Monday, November 14, 2016

Using Big Data Text Analysis to Determine Profitability Drivers – How to Measure and Manage the Customer Experience in the 21st Century

Professor Phil Klaus
International University of Monaco
INSEEC Research Center

Managers around the globe recognize the importance of customer experience (CX) measurement and management as the ultimate success driver for their business.

Yet, a major problem is that despite an understanding of the importance of customer relationships to a company’s success and an enthusiastic embrace of customer experience management, many managers do not have a good understanding of what customer experience management entails, nor do they know precisely what they must do to achieve success. As a matter of fact, 9 out of 10 CX programs are not profitable.

That is why the introduction of a new text-analytic-based measurement is both important and timely. Businesses that recognize how complex the process of designing, managing and measuring customer experience can be are provided with a clear step-by-step approach based upon the latest research and many years of previous work dedicated to this task.

The CX meta-mining approach, incorporating the successful application of the EXQ scale, can enable executives to move faster and outperform their competitors. CX meta-mining provides a useful guide, and addresses the three most pressing questions managers face today:

  • Where are we currently in terms of managing and measuring customer experience? 
  • Where do we want to be?
  • And most important, how do we get there?

The measurement delivers the answer to these questions 

The development of CX meta-mining was driven by client needs to enrich the knowledge gained through EXQ with existing data and leverage what their customers really thought about them. By this we mean what drives their purchasing behavior, their Share-of-Category (SoC), and ultimately, businesses profitability.  EXQ, the comprehensive measurement for CX, highlights these individual drivers in terms of importance. It lists which parts of your customers‘ experience drives how much money they spent with you versus your competitors, as illustrated in the example in table 1. 

Table 1 EXQ Example SoC Drivers with Competitor Comparison

EXQ allows managers to dissect the reasons for all purchasing decisions, including your competitors. It allows you to clearly identify actionable trends, as, in the example above, the importance of the ‘human’ and ‘emotional’ factor in a perceived long-term, not just sale-based relationship. 

Managers, however, often have often difficulty determining the exact meaning of, for example, ‘Your company demonstrates flexibility in dealing with me.’ CX meta-mining delivers a coherent platform allowing all team members to easily understand what a specific EXQ item means and which actions to engage in to increase SoC, and which actions to avoid to decrease SoC. 

CX meta-mining is particularly useful for analyzing already existing market research, Most existing customer experience measurements are based on static, survey tools. CX, however is dynamic in nature, requiring dynamic tools to match. The use of mobile apps to capture customer experience by using a “diary” approach is still in its infancy, but shows huge promise. This can be taken one step further by developing CX meta-mining, based upon EXQ-profitability-driver knowledge as a dynamic, multimodal measurement approach, capturing traditional ratings, text, pictures, voice and videos.   The combination of EXQ and CX meta-mining gives managers the tools for their business not only to survive, but  to thrive in a customer-dominated world. How does it work? 

CX meta-mining collects data – and makes sense of it – in real-time. Using techniques developed in health research a collection of ‘live’ CX data from consumers, is embedded while they are participating in their customer experience. Stated simply, CX meta-mining involves isolating relevant strings from documents, computing co-occurrence between strings at different levels, and examining the topology of the resulting network. Visual data is analyzed using basic feature extraction and labeling techniques. Survey ratings are also collected to capture CX. Importantly, this collection format allows one to cross-link all three data types for richer and finer-grained analysis of CX. For example, prominent themes extracted from the text and visual data can be linked to more focused rating questions.

Rather than looking for ‘hotspots’ or ‘word counts,’ CX meta-mining makes sense of what is being said and relates it to the important question ‘will this make my (existing and potential) customers buy more (and more often) from me rather than from my competitor? EXQ and meta-mining give therefore every single person in the company clear – and easy to follow – rules on what drives profitability, what it means in terms of how  the customer perceives their experience, and what to do and not to do (see screenshot below). In summary, the combination of EXQ and CX meta-mining delivers the most advanced, scientifically-based tool to measure and manage a more profitable customer experience program.

Professor Phil Klaus is considered one of the leading Customer Experience and Marketing Strategy experts worldwide. He is Professor of Customer Experience at the International University of Monaco INSEEC Research Center, founder of Dr. Phil Klaus & Associates Consulting, Professor of Customer Experience and Marketing Strategy, bestselling author of “Measuring Customer Experience – How to Develop and Execute the Most Profitable Customer Experience Strategies,” and holds multiple visiting professorships around the globe. 

His award-winning research has appeared in numerous books, and a wide range of top-tier academic and managerial journals. Phil is a frequent keynote speaker at public and in-company seminars and conferences around the world. He is an experienced manager and management consultant with an active, international portfolio of Blue-Chip clients for whom he advises on customer experience strategy, profit enhancement, 'next practice,' and business development. Phil may be reached at:

You’re Invited: Exclusive Kohl’s Site Tour for
Customer Contact Executives and Colleagues!

Act now--Registration limited to the first 50 respondents

Customer contact industry executives and business colleagues are cordially invited to attend a Kohl’s Site Tour on February 8, 2017 in Dallas, Texas. This informative event will feature an in-depth, behind the scenes look at a new contact center that is:

  • Large, open and progressive
  • On the pulse of omni-channel and self-service
  • Specifically designed to foster collaboration 

The day will begin with a networking breakfast at 9am, after which attendees will move on to the contact center site tour from 10am until noon. From noon until 1pm, participants will enjoy an executive roundtable luncheon featuring a recap of key tour insights and take-aways as well as a formal discussion on Omni-Channel Customer Engagement. Participants will benefit from peer to peer networking and idea exchanges at this timely roundtable discussion. 

This is a great opportunity for customer contact executives and colleagues to enjoy and learn from an up close view of Kohl's state-of-the-art customer service space, operations and philosophy. The tour is open to council members and others in the customer contact industry, but will be at capacity at 50 people, so please register soon and spread the word!

For registration, hotel recommendations and more information, please contact Matt McSweegan at or 516-255-3812 for details. Or contact us at

*Please note, may not be open to all organizations due to non-disclosure restrictions

Six Leads for Getting Customers on Your Side

Petra Mengelt
Director, Customer Experience 
Euroloan Group Plc

Think of this article as an intense training session where there is no PowerPoint show, instead there is an energetic woman standing right up front. With a marker in her hand and a relatively interesting drawing right behind her that makes sense only to people present. She is involving the audience, her mind jumping up and down as in a game of tennis. There are short stories flipped around, things you may actually be able to remember.

What is she saying about customers? She is a strong believer in a can do-spirit that is immediately apparent at her company, a rapidly growing international FinTech group, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland. A couple of years ago they said they were going to challenge the business; these days, they are doing it. 

The woman you are imagining giving you a training session is me, Petra Mengelt, a customer experience director at Euroloan Group PLC. I want to challenge the traditional online banking service and instead provide a personal, digital experience, one that customers remember and are willing to recommend. I have over fifteen years of lean management experience in the aerospace and metals industry, as well as entrepreneurship and customer service management experience in the USA and in Europe.

For over a decade, I have trained hundreds of people, from entry level employees all the way to board members on how to improve their attitude. I have also tried to provide all my audiences with a broader understanding of the importance  and value of working throughout the organization to achieve the same goals. Currently, I have my hands full with the group’s new financial technology company, Jolt Bank. I am creating a world class customer experience for great customers-to-be. One must be fearless as every pilot and development project confronts us with unexpected challenges with no ready answers, and there is no standard hand book of ready answers to follow. 

Now, I will give you six leads into winning customers to your side. So, listen carefully. I believe that sharing our vision and listening to customer feedback carefully can spice things up. Dull is never exciting, hence the opposite. This is why customer experience success needs a recipe! And did you know, our recipe is not a secret. We encourage you to come along and bring your appetite for success.


Everything starts with motivation. Whatever it is that you do, do it with passion and attention to quality. If you are truly interested in something, half of what you do is purely your enthusiasm, your attitude. However, now comes the “but” part: being just casually interested in something is not enough these days. 


Nothing works efficiently with mediocre minds. Do not let the trends overtake you. When an enterprise has people with a known capacity level serving the customer, we must understand that each employee needs support with the best tools and training material available. As change is constant, new opportunities arrive at an increasing rate and threaten to pass left and right: unless we grab the next opportunity to make new growth, we may as well count ourselves out. How an agent, for instance, deals with a customer, with what attitude and approach, how the know-how and competence are aligned, makes the difference today. I want to see smiles even at 2am in the morning. We run in a 24/7 world for all of our customers.


I work with our customers and their feedback. I tell everyone to share the information. Why? Because it may be that one little piece of information that you think is not that important, may connect things into “this makes sense now” for someone else. And, it should be relatively easy to push that delete button if you did not need to know something. 

I also network across borders and throughout our business disciplines. I love to hear what’s new in international circles, form the hottest new luxury brand’s mind-set straight through to the largest European investment banks’ customer experience. Oftentimes the best ideas come to you from unexpected quarters. 


Assumptions are sometimes necessary to move forward with a project, but if those assumptions are without solid basis they will lead to mistakes and incorrect decisions.  If we are afraid of making any mistakes ever, we become too careful, and that is not good either, is it? Let’s forget about titles: instead in a start up, everyone has the opportunity to lead the orchestra, be a detective, a housekeeper, a runner, a listener, and even a mother at times. Be aware and understand the little nuances in people and help them to achieve their best results. It can be quite challenging to accustom one’s self to the idea that there are no ready answers.  The start-up world brings a tremendous amount of empowerment.


I am an advocate of involving all organizational layers to participate in customer experience. To understand customer centricity is not only connecting the service to customers, but making everyone at the company responsible for the result.  “This is not my responsibility, I don’t know how” is something I am not willing to listen to. Instead, I challenge you to ask: “Please, teach me how!” 

Customer experience is an interesting function because in the end it touches on all company functions from employees, to customers and management, to investors. Effective customer experience leadership demands a dynamic voice to communicate the journey to all affected parties. Customer experience is also about how our employees experience the work they do. Think of it as this way: when one has fun at work, and on top of that, one is also motivated, a better outcome is inevitable. Happy employees generate better ideas, that is just a fact.


Euroloan currently renewed their five-year strategy, where they concluded that their employees should feel excited about the coming work week, already on the Sunday evening. The idea is to engage the workforce from the office staff to the top, and create an inspired and inspiring workplace, with an energy that customers can feel. I believe that I can give the European world of fintech banking a little bit of that American “great wonderful” spice: we merely need to Europeanize it first. Every customer contact is an opportunity to create an emotional trigger.


In the end, there is no secret, it is all about hard work. Give the full one hundred percent, do not multi task and be present. And dare to say no if you cannot do it. My nine-year-old daughter, Sara, just interrupted me a few weeks back and said something that made me think. She said, as nicely as a child can, in a matter of a fact voice, “Mom, can you please look me in the eye when you talk to me and not play with your phone while we are trying to have a conversation?”

Based on continuously measured customer satisfaction surveys, Euroloan has been able to build up customer experience to double digit percentages. In commonly measured surveys of satisfaction, Euroloan finds itself almost without peer in the online banking industry, posting satisfaction levels that the likes of major names in Europe would envy.

Petra Mengelt is the Head of Customer Experience at Jolt Bank, an organization dedicated to identifying the real needs of customers and building trusted relationships with customers. She is passionate about involving all organizational layers to participate in the customer experience journey and believes that customer experience doesn’t function via a rigid top-down command structure; rather, greater results are achieved when one empowers employees to influence the results.  She puts a high emphasis on challenging traditional banking by well done, world class digital customer experience. 

Petra is also the Director of Customer Experience at Euroloan Group Plc, in Finland where she is responsible for the customer experience throughout the customer journey. She  has led Euroloan Consumer Finance’s customer experience for the past five years. Prior to entering the world of financial innovation, she worked in the aerospace and metals industries in the US and Europe. She is also an entrepreneur. Petra invites you to join her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter @petrataan

Monday, November 7, 2016

Consumer Affairs, T-Mobile and Vodafone Receive Top Honors At Customer Service Excellence Recognition Celebration

Winners of the 2016 Customer Service Excellence Program Awards announced earlier this year gathered at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa in Tucson, AZ, for a gala breakfast awards ceremony to be recognized for their outstanding achievements. From among the winners, the program’s distinguished panel of expert judges selected Vodafone, T-Mobile and Consumers Affairs as the high achievers.

Vodafone was named the High Achiever in Omni Channel Customer Engagement for excellence in current and future customer engagement capabilities in traditional and digital channels. Bobbie Bichel, Senior Manager, Customer Presales and Service, accepted on behalf of Vodafone. 

In the Customer Analytics category, Consumer Affairs was named high achiever for excellence in leveraging analytics to deliver differentiated customer experiences, while driving improvements in operational KPIs for the organization. Eric Jenkins, Chief Operations Officer, accepted on behalf of Consumer Affairs. Consumer Affairs was also named the high achiever in the Web Customer Experience Category, for excellence in web self-service, chat, and integrated customer collaboration and support capabilities. 

T-Mobile was named High Achiever for excellence in social media customer service. This includes internal channels such as customer communities and support forums, as well as external channels such as Facebook and other social media sites. Michelle Mattson, Director of Social Media Care, accepted on behalf of T-Mobile. 

Other Winners were also honored:

  • StubHub – Accepting on behalf of StubHub is Mary Hill, Manager, Customer Service and Social Media for social media excellence
  • Dollar Shave Club – Accepting on Behalf of Dollar Shave Club is Ken Mirch, Director of Member Services, for omni channel customer experience
  • Rocana – Accepting on Behalf of Rocana is Melissa Hueman, Director of Customer Success, for omni channel customer experience 

About The Customer Service Excellence Recognition Program 

The Customer Service Excellence Recognition Program, made possible through the coordination of the Frost & Sullivan Customer Engagement Digital Transformation practice, Frost & Sullivan Research Insights practice and the Frost & Sullivan Customer Contact Executive MindXchange, honors companies and individual leaders that are shaping the future of Customer Service. Honored recipients have demonstrated achievement in one or more of five categories: Omni-channel Customer Experience, Mobile Customer Care, Web Customer Experience, Social Media Customer Engagement and Customer Engagement Analytics. There are several honorees in each category, from which one Highest Achiever in each category is identified. 

Companies are vetted through a rigorous two-stage evaluation process. The initial stage involves the completion of a questionnaire application. Questions posed will range from customer engagement capabilities to business outcomes. Entrants are free to apply in one or more categories, provided responses are complete for each section.

Qualifying companies will then progress to the second stage for evaluation by a judging panel consisting of experts from the industry and Frost & Sullivan research analysts.

For more information about the Customer Service Excellence Recognition Program, please go to

Decentralize Quality Assurance and Take Performance to the Next Level

Centralized quality teams are a common organizational design strategy in the contact center industry today and have been for years.  There are articles, best practices, and benchmarking that will tell you how to do it, how often to do it, and what to do with the results.  But, if you ask the front line service representative what they think about it, you will often discover the pitfalls of these programs…

  1. Not enough calls are audited to make the score a true representation of their contribution.
  2. The score does not align with the feedback they get from clients.
  3. The scores feel punitive.  Fear of a bad score becomes a motivator.
  4. The coaching they receive is based on the points and the score, which isn’t adding value.
  5. Career discussions lead to this comment…“It makes me feel like I am in a job, not a career.”
  6. Human nature is such that people will behave in ways that conform to the audit to prevent a low score, leaving individual creativity and problem solving behind in devotion to this conformity.
  7. Attainment of the coveted 100% score comes with little fanfare, because that is the expectation.  As a result of the high score, there is no performance dialogue because the CSR did everything “right.” Unfortunately, this “keep up the good work” mentality does not drive sustained and improved performance.

Our advice to you… scrap the status quo and throw that form away. Your service representatives and customers will thank you.

So, what other approaches are there to escape the status quo?  How can the process be designed to build service skills and develop staff from a customer experience perspective?  How do you fund an alternative design that accomplishes these objectives?

Let’s dig in!  We will oversimplify our approach a little in this article in order to make a point, but the strategy can be applied in increasingly complex organizations…in fact, it is more effective as complexity increases.  For illustration purposes, let’s take a 98 seat contact center that is focused on incoming calls.  The team, with support and overhead, looks like this today…

Each manager has 18 direct reports and provides career coaching and performance management.  The Quality Assurance Team (QA Team) listens to calls, completes audit sheets, provides feedback to the manager, and may provide feedback to the front line customer service representatives (CSRs).

These arrangements, while common, produce quality scores that are not in alignment with customer satisfaction scores, net promoter scores, customer effort scores, and don’t ensure the delivery of an intended service experience.  Rather, they ensure compliance to scripting, adherence to soft skill training, and create an environment that feels punitive and is focused on a number, rather than a set of behaviors that lead to results the enterprise needs to attain. They don’t allow the contact center to be a strategic asset, rather they keep the status quo alive, enable stagnation, and label the center as a “necessary expense” (i.e. a target for expense reduction).

Let’s consider an alternative organizational design with the same headcount…

In this design, we have decentralized the Quality Assurance Team and created embedded coaching positions.  The next step in the process is developing those coaches on behavioral based coaching philosophies, creating a coaching plan (discussed below), and setting new expectations on service delivery in the performance management review process.  This is the beginning of creating a coaching-centric culture that will generate the following benefits…

  1. Coaches that build relationships with front line CSRs and create trust in the development of behaviors that drive quality.  The score is no longer relevant, but by addressing the core behaviors, you get the quality by default.  That quality manifests itself in customer satisfaction scores, net promoter scores, and customer effort scores, which drives value to the enterprise.
  2. Creation of a coaching plan, which is a living document that focuses on the behaviors that are being developed currently.  As behaviors change and new behaviors become the focus, the coaching plan shows the development path of a CSR throughout time and becomes a natural fit with the performance review process.  The behaviors are based on core competencies that are set at the organizational level and tie directly to the goals of the contact center, as well as the goals of the enterprise.
  3. As the organization continues to transform and focuses on continuous improvement, the coaching-centric model allows for sustainment of benefits.  So often, you hear leaders talk about an improvement initiative that generated great benefits that subsequently faded away, returning the organization to a previous undesirable state.  By setting best practices and utilizing your coaching network to reinforce the behaviors and standards that have been implemented, you sustain the benefits of change…and you can speed up your efforts to transform faster and better than with the previous organizational model.

All this being said, humans still like to measure themselves…so how can we replace the quality score with something meaningful?  This is where customer satisfaction scores come in.  A good majority of contact centers have post-call surveys and utilize a tool that reports results at the individual CSR level.  So, if a score of some type is still desired, the customer satisfaction score becomes a natural fit with the new organizational design and quality strategy.  Further, by designing your post-call survey with questions about CSR satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, and overall effort expended, you can report out on CSR effectiveness, Net Promoter Score, and the Customer Effort score…three major drivers of satisfaction and loyalty for your enterprise.  Additionally, if you have the ability to allow front line CSRs to listen to their own recorded calls, you can add an element of self-development to this process…making the strategy even more effective with a higher level of accountability.

But what about the old form…does it still have a purpose in the new coaching-centric organization?  Here’s an idea to think about the process differently…alter the audit form and use it as a tool for the front line to provide feedback on the quality of coaching they receive.  This adds a new level of accountability on the coaching layer of the organization and ensures the benefit from the investment in their development continues to be sustained.  But that is another article.

James (Jim) LeMere is Director of Integrated Client and Field Services (ICFS) in the Insurance and Annuity Client Services (IACS) Department at Northwestern Mutual. Jim is responsible for the direction and oversight of the people that service over 1.5 million calls and transactions for life insurance policies and their policy owners. Since joining IACS in May of 2014, LeMere has been charged with leading ICFS through a cultural transformation that supports Continuous Learning & Improvement (CL&I) activities and seeks a balance between process improvements and respect for people. 

Prior to coming to Northwestern Mutual, LeMere held a variety of roles within the insurance and hospitality industries.  He started in the sales field with Prudential, then later moved to the home office environment in operations with Lincoln Financial Group, LeMere’s experience continued in the insurance industry at Conseco Insurance Group and in the hospitality industry at Great Wolf Resorts and has been focused on process improvement and re-engineering, while driving employee engagement, customer experience, and cost efficiency. 

Jeremy Lewandowski is an Operations Consultant focused on strategy and analytics related to blended contact centers at Northwestern Mutual. His responsibilities include contact center technology, reporting, impact analysis, staffing strategies, and best practices proliferation across the organization.

Prior to joining Northwestern Mutual, Lewandowski held a number of roles within contact center operations at the online retailer BuySeasons Inc. Starting as a Service Representative, he moved progressively into leadership roles within the contact center from workforce management to training to QA Supervisor and eventually to Operations Manager.  As Operations Manager, he helped drive efficiency and improved client satisfaction for and, leading to J.D. Power customer satisfaction awards in 2011 and 2012.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Five Best Practices for a Seamless Customer Experience

Lisa Bullen-Austin

National Director for 2-1-1 Strategic Enhancements
and Disaster Recovery

United Way Worldwide

Whether your organization is focused on the federal, corporate or non-profit arena, your customers expect a seamless experience when they interact with you. Across every industry, customers and clients want to be treated with respect, intelligence and empathy….with a technological infrastructure that supports that. So, why not empower your customer service team to implement and follow these best practices for an exceptional, end-to-end customer experience?

  1. Meet customers where they are – The world of social services is complex and challenging to navigate. There are lots of eligibility requirements and criteria and acronyms. Make sure you choose your language and choice of words to meet your clients where they are. If they are new to finding help in the health and human services or social services arena, always refer to their basic need but be mindful to never assume the client knows more or knows less. Ask if they would like to provide an overview, or if they are comfortable going ahead without it. Constantly check for understanding and look for queues that indicate that they need more or less support or information.

  2. No wrong door – It is important to have subject matter experts and skill based routing, but it is equally as important to have some basic cross training across the business. This is helpful for unanticipated spikes in attrition and also for spikes in volume that were not forecast.. When transferring the call to the SME, make sure to share the client’s story to the new agent, use systems that allow necessary information to be transferred or accessed easily beyond the initial intake. No one likes having to repeat themselves. If someone has to repeat their story, they are left with the impression they originally entered the “wrong door.”

  3. Voice of the customer – At the end of the day, you have a business to run or a service to provide. Your Quality Assurance scorecard needs to include things that optimize the operations, so AHT and ATT are very important. Scorecards also need to include indicators that measure the voice of the customer. Aside from the business needs, one must balance the customer needs. Did the customer feel supported and listened to or did they feel rushed off the phone? Did the agent ask permission before placing the caller on hold? Did they validate the client by paraphrasing and seeking to ensure they understood the client? Did they confirm that the client understands how you are going to help them? Most importantly, does the client have a sense of resolution or feel empowered to continue toward a resolution. Make sure to coach staff to always be in the shoes of the client at all times.

  4. Data Analytics – Anticipate trends and needs. There is lots of data at your fingertips and it is important to use it to your advantage. Learn and anticipate your client’s needs. Layer your data with external data sources. What does the data tell you? Do you need to look at new verticals or avenues of services? Do you need to look for new funding streams to better position your organization in meeting the needs of the clients? Most importantly your clients will appreciate you anticipating their needs and being proactive in your services to them.

  5. Client experience starts the moment they initiate contact - Customers form their impression of service through multiple interactions with an organization.  Is your IVR simple to understand and use for your client base?  Is the voice recording reflective of your organization or is it mechanical?  Does your technology address all your clients or is it geared only to millennials? A client’s overall satisfaction or lack of satisfaction will come from their overall experience in using your services both technology and human. Don’t focus only on the agent, focus on the technology as well. It is important to manage the overall end-to-end experience.

Lisa Bullen-Austin is the National Director for 2-1-1 Strategic Enhancements and Disaster Recovery at United Way Worldwide. United Way Worldwide (UWW) is the national leadership organization for the U.S. network of 1,200 state and local United Way community organizations that serve as conveners, collaborators and leaders of collective impact in their communities.  For the last six years, Lisa has lead the 2-1-1 network establishing best practices, implementing KPI’s and securing nationwide opportunities on behalf of the U.S. network.  As the National Director, Lisa leverages the capabilities and capacity of many 2-1-1 organizations to provide a single platform and nationwide access to those in need.

Lisa has an extensive background in business re-engineering and over 15 years of experience designing and implementing Service Delivery Strategies in the federal, corporate and nonprofit arenas.  Additionally, Lisa has 20 years’ experience in Contact Center Program Management and holds BA Degree from York University.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Finally, a Connection Between Customer Service On Twitter And Actual ROI

Dan Gingiss
Focus on Customer Service Podcast

It’s easy to understand that customer service in social media, as in any other channel, is conceptually a good idea. Assigning a quantifiable ROI to it, however, is another story. That’s what Wayne Huang, a researcher at Twitter, decided to tackle with what began as a pet project to examine that “electrifying moment of happiness” when a brand responds to a customer on Twitter.

“The majority of people are not getting any responses from brands,” says Huang, which is something Twitter is trying to change. The goal of his research? “Prove out that customer service has actual value.” That value comes in the form of a significant increase in “willingness to pay” after a brand responds on Twitter – a willingness that persists even months later.

“You’re just not expecting someone to reach out and help you on a public medium like this,” says Huang. “There’s definitely something that registers deep inside people’s emotions, and they remember it and are willing to pay more for it.”

How much more are they willing to pay? $9 to airlines, on average, but if the response is super-fast – within 6 minutes – that number jumps to nearly $20. “To get responses back quickly – people remember that, because it’s just busting through expectations,” says Huang. But, he adds, “every minute really counts here” because the dollar amount falls quickly as the response time increases.

Customers who received responses from brands “felt overwhelmingly much more positive towards the brand” vs. those who did not receive a response. “Even just acknowledging someone’s tweet, even if you can’t solve it at that moment, that can really add a lot of value,” Huang notes. “When you do respond, it’s a strong social signal that [your brand] really takes customers very seriously… It takes just a few seconds, but it makes a huge difference.”

Huang’s research is important to Twitter because it also established a direct link between customer service responses and higher satisfaction with Twitter as a platform.

“We just want to get users to have more positive interactions with brands because that’s really where we think the light bulb goes off for users and they’re like, ‘Oh, this is what makes Twitter so unique and different’” from other social media platforms, Huang says.

Last year, Twitter published a playbook called  Customer Service on Twitter. and Huang's colleague, Jeff Lesser, talked about it here.

When asked for his advice for brands, Huang quoted Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey: “Expect the unexpected, and whenever possible, be the unexpected.”

Hear more from Huang’s interview with Focus on Customer Service co-hosts Dan Gingiss and Dan Moriarty. by listening to Episode 27 below:

Here are some of the key moments of the interview and where to find them:

1:02 How and why Wayne decided to research customer service at Twitter

5:10 The paradigm shift of increasing customer expectations

7:57 The methodology of Wayne’s customer service study

13:28 How replying to Tweets can directly impact revenue

15:06 Why is customer service so important to Twitter?

16:32 How response time impacts revenue potential

19:18 What should small businesses take from this research?

20:54 How responding to Tweets drives higher satisfaction than other channels

22:56 The difference between response time and resolution time

24:18 Why satisfied Twitter users are twice as likely to talk about the brand with friends and family

25:37 What Wayne is looking forward to researching next

27:14 Wayne’s advice to brands given the results of his research

31:20 How is the customer service landscape going to change on Twitter?

If you’ve experienced great customer service on Twitter or another social channel, let me now in the comments below and I'll try to get that brand on a future episode.

Dan is a marketing and customer experience executive with a broad skill set and demonstrated success in every role. He is an elite strategic thinker leading cross-functional teams and integrating marketing and CX across multiple channels. Dan’s areas of expertise include digital marketing strategy, social media, customer service, rewards/loyalty programs and product management. 

Dan Gingiss is a Marketing & Customer Experience Executive, Podcaster, and Social Customer Service Thought Leader. Follow him @dgingiss

Reducing Customer Effort Can Help Build Value for Your Brand

Cecelia MacLellan
Director, Contact Center Operations

Reducing customer effort is critical in our age; our time has become more valuable, in many cases outweighing the need to reduce cost. Reducing your customer’s effort (perceived or actual) can build significant value for your brand.

On a recent business trip I was presented with a unique opportunity to observe customer service and in particular customer effort in action.  Unfortunately the effort was mine and the service…

Here are the highlights of the scenario: 2 cancelled flights, 1 overbooked plane, a friendly contact center associate who booked me for the wrong day and 26 hours in a city which was not my destination.  I missed the meetings that I flew out on Mother’s day to attend.  I just wanted to go home.  As a bonus, when I called my hotel to cancel my reservation and shared that I was stuck in a different city the attendant’s response was – “It’s after 6 pm so you’ll have to pay for the night, you have to call before 6 to cancel.” 

Next day at the airport, I took my ticket to the attendant who let me know that I was in fact not booked for tonight’s flight but rather rebooked for tomorrow’s 6:00 pm.  After looking into my file she shared with me, smiling conspiratorially, that someone was getting a note on their file for that mistake. Being in the CS industry I said “I’m sure it was an oversight”, no she told me, he had you booked in business class – and that’s a NO NO.  What I heard in my head was “Who cares that you were booked on the wrong day, I caught someone giving away leg room and a hot towel!”

Seeing her as my only hope to get home I asked to be put on the next available flight.  I waited while she called her supervisor. Keep in mind there is a counter and 2 feet separating us at this point.  The conversation sounds like this “I have a customer here, and she says that she asked for the flight this evening but was booked for tomorrow, hmm OK, Thanks.

The attendant then moved forward 6 inches, I guess because I couldn’t hear her behind the invisible wall of Talking to my Supervisor and tells me “You are just lucky that my supervisor is in a good mood.” I didn’t really feel lucky at that moment.

As service professionals we hope that that we can be continuously learning.  Here is what I learned from the experience:
  1. Focus on the basics - Business Class would have been great, but I didn’t want to be wowed, I wanted to get to where I was going.  
  2. Make me feel valued - I wouldn’t be at your counter or on your phone if everything went as planned.  I don’t want to do extra work so please don’t make me feel I’m putting you out by asking for help.
  3. Let me know you heard me - The hotel reminded me to let the customer know you’ve listened, that you want my business.  I would have liked the fee waived, but that wasn’t why I was calling. Empathize.
  4. Present alternatives - If you “can’t” solve my problem the way that I want, present alternatives in a positive way, say no if you need too but please, don’t make me feel that it’s my fault (even if it was). 
Regardless of your industry or channel, following these four simple lessons will help to reduce effort for your customer and create a “stickiness” that low prices or quality products alone will not do.

Cecelia MacLellan began her career at Mediapro Teleservices as Director of Sales. Since then she has successfully navigated the customer service landscape in progressive roles as Senior Customer Contact Manager, Staples, Director, Customer Care, Staples Business Advantage and most recently as Director, Contact Center Operations, Staples Business Advantage.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Customer Contact, East: Executive MindXchange Chronicles Excerpt
Strategic Thinkers Only: A Forum for Seasoned Customer Contact Executives

Moderated by Mary Tucker 
Chief Executive Officer and Founder 
UPIC Health


Where are contact centers going as the digital age eliminates the need to interact with a live person – or has it, really? Is disruption possible in the contact center space – where millions are employed around the world – and if yes, what does human disruption look like? Do contact centers complement digital technology, compete against it, or should they be the drivers of its design, development and adoption? Once the great white way of economies of scale, the time is now to rethink and redefine the contact center as not only Customer Service Channels but Brand Communication Centers of Exceptions Management! 

  • Insights on how to broaden organizational thinking to recognize the power of consolidated communications 
  • Best practices for developing service strategies supporting ever evolving end user demographic mix 
  • Success factors in organizational infrastructures supporting cultures of change, embracing of technology and supporting its development


Pressing Issues Facing Participants
  • How to engage executive management?
  • Care center – cost versus sales and how to integrate?
  • Team organizational structure
  • Where does end to end customer experience start and stop?
  • Training and communication of change
  • Steps to becoming an omni channel enterprise and how to navigate the change?
  • How to ensure consistently good customer experience in every contact
  • Cultural change management – particularly with M & A
  • Speed vs. quality
  • Forecasting for seasonality
  • Engagement at the front line
  • Employee experience and tools workflows
  • Maintaining knowledge in complex environments


Two key issues:
1. Engagement Conundrum
  • Executive
  • Frontline Leadership
  • Frontline Staff
  • All staff – around customer experience
2. Team Organizational Structures
  • Frontline roles are becoming more complex
  • Digital age brings intense environments of change 
  • Overwhelm sets in – frontline managers responsible for “too much”

  • Energize organization by putting Executive Leadership on the frontline for an hour (or 30 minutes or a day – however much they are willing to give)
    • Collect insights/surprises and communicate staff wide
    • Create culture of transparency and communication aligned with the shared frontline experience
  • Develop idea portal with reward/incentives for new ideas to elevate customer experience – commit to implementing and measuring impact 
  • Rethink job titles – does “Agent” mean anything anymore? What title reflects the true job function?”
    • Apply creativity – if what they do looks more like a liaison, draft titles that reflect the function. Engage team in developing responsibilities and measurements.
  • Rethink the role of frontline manager – including dispensing with them altogether
    • Elevate skill requirements and salary of frontline to include self- management  (i.e. maybe they are ultimately User Experience Specialists over Customer Service Agents….invest in understanding the details of their jobs)
      • If size of organization mandates point of contact communication by business unit, title the role “Frontline Representative” that rotates among the team.
      • Recognize “Time” is not as meaningful a measurement anymore – seek ways to measure end user “value” (Note: be aware of survey fatigue) including both internal and external points of view.
      • Embrace “Customer Service is not a Channel – it’s an INTENTION”
        • Model that intention across all business units – internal departments in service to each other ensures collective service to customers.

        Front line customer service staff have among the toughest jobs in any industry – they are expected to be the brand voice, first (and often last) points of contact through all channels, they have to answer for other business unit’s challenges (or failures) and provide insights into consumer behavior. They use multiple systems to resolve issues and have more performance measurements than any other job in any other industry. They also usually have low wages and no voice in strategy development and tactical deployment!

        Think about ways to address the above. Think about making the contact center job a sought after role. Pay equitably and reduce front line management.  Make a commitment to trust the team; toss them a problem to solve and test it out.  Give the front line a seat at the table – often they are the only ones who have the 360 degree view of what’s going on. Don’t fear disruption – encourage it! If your front line is on board with you, everything else falls into place.

        Disruption and Techno-Consumerism: Highlights from the 10th Annual Customer Contact 2016, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

        Stephen Loynd 
        Global Program Director
        Digital Transformation Practice 

        Frost & Sullivan

        The 10th Annual Customer Contact, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event took place in Athens, Greece this past June and featured formal sessions, individual meetings, and informal networking sessions. The following highlights are just a sampling of the many ideas and emerging practices discussed there.

        Keynote:  Disruptive Customer Care – The Competitive Differentiator in a World of New and Evolving Business Models (ie, Change or Die!)

        The event kicked-off with moderator Stefan Osthaus introducing Customer Engagement business strategist, author, and speaker Martin Hill-Wilson, founder of Brainfood Consulting.  

        Hill-Wilson started off by asking the audience,  ”Why should we care what the future looks like?  Why does this matter? The answer is important.  Simply put, we don’t want to end up in a “fragmented future.” 

        On the contrary, as organizations, we need to be able to describe our possible futures and connect to them.  We need to be good story-tellers so that employees connect to a compelling narrative.  Hill-Wilson emphasized that offering a great Customer Experience means pleasing both customers and employees.  People need interesting jobs that are challenging, so that it feels like it matters.  It’s incredibly important to have context as human beings, it’s about “more context, less content.”  All the while, “we need velocity and adaptability”!

        But this is all easier said than done when few organizations actually keep pace with evolving customer behaviors and patterns in employee engagement.  

        Hill-Wilson offered the following key take-aways:
        • In a world of “perpetual beta,” the strategy of investing in occasional technology and competency refreshes falls short of delivering differentiated customer experiences 
        • Nobody’s really got their head around mobile customer service and mobile CX
        • When it comes to “Omnichannel in an app”, the impacts of Messenger on our space may be significant (in Asia, WeChat already has a payment system, and is a whole universe built into an app)
        • When it comes to new tools such as the Amazon Echo, we’re working toward a world where “it is just there”, but the question remains: "In reality, are our organizations moving fast enough to keep up?  Do our teams work in real time or in historic time?  According to Hill-Wilson, “None of us have analytics working real-time in the contact center space.”
        • Even IVR is changing – the old version meant audio, but the new version is more visual on a smartphone that scrolls options.  It’s being rolled out in the UK now.  After all, “72% of 18-25 year-olds in the UK find it easier to express emotions visually.”

        Hill-Wilson also offered some key action items for organizations:
        • Conjure up a mission no one wants to miss! Make it engaging
        • Use non-threatening change language – “doing things differently” is a moderated way to express the idea that change is essential
        • “Free the spirit – ask and listen”
        • Pay customers to spend time in the contact center – “outside-in questioning”
        • Invite bids for innovation budgets
        • Make “test, learn, embed” your practice

        Presentation:  Game Changing Technologies on the Horizon

        Frost & Sullivan Analyst Stephen Loynd then explored how we’re living in a time of incredible change.  Nothing less than a new world is emerging.   

        He noted that At Davos this year, they talked about “the Fourth Industrial Revolution” – meaning that technology and data is imbedded in everything, influencing our lives. Technology is so pervasive and moving so fast that it is disrupting both business and society.  Or as AOL founder Steve Case explains in a new book – we are entering a new paradigm called “The Third Wave” of the Internet: a period in which entrepreneurs will transform major “real world” sectors like health, education, transportation, energy, and food—and in the process change the way we live our daily lives.

        Frost & Sullivan conceptualizes the radical change happening in our world as a swarm of new technologies.  Everything from new business models to disruptive technologies are making an impact across industries and across geographies.  Technology is entering every aspect of our lives, it truly is immersive (many are referring to it as the Internet of Things, or the IoT).  It truly is disruptive.

        Consider that the IoT is creating a data-centric, self-optimizing world.  And the fastest growing market is the Consumer Market (Home, Car, Wearables).  Just think about the ramifications of the “Echo”, a screen-less, voice-controlled household computer built by Amazon.  The Echo offers profound possibilities, and the longer people use it, the more they seem to need it.  

        And it keeps getting better – which brings us to the concept of Exponential Technological change:
        • The idea of Exponential Technological change was formally described as the “Singularity” in 1993 by Vernor Vinge, a computer scientist and science fiction writer, who posited that accelerating technological change would inevitably lead to machine intelligence that would match and then surpass human intelligence. In his original essay, Dr. Vinge suggested that the point in time at which machines attained superhuman intelligence would happen sometime between 2005 and 2030.
        • The notion of the “Singularity” is predicated on Moore’s Law, the 1965 observation by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, that the number of transistors that can be etched onto a sliver of silicon doubles at roughly two year intervals.  This has fostered the notion of “Exponential Change,” in which technology advances slowly at first and then with increasing rapidity with each succeeding technological generation.
        • Add to this what engineer, entrepreneur, and chairman of the X Prize Foundation (and author of the book, Abundance: the Future is Better Than You Think) Peter Diamandis likes to point out as the most important development this decade that no one is talking about: global population and the growing number of Internet users.  By 2020, up to five billion people will be coming online – five billion new consumers – and that is a low estimate.  Diamandis points out that we’re adding five billion new minds to the global conversation; as a result, the next five years will mean we are entering “the most epic era of innovation in history.”
        • Diamandis may be onto something as far as accelerating innovation goes.  After all, Google’s artificially intelligent Go-playing computer system – AlphaGo – recently claimed victory in its historic match with Korean grandmaster Lee Sedol after winning a third straight game in this best-of-five series.  Just think – over the last twenty-five years, machines have beaten the top humans at checkers and chess and Othello and Scrabble and Jeopardy;  but this is the first time an artificially intelligent system has topped one of the very best at Go, which is exponentially more complex than chess and requires an added level of intuition.

        So why does this all matter?  Because clearly, we’re living in a world of rapid change – of immersive techno-consumerism – which means a world of higher customer expectations.  Understanding today’s consumer in a time of techno-consumerism means understanding the fact that he or she shifts personas over time. Those personas can change based on the situation.  And so it’s about understanding where the consumer is now, in real-time, and then being able to act on that information --what we recently called “Digital Halos” & the “Internet of Me”.

        In essence, the relationship between people and technology is being reinvented.  Artificial Intelligence and ever improving consumer technologies – from Amazon’s Echo to Facebook’s chatbots – are fundamentally changing consumer expectations.  Today’s shoppers expect immersive experiences that fire their imaginations.  Shoppers are spending money on doing things as much as on buying things.  And if experiences, not things, make today’s smartphone-armed generations happy, then it’s a whole new paradigm.

        Ultimately, times are changing, and consumers are changing.  So it’s important to ask whether or not companies are changing fast enough to keep up.  Are companies going to be able to keep pace with Exponential Change and deliver a truly holistic, unified Customer Experience going forward?  


        Events like the 10th Annual Customer Contact 2016, Europe:  A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, are important because they can help us employ more strategic ways of thinking, and ask important questions about the macro and micro trends that will change businesses and customers going forward, and apply these insights and take-aways at our own organizations.

        Indeed, participants of the event in Athens were urged to not only take their networking seriously, but to take away at least one “must-do” follow-up item from the event.  The group was encouraged to continue exchanging ideas throughout the year and beyond. 

        Stephen Loynd, currently Global Program Director, Digital Transformation Practice, at Frost & Sullivan, is a Thought Leader and Global Sourcing Professional with a wide range of experience in the customer contact industry. Stephen came to Frost & Sullivan from global BPO provider Stream Global Services, where he focused on go-to-market strategies for specific vertical markets, and also led efforts in competitive intelligence. Prior to that, Stephen spent close to seven years at market intelligence firm IDC as the Global Program Manager of their Contact Center practice. As a leader on the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) team, he offered expertise on contact center and CRM industry trends and opportunities worldwide and published research including competitive landscapes and forecast and analyses.

        Friday, May 13, 2016

        Delivering Insanely Helpful Customer Service

        By Ed Ariel

        Vice President
        Customer Service


        Customer acquisition and customer retention are two sides of a coin that, if done properly, can lead to organizational success. Traditionally, customer acquisition has been the domain of the marketing and sales departments. Customer retention can live anywhere from that same marketing group, a churn department, the revenue retention team, or even a small team within the customer service department.

        To show true retention results and to reduce costs, successful companies need to use customer retention tactics in every customer service experience.

        At ezCater, we define customer service as successfully anticipating the customer's needs and making their lives easier. That’s right. The goal is not to make only their experience with ezCater easier. The goal is to make their actual lives easier.  You will notice I didn’t say that we “Wow the Customer” or that ezCater’s goal is to offer “World Class Customer Service.”  These industry buzzwords sound great, but do not offer enough specifics to drive the right action.

        At ezCater, we take two primary approaches to create a lasting relationship with our customers:

        • We use automation to replace activities that were previously the responsibility of the customer
        • Or, when automation doesn’t work, we encourage our team to be “insanely helpful” in everything they do

        Using Automation to Replace Customer Activities

        ezCater is the only nationwide marketplace for business catering.  When our customers are looking for catering options for their business meetings, training sessions, or business events, ezCater provides nationwide choices through our website.

        Previously, if a business had a catering need, they were faced with a time-consuming process: try to find a caterer, place the order, contact the caterer for any changes, confirm the order the day before or day of, and then work with the caterer on any issues that arise.

        ezCater automates most of that process.  A little under half of orders placed through our website are 100% automated. As ezCater has grown, we have been able to increase the percentage of orders that are 100% automated.

        We’ve managed to automate many elements of the ordering process, including sending the order to the caterer, getting confirmation of order acceptance, making changes to the order, and receiving a confirmation the day of the order.  This saves time and makes the ordering process easier for both the customer AND the caterer.

        Being “Insanely Helpful” When Automation Doesn’t Work

        When manual customer service intervention is needed, we keep our core principles in mind.  The actions we take at this point must anticipate the customers’ needs and make their lives easier.  If a caterer tells us that they can’t fulfill a specific item, we get the available replacement options and call the customer with those choices.  If a caterer tells us the delivery truck has broken down and they can’t deliver an order at all, we find two or three different caterers, confirm they can do a last minute order, and contact the customer with the alternative options. Without ezCater, the customer would need to take time to research these issues themselves. ezCater anticipates the customers’ needs and makes their lives easier.

        In these non-automated cases, we take the opportunity to build the relationship with the customer.  Our customer service agents are the best in their field and they are comfortable spending a brief portion of the call establishing a relationship with the customer.  We are there to help the customer, we love doing it, and we want the customer to know.

        Does Transforming the Customer’s Journey Give ezCater A Competitive Advantage?

        Does it ever!

        Once a customer experiences our refined and improved customer journey, he’s hooked. Among customers that have used our service at least three times, the re-order rate is well above the industry average.

        We encourage our customers to rate and review the caterer after every order and then use this data as part of our caterer rankings on the website.

        We also ask our customers to rate ezCater on Trustpilot, a third-party review site.

        Almost 87% of the ezCater Trustpilot reviews are five stars and 98% of our Trustpilot reviews are four or five stars. Many of these reviews point to our “insanely helpful” customer service as a differentiator.

        ezCater has created a competitive advantage in the area of customer satisfaction and customer retention by ensuring that every feature we introduce, every change we make, and every employee we hire is focused on maintaining our core values. We keep our focus on building the customer relationship, using automation whenever possible, and delivering “insanely helpful” customer service. Everything we do is in service of making our customers’ daily jobs easier and improving their lives—and that has given us a huge competitive advantage as we continue to rapidly grow.

        Ed is a Customer Service Expert with over 20 years of success driving profits, quality and customer satisfaction to record levels.  His background includes customer focused leadership roles at Fidelity Investments and AT&T overseeing multiple teams and projects designed to improve efficiencies and add value to customers.