Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Importance of Creating Passionate Customer Advocates

By Rhonda Basler
Director, Customer Engagement
Hallmark Business Connections

Companies often struggle to attain perfection in order to win in the marketplace. We aim for flawless execution and high-quality products, but perfection is typically reserved for snowflakes and warm, sunny spring days. Although businesses consistently try to hit the mark, perfection is not always feasible. To win in the marketplace, we must first focus on winning with our customers by creating standout experiences.

What does it take for your business to create truly remarkable experiences for your customers? It’s all about investing in the right areas. At Hallmark, we believe it starts by asking three simple yet specific questions, followed by careful consideration of each answer.

The first step to creating standout customer experiences is understanding the definitions of each of these three M’s: meaningful, memorable and measurable. 

Does It Impact the Customer in a Direct and Personal Way That Is Meaningful to Them Specifically?

Meaningful experiences go well beyond the transaction to touch your customer on an emotional level. This kind of experience makes them feel good about their interaction with your company and the exchange they’ve had with the people who represent the business.

Is the Experience Meaningful Enough To Be Memorable? 

Just because an experience is meaningful, doesn’t mean it will stand out in your customer’s mind. You need to determine if the customer will remember the experience a day, a week or a month later. Why is this so important? Only memorable experiences impact customer loyalty and retention. Think about it in these terms: If they don’t even remember the experience, it cannot impact how they feel about your company.

Can You Gauge the Effectiveness of the Experience in Measurable Ways?

We all have limits on our customer engagement budgets, so we must be able to prove the value of our investments. For years, businesses have used key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine how loyal, engaged and passionate their customers are about their companies. These metrics help us evaluate the equity your brand carries with customers, the loyalty of those same individuals, and the likelihood they will refer a friend or buy again. These metrics are critical to your success in creating positive experiences, time and time again. Quantitative measurements include things like customer retention rates and revenue increases, while qualitative analysis examines the voice of the customer and asks open-ended questions to derive value. The important part to remember is that all insights must be actionable, insightful and sharable.

Genuine Connections Create Customers Who Buy More, Spend More and Stay Longer

Companies depend on repeat business from customers. When your business focuses on creating these experiences again and again, you’ll find your customers will return for your top-notch care. This care turns customers into advocates who not only believe in your products, services and brands, but who also share their positive feelings and remarkable experiences with others, including friends, family and their social media networks.

Think about your favorite company. We all have a few. Why? According to the AMEX 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, 75 percent of customers say they’ve spent more at a company where they’ve had positive customer service encounters. What is the common factor that links each of these customer service encounters that bring people back again and again? Simple. They were memorable. 

Where Do You Go From Here?

Three M experiences turn bad situations around and make good interactions great. Start by considering where you want to be versus where you are today. Next time you interact with a customer, actively think through about the three M’s. When you do this every day,  word gets out. Soon, you’ll be the company with passionate customer advocates.

Rhonda Basler leads the customer engagement segment at Hallmark Business Connections. An avid business trend watcher and strategic thinker, her customer advocacy expertise stems from over 15 years experience in data-driven brand marketing. Rhonda started her career working in both inbound and outbound customer service contact centers.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Top 10 Take-Aways from Customer Contact Europe 2015: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

For executives working in today’s multi-faceted, multi-channel customer contact space, asking key questions is an important part of getting to the right solutions.

Here are some of the key take-aways and talking points our participants shared at the 9th Annual Customer Contact 2015, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

  1. Use results to connect your customer to the "right" channel. As different customer service channels affect online purchasing decisions, it’s important to analyze the data to create a blueprint for optimal channel success.
  2. Customer experience needs "board" sponsorship. Is your entire organization--from the Board on down—linked together to provide an excellent customer experience at every touchpoint?
  3. How do you choose and monitor the right KPI? Is net revenue or a customer loyalty metric the best key performance metric for your organization?
  4. How do you ease the customer journey? How do you make it simple? The “customer journey” continues to grow more complex… so how do we make it easier for our customers to gather information or to make a purchase?
  5. Monitor employee NPS/EPS It is important to compete for your customers and not against competitors.
  6. Empower your employees to boost customer experience.  Each and every employee should be authorized to create a successful customer experience.
  7. Create a multi-channel customer focus. Don’t forget post-purchase. It may just improve profits!
  8. Forget about B2B & B2C - Online sales models have changed the game forever.
  9. Read Dr. Philip Klaus' book, Measuring Customer Experience: How to Develop and Execute the Most Profitable Customer Experience Strategies The award-winning researcher can help you take abstract concepts like customer experience and convert them into tools you can use to improve performance and results.
  10. Only 2 out of 10 Customer Experience (CX) initiatives are profitable. So, there is much room for improvement. Marrying your customers’ needs with analytics can help.

Why not use the key conversation starters noted above to drive those important customer experience discussions at your organization? Leverage these ideas to help your organization provide an optimal and profitable customer experience.

Remember this equation: Employees = Customers

By Mark Edelman

Vice President, Digital Member Services
Stanford Federal Credit Union

This is not a math puzzle, but rather the way we need to approach our business if we are to be successful.  Simply stated; you must consider your employees at least as much as you consider your customers.  To remain relevant, we must respond to our customers’ needs in a manner that the customers perceive as timely and valuable.  The market demands you develop a premier customer support system with quality employees and you’ll grow your customer base.  Competition is competing on product, price and delivery.  The companies beating the competition are doing it with service.

When we respond to our customers’ needs the way the customers want, typically with quick resolution to their requests, we gain promoters.  Promoters will share online and offline – family, friends, virtual friends, co-workers, classmates, and your list of future customers go on!   To make this happen, we must start by creating a working environment where our employees can succeed and thrive.

Here are some keys to balancing the equation:

  • Have a clear strategy and clearly communicate that strategy to your employees and your customers.
  • Customer support systems for employees and customer facing systems must be intuitive, easy to use, and provide pertinent data.
  • Remember your customers and their preferences. Provide this data to your employees at the beginning of each interaction.
  • Always look for ways to hear your customer’s voice.  Make sure you hear what your employees have to say about the customer experience.
  • Customers expect knowledgeable employees who have the authority to make decisions. 
  • Train your employees with the tools to make good decisions.  Follow-up the training by giving the employees the authority for those decisions.
  • Have one service level for all customer interactions; customers do not want to wait and employees will take the brunt of the customers’ frustration if the customers’ wait is too long.
We succeed with our customers through our employees…Not in spite of them! Your success starts by developing your employees and providing an environment where the employees can succeed.  Leverage technology to enhance the experience for your customers and increase the efficiency of your employees.  Technology without a sound service approach will be both expensive and ineffective.  The great companies figure this out.

Mr. Edelman has over 20 years of contact center and operations management experience in the financial services sector.  He has a passion for customer service and has a stellar track record with start-up operations and turning around poor performing service operations.  Recently, he has been a featured speaker at numerous call center conferences and has handled consulting assignments to assess and improve credit union contact centers.  He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management from California Pacific University.

Reflections from The Chair of Customer Contact 2015, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

Reflections from The Chair:  “Obsessed with Tools, Toys and Technology!”

By Derek Williams

Chief Executive, The WOW! Awards
International Speaker and Author

Regular Frost & Sullivan Event Contributor

Derek Williams chaired Customer Contact 2015, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange. Read on as he reflects on the event and Big Data, (or is it just data?) outsourcing the customer experience, (why?) customer perceptions, (the reality?) the millennials (who will comprise 75% of the workforce by 2025) and more…

Friends and newcomers.  It’s always great to meet old friends at a Frost and Sullivan event.  And so refreshing to also meet the virgins; some of them not quite sure what to expect and maybe a little daunted by a packed schedule.

The schedule does appear daunting.  But everyone quickly gets into the swing of things and begins to realise that their time with Frost & Sullivan is going to be a fantastic investment.  Every part of the three days is carefully thought through and structured to maximise learning, networking and friendships.

“Obsessed with tools, toys and technology!”  Dr Phil Klaus explained how CEO’s see the functions of marketing and operations.  “You don’t speak in the language of the board!”  There is a challenge to understand our external customers and our internal customers so much better.

But marketing and ops are not totally to blame.  80% of CEOs say that their companies give a great customer experience.  Only 8% of customers say that they receive a great customer experience!  Spot the gap?

There is no Big Data!  Just data.  Trouble is that we are measuring the wrong things and don’t practice what we preach.  Touch point management does not match customer expectations. 

Why do we outsource customer experience?  Outsourcing increases probability of churn and negative word of mouth by up to 5 times.

Blame the Finance Directors.  Chris Brindley, Managing director at Metro Bank, accuses them of knowing everything about price but nothing about value.  As a former FD can I just add in my defence, if all you ever ask your FD to do is count beans then all they will ever do is count beans.  So my message to everyone here is bring your Finance Directors with you next time.  Let them see the technology, the systems and the best practices in the world so that they can make better investments.

Customer perceptions are reality.  Listen to your customers.  Perhaps what surprised me most is that so many senior managers are not listening to their customers.  Customer forums with senior management present are nothing new; are we really still thinking about it???

Understand that your people are your only differentiator.  Metro Bank use technology to do “the heavy lifting” so that their people can make the difference.

Are you B2B or B2C?  Don’t even think about it.  All businesses are People to People.  And if you don’t have a Director of Customer Experience then your customers don’t have a voice at board level.

We do stupid things!  Pens attached to the counter with a chain.  Car parks “FOR BANK STAFF ONLY”.  Do you have a Stupid Rules Policy; a systematic way of getting rid of stupid rules?

Did your customers ask for their calls to be answered by machine?  Think about your investment in marketing and communications.  Yet your ability to win business hinges on being able to answer the phone.  It’s not about how much you invest it’s about how you risk that investment.

It takes two people to say, “NO!” to a customer.  But only one person to say, “Yes!” at Metro Bank.

Is man challenging machine?  Stephen Loynd tells us that Toyota is replacing robots with people and productivity is increasing.

The millennials are coming.  75% of the global workforce will be millennials by 2025.  Employees of the future need to feel that their work is valued.  “They don’t want to climb a corporate ladder.  They want to play in a jungle gym!”

Tearing down the silos!  Fabien Pelous is creating a one stop shop at Air France – KLM by focusing on customer segments.  Will this only ever extend to Platinum customers?  We look forward to an update next year.  Customers only ever see one organisation and don’t understand silos.

“My problem is your challenge!”  Don’t blame marketing or HR says Jan Smets.  Life in unfair!  Remember that the contact centre attracts moments of truth.  It’s all about making the connection and bringing relief.  Service is what people buy.  Customer service is the complete experience including the human element.

Give your business two hearts.  One for workforce and operational excellence.  One for data analysis.  Test everything using the data and don’t be distracted by “Senior Management Opinion Syndrome – everyone is entitled to my opinion!”

Word of mouth might be your greatest opportunity.  Post purchase customer experience only produces 24% of revenues but 45% of profits.

Why don’t we ask “WHY?”  When we measure customer experience we typically ask what, how and when.  But we don’t ask, “Why do they buy?” and, “Why do they buy from us?”

E.ON are making it as easy as ABC.  Alignment; help customers get what they want.  Benevolence; be a force for good.  Competence; be able to deliver what you promise.

Do we measure the right things?  Too many organisations might be measuring and rewarding the wrong things.  Good to see daily Net Promoter Scores being use at the frontline in Europcar and contributing to both positive and negative bonuses at management level. Probably not enough measurement of Customer Effort Scores for my liking.  Making it easy has to be a focus for both external and internal customers.

Working smarter was the theme of Paul van den Berg’s presentation.  Using real agents, Plantronics attitude is… “We don’t want to distract our customers from distracting the enterprise.  We want to accelerate to engage with customers!”

Catching people doing things right!  Maybe not.  Most organisations still seem to be focused on catching people doing things wrong.  More celebration needed.  It doesn’t have to be big but it does need to be sincere and personal.  Ties very nicely into what we understand about the millennials wanting to feel valued.

“We’re sorry,” said Kenny Jacobs from Ryanair.  “We’ve not been listening to our customers enough.  We started to realise that we had a problem when we had lower passenger occupancy than other airlines despite being the cheapest.”  Ryanair’s “Always Getting Better” programme looks set to make Ryanair the world’s biggest airline.  “Applying much better service to the cheapest service becomes an unbeatable proposition!”

The Ryanair story is another illustration of customers wanting to be smarter in their spending.  Aldi, Primark, Hyundai and Ryanair are the fastest growing brands in the UK. 

Listen to your customers.  Know your place in the market.  Measure and reward the right things.  Engage your people.  Differentiate your service.  Use technology appropriately.  Be prepared to change.  Great learning and great networking with Frost & Sullivan.

Derek Williams is Chief Executive of The WOW! Awards.  He is an international speaker, author and regular contributor to Frost & Sullivan events.

For more information about The WOW! Awards and “Catching people doing things right!” call Derek on +44 (0) 1438 310191 or
email Derek@TheWowAwards.co.uk

From Customer Agent, to Customer Advocate

By Cippy Seidler

Call Center Director
Banner Health

In this session highlight from the 11th Annual Customer Contact 2015, East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, Cippy Seidler, Director, Contact Centers, Banner Health, shares the philosophy and practical takeaways that guided her organization to an 8% turnover rate in 2014.

Staff comes in at entry level – we need to train! What do they want? What do they want to do? Do they have the skill sets we need? Do they have the professional experience? – for example, do they know how to act in a meeting? How to make eye contact, use open / inviting body language, ask questions, show engagement and respect the meeting leader?

This training is really about skills that they can take with them anywhere they go. This is for them PERSONALLY. This isn’t related to their actual work, it’s about tools they need to be successful in other areas of the company or even at other companies.

“As director of the call centers, I am almost a recruiter.” We take the people in, train them, get them excited, they become advocates by telling others about their cool job and how much fun they have there – we want them to tell their like-minded, like-personality friends about it.

What is the effect of your non-job related training?

Audience answers included:

Recognition for top performers – they go to the different office with a mountain view, to see the product manager so they can see what they’re really pushing. They are treated like ROCKSTARS there and it gives them confidence. They are told to go with a voice. It exposes them to different folks, jobs, etc.

  • Emerging Leader Program – In house leadership training in consideration for management roles. There are certain requirements but it motivates them, this is for THEM. They are spotlighted, have opportunities to interact with other leaders in organization and have additional opportunities such as attending classes etc….
  • Internal cross training opportunities: Staff can get entry level experience working in a different area within the call center.  An area of interest for them but also to gain experience
  • Know your Agent –What are their strengths? What do they want to do? Then we give them those tasks. Want to be an event planner? Plan a department event.. Like interior design? Decorate the office. If they want to do these things though, they need to be hitting a certain work performance criteria.  So it pushes them to do well so they can do what they want

  • Career mapping
  • “Coaches” vs Supervisors
Why do call center routinely have 50 – 60% turnover? Why isn’t this working? Is this what the employee wanted? Did we ask them?
  • What is something that they really want to do? The presenter gave an example of someone who she really wanted to make a “coach” but the lady was hesitant. Then, she was asked what she really wanted. She said CPR training. Cippy said okay fine – do it and this made the employee very happy. It’s not really related but because they gave her the opportunity, the retention of the employee was so much higher because she LIKED the company. The employee now has added responsibility because of her skill set in the office. Opportunity for growth, recognition and then she tells other people about it.
  • What does it cost to replace a call center agent? Weight that against what it costs to give her two 8 hour shifts to go to CPR training? Partially engaged employee became 100% engaged employee.
  • “I just saved us 30 thousand dollars today. Nobody quit today!”
  • One of the audience members offered this input about their own company: Every employee in the company, every agent, is allowed to have a stake in policy and process making – by the end of the year there will be no managers in the company at all. It’ll be full democracy. They can go to and have a seat at any meeting.
Ask yourselves: What’s in it for them? Does it make their job easier?

People want to feel like what they do is meaningful and matters. Imagine what would happen if we closed our doors (call centers) for 1 day. You need to make it so that their job is so meaningful that the company literally cannot go on without them.

Moving staff from agent to ambassador.  Ambassador is more of a role model --someone who welcomes new people etc…  Advocate is someone who truly believes in your company’s mission, strategic initiatives, etc.


An employee road map is what the agents can expect from their leader– 30 days, 60, 90, 1 year. RATHER THAN their road map of what they’re expected to wear, what they’re expected to do, etc. Customer agents are met with once a month in a one-on-one to make sure this is happening, let them know they have someone to talk to if customers aren’t always nice, etc.

It’s key to your team that you take calls every now and then so your team knows you are not removed.

Real proof – in 2014, Banner Health’s turnover rate was lowest in 10 years.

EXIT QUESTION: If your BEST employee told you they were leaving today? What would they say as their reason to leave?

Audience input - Even if you aren’t offered a promotion while someone else is (internally or not) –you will receive a in-perosn meeting explaining that in your interview we saw these strengths, here is how we think you can work on those. And, do you have an idea of how you want to work on those? Instead of leaving, there are little ways we can recognize an employee’s strengths and make them want to stay.

Cippy Seidler is an enthusiastic leader focused on providing a high-level customer experience through employee engagement and a commitment to excellence.  In the span of 28 years, Cippy has served in leadership positions with retail organizations such as Liz Claiborne, Allen-Edmonds, and Zayre with a specialized focus on front-end customer engagement and retention, and employee training and sales development. Currently a Director of Call Centers with Banner Health, one of the largest, nonprofit health care systems in the country, she is responsible for driving performance across multiple service lines. 

Philly311 – A Journey to Creating a Connected City

By Rosetta Carrington Lue
Chief Customer Service Officer
and Executive Director

Philly311 Contact Center
City of Philadelphia

It Started with a Simple Idea

In 2008, Mayor Michael A. Nutter came to me with the idea for Philly311. The goal was to make city government more effective and transparent by creating a contact center that could manage all of the citizens’ requests. The system would improve efficiency by submitting the requests directly to the appropriate department in the proper format. He had a simple requirement – he wanted all calls to be answered by the third ring. That was his standard for service in 2008, but since then we have accomplished so much more. We have more than a 90% customer satisfaction rating. The contact center is available on many channels; including a mobile app that is one of the few 311 apps in the country, and our award winning social media services.

Anytime a service is being provided, the person receiving that service is a customer of the provider, even in the public sector. This article explains how Philadelphia became a more connected city by focusing on our customers, getting our staff to believe in our mission, and changing the culture of government to be more accessible, responsive, and adaptable.

Treat Citizens like Customers

This customer-centric model is still relatively new to government. We have taken a traditionally private sector ideology and applied it to the public sector. Using the private sector as an example, we re-evaluated local government’s relationship between citizens, visitors, and business owners. With this new perspective, citizens, visitors, and business owners are the City of Philadelphia’s customers, and their customer experience becomes a priority. The City of Philadelphia wants all of its customers to be satisfied and to continue to live, work, and play in our City. By incorporating new ideas and values into our process, we are reinvigorating city government in Philadelphia. We are creating a culture that focuses on our customers and that operates with integrity and responsiveness.

Get the Staff Invested

At Philly311, ensuring that employees are fully invested in our mission is key to building a customer-centric culture. We wanted to make sure that all of our employees and city departments understood the reason for and value of being a service oriented organization. This took time, planning, and consistent follow through. As a result of our efforts, we now have an amazing team of highly motivated individuals. When your agents believe in the work they are doing and understand our ultimate common goals, they can work more independently, and will strive to achieve the best results possible without being micro-managed. A staff that is inspired by what they do will always produce better results than a staff that is worried about consequences or meeting the bottom line.

Transform the Culture of Government

Philly311 is a vehicle to establish a standard of customer service for all of city government. Our customers are at the center of our day to day operations. Additionally, we are creating a new mentality of customer service in city government. Philadelphia takes an innovative approach to connecting the community to the City with dynamic communication models, and citywide initiatives. We offer resources and workshops to train city employees on how to deliver outstanding service. We help other departments set measurable outcomes, performance metrics, and share best customer service practices about how to meet their goals. We understand that any interaction a customer has with a city department or agency can impact the way they view city government overall.

Be Available at the Customer’s Convenience

For example, we have multiple channels to engage our customer. We want our customers to reach us on a platform that is comfortable and easily accessible. Anyone can submit requests through our call center, walk-in center, mobile application, social media platforms, self-service web portal, or email. Our mobile app and website are operational 24/7, the call center is active from 8am-8pm, and walk-in services are available from 9am-5pm. Our mobile application comes in 17 different languages to ensure that everyone has a chance to be heard, and to honor the incredible diversity of Philadelphia.

Be Responsive and Adaptable

We listen to our customers’ concerns, observing trends in request type and location, and obtaining meaningful user feedback by monitoring social media, reviewing reports to analyze data, and taking customer surveys. With these tools, we are able to adapt our system and our services to meet the customers’ needs. We want citizens to feel like government is really working for them. We aim to empower citizens to make a difference in their communities by giving them a direct line of communication to their government. We are increasing accountability and internal communication as well.

Be a Leader; Set an Example

More local government officials are coming to understand how a 311 system can improve the relationship between citizens and their government. Philadelphia is a national model because of our innovative strategies, successful growth, and high customer satisfaction. Putting our customers first revolutionizes the way that the City delivers important services that affect the quality of life. We hope that other cities can learn from, implement, and expound on the work we have done in Philadelphia to create a connected city.

Rosetta Lue has over 15 years of hands-on experience in business operations and senior leadership in both the public and private sectors. She is recognized as an expert in customer experience management across diverse industries in both the private and public sectors, including domestic and international markets.