Embracing Human Error: Turning Mistakes Into Meaningful Customer Experiences

Embracing Human Error: Turning Mistakes Into Meaningful Customer Experiences

Mistakes are as inevitable as change itself. As leaders, professionals, and human beings, we’ve all faced cringe-worthy moments when something goes wrong—often at the most inopportune times. It’s a universal experience, yet handling these mistakes can profoundly impact our brand, team, and, most importantly, customer relationships.

Today, I learned of a mistake that made me deeply contemplate the accountability and nature of errors in life and business, especially concerning customer experience (CX). It was a seemingly minor slip-up – an incorrect podcast intro for my guest episode and misspellings – yet it opened Pandora’s box of self-reflection and vital insights. This experience wasn’t just about a misaligned introduction; it reflected the more profound ethos of my brand and approach to CX. I find healing in sharing this mistake and my journey of addressing it.

By revealing my experience, I hope to inspire others to embrace their imperfections and learn from their mistakes. I believe that being brave and honest about our struggles is not a sign of weakness but rather a strength that can help us connect with others and build meaningful relationships. I hope my journey of addressing my mistake will encourage others to do the same and view setbacks as opportunities for growth and self-improvement.

Building on this personal insight and the universal nature of mistakes, let’s discuss actionable tips when things go wrong. 

Mistakes Happen: Owning Up Is Where It Begins

The first step in addressing any mistake is acknowledging it. In my case, it wasn’t directly my fault; it was a team error. But as a leader, the onus was on me. This acknowledgment isn’t just an act of taking responsibility; it’s about authenticity and transparency. When customers see a brand owning up to its errors, it builds trust. It sends a message: “We’re human, we falter, but we’re also accountable.”

Saying Sorry: More Than Just a Transaction

In a business world overly focused on transactions, we often need to remember the power of relationships. Saying sorry isn’t just a formal nicety; it’s a bridge to deeper customer connections. My embarrassment over the podcast error was real, but so was my determination to make things right. Apologizing was more than rectifying a mistake; it reinforced a bond.

Forgiveness: A Two-Way Street

Mistakes are not just about those who make them; it’s also about those who forgive them. Forgiving my team was crucial. They needed to know that it’s okay to err as long as we learn and grow from it. Equally important was forgiving myself. We’re often our harshest critics, but self-compassion is vital in moving forward positively.

Transforming Mistakes into Lessons

Every error, no matter how small, carries a lesson. In business, this translates into continuous improvement. The podcast mishap led me to reassess our quality checks and processes. It was an opportunity to fine-tune my operations, ensuring such mistakes don’t happen in the future.  I’m involving my team in creating the quality checklist so that everyone owns the customer experience and feels accountable. I recommend you do the same.

Communication: Clear, Honest, and Timely

Mistakes can cause chaos, but clear communication helps us navigate it. It’s important to convey the error, the steps taken to rectify it, and how you plan to prevent it in the future. This level of openness can turn a negative situation into a positive customer experience.

Empathy: Putting Yourself in Their Shoes

Understanding how your mistake affects others is crucial. Empathy allows you to gauge the impact of your error and respond appropriately. It’s not just about fixing a problem; it’s about addressing any emotional or practical inconvenience your mistake might have caused.

Recovery: Going Beyond the Fix

When a customer encounters an error or issue, fixing the problem is the first step. While it’s essential to resolve the issue, it’s equally important to take steps to enhance the customer experience after the fact. One way to achieve this is to offer something extra as a goodwill gesture. This can be something tangible like a discount, a free product or service, or something as simple as a sincere apology or a personalized message. By going above and beyond to show the customer that you value their business, you can turn a negative experience into a positive one. This, in turn, can lead to customer loyalty and even advocacy.

Building a Culture of Accountability and Learning

Recognizing that mistakes are a natural part of any human endeavor is important. They can be powerful opportunities for growth and improvement if approached with the right mindset. Rather than using mistakes as a means of assigning blame or punishment, it’s more productive to view them as learning tools. Everyone can benefit from the insights gained by creating a culture where errors are openly discussed and analyzed. This approach helps optimize processes and workflows and fosters a supportive and innovative work environment where people feel empowered to take risks and learn from their experiences.

The Human Element in CX

At the heart of all this is the human element. Customers are people first, and they resonate with brands that exhibit human qualities like fallibility, empathy, and sincerity. In an era where technology often overshadows human interaction, showing your human side can be your most significant differentiator.

The Role of Leadership in Mistake Management

Effective leadership is crucial when it comes to managing mistakes within an organization. Leaders significantly impact how their team members handle errors and customer experience. They can influence their team’s approach to mistakes by setting an example, promoting open communication, and fostering a learning culture. A leader’s reaction to a mistake can set the tone for the entire team and determine how they respond to similar situations in the future. Therefore, leaders need to be mindful of their responses to errors and adopt an approach that encourages growth and development rather than blame and punishment.

Conclusion: Embracing Mistakes as Opportunities

In conclusion, mistakes, though unwelcome, are invaluable personal and professional growth opportunities. They are chances to strengthen trust, build deeper connections, and enhance the overall customer experience. So, the next time you face an error, remember: it’s not just about correcting a mistake; it’s about seizing an opportunity to create a more authentic, empathetic, and customer-centric brand.

As we continue to navigate the complexities of business and customer experience, let’s not shy away from our human side. Let’s embrace our imperfections, learn from our missteps, and continuously

strive to transform every mistake into a stepping stone towards exceptional customer experience.

Every mistake has the potential for a unique story of recovery and resilience. These stories humanize our brands, making them more relatable and trustworthy in the eyes of our customers. Ultimately, how we handle our mistakes can define the strength of our customer relationships far more than how we revel in our successes.

 I ask you to reflect on your own experiences with mistakes in business. How did you handle them? What lessons did you learn? How did they reshape your approach to customer experience? 

I’m interested in hearing your stories and how you make any misstep a pathway to deeper customer loyalty and trust.

Elevating Customer Service Leadership in 2024: Start, Stop, and Keep Doing

Elevating Customer Service Leadership in 2024: Start, Stop, and Keep Doing

Enter the world of Lindsey, a seasoned customer service agent who begins another day in the call center. Previously, her days were marked by routine, addressing customer issues with limited tools and a narrow scope of authority. Encounters with irate customers often left her feeling helpless, bound by rigid protocols and outdated systems. However, today is different. 

Lindsey is put to the test during a phone call with an angry customer. This time, however, she wields advanced technology that enables her to address the customer’s concerns more efficiently than ever before. Empowered with the authority to make real-time decisions that align with both customer needs and the company’s objectives, Lindsey operates within a framework of broader organizational goals shaped by clear leadership directives and collective feedback.

This incident signifies a pivotal shift, highlighting the urgent need for strategic customer service evolution. This article, informed by industry leader insights and my own experiences, dives into the critical actions that customer service organizations must embrace to create such positive outcomes consistently.

The call that Lindsey had stands as a significant moment. It showcases the tremendous impact of her company’s newly implemented strategies.

As we’ve entered 2024, Lindsey’s experience is a valuable example to analyze how starting, stopping, and keeping particular practices can reshape the customer service industry. It is a lens that we can use to understand how these principles are changing the customer service landscape.

Start Doing

Elevating Frontline Employees: A Strategic Move

I recommend fully embracing agent empowerment and customer-centric strategies. This approach is exemplified by Lindsey’s story, where her ability to utilize advanced tools and make real-time decisions aligns perfectly with customer needs and organizational objectives. Lindsey’s experience demonstrates the effectiveness of understanding and applying broader organizational goals in day-to-day interactions, making each customer interaction not just a task but a significant part of the company’s mission.  

Additional Customer Service Leaders’ Views:

Dave Seaton: “Start identifying the moments that have the biggest impact on the experience you want to manage or improve. Whether you’re focusing on the agent experience or the customer experience, listen to the people having the experience as they are working towards their goals. Pinpoint the specific interactions that matter most, and focus improvement efforts there.”  

Jeremy Watkin: “Start doing a better job of helping our agents understand why we ask them to do the things they are required to do on every customer interaction. For example, why is it important that you note when a customer asks for something we cannot do? It’s because this helps our product team and others continue to innovate and improve our product offering.”   

Nate Brown: “Start treat service workers like capable, creative adults. Give them opportunities to see more of the customer journey and bandwidth to assist in designing improved experiences.”  

Sheri Kendall “Start creating spaces that cultivate a best friend at work culture. Virtual teams should encourage connections between humans by creating space at the beginning of meetings to share their weekend plans, hobbies, pictures of family, etc., host fun virtual events, and encourage participation or begin a practice of cross-functional meet ‘n greets.”

Jeremy Hyde: “Start teaching your leaders how to build a business case and navigate your organization. Too often, contact center leaders are frustrated because they can’t get their important projects approved. Understanding what “moves the needle” within the organization and building a case that aligns to the values of the org is the first step to getting things done. I can’t guarantee you will always get what you want but let’s put your team in the best position possible!”   

Lisa Guzman: “Start promoting from within, but with intention. It isn’t about who has been there the longest, but rather who is ready to take things to the next level. I’ve seen too many times where people were promoted due to tenure and/or being well-liked but not ready for the role. This can lead to not only their failure but the failure of those who they lead.”  

Stop Doing 

Revising Approaches for Optimal Service

It’s imperative for customer service organizations to eliminate practices that hinder progress. Drawing from Lindsey’s experiences, it becomes clear that we must actively remove barriers that stifle agent autonomy and creativity. It’s about discarding outdated protocols and rigid structures that limit our ability to respond to customer needs effectively. Embracing flexibility and adaptability will not only enhance our service quality but also empower our agents to deliver more meaningful and personalized customer experiences.

Additional Customer Service Leaders’ Views:

Jeremy Hyde: “Stop allowing abusive customer behavior and perpetuating the “customer is always right” type statements. Last week, an upset customer called my wife’s cell phone at 10pm. You may be wondering “what were they upset about?!” Frankly, it doesn’t matter, we need to establish clear boundaries with customers. Cussing, threats, and hunting down a leader’s personal contact information is inappropriate, and our teams shouldn’t have to put up with it.”  

Lisa Guzman: “Stop having your top performers carry the entire team and/or promising them a career path that isn’t detailed and time-oriented. This is one of the leading causes of burnout and attrition.”   

Dave Seaton: “Stop playing Whac-a-Mole with pain points. You’re treating symptoms while the disease rages on. Zoom out, understand the journey, and address the root causes of the perceived pain. Often, you will find the cause of the pain point happened several steps before the pain is experienced.”     

Nate Brown: “Stop putting agents into a strict “ticket taker” box. Bring excitement and variety into the job as they grow and become even more capable.”  

Sheri Kendall: “Stop hosting pizza parties, pajamas at work day and coloring contests and labeling the activities as “engagement.” 

Jeremy Watkin: “Stop asking agents to do things without good reason during customer interactions.  Chances are that agents already know that the activity is meaningless and has no value. Instead, make sure they always, always, always understand how valuable their work is to the organization and to the overall customer experience.”

Keep Doing 

Sustaining Success in Customer Service

I highly recommend you continue fostering a workplace where education, growth, and empathy are shared goals for everyone.

Reflecting on Lindsey’s journey, we see how essential it is to nurture a supportive and collaborative environment. This includes ensuring customer service agents feel valued, their well-being is prioritized, and their voices are heard in decision-making processes. By doing so, we not only enhance agents’ ability to deliver exceptional service but also build a resilient and adaptive team ready to meet the ever-evolving demands of customer service.

Additional Customer Service Leaders’ Views:

Sheri Kendall:  “Keep the well-being of your agents in mind when designing your organization’s strategy. A memorable customer experience begins with a memorable agent experience. Before you implement a new process, policy, or tech review it from the agent’s perspective and ask yourself what the agent will need in order to be successful.”   

Jeremy Hyde: “Keep learning and networking! The more you invest in yourself, the stronger you will be for your team and your customers. There are tons of local and national opportunities to develop yourself and build a network full of amazingly smart people. It just takes a small amount of effort and is worth every minute you put in!”  

Nate Brown: “Keep the true mission of the organization front and center. Use it to intrinsically motivate as much as possible. Keep the integrity in the Voice of Customer process so people truly understand the positive and negative impact they are having on the brand promise.”      

Lisa Guzman:  “Keep your culture and core values top of mind, especially as your business grows. When employees can depend on your organization to keep its promises, even (or perhaps especially) in difficult times, you will gain a loyalty that money can’t buy.”  

Dave Seaton: “Keep asking your team about the bright spots of 2023. What are they most proud of? What gave them hope? What made their jobs easier? Conduct a retrospective and commit to continuing the best things of 2023 and improving the rest.”

Jeremy Watkin: “Keep improving your one-on-one conversations with your agents. Don’t just chit chat. Focus on their career and how they can do their job better. Use that precious time to train, empower and equip them. This is critical for their development and will improve the experience for your customers as well.”

Conclusion: Leading Customer Service Evolution

Lindsey’s transformative journey, marked by pivotal customer interaction, underscores the profound potential of strategic customer service practices. As we venture through 2024, our imperative is to empower our teams with essential tools and knowledge, revamp antiquated practices, and reinforce successful strategies. This approach is key to consistently delivering impactful customer experiences, thereby redefining industry standards.

Envision your organization’s future: How will you implement these transformative strategies to cultivate an environment where both customers and agents, like Lindsey, thrive?

 

This article is part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective

The Human Touch in the AI Era: The Crucial Role of Call Center Agents

The Human Touch in the AI Era: The Crucial Role of Call Center Agents

In today’s digital age, where automation and AI rapidly transform industries, the human touch remains irreplaceable. This is especially true in the realm of customer service, where call center agents play a pivotal role.

Drawing insights from a discussion on the CXQA Live show, my article summarizes conversations about the significance of customer service agents, the perspective of viewing everyone as a customer, and the future of AI in call centers.

Customer Service Center Agents: The Voice and Soul of a Company

The Direct Link to Customers

Agents are more than just employees; they are the voice of the company. Every interaction they have directly shapes the customer’s perception of the brand. Their importance cannot be overstated, especially in an era where personalization and genuine interactions are highly valued.

The Need for Recognition

Despite their crucial role, agents often find themselves undervalued or overlooked. Companies must recognize and appreciate the immeasurable value agents bring versus ambient gaslighting which is causing high attrician rates.

The “Everyone as a Customer” Perspective

Building Relationships

One transformative idea is to view everyone, including colleagues and other stakeholders, as customers. This mindset emphasizes the importance of service, understanding needs, and fostering relationships. Whether it’s in sales or service, building and nurturing relationships is at the heart of any successful business strategy.

Service Leadership

By adopting this perspective, leaders can instill a culture of service leadership. This approach ensures that every internal and external interaction is approached with a service mindset, aiming to provide value and meet customer needs.

 

Embracing AI Without Losing the Human Touch

AI’s Role in Customer Service Centers

There’s a growing perception that AI might replace human call center agent jobs. However, the reality paints a different picture. While AI can efficiently handle routine tasks, complex and emotionally charged interactions still require the human touch. Agents’ roles might evolve, focusing more on these complex interactions, emphasizing the need for more skilled agents.

Call Center Agent Training and Continuous Learning

With the integration of AI, continuous training becomes paramount. Agents must be equipped with the skills to handle more nuanced interactions and work alongside AI tools. Investing in training not only enhances service quality but also empowers agents, fostering a sense of value and growth.

In conclusion, while technology and AI are transforming the customer service landscape, the human element remains central. By valuing agents, adopting a service-oriented mindset, and integrating AI thoughtfully, companies can ensure they deliver exceptional customer experiences in the modern age.

Discover the Power of Human Touch in the AI Era – An Engaging Interview with Stacy Sherman about Doing Agent Experience Right

This article is part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective

Hidden Cause of Agent Attrition: How “Ambient Gaslighting” Impacts Your Contact Center and How to Stop It

Hidden Cause of Agent Attrition: How “Ambient Gaslighting” Impacts Your Contact Center and How to Stop It

Have you ever wondered why your contact center experiences high agent attrition? Are you aware of the subtle forces that might be influencing your agents’ experiences and their decisions to leave? Could a phenomenon known as “ambient gaslighting” be happening in your organization?

In a recent USA Today article, physician psychiatrist Dr. Grant Brenner discusses the concept of “ambient gaslighting.” While the article doesn’t specifically address contact centers, I believe a clear thread connects this phenomenon to the agent experience in these settings.

What is “Ambient Gaslighting?”

Dr. Brenner describes ambient gaslighting as a form of background noise. “There’s just this background feeling that maybe I’m being tricked in some way,” Brenner says. This feeling can create a general sense of unease. In the context of a contact center, this unease can lead to dissatisfaction, disengagement, and, ultimately, attrition.

 

“Ambient Gaslighting” in Contact Centers

In contact centers, ambient gaslighting manifests in various ways. It can be as simple as a leadership style that makes a team fearful to speak up or as complex as imbalanced information that affects perceptions.

 

Examples of “Ambient Gaslighting”

  • Passive-Aggressive Communication: Feedback that seems constructive but subtly undermines the agent.
  • Misleading Metrics: Measurements that don’t accurately reflect an agent’s performance or are manipulated to present a different reality.
  • Denial of Issues: Management dismisses or denies problems or concerns raised by agents.
  • Blaming the Agent: Leader accuses the agent of issues outside their control.
  • Undermining Confidence: Supervisors constantly question an agent’s decisions or suggest they cannot handle their responsibilities.
  • Ignoring Accomplishments: Management ignoring or downplaying an agent’s milestones and successes.

 

10 Ways To Combat “Ambient Gaslighting” and Reduce Agent Attrition

  1. Promote Psychological Safety: Create an environment where employees feel safe to express their thoughts, ideas, and concerns without fear of punishment or ridicule.
  2. Encourage Peer Support: Foster a culture where employees support each other, which can help victims of gaslighting feel less isolated and more empowered to speak up.
  3. Implement Feedback Sessions and Surveys: Regularly ask your workforce about their environment and relationships with colleagues and supervisors. This can help identify potential issues, including gaslighting, early on.
  4. Provide Conflict Resolution Training: Equip people with the skills to handle conflicts in a healthy and constructive manner. This can help prevent gaslighting situations from escalating.
  5. Establish a Whistleblower System: Implement a system where employees can report gaslighting or other forms of abuse anonymously. This can encourage victims or witnesses to come forward.
  6. Promote Transparency: Be open about the steps the company is taking to combat gaslighting and other forms of psychological pain. This can help build trust and reassure employees that their well-being is a priority.
  7. Offer Mental Health Support: Provide resources for mental health support to deal with gaslighting or other forms of stress.
  8. Recognize and Reward Positive Behavior: Encourage a positive workplace culture by appreciating and rewarding behaviors that promote respect, collaboration, and inclusivity.
  9. Create a Culture of Accountability: Ensure that everyone, from top management to entry-level employees, is held accountable for their actions. This can deter potential gaslighters and reassure victims that their concerns will be taken seriously. Includes proper training and leadership support.
  10. Hire The Right Leaders: When hiring or promoting managers, consider not just their technical skills but also their ethical standards and how they treat others. Leaders play a crucial role in setting the tone for the workplace culture, so it’s essential to choose those who will foster an empathetic and supportive environment.

The Impact on Agent Attrition and Customer Experience

Ignoring “ambient gaslighting” can lead to a pervasive sense of uneasiness and susceptibility among agents and, thus, low morale, decreased productivity, and a lack of engagement, contributing to higher attrition rates. The cost of replacing an agent can be significant, factoring in the expenses of recruitment, training, and the time it takes for a new agent to reach full productivity. High attrition rates can also lead to a loss of experienced staff, negatively impacting the quality of customer service provided.

Moreover, the effects of “ambient gaslighting” extend beyond the agents themselves. The customer experience is directly impacted by the agent experience. Agents who feel valued, respected, and supported are more likely to be committed to their work, leading to improved customer interactions. They’re likelier to go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction, fostering more robust relationships and loyalty.

Conclusion

“Ambient gaslighting” is a subtle but pervasive force affecting individuals and organizations alike. Contact center leaders must recognize its presence and take deliberate actions.

By understanding the nuances of ambient gaslighting and implementing the strategies outlined above, leaders can create a contact center environment where agents feel confident, valued, and empowered, leading to lower attrition rates and ultimately, better customer experiences.

Remember: Agent Experience and Customer Experience are intertwined. When we nurture our agents, we indirectly nurture our customers. They are, indeed, two sides of the same coin. 

This article is part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective. 

If you like this article, check out more content full of actionable information:

 

8 Strategies To Get Great Customer Experience (It Starts With You)

(I co-wrote this with Dr. Brenner, originally featured in Psychology Today publication)

Creating A Speak Up Culture For Greater Fulfillment

Doing CX Right podcast ep. 14  featuring Stephen Shedletzky

Reducing Burnout To Deliver Better Customer Experiences

Doing CX Right podcast ep. 33 featuring Marcy Rader

 

Keyword themes: agent experience, customer experience, psychology, Communication, Customer Service, USA Today, Contact Center, Call center, employee experience.

Investing In Agent Experience: The Key To Delivering Customer Excellence

Investing In Agent Experience: The Key To Delivering Customer Excellence

The Importance of Agent Experience (AX)

Customer experience (CX) is a significant driver of business success in the modern age. Customers expect more than just good products and solutions; they want authentic personalized experiences, high quality, and delivery of the brand promise. This does not happen without prioritizing agent experiences and investing in their success.

Agents are the front line just as much, if not more, than sales teams. Service agents have the power to make or break a company’s success. It’s no secret that engaged agents are motivated, connected, and satisfied with their job, team, and organization, and this connection transfers to the customer.

Investing in agent experience is about more than just providing them with the proper training and tools. It is also related to helping them feel valued and appreciated for their contributions, providing support and resources, and empowering agents to succeed. So let’s dig deeper into agent engagement tactics.

    Invest In Agent Experience Tools and Recognition

    Deploying the right technology is essential for agents to do their job effectively, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems access to customer data and analytics. Equipping agents with tools and simple ways to do their job with less effort, they can quickly and accurately diagnose customer issues and provide the best solutions. Additionally, having the right tools help agents save time, enabling them to focus on building customer relationships and increasing retention.

    Furthermore, recognizing agents for their hard work and dedication fosters loyalty and appreciation, which fuels them to provide even better customer service on purpose. Recognition can be in the form of rewards, such as bonuses or promotions, or it can be more informal, such as public praise and a personal thank-you call from the CEO. Remember: small actions usually have significant impacts!

    Invest Time and Care in Getting Agent Feedback  

    Including customer service agents in decision-making is another essential aspect of investing in agent engagement. Customer service representatives have a unique perspective and understanding of the customer experience, and their insights can be invaluable to the business. In addition, giving agents a seat at the table to represent the “voice of the customer” makes them feel empowered and motivated to go up and beyond. So, it’s a win for the company, the agent, and ultimately the customer.  

    Key Takeaways for Leaders To Enhance Agent Experiences

    The following are some actionable tactics to improve agent experiences and success for better customer outcomes:

    • Focus on agent well-being, including physical, emotional, and mental health. Tactics include direct conversations, sentiment surveys, and more.
    • Establish a community for agents to provide a space for feedback and support. Include cross-teams in the community to foster connectivity and collaboration.
    • Recognize and reward agents who provide exceptional service. Read customer surveys and social media, as people often mention agents by name.   
    • Provide regular agent training to enhance their skills and knowledge. i.e., Lunch and learns. Onboarding sessions.
    • Create a meaningful work culture and foster a sense of purpose and belonging among agents. 
    • Engage agents in decision-making by giving them a voice at leadership meetings to inform business strategies.
    • Streamline administrative tasks so agents can focus on providing the best customer experience possible and build relationships.
    • Provide customer service to the agent. i.e., if they need help with equipment, respond quickly and fix their pain points as they pay it forward to the customer.

    Conclusion

    Investing in agent experience is crucial to delivering exceptional customer experience and long-term success.

    Listen to CXQA Live show where I was the featured guest. We dive deep into agent engagement topics and strategies for Doing CX Right. Got questions? Let’s talk. 

    And sign up for my newsletter full of actionable free tips.

     

    Article and video part of the Vistio Knowledge Collective.