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Good & evil in Customer Experience and why it’s like a Marvel Comics movie

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this short post I consider the role of good & evil in Customer Experience.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe

I admit I’m not a follower of the Marvel comics movies.  But when stuck on a long haul flight or in a hotel room with nothing on but CNN, almost any Marvel movie is a welcome distraction.

So I never saw them in any order, nor do I grasp the entire mythology.

But in the movies I did see, it was always clear which characters were ‘good’ and which characters were ‘evil’.

The Marvel universe is a pretty binary place.

What kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?

Good & evil in Customer Experience

Sometimes when I read articles & posts on Customer experience, I feel like I’m watching a Marvel comics movie.

Evil VillainThat happens when the author of the article positions the company they’re describing in one of two ways:

  • When the company described in the post does things ‘right’ or right in the author’s opinion – then they’re good
  • When the company described in the post does things ‘wrong’ or wrong in the author’s opinion – then they’re evil

It’s never in doubt who is good and who is evil.  The content & tone make it clear.

And when it comes to the evil companies – which are the posts you see most often –  look out for these kinds of words –

They’re dumb, apathetic, lazy, careless, wasteful, ignorant, greedy, selfish, OK Boomer (ok I added that one).

It’s practically biblical how evil they are.  And this is what worries me.

If a company doesn’t deliver the experience the writer likes, the default setting seems to be how dumb, apathetic, etc. they are.

But if Customer Experience is as binary as a Marvel comics movie, there’s not much room to manoeuvre.  Not much room to improve.

I don’t ever see Thanos becoming the good guy or Wonder Woman becoming the bad guy.

 

The real world is more nuanced than a Marvel comics movie

The real world is more nuanced than a Marvels comics movie.  Customer Experience deserves more than a binary good & evil measurement scale.

I had lunch with a Client in Asia not long ago.

She had navigated the pivot from Head of Customer Service to Head of Customer Experience.  And our lunch conversation turned to organizational culture.

She had built a great service culture in the Customer Service function.  That was one of the reasons she had been appointed the Head of Customer Experience.

And now she needed to develop that service culture across the entire organization.  Into departments & functions where service wasn’t seen as the most important characteristic.

With her usual pragmatism she told me –

“Dan, we’ve been around a while as you know. 

And we’ve got really great people in this company.  In all departments.  It’s not that we’re bad or we don’t care about Customers.  We care a lot.  

It’s just that we’ve become too comfortable.  Things have been good here for a long time.  The impetus for change is muted. 

I think my job is to help our folks understand our future desired state as a company and why being too comfortable in what we do and the way we do it isn’t sustainable going forward.”

Her people are good, her colleagues are good, the management supports the change and she’s successfully completed her gap analysis.

Do their Customers complain?  Of course they do.  But as an organization they’re working on it.  And as practitioners know, it takes time.

Saying they’re good or evil isn’t productive.  It’s not even accurate.

They’re working to be better.

What can I do with my CCXP?

Why I don’t publish personal complaint posts

If I have a personal complaint with a company I contact them directly and privately.  I give them the chance to address my issue.

If I was a ‘normal’ Customer I’d consider sharing my complaint on social media.  And I’d write a detailed post of the bad thing or things that happened to me.  And maybe I’d feel better having shared my tale of misery & woe.

But I don’t view myself as a normal Customer.  I’m proud to come from the industry.

And I think industry professionals look at the bigger picture.  We’re interested in the underlying dynamics or conditions that led to whatever it was that we experienced.  We dissect the ecosystem.

Leave it to ‘real’ Customers to sit in judgement. I’d rather look for the lessons.

 

Good & evil in Customer Experience

Marvel hero

Industry professionals don’t have to use ad hominen words like dumb, apathetic, lazy, careless, wasteful, ignorant, greedy or selfish to describe organizations.

They don’t have to rant.

I’ve never seen a conference event yet where the Host says “Welcome everyone, our next Speaker will rant and roll their eyes for the next 30 minutes or so.  We hope you enjoy it!”

It doesn’t have to be about the role of good & evil in Customer Experience.  It could be about the lessons to make things better.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

 

[email protected]

Daniel Ord speaking on Customer Experience

Why are you still talking about Average Handling Time?

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

In this article we talk about Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

So put your feet up on the couch and tell the Dr. – for heaven’s sake, why are we all still talking about Average Handling Time?

The more you talk about AHT, the less you talk about Quality

A psychologist with a patient

I have a theory that’s been proven out over the years.

A see-saw going up and down

Contact Centre Average Handling Time & Quality

The more a Centre and its inhabitants talk (or fret) about Contact Centre AHT – the less they talk (or fret) about Quality.

Sure – Quality gets lip service (who’s going to bash Quality?) – but it’s AHT that reigns supreme.

And for some inexplicable reason, it’s almost always about the Agents.

Yeah – you know – those Agents who brush their teeth in the bathroom mirror every morning and plot how to sabotage AHT.

A young man brushing his teeth“Hmmmm (they say to themselves) – how could I drag the calls today?”

“A few more holds and a bit of nonsensical small talk and I’m sure I can knock AHT out of whack.”

Really?

Any Quality Assurance professional will tell you a simple truth

AHT flows from Quality.

Exhaust coming from an automobile tailpipe

Average Handling Time is an outcome

It’s an output…a byproduct…an emission.

You know those Monitoring Forms with the checklists and standards that QA likes to hand out to let you know how you’re doing with regard to Quality?

Those Forms dictate your Contact Centre Average Handling Time.

Want Agents to use the Customer’s name 3x? Ok – that’ll be about 15 seconds.

Want Agents to say “Is there anything else I can do to help you today (and mean it)?” – that easily adds 7 more seconds.

Need Agents to conduct 2 levels of verification – yup – takes time.

Are you fearless enough to put First Contact Resolution on your Form? Well that’s gonna cost you too (in time that is).

If your Agent scores 100% quality on their call and you still have to talk to them about their AHT something’s wrong with the Form or something’s wrong with your Quality process.

A guru floating in the air As I like to say when I transition into ‘guru’ mode – when your Agent achieves Quality – and it just feels right – then AHT will be what it will be.

Contact Centre Average Handling Time flows from Quality.

But most assuredly Quality does not flow from Contact Centre Average Handling Time!

A delicious piece of chocolate lava cakeDid you ever order chocolate lava cake for dessert in a restaurant? It’s delicious.

But the menu often says “please order early, or just be aware it will take about 20 minutes for us to make you this delicious chocolate lava cake”.

I’ve never seen it happen that a Diner bangs the table and says – “Hey, Chef baby – make me one of those delicious chocolate lava cakes in 10 minutes – you hear? ”

So what’s the best way to correct Contact Centre AHT at the Agent level?

The best way has always been – and it will continue to be – conducting root cause analysis at the Agent level.

Watch the Agent at work, listen to calls, correct what needs to be corrected (sometimes it’s a piece of equipment, sometimes it’s knowledge or skill).

When you fix Agent Quality – you automatically fix AHT. It’s an outcome – not a driver.

Of course having a guideline helps.

Contact Centre AHT lends itself beautifully to measurement as an ‘acceptable range’.

A graph showing acceptable range

Contact Centre Average Handling Time Acceptable Range

For example an ‘acceptable’ range for your Centre AHT in the mornings might range from a low of 3 minutes to a high of 6 minutes.

I’d set my ‘acceptable’ range based on my high performers in quality – if your call is great quality-wise – then by default the AHT is acceptable. (if it isn’t something is broken in how you measure quality).

Armed with a range, you can track performance across your Team Members and identify outliers – for example those who are consistently above or below the acceptable range for that time period.

This approach allows you to focus in on folks who may have some barrier in their way.

Do remember though –

Acceptable ranges are not consistent throughout the day – most Centres see longer AHT in the night hours as compared to the morning hours (for example).

You have to adjust your ranges based on your call mix, Customer mix and the like.

If you’re in WFM or Process AHT matters

Of course – if you are in WFM (Workforce Management)or you are in Process improvement and/or Customer journey mapping, AHT is super important.

And WFM folks tend to understand that the biggest improvements in AHT come from technology and process improvement.

When you look at all the factors that ‘drive’ AHT, Agents themselves have only minor control over AHT – namely applying their knowledge, skills & abilities as trained and coached.

Industry-wide AHT for voice calls is going up

Children in front of a fun-house mirrorAs the world increasingly becomes digital, Customers reach out to voice channels when their issue is complex or they are confused or unhappy with something.

Coupled with the digitization of ‘simple’ inquiries the outcome is clear – while voice volumes may be ‘stabilizing’ in volume for some Centres, AHT continues to climb.

Feel better? I do

In an era of Customer experience, it won’t do you or your Team Members any good to have an artificial clock ticking in their ear while trying to listen, empathize and resolve a Customer call.

If you’re a Manager or Team Leader who still harps on individual Agent AHT it’s time to rethink your value.

It’s not 1973 anymore.

Thanks for reading!

Daniel

[email protected] / https://www.omnitouchinternational.com

A picture of Daniel Ord

Daniel Ord

 

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

by OmniTouch International OmniTouch International No Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

No I said – how did it go?

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

He continued…

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

But of course!

The cover slide whirred up on the screen.

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

We were all ready. And then, next slide…

THE GREETING – score 98%

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

Then the next slide…

GET THE CUSTOMER NAME – score 97%

Oh…really?

And it carried on from there.

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

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

Well it was an easy question to answer.

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

And the room agreed.

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

Score – 58%.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Let’s start this discussion with the brand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the very minimum

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

Sure – compliance standards are easy to measure.

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

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

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

Thank you for reading!

Daniel

 

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

 Daniel Ord