Off Center
As Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, Bruce Temkin has helped thousands of organizations become more customer-centric. Bruce describes himself as a 'customer experience transformist.' If you see him work, hear him speak or read his writing, you'll agree that the aforementioned description is very fitting.

Anyone in a managerial or supervisory role in a contact center can benefit greatly from Bruce’s keen insight. Following are several of his notable customer experience tips – simple ideas (backed by real-life examples) that he assures will yield powerful results:  

Help customers achieve their goals. Don’t push your products and agendas on customers. Instead, find out what they want and create experiences that fit your company into their journey. As Wayne Peacock, Executive Vice President of Member Experience at USAA, said:

“We want to create experiences around what members are trying to accomplish, not just our products. If a member is buying a car, then we would historically see that as a change in auto insurance. We are changing that to an auto event – to help the member find the right car, buy it at a discount, get a loan, insurance, etc. and do that in any channel and across channels. There’s enormous value for members and for USAA if we can facilitate that entire experience.”

Make employee engagement a key metric. Since 2007, Bombardier Aerospace’s annual employee engagement and enablement survey has given all employees a voice within the organization. In 2012, 93% of employees completed the survey. Managers are evaluated based on the engagement levels of their employees. To create an environment that ensures performance, every leader has an annual target for employee engagement.

Motivate employees with intrinsic rewards. Companies often try and force employees into doing things by slapping on metrics and measurements. While these types of extrinsic rewards can change some behaviors, they can often cause conflicts and lead to unexpected consequences. When Staples put in place a goal for $200 of add-ons per computer sold, some store employees stopped selling computers to customers who didn’t want to purchase add-ons.  Compare this outcome to inspirational coaching at Sprint, which leads to an environment where employees consistently excel and measure their performance against their best effort and compete with themselves to be their best. It turns out that people tend to be more motivated by intrinsic rewards. To build commitment from employees, stop relying so heavily on extrinsic rewards and focus on providing them with the four key intrinsic rewards: sense of meaningfulness, choice, competence, and progress. These types of rewards build an emotional, instead of a transactional, commitment from employees.

Tap into customer insights from unstructured data. As more companies thirst for customer feedback, the number of surveys has escalated. But there is a limit to customers’ willingness to complete surveys. As completion rates get more difficult to maintain, companies will become more efficient with the questions they ask, target questions at specific customers in specific situations, and stop relying as much on multiple-choice questions. Tidbit: When we asked large companies with Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs about the changing importance of eight listening posts, multiple choice survey questions were at the bottom of the list. Companies must learn to integrate their customer feedback with other customer data and tap into rich sources of customer insights in unstructured data such as open-ended comments, call center conversations, emails from customers, and social media. This new, deeper foundation of customer intelligence will require strengthening capabilities in text and predictive analytics.

Use ambassadors to build links across the organization. Fidelity’s Voice of the Customer Ambassadors program is the cornerstone of Fidelity’s efforts to engage customer-facing associates across the organization around their customer experience vision. Ambassadors are associates from across Fidelity’s functions who apply to become part of a network of customer experience evangelists who (1) identify opportunities for improvement by amplifying the voice of the customer/associate; (2) inform new product and service development; and (3) inspire their peers with local dialogue and other activities. Ambassadors are supported by extensive executive sponsorship across multiple levels of management and are asked to dedicate 10% of their time influencing Fidelity’s shared customer experience vision.

Actively solicit insights from employees. Adobe’s Intranet includes an online suggestion tool called “Tell Adobe.” Through this simple mechanism, employees can submit suggestions for improving the company, covering everything from current products and services to the processes used to engage and help customers. All submissions are reviewed by a member of the People Resources team, who then brings in internal subject matter experts or functional teams to evaluate the submitter’s suggestions, work with him or her to understand the idea better, and then decide if and how to proceed or pursue further. The process closes the loop with the employee so that he or she has visibility to the outcomes resulting from the initial submission. 

Maintain a list of top 10 customer issues. Oracle drives consistent customer experience activities across all regions and lines of business through a structured framework and standardized approach to monitoring the customer experience: Listen, Respond, Collaborate for Customer Success. The portfolio of feedback tools includes transactional and product surveys, relationship surveys, customer advisory boards, user experience labs, and independent user groups. Feedback from across these sources is integrated and analyzed to identify the 10 customer feedback themes that have the greatest impact on customer experience and business results, and programs are established to improve each.

Empower employees to create memorable moments. Hampton has trained its team members on a set of Moment Makers rather than checklists and scripts to handle a variety of situations. Moment Makers are designed so that team members can choose approaches based on their personality, comfort level, and individual style to match the cues from guests. These approaches include being anticipatory, using empathy, using humor, providing unexpected delight, and giving a compliment. Moment Makers are taught from a team member’s first days on the job when he or she learns the brand story and continue to be reinforced on an ongoing basis through learning maps and e-learning modules. 

This post was excerpted (with permission, of course) from Bruce Temkin’s brilliant “50 CX Tips: Simple Ideas, Powerful Results” article, which can be read in its entirety here.

You can learn more about Bruce Temkin and his organization here.

When I came into this industry as an eager young journalist way back in 1994, the call center wasn’t sexy. It wore a frumpy dress, horned-rim glasses and sensible shoes. It was sturdy and reliable, but by and large was overlooked by the rest of the organization. Sure, there were some inbound centers that handled sales in addition to customer service, but few generated enough revenue to get invited to sit and eat at the popular kids’ table.

The call center helped plan the school prom, but rarely if ever got asked to go to it.

That was then. This is now. In today’s ultra-competitive business climate where there exists so much parity in available products and offerings, the differentiating factor is often the service and support the customer receives. Customers have tons of viable choices when it comes to which product to buy, what account to open, what policy to purchase, what airline to fly, and what hotel to sleep in. What typically tips the scales today and keeps these customers loyal for life is not what they see during a television ad, or read in a magazine, or hear on the radio; nor is price alone a determinant factor. No, what turns a potential or existing customer into a company advocate is what they experience when they contact your organization:

·      How long do they have to wait in queue when calling to reach a live agent?
·      How long do they have to wait to receive a response after sending an email or initiating a chat session -- or, gulp, firing off an angry tweet.
·      Once reached, how friendly, empathetic, engaged and knowledgeable is the agent, and how quickly is the agent able to provide the information needed?
·      How easy is it to use your IVR and web self-service apps (when self-service is what the customer chooses)?
·      How personalized is the overall experience when interacting with the agent/application in question?
·      How adept is your company at anticipating the customer’s needs?
·      How accountable is your company when it has made a mistake or fallen short of customer expectations?
·      How much does your company care about the customer?
·      How much does your company care about itself?

As you can see, the contact center – or the call center, or whatever you want to call this place where millions of customers interact with your company – not only has an impact on customer loyalty and overall business success; it has perhaps the biggest impact.

And let’s not forget the impact that the contact center has internally on the rest of the enterprise. No other area in the company has the capability to capture even a fraction of the data, expectations, desires and behavioral trends of customers – who are, in essence, the lifeblood of any organization. Once captured and shared within the enterprise, such invaluable information and insight makes Marketing, Sales, Research & Development and plenty of other departments a collective force to be reckoned with.

And the beauty of it all is that the contact center hasn’t let its increased power and popularity go to its head. It doesn’t strut around talking about its importance and value; rather it works very hard at demonstrating it. And it doesn’t ask for all the credit whenever lilting customer satisfaction is converted into lifetime customer loyalty, nor when revenue shoots through the roof due to highly consistent and positive customer experiences.

No, it doesn’t ask for such recognition; but unlike in years past, it’s starting to get plenty of it.

And deservedly so.

Note: This post was taken from the closing chapter of my book, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices & Strategies that Make an Impact. To learn more about Full Contact, check out the following link:

As Lindsay Lohan will attest, sometimes it’s simply more profitable to be bad. Such is the case with customer service – if you know how to be bad correctly.

Many of you have probably heard of a little something called “The Service Recovery Paradox.” (And not just because I’ve alluded to it in previous posts – that would assume you’ve read me before and still returned.) The Service Recovery Paradox basically states that an effective recovery process following a bad customer service experience often results in higher customer satisfaction ratings than if the bad experience had never occurred in the first place.

While many of you are familiar with this paradox, most of you aren’t taking full advantage of it. Your service is simply too solid and consistent to ever shake things up, to ever wake customers out of their comfortable service coma and take notice of your company. Sure, your agents occasionally mess up on a call and give your company the opportunity to put the powerful paradox into action; however, you have too many quality initiatives and incentives in place that keep agents from screwing up big enough to have any real and lasting impact on customer sentiment.

If you truly want to win customers over, you have to dare to almost lose them first. I’m not suggesting that you encourage agents to sabotage every customer call, email and chat they handle
just one out of every five.

Below are some tips on how to help your call center suck just enough to dazzle customers:  

Utilize screen pops featuring impolite phrases and insults. Most of your agents don’t care very much about their job and thus shouldn’t have trouble finding ways to alienate and offend customers on their own. Some of your better agents, however, may struggle with intentionally botching service. A great way to overcome their struggles is to send them screen pops featuring cold, non-empathetic phrases and insults that will help them push customers to the brink of defection.

The key is to use screen pops containing language that is just offensive enough to make the customer emotional but not so over-the-top that the customer orders a hit on your agent or, worse, refuses to ever again do business with your company even after the recovery team swoops in to bring delight.

Fail to keep promises made during calls. Insulting customers isn’t the only way to win their lasting loyalty. It’s important to also make sure that their needs aren’t met 100% of the time.

However, don’t merely have agents tell customers that their issue can’t be resolved during the call, as such a feeble attempt on the part of the agent is likely to result in an angry caller explosion from which your company cannot recover. To best set customers up for the type of powerful service recovery that will ensure lifetime loyalty, you need to make customers think that their issue has been resolved upon ending the call with the agent, and then wait for them to realize that it hasn't been.

For example, agents should promise to process every order and issue all appropriate credits, but then occasionally not follow through on such actions. This will invariably result in angry callbacks from customers that escalate to the Recovery Team, who can then apologize profusely, fix the problem immediately, and tell the customer that the company will love them till the end of time. It’s also a good idea to (falsely) promise the customer that the agent in question will be fired, beaten or, worse, demoted to outbound telemarketing.             

Fire any agent who doesn’t receive at least two or three serious customer complaints each month. Make “Serious Customer Complaints” a formal metric for which all your agents are fully accountable. If it doesn’t fit on your agent performance scorecard, abbreviate it as “SCC” and/or get rid of First-Call Resolution, which is impossible to measure anyway.

Provide rewards and recognition to agents who consistently maintain the center’s desired monthly SCC average. For agents who fall short, provide coaching to help them become a little ruder and more incompetent, or just take away their medication. If you have any agents who far exceed the average SCC rate, move them into the Billing department.

ATTENTION: This is a satire. This is only a satire. Had this been an actual insightful blog post, it would not have been written by Greg. Any positive result that comes from taking Greg’s advice is strictly coincidental.