Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Ten Tips on Customer Service Quality Management

By Rui Santos
President of the Board
Association of Portuguese
Customer Service Professionals

Why is it important to know how to manage (and not just how to measure) quality?

The world is changing, changing fast. The way people communicate is changing. The way people think and reason is changing. The way people make buying decisions is changing. The reasons that drive customers to stay loyal to one company or to change to another are changing.

Companies can no longer be content to have merely satisfied customers. Satisfied customers are neutral customers. Satisfied customers are customers who have no complaints. Customers with no complaints are not loyal customers. Satisfied customers are vulnerable customers. Satisfied customers leave the company as soon as the competition offers them better conditions.

Companies can no longer be content to have merely satisfied customers. Companies need to convert their customers into fans. Fans who take pride in the company. Fans who are true ambassadors of the brand. Fans who are promoters of the company.

A customer is not loyal because he / she has signed a loyalty agreement. A customer is loyalty when he / she is not obliged to anything and, nevertheless, prefers to stay in the company.

The loyal customer is not the one who chooses the cheapest company. The loyal customer is the one who chooses the company that he or she trusts the most.

That said, are you sure that your company is building a fan club ... or just making sure you do not have dissatisfied customers? What instruments are you using to measure that? What tools and processes are you using to convert your customers into fans?

The new approach to Quality Management

A new world with new requirements requires a new approach to quality management.

First of all, it is important to clarify the difference between measuring and managing quality:
  • Measure Quality: Equalto Passive Observation. Present "what is"
  • Manage Quality: Equal to Proactive Research. Find out "why" and “how”

Ten points that your Quality Management Process will have to take into consideration:
  1. Causes and Consequences: The quality management process will have to allow you to identify the root causes in the origin of the observed results. In order to identify the root causes, you will have to disaggregate all the results according to their elemental dimensions. for example, disaggregate by customer segment, by product, by service, by employee, etc.
  2. Samples: The sample size must be representative of the universes whose behaviors you intend to investigate. Learn everything you can about random samples versus stratified samples, error margins, confidence intervals, frequency, evaluation grids and survey scripts, simulation cases, etc.
  3. Correct and Replicate: It is not only the problems that must be eliminated. the quality management process should also allow you to recognize what is working very well so that it can be replicated.
  4. Take Action: The investigation should only end when you identify the corrective actions to be implemented for each improvement opportunity. Each corrective action will have to have an unequivocal owner and an implementation plan for it. The implementation of each corrective action should be closely monitored. The results obtained should be re-evaluated from a continuous improvement cycle perspective.
  5. The Customer is the King: Ensure that your Quality Management Process is powered by the quality perceived by the Customer, not just internal KPIs. Identify the best way to get your customer feedback. When is the best time to get the feedback? What is the best channel to get the feedback? What are the most power questions you should ask to get the feedback?
  6. Meet or Exceed Expectations: Make an internal reflection about what are your customer service objectives? If your goal is to meet the expectations of your customers, simply assess the degree of compliance with the predefined parameters. However, if you want to exceed expectations and surprise your customers, the quality management process will have to help you identify the basic expectations of your customers, beyond the characteristics of the products purchased or contracted services.
  7. Personalization: Customers are not all the same. On the contrary, customers are all different. It makes no sense to use the same evaluation criteria for a residential customer and a business customer, right? But it will also make no sense to use the same evaluation criteria for a customer who prefers price vs other who prefers quality. Make sure you know what is most important for each of your customer segments and measure that.
  8. Omni-channel Experience: The customer experience is no longer a single channel experience. The quality management process should allow you to evaluate the quality of service provided in each individual interaction, in each channel, as well as the perception of quality of the customer at the end of his / her entire service experience.
  9. Multilingual and Multicultural Environment: We live in a global world. Our customers are increasingly diversified and heterogeneous. Different origins. Different languages. Different accents. Different cultures. Different beliefs.  Different convictions. Different values. Do not allow your quality assessment to be influenced by your frame of reference. Embrace the differences.
  10. 360º Control Panel: Make sure you present the results in a graphical and easy-to-read form. Explore the full potential of BI tools. Allow the drilldown of information, from the global vision, through the multiple possible dis-aggregations, to the corresponding corrective actions and the status of each implementation plan.

Use the information to Tell a story!
  • Start with “Where we are”
  • Explain “Why” and “How did we get Here”
  • Remind “Where do we want to Go”
  • Tell “What do we Have to Do” > “Who will Do it and When”;Share also “What are we already doing” and “What we have already done and what were the results”

Rui has over twenty-five years of professional experience in Omnichannel Customer Experience Management, Contact Centers, Retail Management, Customer Self Service and Quality Management. He has worked with dozens of companies to improve customer service initiatives including Adecco, Alliance Healthcare, Altitude Software, Collab, Conceptek, Contact, Continente, L'Oréal Portugal, Liberty Seguros, MetLife, Mercer, Microsoft, Staples, Vodacom (Moçambique), and many others. He is a frequent Keynote Speaker at conferences and seminars held all over the world by organizations such as APCC, Frost & Sullivan, IDC, IFE, IQPC and Jacob Fleming.

Moving from Multi-Channel to Omni-Channel Customer Engagement: Intelligent Interaction Analytics Are the Foundation

By Michael DeSalles
Principal Analyst
Digital Transformation - Customer Experience

Frost & Sullivan

Can the sophisticated use of analytics trump the old business advantages of geography, speed-to-market and proprietary technology? Frost & Sullivan believes that contact center insight analytics has the potential to yield significant competitive advantages: efficient and effective execution, smart decision making, understanding important customer insights and the ability to squeeze every last drop of value from business processes.

Even as companies are investing heavily in digital customer engagement initiatives, the majority of contact centers are not harnessing all of the data sources available to them. However, today’s platforms utilize advanced analytical functionality to rapidly identify customer, contact center, agent, and enterprise issues, trends, insights, and much more. Current solutions analyze the data, find trends, and deliver actionable recommendations to improve business performance. The overarching goal is to deliver richer and more personalized experiences to customers.

Contact center analytics makes up a group of solutions that provides managers with tactical and actionable insights and recommendations. Good analytics solutions find patterns in the data and make this information available in real-time. Change is continuous, and the plethora of new communication channels in the market is evolving at warp speed.  

The Growth of Digital Customer Engagement

Empowered, Demanding Customers

With the rise of mobile and social technologies, customers are now more knowledgeable, empowered, and demanding than ever. Their ability to access and share information anytime, anywhere, puts them in control of their own experience. Why do we care? It’s because these “always-on” connected customers expect to do business with companies on their terms—including how, when and where they choose to interact for customer service and support. Now, the real work begins.

It is therefore critical for customer service organizations to develop new and expanded capabilities to support a growing array of digital channels.

Richer Social, Mobile and Web

The data shows that traditional channels, particularly phone interactions, are declining in overall volume. They are also increasing in complexity. Here’s what it means: Consumers often prefer a “digital-first” touchpoint in contacting a brand.  

Hence, brands that are prepared to meet these types of customer challenges have a chance to build deeper customer relationships and loyalty. Conversely, those companies that are not able to deliver risk losing customers and valuable business to rivals.  

The Move from Multi-channel to Omni-channel Experience

Frost & Sullivan defines Omni-channel as seamless and effortless, high-quality customer experiences that occur within and between contact channels. It ensures that data and context from the initial contact carries over to subsequent channels, reducing customer effort, improving the customer interaction, and enabling the business to tailor the customer journey.

To support this effort, agents in contact centers today are utilizing a wider arsenal of communication tools—voice, video, e-mail, IVR, Web chat, file sharing, and social media. Frost & Sullivan believes that traditional voice-centric call centers are morphing into Omni-channel centers of excellence. Some in the industry suggest the term, “relationship hubs”. 

We currently see the leaders in the industry moving very rapidly to deploy technology and processes. Their goal is to convert traditional contact centers into true multi-channel organizations with a single view of the customer. This structure provides valuable, integrated data for both customers and agents.

The Importance of Multi-channel Analytics

Business Discovery Must Yield Actionable Insights

The explosive amount of user-generated content on the Web makes it extremely difficult to uncover meaningful insights that can be acted upon. In all of the chatter and massive amounts of collected data, companies are desperate to gain a complete and holistic picture of their customers’ activity in real-time. The reason is because today, most companies deliver what we refer to as “fractured” multi-channel experiences. When customers move from one channel to another, their context and history doesn’t move with them. So they have to repeat their effort or problem when they move between channels. This situation results in lower customer satisfaction, missed opportunities for upsell/cross sell and eventually customer churn.

One of the key foundational elements along this journey is having a multi-channel analytical framework that captures and analyzes customer interactions—both traditional and digital channels. Once the groundwork is established, the next step is to leverage that insight as part of your company’s operational systems. In order to deliver meaningful Omni-channel customer experiences, this would include CRM, contact center, and WFO systems.

Solution Considerations: Factors in Choosing a Best-in-Class Platform

Is it possible? A Singular Platform for Every Customer Touch Point

Simply put, multi-channel analytics involves data aggregation and analysis of multiple consumer communication sources. The platform choices can be overwhelming, while today’s consumers frolic in a frenzied multi-device, multi-channel environment.

Frost & Sullivan has assembled a number of solution considerations and pointed questions to be considered, when selecting a best-in-class contact center analytics platform:

Conclusion and Recommendations

Providing consistently excellent customer service has become one of today’s top differentiators for enterprises across virtually every vertical market. As organizations struggle to balance customer satisfaction with the drive to increase revenue and minimize costs, they are increasingly exploring technologies and processes that help heighten the customer experience on one hand, and help uncover actionable intelligence for informed business decisions on the other.

Best Practices Recommendation Short List 
  1. Recognize the Multi-channel nature of customer interactions.
  2. Leverage these insights for customer service, marketing, and compliance applications. This benefits all customer experience stakeholders (end user customers, agents, supervisors, QA analyst, marketing analysts, risk and compliance analyst, and executive team)
  3. Tightly integrate analytics tools with the operational systems that will ultimately consume and leverage these insights 

Michael DeSalles is a Principal Analyst with the Frost & Sullivan Customer Care team for North America. In this role, he focuses on customer care outsourcing and contact center services and tracks. He monitors and analyzes emerging trends, technologies and market dynamics in the contact center industry for North America (NA). Michael regularly travels to Central and South America to help clients evaluate the viability of delivering NA call volumes to nearshore outsourcing sites, where he has developed relationships with the top twenty-five global customer care outsourcing companies. 

Keeping Up With Today’s Complex Customers: Highlights from the 11th Annual Customer Contact, Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

By Stephen Loynd
Global Program Director
Digital Transformation Practice
Frost & Sullivan


One of the primary themes of this year’s 11th Annual Customer Contact Europe: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange, was how digital transformation represents an era of unprecedented exponential change. How can organizations best keep up with today’s increasingly complex and fickle consumer?

Over the course of a busy three days at the Hilton Budapest in Budapest, Hungary, it became clear that automation is at the core of the changes buffeting our world. Anticipating and feeding off of today’s more demanding consumer, organizations are in the midst of shifting their focus from labor-intensive communication services to a more diversified set of platform-based, technology-driven services. Obviously, companies are aware they must anticipate the nature of an ever-more disruptive age, even as they must continue to find and retain the kind of human talent that will help them remain competitive. While tomorrow’s workforce could be radically different from what it looks like today, establishing the appropriate environment for employees can be an often confounding challenge.

In essence, achieving true operational efficiency means keeping pace with what is a very fluid situation, where organizations must master the proper combination of people, process, and technology to cope with this emerging new world. To best serve customers, companies are learning that taking Big Data and forging it into small sparks of data that can be leveraged in effective ways is no minor feat. Segueing from human time to digital time will mean automating data analysis with the use of software bots that run on artificial intelligence (AI), where deep learning algorithms will help better manage customer decision journeys.

A Keynote Focused on Change

Nicola Millard – Head of Customer Insight & Futures at BT Global Services Innovation Team – opened the event with a keynote entitled, Botman versus Super Agent: The Future of the Contact Center. The claim that AI and robots are about to take all our jobs? “That’s been the worry about automation for the past 200 years,” noted Millard. “But are they about to replace the contact center?”According to Millard, the issue is far more nuanced, as autonomous customers and automation alike have already radically changed the contact center in ways we seldom examine. Either way, the "Super Agent" of the future will need an array of new skills.


The heart of the event featured a number of breakout sessions and compelling presentations that synced well with Millard’s opening. For example, Olivier Mourrieras, Vice President Global Customer Experience at E.ON, spoke on, The E.ON Advocacy Journey to Delivering Brilliant Experiences. At the center of having a positive impact on customers, noted Mourrieras, is a customer centric vision. Lisa Steele, Director of Customer Contact for TUI UK&I, agreed, speaking on Building a Brand Trust: The Art of Empathy and Emotional Connection.

In the meantime, Stephen Loynd, Analyst at Frost & Sullivan, offered a thematic complement to Millard’s overview, examining how technology trends from artificial intelligence (AI) to augmented reality, Big Data, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are impacting our world in striking new ways. This is a time when companies are changing the way we communicate even as they discover new ways to create value for customers.

Clearly, the challenges facing our organizations can be vexing. For example, it is no easy task to manage disparate data and knowledge in the context of legacy technology systems, and to leverage Big Data for process innovation, and to master data and analytics in searching for the true root cause of customer-related issues. As Loynd explained, technology is imbedding itself into everything, influencing and disrupting our lives in profound ways. But which systems and strategies are needed to support and manage all the data coming at us in this era of immersive techno-consumerism and the high customer expectations that come with it?

Within the next few years the exponential growth of digitization and machine learning will fundamentally change how businesses create value, satisfy customers, and outperform competitors. The IoT in particular is creating a data-centric, self-optimizing world of immersive experiences. But there are obvious challenges when it comes to making sense of the oceans of data washing over our world.One example of how new tools and techniques are being implemented to understand and serve customers is Salesforce’s new Service Cloud Einstein, which uses an “Intelligent Supervisor” to classify information and automatically route data in real-time, and deploys wave analytics to identify issues at scale.

The event also featured interactive panels. One particularly interesting one was entitled, Aligning Voice of the Customer (VoC) & Voice of the Employee (VoE) with Business Objectives. A group of four experts confronted some surprisingly hard questions such as – what are some of the success factors for organizations’ journeys from pragmatic to sophisticated VoC strategies? How are companies turning VoC data into actionable insights that improve their businesses? All the panelists agreed that too many businesses sit back and wait for customer reactions to products and services, rather than anticipating specific customer preferences through proactive research. Clearly, listening closely to what customers want and don’t want, and then acting on that data, is the more strategic approach. Yet even that latter method remains a challenge to implement – from identifying the essential parts of the customer journey, to avoiding implementations of technology solutions that leave companies more paralyzed than informed. A number of participants from the audience offered suggestions on how they've mastered the process of implementing VoC in their organizations, how they’ve captured the VoC, and some of their best practices for operationalizing the VoE.

Site Tour at Emirates Airlines

The end of the three days featured a comprehensive site tour of Emirates Airlines’ impressive contact center. For many, the in-depth review reinforced the fact that we’re living in an era of digitization and machine learning that is impacting everything around us. Conversation hummed with speculation that companies that don’t feel a sense of urgency; that are not anticipating how technology will affect their businesses, may well face a reckoning in the form of disruptive change.


More than ever, the success of organizations will be dependent on their ability to keep pace with technological change. The need to become agile and digitally connected is nothing short of urgent. The absence of a robust and agile technological infrastructure will inevitably result in failure.

At the same time, by utilizing varied methods of analysis, organizations are creating seamless connections that build lifetime customer value, brand recognition, and most important of all, relationships with clients. Still, when it comes to engaging with customers, companies would be wise to keep in mind the importance of maintaining the“human-touch”; recruiting and retaining the right talent has never been so important as it is in today’s ever changing world.

At the end of the event, companies seemed determined to pursue a few key action items:
  • Increase digital strategies of customer engagement to better serve the new kind of knowledgeable and demanding customer that emerging
  • Offer seamless customer decision journeys through the use of emerging digital channels
  • Be prepared to manage in a world characterized by chaos and complexity
  • Create strategies that turn data into a tool that best serves the customer

Stephen Loynd is a noted Digital Analyst and Speaker who has led Frost & Sullivan’s Global Customer Contact programs for over five years. Stephen brings a deep understanding and expertise in the digital transformation landscape to clients and colleagues alike. Previously, Stephen was Director, Vertical Market Strategies at Stream Global Services, a business process outsource (BPO) service provider and Global Program Manager, Services Group at IDC, a global provider of market intelligence. Follow him on Twitter @StephenLoynd

Information, Insight, and Analytics Drive Customer Loyalty!

By Carolyn Muise
Vice President
Chief Customer Office
Voice of the Customer 
Analytics and Intelligence

Carolyn Muise will be presenting the opening keynote, Driving the Organization’s Strategy via Actionable Voice of the Customer at Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange in Huntington Beach, California this October. Here, she provides a framework for some of the insights she will share.

Big data is a big deal and you need to take notice if you expect to win the hearts and wallets of your customers in the coming years and create customers for life! You need to have a business strategy that leverages Voice of Customer insight to develop solutions and services that create customer intimacy and deliver a more consistent, personalized experience.

The future of business

Whether you are a business that has been around hundreds of years or just in the last decade, there is transformation going on where more and more companies are transforming their business models through the use of technology and Big Data. We call this transformation and the end result, the digital business. More and more of what customers touch and experience is not the brick and mortar aspect of traditional business, but the technology, the apps, the interfaces. This could be the thermostat that knows when you’re away, a car that can drive itself, and contact lens that control blood sugar, a fitness band that measures activity level or drones that deliver our groceries.

“What does customer intimacy look like in the future of digital business?” To those of us not born in the era of social media, “digital business” as a term sounds impersonal and robotic, however, on the contrary, it is a HUGE opportunity to create intimacy in a way that is consistent, repeatable, and completely personalized.


To unlock customer intimacy, you need a 3-pronged strategy and vision:

1) Technology – enabling technology

2) Business Processes and Enterprise Governance - formal, embedded processes are enabling us to provide value to customers and other parts of the organization. These processes have allowed us to achieve scale to support the shift to “data democratization” and enterprise-wide transparency. Governance provides transparency and accelerates time to data value.

3) Employee Engagement – Defines how our employees interact and serve our customers. It’s about how to get your internal teams to buy-in to the strategy, trust, and utilize the data to accelerate time to value It’s also about understanding the expectations of your customers – to design your products and service around their lifestyles, which continue to evolve.

In summary, our strategy to deliver optimal customer experience and develop customers for life is based on the following key focus areas:

  • Deliver high impact programs for customers that drive deeper, more profitable engagement
  • Give customers a powerful voice by being the hub for customer data and intelligence across company
  • Fix systemic issues to make it easier to do business with Dell
  • Foster a culture that thinks and, more importantly, acts customer first
  • Be the leader in business imperatives that matter to customers and team members

Carolyn Muise leads the Chief Customer Office, Analytics and Intelligence platform at Dell EMC. In this role, she leads Dell in leveraging big data and customer sentiment, proactively driving continuous improvements in technology, process, and information management and employee engagement that enable them to drive optimal customer experience. 

Previously, she led EMC’s Total Customer Experience Program with revenues of $24.5 billion and 60,000 people worldwide. In this role, Carolyn had operational responsibility for engagement with EMC’s customers, partners, and employees to drive quality, innovation and continuous improvement into its products, services and business operations. Under her leadership, EMC’s Total Customer Experience program has been recognized by the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA) for its Innovation in Customer Commitment, Temkin Group for Customer Experience Excellence and Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) for Customer Experience Impact. Find her on Twitter @camuise4

Guidelines for Implementing Relevant KPI’s and Delivering a First-Class Customer Experience

By Olivier Mourrieras
Former Vice President
Global Customer Experience


Customer experience practitioners: how do you pick the right set of metrics and construct a performance system that delivers exceptional customer impact?

Based on the twelve years I have spent driving customer experience improvement, I would answer this question by applying the following two-pronged approach: As your company transforms to provide a differentiated experience to your customers, the right set of relevant KPIs should be picked so that you track progress from the current to the intended experience, while providing what matters  most to your customers. Then anchor those metrics in your company governance.

For step 1, pick your KPI’s « outside-in » and get cross-business endorsement on what you will monitor on an on-going basis. Prioritizing metrics should come naturally from a solid understanding of what moments matter most to your customers, what drives behavior and what channel they choose. This means mapping all your customer interactions on what we call the customer journey. Customer journey mapping has to be carried out cross-functionally and needs to be formally signed off and endorsed by all key business stakeholders, including a set of customers too. At a higher level, key customer journeys are quite similar cross industries: I become aware, I join, I buy, I use, I pay, I renew, I leave. Not all journeys will influence customer outcomes such as advocacy. 

It is of critical importance to understand your company’s key customer drivers and how the customer journey influences them so that actions can be prioritized accordingly. All touch points within the journeys should be measured using a mix of descriptive, perception and outcome metrics and prioritized based on their level of importance to customers. They should also  be connected to underlying operational processes. This way you link your customer outcomes, customer insights and metrics (the « outside-in » view) to important internal indicators, and their owners. For these indicators to matter and form part of the operating cycles, they need to be part of objectives and incentives, connect visibly to business outcomes and be celebrated and communicated to drive positive momentum. Bringing process owners closer to customers to bring the KPI’s to life will also anchor the metrics in the DNA of your company. 

Customer journeys are not static, as customer needs and company offerings and brands evolve. It’s also important to establish appropriate timing for reviewing customer journeys, you want to avoid doing so too frequently, to avoid disrupting focus on the actions

For step 2, make sure the metrics are governed appropriately and and are supported by the executive team. This will help to drive actions and progress. Once the cause-effect relationship is established from operational KPIs to touchpoint metrics, to journey metrics and customer outcomes, an operating rhythm needs to be designed to drive all customer experience initiatives bottom up and top down. Such a system should  operate like a pyramid with frequent operational and touchpoint reviews as the foundation. 

Additionally, monthly customer journey reviews act as the transmission in the middle, supplanting monthly or quarterly customer advocacy reviews led and owned by the Managing Director or Chief Executive Officer of the business unit. The strength of the sponsorship spine will hold the pyramid together. That strength is however, highly dependent on the continuous linkage to business and company outcomes. Ideally, every point of strategic NPS gain (for instance) should have a value equivalent. For example:  1 million dollar per 1 point NPS gain per year. The KPIs (and actions linked to them) lying underneath in the pyramid can then be prioritized based on a clear understanding of the drivers, the influence on the strategic NPS and the value generated. Better yet, you can allocate budgets on that basis. 

Rigor, discipline and persistence in driving the right KPIs and in running these forums will deliver outcomes and close the gap between the current and e desired customer experience. I have found that asking the following questions helps improve focus and boost delivery: 
  • What is the/your NPS score?
  • What is driving the score?
  • What are the operational metrics supporting these drivers?
  • What are you doing to influence these drivers?
  • How are you tracking progress?

Overall, following these steps can mean a very large scope of work over an extended period.So, it is advisable to start small, deliver proof points and expand sustainably with  the support of  your sponsor and key stakeholders.

Olivier Mourrieras is a customer experience professional and customer-centric change leader. He is the founder of CXImpact, a Customer Experience advisory and consultancy company, where he guides C-Suite and senior customer experience clients in building a customer-driven growth engine,  helping them to make their customers a strategic priority and delivering transformational change in customer experience.

He has led change plans delivering customer experience improvements in companies with over 60,000 colleagues and millions of customers. He spent 11 years shaping and delivering market leading customer experience strategies starting at Orange with a focus on B2B globally and then at E.ON addressing both B2B and B2C markets internationally. With a background in customer operations, Olivier brings a very practical and energizing touch to his approach. He provides particular expertise in defining customer centric visions, and translating them into customer impact.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Data-Driven Approach to Re-Engineering Your Call Center

By Ed Ariel

Vice President, Customer Service

Many changes have been made over the years in the name of making things easier for the customer: Questions and Answers (Q&A) became Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),which then morphed into Self Help (no initials, doomed for failure). But did those changes really help the customer? There is a lot of talk nowadays about re-engineering the call center to take better advantage of technology. You can make small changes for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon, or you can take a data and customer-driven approach that positively impacts your organization and your customers. 

At ezCater, we are insanely focused on being insanely helpful to our customers at every touch point. When we discuss implementing a new technology, the critical question is always ‘why?’ Whenever introduce a new technology unless it maintains (at a lower cost) or improves (1) the level of service or (2) the experience for the customer.  

Many companies implement re-engineering plans with the primary goalof reducing costs. Reducing costs without improving the customer experience may provide a short-term benefit, but if customers do not receive the level of service they expect, they will eventually stop using your service.  In that case, short-term gains will be quickly wiped out bya lower customer lifetime value.If you try to offset departures by acquiring customers at a faster rate, you may then end up with another costly repercussion: higher customer acquisition costs.

This is not to say that reducing costsis always detrimental.  Show me a call center without customer chat or a work force management tool and I will show you a call center with some easy opportunities for improvements to the customer experience as well as cost reductions.  

To determine if a new technology will also enhance customer experience, look to the data. This data should come from two main sources:
  1. Your frontline service staff
  2. Conversations with multiple vendors and new technology users
Your Frontline Service Staff

The best companies hire the best people and utilize those people to improve their service.  There is no better way to collect data on features that your customers arerequesting or features that will improve the service experience than from a highly skilled and motivated support team.

Your support people have the most direct interactions with your customers. They hear what your customers like and don’t like, and, maybe most importantly, how your service compares to competitors.

Set the expectation that staff should be acting oncustomer feedback as early as the interview process. The goal of continuous improvement from your service team should be reinforced throughout training and used as an ongoing evaluation metric. The best members of the service team are the people who listen to the customer, probe for additional information, and present well-thought ideas to the management team.

Conversations with Multiple Vendors and New Technology Users 

There is usually a push to move fast once your company has decided to make improvements. This is rarely recommended. The best next step is to start collecting more data.  This data will generally fall into three areas:
  1. Measure what you are trying to improve. Is it length of interactions with a customer, how long an agent takes to complete a task, the level of satisfaction achieved by a customer Figure out what your goal is and how to articulate it. 
  2. Talk to existing partners and industry contacts. The easiest data to collect is from your existing vendor partners. Who do they use to solve this issue or, even better, who do their partners use to solve this issue?
  3. Talk to the solution providers (even if this is internal). This is your opportunity to ask the hard questions: “We see that you, Company B, and Company Care the industry leaders.  What makes you the best choice?” This is a logical question that will immediately give you a list of the differentiating factors for each vendor and quickly eliminate options that will not accomplish your goals.
The process you follow to re-engineer your call center is critical. Once you identify opportunities for improvement, gather as much data as possible from multiple sources, even though it can be a slow process. In the end, the data will reveal better solutions and allow you to focus on the most impactful changes – even if sometimes that data will tell you that no change is necessary.

Ed brings more than 20 years of experience building, implementing and managing comprehensive customer service and business process improvement programs and teams. Ed has a winning record of simultaneously boosting customer satisfaction and company profitability by building and directing great teams and equipping them with top-notch technology. Ed has held leadership roles in customer service, operations and risk management at Fidelity Investment Systems Company, TNCI Operating Company and AT&T. Ed holds an M.B.A. from Bentley University and a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Intuit Site Tour Insights:
The Customer Care Team is the Real Talent

By Patricia Jacoby

Publications Editor
Frost & Sullivan


Recently, Customer Engagement Leadership Council members and select Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan MindXchange event attendees had the opportunity to tour Intuit’s innovative Customer Contact Center in Tucson, Arizona. Intuit is a business and financial software company that develops and sells financial, accounting and tax preparation software and related services for small businesses, accountants and individuals.

Intuit has numerous teams generating customer insights that are fed back into their core product teams to eliminate customer pain in their offerings. The organization also has top-notch teams that do frontline care and sales. This interactive site tour showcased Intuit’s people, call center philosophy and dynamic capabilities.

As the physical tour concluded, a group of customer contact industry leaders gathered with hosts Don Yager, Director, Learning, Development, & Quality/Tucson Site Business Leader and Jeffrey Laird, Director, Awesome Help and Service, to explore Intuit’s organizational culture, location, products and more. Here are highlights and key take-aways from their informed discussion:

Intuit Customers Prefer Video

The first insight shared by Don Yager was on the use of video in the contact center.  Intuit had learned that their customers preferred video over other communication channels by more than 20%.

The hosts observed that this was true across all generational lines (not just the millennials, for example) and although they had not yet determined a specific reason why this was true, they planned to continue testing, as is their modus operandi. Intuit stressed the importance of ongoing testing for these kinds of issues and channel questions. Perhaps the fact that Intuit customers of all ages preferred video augurs an age of the technology leading the generations, not the generations leading the technology choices.

Next, the hosts discussed bringing customers into a lab setting to help design Intuit’s mobile User Interface, or UI. They explained how Intuit tested for colors, back-drops and other key components of the customer experience, leading to many “aha” moments, such as the strong customer preference for video.

Another site tour participant asked whether different agent characteristics were required to work with video. The Intuit executive expressed that the most important characteristic was a professional attitude, and that once they got over the initial newness, most agents liked working with video. He did add however, that their agents were not strictly required to be on video, and that if a CS representative was particularly uncomfortable with video, they would find other ways for them to contribute.

The Brand Is King

The discussion moved to the importance of brand management and building the brand, especially as it relates to customer-facing contact center employees. Specifically, one of the touring executives asked how the contact center represented Intuit’s core values. The Intuit executives present expressed that their organization offered intrinsic benefits such as giving every employee 32 hours a year to pursue a passion, and that egalitarian brand values were modeled from the top down, with minimal levels and an overall Intuit style of transparency across the organization that included the contact center.

Further, Don Yager explained that Intuit contact center employees were valued as not only a key part of the organization and it’s branding, but were considered perhaps the most important part of the organization due to their product knowledge and constant interaction with customers. This was clearly summed up when one of the Intuit tour guides stated that the “front line are the experts” and underscored that they know more than any project manager or engineer.  Finally, he noted that the customer care team is regarded as the real talent. 

When one of the customer contact executives inquired about the role of demographics in the Intuit contact center, Intuit indicated that they did not currently approach customer care based on demographics, though that is something they plan to observe and test going forward.

Leveraging “Styles of Influence” for Better Teamwork

The conversation then moved to “Styles of Influence” (SOI) a key training and assessment tool used at Intuit. This measurement tool helps individuals and their co-workers understand key behaviors. Once certain behavioral drivers are determined, this information can be utilized to help others to understand and work with a given style. Style is assessed across cognitive, relational, goal and detail scales. At Intuit, everyone’s SOI is listed in an online directory and SOI’s are used to help identify individual and team strengths and opportunities too. 

Circling back to the brand discussion, one of the final questions asked pertained to how the brand was reflected in Intuit’s external communications. Tour guides Don Yager and Jeffrey Laird both referenced that Intuit’s branding is carried throughout software experience design and partner sites as well.

Finally, it was noted that Intuit’s senior management recently gave the green light for internal funding to improve Intuit’s infrastructure, including their call center, the heart of customer engagement for this organization and for so many others.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Digital Innovation with a Soul

By Hilary Hahn

Vice President, Employee Experience, Culture & Client Strategy
Frontier Communications

It has been said recently that “experience is the new brand.” According to a recent study, by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.

Our team believes this, and therefore we take the customer approach that “service is the new marketing.” In today’s world, consumers buy products that they expect will simply work, and when they don’t, consumers expect that they will be able to fix the problem by self-help or google; if and when that fails, they reach out to the brand for service and support. This is a defining moment. Sometimes it is the only interaction that occurs between a brand and their consumer. So, service matters.

Our ability to consistently solve complex problems for customers, and to also anticipate their future support needs and solve for these as well, is a highly valuable capability that comes at a relatively high cost. Brands want to engage effortlessly and effectively, yet how do they budget for the high volume of customer needs? One of the best ways is to understand why customers contact them. Looking at these big-bucket trends will most often identify lower-value work that does not require a human being to solve. There is no question that low-value, high-volume, repeat interactions can be accomplished with lower-cost digital solutions. Enter the BOT.

But here is our question: while my email in-box is bombarded every day by companies requesting my time to discuss how their new chat-bots, voice-bots, and messaging-apps are poised to take over the way business interacts and supports customers, there are very few companies who are putting a human experience into the digital ones.

One of our team’s cornerstone values is to be human. We make it our business to bring our humanity and empathy with us every day, because ultimately, we know we are supporting people, not just the products they use. Equally, we believe there is a need to build bots with artificial learning capabilities that are grounded in human empathy.

It was a giddy moment upon checking in at The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas recently, when I was handed a second plastic key card and informed that this was “Rose”. The black card read:“I AM THE ANSWER TO THE QUESTION YOU NEVER ASKED.”On the back of the card I was invited to text my inquiries to a phone number.

I ran to my room determined to ask ROSE all the questions about Vegas that I always wanted to know but were afraid to ask! While I will not share the answers here, I will share the experience.

Applause to Simon Petigrew and team who are behind this product/service launch, especially because they have created Rose with an appropriately sexy, chatbot-persona. For example,“she” will send you an emoji lip kiss if you have thanked her.

Some of her responses are also sassy, i.e., “it’s been a pleasure to have you push my buttons. xoxo.” They have some quirks to work out as the responses to actual questions seem to come in rapid fire, feeling robotic versus human, but they are working on the delivery, and the AI bot is in its early learning phase. I am definitely looking forward to my next visit to The Cosmopolitan to see how ROSE is evolving.

Regarding new technology for the contact center, we are fortunate to have engaged with someone whom I believe is part genius, part artist, and part mad scientist!

He has put a human face on artificial intelligence injecting emotional intelligence into the equation. Why? Because when humans interact, we want to get "feedback."

There are a slew of companies offering machine-learning bots today, but none that look, learn and respond in a truly human way yet. This company is building an AI model that is different, not only because of how human “he or she” looks, but primarily because of facial expression. This machine infuses the interactions with a wrinkled nose, a concerned look, a raised eyebrow. And at the right moment, a compassionate smile.

As the creator, Mark Sagar, says, “the face is the mirror of the brain.”

We are excited to think about ways that this technology can transform the customer experience. Our aim is to improve customer retention and loyalty, with a goal to reduce the future need for assisted care with every customer interaction. This involves digital innovation with-a-soul, as much as it requires the cognitive skills that humans offer to solve complex interactions. We are focused on both.

The future is already here.

Hilary Hahn excels in building long-term strategic client relationships by operationalizing stakeholder strategy, and uniquely creating customer-experience consultant partnerships. She was brought into Frontier Communications to develop a lean-startup customer experience concept, that grew from greenfield to $100M annual revenue in 3 years. She helped develop a culture of high engagement that is being leveraged across the Frontier customer service organization, building an inside-out employee-centric approach to generate high customer feedback results. She is a strong believer that human-to-human interactions will remain in servicing for high-value cognitive work, and is an AI enthusiast when empathy is attached to the solution.

Hilary has been a speaker at numerous industry conferences and can be found
publishing and posting opinion surrounding Customer Experience. Follow her at and on Twitter @HilaryHahnNow

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Moving Toward an Omni Channel Customer Experience:
Key Insights from the 13th Annual Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange

By Juan Manuel Gonzalez
Research Director - Connected
Work & Customer Care Industries

Frost & Sullivan

The 13th Annual Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event took place in Fort Lauderdale during the last days of April and featured informative sessions, individual meetings, and lot of networking for industry experts. The following highlights are just a sampling of several ideas and topics discussed during the presentation of my Bostonian colleague, Stephen Loynd.

Presentation: Customer Engagement & Data Analytics in a World of 
Exponential Change

Frost & Sullivan Global Program Director, Stephen Loynd, explored how technology is imbedding itself into everything, influencing and disrupting our lives in profound ways. Technology is so pervasive and moving so fast that it is altering both business and society. Certainly, this is a time of incredible change. We are experiencing the largest transformation since the end of the Second World War; after the automation of production and the creation of self-driving cars the automation of society is next. 

Frost & Sullivan conceptualizes the radical change happening in our world as a swarm of new technologies. Everything from new business models to disruptive technologies is making an impact across business functions, industries and geographies. Each outer ring turns and brushes against the one below it, like tectonic plates.

Nothing less than a new world is emerging, offering immersive technologies and customer experiences. We are immediately frustrated with people and brands incapable of supporting our digital habits and expectations. To achieve a real-time operational tempo, companies must evolve from ‘human time’ to ‘digital time.’ The result: smarter decisions that enable businesses to operate like never before.  One of the biggest challenges enterprises face today is upgrading core IT systems that frequently comprise legacy systems incapable of supporting digital time. 

Also, our adoption of digital technologies produces oceans of data that are changing the competitive landscape. The amount of data we produce doubles every year. In other words: in 2016 we produced as much data as in the entire history of humankind through 2015. These contain information that reveals how we think and feel. 

As digital interactions proliferate, so also does the volume of real-time data and required analysis. Most people are already at their limit of coping with the deluge of data, so we must now digitally augment our capabilities to handle the massive increases in the volume, speed and the complexity of it.

So, how to deal with this inhuman complexity? In fact, so inhuman, that perhaps it would be better to not have a human, but a bot.  Bots are designed and programmed to react in a prescribed way to data inputs. Data is fed into the artificial intelligence (AI) system within the bot, and the bot responds and takes actions as programmed.  

But, add machine and deep learning, and the bot can learn and make decisions faster and better every nanosecond. A bot can take all possible data inputs needed to analyze and make the best decisions as deep learning systems find patterns and hidden meanings. The more data that it can access and analyze, the more accurately it can predict outcomes.  In other words, these software robots (or ‘bots’) can be developed to analyze vast quantities of data, make decisions based on codified decision trees that humans design, and then act on in milliseconds.

And so times are changing, consumers as well. Are companies changing fast enough to keep up?  Can they deliver a holistic, unified Customer Experience? This is the great question.

Brands today can not only react to customers as they make purchasing decisions but also actively shape those decision journeys. A set of technologies is underpinning this change, allowing companies to design and continuously optimize decision journeys. More important, companies today can use journeys to deliver value to both the customer and the brand. Companies that do this well can radically compress the consideration and evaluation phases—and in some cases even eliminate them—during the purchase process and catapult a consumer right to the loyalty phase of the relationship. The journey itself is becoming the defining source of competitive advantage.

Digital leaders will be those organizations that use business analytics to offer deep insights into customer behaviors, wants and needs, develop new products and services, and ultimately innovate and exploit new business opportunities. Today, algorithms know pretty well what we do, what we think and how we feel—possibly even better than our friends and family or even ourselves. The more that is known about us, the less likely our choices are to be free and not predetermined by others.

The industry is moving toward omni-channel CX – where the Customer Experience is consistent, seamless, and effortless – whether the customer is interacting with the same channel, or moving between channels.  Therein lays the next set of opportunities, but also challenges, for most companies.  The key to delivering a seamless Customer Experience lies in omni-channel marketing.  Effective omni-channel marketing is about taking control of customer interactions by integrating data from all channels (such as the Web, social media, mobile Web, mobile apps, display and search), devices (such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops), and functional applications (such as customer relationship management and content marketing platforms).

Conclusion: Automation & Analytics are keys, but humans are irreplaceable

Automation is a productivity tool, not a replacement, for humans. Automation tools are only effective if leveraged intelligently – by humans.

Or as Beth Comstock, Vice Chairman, GE, explains: “Exponential leaders use technology to their advantage, combining the power of computing and data with human leadership. They must develop collaborations between people and machines, between artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the people operating in their company, their customers and their executives. Teams that don’t do this will be left behind.” 

Juan Manuel González serves as Research Director within Frost & Sullivan's Digital Transformation business unit. He focuses on Contact Centers, Business Process Outsourcing and Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions areas. González has over 11 years of experience in the industry, and his know-how lies in managing strategic consulting projects and regional market intelligence studies in the Enterprise Communications field, as well as monitoring emerging trends, technologies and market dynamics.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Is Your Omnichannel Strategy Customer-Centric or Self-Centric?

By Raj Sivasubramanian
Director of Customer Experience Services
Verint Systems


Omnichannel is an area where many organizations have been investing time and money over the last few years. By enabling seamless communication across online and offline channels, omnichannel strategies should equally benefit both companies and their customers. However, a common mistake many organizations make is taking a self-centric approach to the omnichannel versus a customer-centric one. They build their strategy around internal interests like targeted marketing or reducing contact center costs, and fail to consider the customer perspective.

Consider a recent self-centric omnichannel example from this past holiday season. One of the most sought after holiday items was Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition – a miniature version of Nintendo’s original video game console. Supply was limited as Nintendo underestimated demand for this retro device. I really wanted one for my daughter (and my own nostalgia) and prepared for the morning of its release. I checked online stock at several retailers and noticed one particular retailer had a store with more stock than others. This store was an hour away and while other options were closer, the quantity of stock was significant enough to warrant the longer drive as availability dwindled at closer stores. 

On the drive down, I used the retailer’s app to continue to check stock and all looked good. However, once I got to the store, I was disappointed to learn the device sold out several hours earlier. I showed a store manager the app indicating stock was available and was told “those things are never accurate and don’t get updated in real-time.” As I was leaving—disgruntled about wasting over an hour of my time—I  received a notification through that same retailer’s app about the latest deals on other electronics items in that store. 

What I learned was the retailer wanted me to use its app to get me into the store. Once I was there, its omnichannel approach sent me a targeted ad. The problem with this is that it only served the retailer’s interests and not mine—and, it didn’t care enough to inquire about my in-store experience. Needless to say… I haven’t been back.

Another common, self-centric example of omnichannel is found in customer support, where organizations now provide service through a variety of channels: phone, email, chat, SMS, social media, mobile app, etc. In theory, this should create a better service experience by allowing customers to use the channel they prefer. However, it backfires for self-centric organizations that focus purely on cost-saving aspects. These organizations “offer” every channel, but make their more internally-preferred channels easier to find.

There is nothing more frustrating to me than being unable to locate a customer support phone number when I need it. A close second is attempting to resolve an issue through an online channel, failing to do so, struggling to reach a live agent, and then having to start over once I am able to finally connect with someone. A recent study points out that most customers still prefer human customer service interactions over digital alternatives, and aren’t fans of the companies that avoid posting contact numbers for service and support on their websites.

It doesn’t have to be a zero sum game between a company’s internal interests and the customer experience. The most customer-centric organizations are able to use omnichannel to drive revenue and lower costs, while also delivering a better customer experience. How do they do it? It’s actually pretty simple. They view every decision they make through their customers’ eyes and listen to their customers.

What leading organizations have in common is their commitment to engaging with customers. They capture feedback from customers across all of their channels which allows them to better tailor their omnichannel approach to the individual needs of their customers. They know what channels their customers prefer to use, are driving great experiences and which need improvement. As a result, they are able to realize all of the great benefits of omnichannel, while still delighting their customers.

If the retailer in the example above had asked for my feedback about my experience, not only would I have been more likely to return, but it also would have discovered an easily fixable issue with its omnichannel experience that was likely frustrating other customers as well.

Is your omnichannel strategy customer-centric or self-centric? If you’re not capturing feedback from customers across all of your channels, your approach may be more self-centric than you realize. Take that first step toward creating customer-centric experiences by listening to your customers. It may be the start of something amazing.

Raj Sivasubramanian is a Director of Customer Experience Consulting Services for Verint Systems.  Prior to his current role, Raj was at eBay where he focused on enhancing Voice of Customer programs by driving a shift from just trending metrics to delivering actionable insights used to improve the customer experience. 

Raj has worked across multiple industries in a variety of sales, marketing, consulting, and customer experience roles and the one constant throughout his career has been his passion for delivering great customer experiences. Raj is a frequent conference speaker and advisor on the topic of customer-centricity, metrics, and customer feedback. Raj holds an MBA from the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley and a BS in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.