  Yes / No.  1 / 0.  It happened or it did not happen.

Because they felt it was less complicated and easier to implement for them internally. That’s classic inside-out thinking.  Do what is easy for the Center – not necessarily for the Customer.

I bet you can imagine what those Agents sounded like when we listened to the calls.  Yup that’s right.

They sounded like robots.  There was no style, no articulation, no effort.

When every Quality standard is measured on a binary scale, that doesn’t just set a low bar for Quality.

There’s almost no bar for Quality.

 

There’s an art & science to selecting Quality Standards

There’s an art & science to selecting the right Quality Standards for your Contact Center.

If you’re lucky enough to have a well-defined Customer Experience Strategy in place that can help a great deal.  Because a Customer Experience Strategy describes the kind of experience you aim to deliver.

It provides a high level guide to coming up with the right Agent standards.

If you don’t have a Customer Experience Strategy, then a Service Delivery Vision can help.

A Service Delivery Vision is very much like a Customer Experience Strategy, but it tends to be focused only on the Customer Service function.  Whereas the Customer Experience Strategy is meant for the entire organization.

Now – if you don’t have a robust Service Delivery Vision then the next question is this.

How did your Contact Center choose its Quality standards?  What guided the decisions?

Here are some of the answers I’ve heard:

  • I think our Managers came up with these.
  • I think our Quality Assurance people came up with these.
  • The last Mystery Shopper provider we used came up with these.
  • Our Agents know how to talk to Customers – we don’t really use any standards.
  • I’m not sure but we don’t want to change them because everyone knows them already.
  • I’m new here and I don’t know – I was just asked to find a Mystery Shopper company.
  • We’ve used these for years and they’re ‘industry standard’ for our X industry 

Answers like these aren’t indicative of any level of sophistication in Quality standard selection & design.

And as I shared earlier, we’ve found a positive correlation between the sophistication of the Quality program and the Customer’s interaction experience.  And that makes complete sense.

Because when there’s more thought, effort and rigour put into selecting Quality standards – the resulting Customer interactions are better.

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

 

In closing

I may write a book sharing nothing but Mystery Shopper stories and the ins and outs of how to get Quality right.  There are just so many stories and learnings.

Because your Contact Center does deliver some type of Customer Experience.   The question is whether its the experience you wanted or planned for.

Thank you for reading,

Daniel

[email protected]

 

 

 

CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International 2 Comments

In this article I look at the CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry.

Let’s consider – what CX lessons can we learn from the Contact Centre industry?

There’s no question that Customer Experience as a recognized business discipline is gaining traction around the world.

Over the past decade, CX consultants, practitioners and associations have identified competencies & practices for success – such as those established by the CXPA in their CCXP Certification program.

And the public relations buzz around CX isn’t too bad either.

Conferences, whitepapers, training providers have all expanded around the topic.  As a good friend said to me, it seems like everybody is a CX expert these days.  And everyone is looking for the (right) answers to to achieve their CX ambitions.

But wait.  Are the opportunities & challenges presented by CX all new?

Or are there some CX lessons we can learn by examining past work done in successful Contact Centres?

As you’ll see, I think there are.

Your friendly neighbourhood Contact Centre Manager

I came to CX through the Contact Centre industry.  And I couldn’t have asked for a better path.

That’s because great Contact Centre Managers have tackled some of the challenges – and realized some of the opportunities – that are talked about today in CX forums.

Sure – the Contact Centre is a subset of CX.  And yes – Contact Centre Managers who rebrand themselves as Customer Experience Managers – with no significant change in functional responsibilities – cloud the full meaning of CX.  (more in this in another upcoming article)

But successful Contact Centre Managers  have navigated – for years in some cases – some of the things we talk about in CX today.

So if you’re after some answers to some of your burning CX questions – I’d consider talking to my Contact Centre people.

Here are some examples.

So how did you get into the Contact Centre industry?

 

Example #1 – Are you a Cost Centre or are you a Profit Centre?

For you Contact Centre folks out there – did that header just make you shudder?

I’m with you on that.

One of the most discussed topics over the past two decades has been whether the Contact Centre is primarily a bottomless money pit or a strategic function that delivers value.

To shift the organizational discussion away from the cost-centre mentality, I think successful Contact Centre Managers have been able to:

  • Prove the Centre’s impact on Customer satisfaction and related loyalty metrics
  • Present logical business cases to senior management in the language of numbers & outcomes
  • Provide useful business intelligence to other departments & functions

For CX folks, does any of this sound familiar?  It should.

Because in CX we have to make the connection to ROI.  We can’t rollout CX because we think it’s a moral imperative – an approach doomed to fail.

We have the obligation to link our CX efforts to improved organizational results – based on the metrics that matter most to us.

So if you’re working on CX ROI, it’s worth checking in with successful Contact Centre Managers to see what strategies they used to demonstrate Contact Centre ROI – and shift mindset away from ‘cost centre’.

 

Example #2 – Got a Service Culture?

Nobody goes to school to work in a Contact Centre.

And that means a lot of bright and often very young folks end up working in the Centre without prior experience or know-how.

So every Centre faces the need to transform raw human potential into industry professionals who have great conversations with Customers.

And that usually has to be done quickly – within months – sometimes even weeks.

To achieve that relentless focus on service requires strong culture building practices.  Because you can’t mandate culture.

I’ve seen the best Centre management do the following:

  • Develop a Service Delivery Vision to help everyone understand what kind of service we deliver around here
  • Select & define a focused set of principles that guide decisions about the behaviours we exhibit with Customers and each other
  • Ensure regular and frequent sharing of successes – and misses – with regard to Customer interactions – because storytelling & rituals are always a big part of culture

In CX you need to build a Customer-centric culture.  That marvelous CX transformation won’t happen without it.

But at the organizational level a culture transformation will take 3 – 5 years to succeed.  Assuming that it’s successful at all.

So if you want some lessons on how to build and even accelerate a Customer-centric culture – talk to your successful Contact Centre Manager.

They’ve been cracking this code for years.

 

https://www.omnitouchinternational.com/what-i-learned-running-60-classes-on-cx-values-and-culture-for-one-client

 

Example # 3 – Oh baby, don’t leave me this way

Attrition.

That word encapsulates what happens when Contact Centres fail to provide meaningful work and opportunities for their Team Members.

Recently, I listened to a podcast by Horst Schulze (the co-founder of Ritz Carlton Hotels and founder of Capella Hotel Group).  In that discussion he shared how the Ritz Carlton managed to reduce attrition to only 20% of the level experienced by the hospitality industry at large.

Largely by creating a clear vision and giving people a sense of purpose and belonging.

Contact Centre Managers who’ve  gotten a handle on attrition – and retention – have learned a lot about Employee engagement and experience.

Lessons about the application of purpose, opportunities for development and the use of appropriate reward & recognition programs as a starter.

And while the topics of attrition & retention won’t address all the requirements to unlocking a great Employee experience, successful Contact Centre Managers have improved life at work for dozens, hundreds and sometimes thousands of people who deal with Customers day in and day out.

It’s worth taking a look at what they did.

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

 

In closing

For the CX industry, there are some great CX lessons we can learn from the Contact Centre industry.

Go in and talk to the Managers there.  They’re sure to appreciate it.  They have a lot to share.  I often remind people that some of the answers to their questions lie within their own people.

And for the Contact Centre Managers out there.  You have earned the know-how, hard knocks and learnings that have made you a master of the Contact Centre domain.

So when you’re ready – and take the time and make the effort to master Customer Experience as a discipline –  you’ll be in an unbeatable position to take everything you know and get out there and make Customer lives even better.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel Ord

I’m a CXPA Recognized Training Provider as well as a global Contact Centre expert with 30 years in the industry.

[email protected]  / www.omnitouchinternational.com

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