A collection of posts on the topic of Customer Service.
Highlights from one of the top contact center / customer service events in America Las Vegas hosted another fantastic ICMI (International Customer Management Institute) production this week. While the time seemed to pass by in the space of a blink, I’m coming back to Nashville with several key learnings. Here are the biggest themes and take-aways from The City of Lights: Culture And Employee Engagement Are Still Number One – These two topics dominate so many conversations and fill conference halls on a regular basis. It may be because these are problems that neither money nor AI can solve for us. There are no short cuts to a great culture. It requires hard work and intentional focus over an extended duration of time. Great leaders are those who consider the mind, body, and overall wellness of their employees. It’s no longer about giving them a decent place to work and trying to maximize utilization – it’s encouraging a healthy lifestyle, fostering positive peer-to-peer relationships across the team, and offering flex shifts even when this means more work for you. These activities will go way further then offering a smelly gym and a ping-pong table. Bottom line? You will attract the best talent and keep them when you treat people like family. Also, shout out to the best panel-mates ever Sean Hawkins, Jenny Dempsey and Erica Marois! AI Is (Really) Coming – There are a few milestone events in the history of the contact center. The introduction of the telephone, the internet, email, and mobile devices to name a few. Artificial Intelligence will be on par with these if not greater. Confused on what AI is and what it actually does for the customer experience? Consider this present-day example articulated by Bob Furniss – An agent is on a difficult call or is currently in training. Watson uses speech to text analytics to process the conversation in real time, and using certain triggers, will recommend questions for the agents to ask and knowledge base articles to accelerate a quality resolution. Now that’s smart stuff! Naturally, there was a great deal of conversation on whether or not AI will take jobs away. While the transactional support that used to be associated with “tier one” either has been or will soon be eliminated, higher-level support activities (what I like to call tier infinity) are going nowhere soon. AI is as big of a win for a smart agent as it is for the customer, as demonstrated in the example above. It will save all of us time and allow us to focus on more important activities. Omnichannel and Personalization– Could this be the year that the industry finally gets omnichannel right? It was clear in the demo hall that vendor technology has come a long way in this area. Today it’s both realistic and affordable to implement true omnichannel service. This will in turn enable us to provide more personalized support. Better data on our customers = more opportunities to customize their experience in meaningful ways. A huge thanks to the ICMI staff, my fellow event board members, the speakers, and vendors who made this an excellent event! I’m already gearing up ICMI Expo coming up in May. Hopefully, 2018 is the year I take the Mini...read more
How Carvana is leveraging customer experience principles to revolutionize the process of buying a car. Last night began in standard fashion…I consumed a spicy chicken sandwich from Chick-fil-A and wandered around the kitchen for a bit. Things took a turn for the crazy, however, when we headed out to buy a new car out of a giant vending machine. Yes, I’m speaking of Carvana, “The New Way to Buy a Car” as their tagline says. For those of you who are not yet in the know, Carvana is looking to revolutionize a process 99% of us despise…purchasing a vehicle through a car dealership. How do they accomplish this you ask? With a huge emphasis on both automation and Customer Service. Having now achieved the objective of buying a used Hyundai Tucson, I can say I’m a huge believer in what Carvana has created. Let’s look at three strategic elements which culminated in an exceptional customer experience: Convenience Through Digital CX – As with so many things today, the whole process begins online. Carvana makes it exceptionally easy to find not only the type of car you want, but specifically the car you want. I was considering between the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, and Hyundai Tuscon. By combining all the research from third party sources and making it extremely easy to compare features and prices, Hyundai quickly rose to the top. At this point I could look at dozens of actual Tucsons available for pickup as soon as the next day. There are no stock photos….you can see all the cars in great detail with 360 degree virtual tours. Say goodbye to days of driving around to car lots with only a few relevant vehicle options, but are full of sketchy and aggressive salespeople. This proves yet again there is always a better way- even for problems that have existed for generations. Designing a Unique Experience and Brand – Who would have thought you could apply the “Disney” model of making magic to the car buying experience? Carvana has found a way to do this with their giant robotic vending machine. It’s a pretty exceptional feeling to watch your new car roll down the tower and triumphantly make it’s way through the grand double doors. We actually could have had the car dropped off at our house, but we were so excited for the vending machine we even brought the kids! Since when was buying a car a memorable night out for the whole family? Well done, Carvana, well done. There is a special loyalty factor achieved when you combine convenience with a fun, unique brand personality. Customer Service is the Heart – By far the most compelling thing for me was the outstanding customer service provided throughout. Carvana has hired wonderful people who personify their customer-centric brand perfectly. When we arrived at the Nashville location, an employee named Mike had just gotten off his shift and was leaving. Instead of jumping in his car and peacing out like nearly any of us would, he changed course and came over to welcome us with a huge smile. When we got inside AJ was just as friendly and eager to help. We had a bit of a snafu with our financing which AJ bent over backwards to make...read more
Tips for creating a customer-centric quality management program. When implemented well, a Quality Management program has the potential to revolutionize both the agent and the customer experience. The sad reality is that most QM programs do more harm than good. According to the “Best Practices in Quality Monitoring and Coaching” whitepaper by Dr. Jon Anton and Anita Rockwell agents expressed these feelings in regards to a poorly implemented QM process: I am being policed I feel like “big brother” is watching me They are only trying to catch me doing something wrong It’s no wonder the turnover rate in service centers is so high if this is the typical environment. Alternatively, when QM programs were implemented well agents experienced the following: I respect my coach and appreciate it when she shows me examples of ways to do things better I look forward to my weekly coaching sessions because it shows that my supervisor really cares about my success I enjoy monitoring my own calls; it is amazing to see what I can improve How much better is that!? Clearly, not all Quality Management programs are created equal. Avoiding these four common pitfalls will steer you away from “big brother” and create a process appreciated by agents, leaders, and customers alike. Reason #1 – Leadership Built the Program in a Vacuum A helpful quality program is designed to serve the agents and make them better. With this in mind, agents should be involved from the very beginning to actively participate in the design and objectives. It’s so easy as leaders to create a program to fit our needs, and then proceed to unveil the new mandatory accomplishment to a captive audience. Instead, create a “QM Committee” comprised of both leaders and front line representatives. Engagement will be much higher when agents have skin in the game. Reason #2 – You Focus on Scores and not Behaviors I knew we had a problem with our quality program when an agent was setting up his goals and said “I want to achieve ‘x’ score.” How does an agent achieving ‘x’ score help the customer? QM is all about coaching and enhancing behaviors. If you find that discussions about quality revolve around scores received and not about behaviors to improve, there is a major problem. Your scorecard is a big part of this. If you have a 10+ question scorecard with either pass/fail or a complicated grading scale, it’s going to be about the score no matter what you tell the agents. Alternatively, design your form to reflect what really matters; continual improvement. Check out the 3 question scorecard recommended by Jeremy Hyde in step 2 of this article. Whatever you do, be sure your forms and process honestly reflect the type of culture you are working to build. Mixed messages will only serve to confuse and frustrate. You will lose your credibility if you say QM is about positive coaching, but then it becomes all about the score in performance appraisals and leadership reports. Reason #3 – You Left The Customer Out I recently witnessed a presentation in which a quality team touted their massive improvement in QA metrics. What they failed to do, however, was associate the accomplishment to any customer impact. That’s fantastic to report a...read more
Using DiSC in a customer service context to enhance both the customer and the agent experience. There is a plethora of training options available to service leaders who are looking to enhance the communication skills of their agents. Having had exposure to many of these, DiSC is my top choice with the most significant impact. Having now studied DiSC and received my credentials as a certified facilitator, there is no mystery why the tool is so great for a customer service environment. This post will introduce you to the basics of DiSC theory; explore how it enhances communication skill for agents, as well as recommending next steps to start using DiSC with your team. The DiSC Model of Behavior was first introduced by Dr. William Moulton Marston in 1928 (yes, the same guy who created the “Wonder Woman” comics). His theory proposed that the expression of emotions could be grouped into four original categories – Dominance (D), Inducement (I), Submission (S), and Compliance (C). With countless iterations and improvements over the years, DiSC has become a reliable and widely recognized training tool. While on the surface it may appear to be just another test for basic self-awareness, this is not at all like the “What’s Your Patronus?” quiz on Facebook. The assessment will help by identifying an individual’s primary communication tendencies and potential weaknesses. When well facilitated, DiSC is all about learning how to become more flexible as a communicator- rather than providing validation and further entrenching yourself into default behaviors. Another wonderful aspect of DiSC is how it’s applicable to both customer and internal communications. DiSC for Improved Customer Communication When you pause to consider, it is really quite remarkable what an agent is able to do each day. Within seconds, the analyst must ascertain the communication style of the customer and construct their message accordingly. You have customers that want the bottom line as quickly as possible (D), others that love to be educated with laborious details (C), and still others that just love to chat about personal things for twenty + minutes (i). When the agent has a solid understanding of DiSC, they will be able to better classify their audience and customize their message for the best result. In other words: Using DiSC, your agents will form a better connection with customers a higher percentage of the time. DiSC for Improved Internal Communication Not only will DiSC improve customer communication, but also internal interactions. One of the chief benefits for leaders is developing well-balanced, high performing teams. While all four communication styles have valuable attributes, they also have significant shortcomings. However, when a team has each communication style working in harmony, the dynamic is greatly enhanced. Additional benefits for Customer Service leaders include the following: Hiring The Right Agent – When you understand the landscape of your team from a DiSC perspective, you will also know where your largest gaps are. As an example – if you have a team full of visionaries (i), but often times fail to execute, it may be time to hire a “C” or two. Having candidates take the DiSC exam will ensure you are hiring the right player based on gaps and the responsibilities of the role. Enhanced Manager to Agent Dialog – Coaching conversations are hard. When leaders...read more
Customer experience lessons enhanced by the open ocean. With all the trouble in the “friendly skies” lately, many travelers are considering vacation transportation alternatives. One such creative option is to take to the water aboard Carnival Cruise Lines. Having just disembarked from our families’ third cruise vacation, I can safely say that Customer Service is alive and well on the emerald seas. It’s mind-blowing to consider all the work that goes in behind the scenes to create an effort-free vacation for the guests aboard. Carnival has a bit of a reputation in the industry as being the “party boat,” however from my experience they are simply very good at accommodating all types of passengers (spring-breakers included). When you’re stuck on a ship for seven days, there’s bound to be at least one moment when you find yourself at guest services. Mine came as we were waiting for dinner and I noticed someone had left their purse in a public area. I returned the purse to guest services where an exceptionally kind gentleman named Chaimongkon showed a great deal of gratitude for the action performed. As I was filling out a form, an older gentleman abruptly grabbed the purse off the desk, muttered something about it being his wife’s, and scowled at both of us. The rudeness of the man left Chaimongkon and I in momentary shock. Later that evening, I returned to my room to find a handwritten note from Chaimongkon thanking me for returning the purse and a gift of two drink vouchers. His kindness turned a sour moment into a memorable service experience. This highlights just a few examples of what makes Carnival agents so good at their uniquely challenging jobs: The emotional intelligence of the agent to witness the rudeness of another guest, and then putting forth the effort to make it right The ability of a front-line agent to make an executive decision, and provide a monetary gift as an extension of goodwill The timeliness and logistics by which he made these things happen One of the most powerful things about the guest experience is the consistency. Chaimongkon fit right in with his shipmates – all of whom held themselves to this same standard. And it was not just at the guest services desk either….both my daughters favorite crew member was “Waterslide Walter” who made their time in the water playground an absolute blast. The entire dining team blew us away. Despite a grueling all day and most of the night schedule, they went above and beyond on every detail. By this point, the service professional in me came out and I had to peek behind the curtain . How did this remarkably consistent guest experience come to exist? I flip-flopped down to guest services in my swim suit, hoping that maybe I’d be able to set up a brief interview with the Guest Services Supervisor the next day. Just five minutes later, I was sitting across from Sylvie who was happy to oblige the odd request (despite my lack of proper interview attire). Question One – How do you stay motivated to deliver exceptional customer service to extremely challenging people? Patience and empathy were the key themes. Sylvie explained her technique of visualizing the guest as though they are a friend or family...read more