call center tips cx

3 Call Center Mistakes You Are Making

Before we dive into this post, I urge all of us to stop using the term call center. 2018 brands should not have call centers. Instead, engaged brands of today need Contact Centers.

If you are still responding to your customers only by phone, you are failing to provide efficient, relevant and timely customer support. Even worse, you are abandoning people who sought your help and never got it. Their tweets are floating unanswered in cyber space. After more than an hour of holding time, they hung up on you. Now that this caveat is out of the way, here are the 3 most common questions I get about call center management.

How Do You keep call center agents motivated and engaged?

The call center agent role is daunting. This leads to high turnover and low employee engagement scores. If you are managing a call center, you are likely struggling to keep up employee morale, before you can even hope to offer exceptional customer service.

The solution to employee engagement and ultimately, exception customer experience starts with the hiring process. Motivation and mission-driven service begins with hiring the right people. If your call center is staffed with people who see their jobs as temporary or transition positions, those people will not stay. They also will not give the job – and your customers – all they have.

Design profile of WHO you want in your contact center. Be ruthless about your selection process. Hire based on values and attitudes, not on skills. Hire with CULTURE in mind.

I appreciate that this is easier said than done, but it is not impossible. You can do it. If brands like Zappos and Ritz Carlton can do it, so can you. We all read about the incentive games and payment for performance. These are tactics that help maintain a culture of caring. But if you do not hire the right people, these tools will not make an impactful difference.

What vendor do you recommend for automating call centers using AI?

It is amazing that no matter how often my peers and I say that technology is not the answer, call center managers still ask this question expecting a silver bullet in the shape of a vendor name.

I will say it again here: you can use any type of vendor and still fail. You can also build a chat bot solution internally and succeed. The key here is recognizing two things that get overlooked all the time: aggregating and cleaning data.

Aggregating and cleaning your data is the foundation of any AI solution. Without this step, no vendor can save you. Garbage in, garbage out is exactly the logic here. So pause the vendor conversation and call your IT partner to discuss how ready your organization is for a chat bot solution. Do you have unique customer IDs? Do you have a relatively accurate matching tools and algorithms that can be transformed into a dashboard that can either help your contact center agents, or can be fed into a chat bot to answer basic questions?

Then, gather your call agents. Ask them what they need to provide memorable service. Empower them to help by LISTENING to them and by co-creating THEIR solution, not the vendor’s.  If Fedex asked the call agent who could not change my delivery address what she requires to satisfy customers needs, I am sure that the ability to change addresses in real time would be on her list.

What locations for outsourcing call centers are best?

This is another great example of the quest for the silver bullet. If you can remember one thing from this post , remember this – location is not everything in contact center management – culture is. Yes, you can outsource your contact centers, but the more money you save on the hourly wages, the more your brand erosion is going to increase.

When you realize that your contact center agents are an extension of your brand, you will be able to convert call center agents into brand ambassadors. This is when you are leveraging this touch point into a retention vehicle. For that business transformation to happen, you do not need to relocate the team to “the best location for call centers.” You need to look for the cradle of your brand and hire the right people in that location. That way, you will have the right ingredients to build a solid support center staffed with passionate people who genuinely want to help. From there, the Wow Moments pop up organically.

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

cx stress to success

Eliminate Customer Stress with Good CX

Good customer experiences either give back customer time or alleviate customer anxiety. If a brand’s CX isn’t achieving one of those goals, the customer isn’t getting any real or perceived value.  How can brands manage stress?  Better yet, how can brands build experiences that eliminate customer stress?

Causes of Customer Stress – Feeling Out of Control

The number one driver of customer stress is lack of information. Today, customers demand information. Knowledge is power and customers want to be in control of their journeys and experiences. Who can blame them? In our fast-paced environment, time is precious. Brands that respect customer time win customer loyalty.

Spectrum’s customer experience leaves much to be desired, but their call center customer experience is a winner. Let’s walk through that journey.  When a customer calls Spectrum, the phone system states the exact length of the hold time and offers the option to receive a call back.

In this case, the customer gets relevant information to make a decision (call back later or stay on), and he/she is given a CHOICE. Information and choice alleviate CX stress.

Transparency in the moment immediately relaxes customers. It makes them feel more in control. When designing CX solutions, keep in mind the solution needs to be comprehensive in order to create value. A message that says “Your wait time will be longer than usual” is not informative enough to empower decision making. Customers do not know what the usual wait time is, so that information is useless. To build a call center solution that reduces CX stress, invest in creating a technology solution that actually offers customers value. Do not stop in the middle and deliver general “buckets” of information.

The New Jersey Transit System and Long Island Railroad are building experiences that give customers the power to manage their journeys. Customers can see wait times and buy tickets via an app. Commuters know there is nothing more stressful than worrying about catching the right train. One delay can mean missing a meeting or a kid’s school performance. The stakes are high and so is the stress. On-the-go ticket purchasing alleviates a lot of that stress. No more lines in front of kiosks that may or may not work. No more adding time to an already long commute.

Transform Customer Stress to Customer Loyalty

Stress caused by uncertainty is a real customer emotion that can drive customer loyalty and revenues if a brand manages it well. Who does not appreciate being taken care of? When patients are a brand’s customers, like in the case of Mount Sinai Hospital, the best business approach is to look across your customers’ journeys and find opportunities to bring more certainty and to empower customers with information.

One thing that I do not recommend is to manage a prenatal “school” for future parents without building out the ability to find the address for classes, schedule and purchase online. After three plus calls and going above and beyond with the person on the other end of the phone, I eventually managed to book what I needed. But do I trust the brand as much as they need me to? Will I recommend them to other expectant moms who are eager for information and recommendations? No.

In this case, Mount Sinai missed an opportunity to alleviate one customer’s stress, to promote loyalty, and to create an empowered customer. Make sure your brand doesn’t miss opportunities to turn CX stress into CX success!

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Big Fails: FedEx Omnichannel Disaster

In our Strategy, Org Design & Culture series we cover customer-focused companies that are willing to adapt, take risks and discover new ways of staying relevant. Sometimes, we encounter brands that are missing the mark on basic customer expectations. These are CX Big Fails. Failures likes these can teach CX professionals as much about the impact of CX strategy as successes can. Our teacher today is FedEx.

Among the world’s largest transportation companies, FedEx made the top 5 in the 2017 Forbes Global ranking. This is the brand that invented the real-time tracking packages service. Yet, customers CANNOT change FedEx delivery dates over the phone. I learned that first hand when I tried to complete that simple transaction last week.

Taking a Vacation from Intuitive CX

You may ask why I made a phone call if I am a customer experience professional and an innovator? Because I am always on the go and multitasking. Despite self-service, there will always be use cases for phone as a channel. My customer expectation from a brand like FedEx dictated the brand would have a chatbot system to take care of a simple transaction like changing a delivery date. A request like mine must be in the top ten questions for a delivery company.

To my surprise, there was no chatbot. When I reached the representative, she told me she did not have access to change my delivery date. I needed to go online with my tracking number, expand the More Details Link and choose Hold, On Vacation, or something like this to change my date. Kiss first call resolution goodbye. Also kiss low effort score goodbye!

Last, but not least, according to FedEx, we are to understand that “Vacation” means “Change Delivery Date.” One of the foundational principles for delivering good customer experience is to enable front line employees to do their job. Tools and resources allow a brand that cares about the customers to do that. The fact that FedEx agents are not given those tools is shocking. On top of that, the non-intuitive navigation copy guarantees additional calls (costs) to the contact center by confused customers desperate to find a common Change Delivery Date field that doesn’t exist.

Locked Out of the Customer Journey

My new (lowered) customer expectation was that I could solve my issue and that the self-service channel would be quick and seamless. As customers, we all encounter system limitations, even from brands we like and trust. At this point, I was still a fan of FedEx. A few hours later, I went online to do what I was instructed to do.

After clicking the Hold, on Vacation button, I was asked to register as a customer. This is when the fun picked up again!  When a customer registers he/she is required to verify their address. The Fedex website offers two ways to verify address: through MAIL (days after you actually needed to change a delivery date on your package), or by answering a four question survey, two of which are inquiring about the names of PAST residents of your home.

The questions are multiple choice. Offered no alternative, I tried to guess which names lived in my New York City apartment before I did. And I got locked out. At this point, I made the second call to FedEx. The customer agent said he could not help me. Period. When I asked for his supervisor, he said that he does not have one since ALL supervisors left at 10:00 pm ( I called at 10:30 pm). At the end, I was NOT ABLE to change my delivery date after having omnichannel transactions with the brand.

This is not only a failed move, it is also a bad customer experience, plain and simple. I never got a survey to share my feedback, but needless to say, if given the choice, I will never use FedEx again.

Many brands have customer journeys that are so complex that they remain unsolved. This is understandable, given the growing complexities of customer needs and expectations. To change a delivery date when you interact with an iconic courier brand should not be one such complexity. Table stakes cannot be compromised. Dominos had to change their recipe because people did not like the taste of their pizza. Similarly, FedEx needs to ensure they deliver the main value for the customer – delivering packages at the right address at the most convenient time for the customer. If they cannot even do that, they will not enter the future of services and they can kiss that top 5 ranking goodbye.

If you like this article, please share with others so they can benefit. Sign Up for our newsletter to continue learning how to increase your skills and transform your organization! When you register now, you will get free access to our whitepaper on how to go from CX Novice to CX Expert

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*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

time tips for cx experts

CX and the Gift of Time

Time is the most precious gift in life. If you think about it, time is the one thing we all want more of. As we get older and busier, time gets even more valuable to us.  Continue reading “CX and the Gift of Time”

AI

How Smart Do Humans Want AI To Get?

Last month we covered the basics of AI and what it is in theory. Today we will talk more about the existing practical applications of AI and reflect on what that means to us. We will also share some caution about AI, which, similar to IoT does not have existing laws to follow due to the speed of its development. It is a fact that there is no real regulation on IoT products today and there are cases filed against familiar brands like Bose.  Last month I bought my team Google home minis to inspire a culture of innovation. Sometimes I wonder… what exactly did I buy them?
 
Currently, one of the most impressive real expressions of AI is the voice-generating AI that is indistinguishable from humans. Now that is a real capability that can generate significant efficiencies in call centers (given that you have the clean data and the cloud enabled applications to power the “brain” of the AI).
 
The AI voice re-imagines the how of the interactive component of the customer experience. The innovation part is that, to the customer, there is no real change in the emotions they experience during the call. The customer still hears a friendly female voice. This AI application does to the call center what the touch screen did for cell phones in 2007.
 
Keep in mind that as you converse with the friendly female voice, the AI that powers it is learning – it is getting smarter and smarter. The question is how smart can AI get. A better question, how smart do humans want AI to get? We all have heard the story of Frankenstein. If we are not careful, we might build our own replacement.
 
If you think I am exaggerating, listen to Elon Musk who has been cautioning us against AI for years. “I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that… I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.” We should most certainly embrace the future. However, we need to make sure we keep the control. With regulation and legal framework speed we might build the guardrails too late. Let’s also not forget that the master computer voice in Terminator, like those used in call centers, was female. I wonder if that is just a coincidence….
 
AI is not capable only of generating voice. It is able to “read” and to analyze human voices in a manner we have never seen. The term for this is “voice profiling.” Apparently, humans cannot detect the data/information in our voices the way AI software can. So the next time your bank asks you if you consent to record your voice for “additional security” on your account, think twice (too late for me… the TD Bank AI already has filed me away). The advancement went as far as creating a face to the voice in December. “Your voice is like your DNA  or your fingerprint.” according to Rita Singh. Thanks to today’s advanced algorithms and the large computing power available, our DNA is out in the digital space, ready to be “profiled.”
 
The reach of AI goes beyond customer service and personal banking. AI is now making hiring decisions today. Companies use AI technologies to shift through the large volume of online resumes they receive. Ostensibly, AI creates a leveled ground for all candidates and alleviates existing biases during interviews. An industry has emerged predicting either candidates’ skills based on online clues in the case of Fama or on their actions through Entelo that “guestimates” who is likely to leave a job. The situation gets creepier when we start talking about companies like HireVue. On the surface, HireVue’s solutions sound innovative  – “databased, unbiased talent decisions.” In reality, HireVue has the potential to read our faces when we speak and determine whether we are not truthful. No more saying at an interview you are leaving your current employer to pursue further development. HireVue will know you did not get along with your boss, or that you hate banking. A world in which we cannot have our internal lives sounds like a scary and lonely place.
 
What is next for the brave new world? According to the cofounder and CEO of Nvidia Huang it is “… the ability for artificial intelligence to write artificial intelligence by itself.” In other words humans will no longer be needed or even capable of running the new technology since it will be beyond our capacity to comprehend or manage. I don’t want to go back to Terminator and the Transformers, but it is hard not to see the resemblance in the plots. On the bright side, one can make a fortune in the next decade investing in those underlying technologies that will be running themselves or us in the future. This is how Huang made his fortune. We can always follow in his footsteps.
*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

Is AI Really The Answer?

Earlier this week we shared some of the pitfalls of implementing  self-service and highlighted the importance of strategic and empathetic implementation.  AI (artificial intelligence) is one of the self-service tools in the customer service professional toolbox today. It is also one of the new buzzwords, together with blockchain (for the curious ones  – my favorite explanations of blockchain are this video and this article).

The primary current positioning of AI is in call centers. The value proposition is that with AI, companies will empower customer service employees to make better decisions/recommendations, thus increasing employee engagement. Additionally, through AI, organizations will achieve significant ROI by automating the role of the customer agent (in JetBlue’s case, the crewmember) and scaling customer support without incremental headcount.

So what exactly is AI? Do you really understand what this technology can and cannot do? If you do not, keep reading as all working professionals today should understand at least the basics of AI. If you are like me, you probably get 100 sales emails every week telling you that you are running late and must leverage AI in your call centers. But do you really need AI? What problem do YOU need to solve? And is AI the best way to do that for your company?

Last month I was invited by Execs In the Know to join their AI Advisory Committee with the below mandate:

“The final group output will come in the form of a report. The exact nature of the report will be determined and framed by the group, but may include areas such as:

  • A summary of ways AI is enhancing CX channels
  • Best practices on where and how to start
  • Trends and technology in AI to improve service
  • ROI of current AI customer service initiatives
  • Perspectives and predictions about the future of AI and customer service”

This is no small mandate and it is encouraging that we have a group of professionals who are examining these questions before we all get ahead of ourselves with AI and compromise the ROI we all want so much.

The most common use of AI is ML (machine learning).  Basically, this is data mining and predictive learning on steroids that enables a computer to make decisions and interact with a human. With that basic understanding I already have a few questions to all the companies that are calling, emailing, inmailing etc., to offer me AI enabled solutions. Who, or rather what, is enabling those solutions? Is it my company’s data? Because if it is, I have a lot more work to do internally before I respond to those sales pieces.

Erik Brynjolfsson and  Andrew Mcafee provide a comprehensive explanation of what AI is and what it is not in their publication The Business of Artificial Intelligence. In it they state that AI technology is ready for implementation in the business world and that “[t]he bottleneck now is in management, implementation, and business imagination.” I do have the business imagination, but I also am taking my time to know exactly what capability I am buying with AI. It might be cheaper to streamline processes and fix existing software tools or integrations to enable my employees to deliver excellent customer service, instead of paying for yet another software integration that makes decisions based on my bad data (since I would have prioritized the purchase of the expensive AI solution over cleaning my existing data).

Although it is clear that AI will be a solution that needs demonstrated ROI and employee adoption for success while it is learning, it is also clear that we cannot wait too long to get comfortable with this new technology. As Erik and Andrew say, one thing is pretty sure: “[o]ver the next decade, AI won’t replace managers, but managers who use AI will replace those who don’t”.

That is the exact reason I chose to join the AI Advisory Committee. More to come!

 

 

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

cx bold moves customer experience news t-mobile replaces remote workforce

CX Bold Moves: Mobile Provider Eliminates Remote Workforce

Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series of CX Bold Moves. See all the DoingCXRight CX Bold Moves stories.

When it comes to customer support we all want the same things. We measure the efficiency metrics FCR (first call resolution), average wait time and talk time. We train our contact center agents to be personal and helpful.  Some of us even build incentives around goals for ancillary sales. When it comes to delivering on those KPIs right, customer experience managers have a lot in common. None of us has figured out how to deliver on all metrics. We are happy if we get one of them right!

Making Customers Feel Good when They Call

At JetBlue, our contact center is our heart. Our Contact Center crewmembers live the company’s mission to inspire humanity. If you want to feel what JetBlue is about, dial 1800 JetBlue where the customer experience is driven by empathy and understanding. And that is before we even train our crewmembers on our hospitality standards (that will happen in a few months as planned on the rollout roadmap).

JetBlue further empowers those crewmembers to be BlueHeros – to act as citizens, protect the JetBlue brand, and do the right thing for the customer when things go wrong. This is how we approach contact center management.

Loyalty that’s Worth the Wait

T-Mobile, self-described “Un-Carrier” is taking on a different approach. Two weeks ago at the Forrester conference in San Francisco, Sid Bothra shared the brand’s new strategy of call centers management. Instead of having frontline agents work from home, T-Mobile launched mini-call center “pods” of approximately 50 people each that cover specific geography and have cross-functional agents. Those groups are managed as P&L centers, not only as cost centers.

This is a completely new and risky approach that maximizes FCR at the expense of wait and talk times. Yes, in the new world, customer calls will not be transferred a second (or third) time. With this design, the agent who knows data sits next to the network specialist and the international calls expert. The agent’s efficiency loss, however, will be substantial and impact both wait and call times.

The results Sid Bothra shared were inspiring. As expected, customers now wait 2x longer (from 40 seconds to 1m-1.3m), but NPS went up by 50% and employee retention increased by 75%. In addition, customer share of the wallet also increased because now, callers are more open to buying ancillary products.

Sid Bothra’s plan is a great example of thinking outside of the box and challenging the norm. Very few traditional call center leaders would agree with this new approach.  In the long run, though, giving employees a sense of ownership of the business is the best way to inspire excellent service and care. It sounds like T-Mobile has found one way to do just that. It is one thing to feel like a cost, a burden to a business. It is another thing to feel empowered to earn money for your company and manage profits for your investors.

Recalibrating Goals

There is a third view on call centers that contradicts both JetBlue’s strategy and T-Mobile’s. Matthew Dixon in his book states that “any customer service interaction is four times more likely to drive disloyalty than to drive loyalty.”  Dixon argues that our efforts to make customers happy when they reach out to our contact centers is not the right approach because at the point of the call, we have lost their loyalty.  Dixon recalibrates the goal of customer service to mitigate that negative impact by reducing effort because reducing effort is more tangible to the customer and more sustainable to organizations than our current work to delight our callers.

Regardless of the approach, you decide to take with your call center management, I urge you to be disruptive, even to yourself, and not to look at the traditional models. Technology advancements are adding more tools to our toolboxes and the new workforce is looking for more meaning and impact in any job. T-Mobile has addressed both opportunities in a creative and innovative way that has potential to differentiate them in the future.

That could be you!

If you like this article, please share with others so they can benefit. Sign Up for our newsletter to continue learning how to increase your skills and transform your organization! When you register now, you will get free access to our whitepaper on how to go from CX Novice to CX Expert

*All opinions expressed on the DoingCXRight Blog and site pages are the authors’ alone and do not reflect the opinions of or imply the endorsement of employers or other organizations.

VP of Listening, brand image, future purchases

One Person Can Make Or Break A Brand’s Image

We all interact with companies when shopping for products and services. Sometimes we talk to representatives in person, such as at a retail store, while other times we chat online or call customer care. Regardless of where the interaction occurs, Continue Reading →