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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