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.