A collection of posts on the topic of Customer Service.
How to foster a customer-centric mindset in a dollars-driven reality. For six years, I’d held a Customer Service job with essentially one objective: make everyone around me happy, and make customers happy as a consequence. It was perfect for my gregarious, people-pleasing personality. The year 2015, however, brought with it a role change and a game-changing truth: businesses are more than just smiles, free food, and birthday celebrations. As it happens, most companies exist to make money. Moving from a Customer Service role into a professional services organization caused a significant mental evolution. The all-important “C-Sat” (Customer Satisfaction Rate) suddenly took back stage to a far more demanding metric…revenue. While this transition was very disorienting at first, a customer-centric mentality once again helped me find my way. After all, happy customers and revenue are very closely related. Now finding myself back in a Customer Service role, my perspective is greatly broadened. Having been forged in the fires of a customer-centric mentality, and now understanding the revenue generating side of the business, I can make better decisions. Many things can drive better customer experience in the short term, but may ultimately be detrimental to the business in the end. Adding the “revenue reality check” taught me a new language – the language of enterprise value. By finding opportunities to enhance the customer experience, while also enhancing the bottom line, CX leaders will find far fewer barriers to impacting change. It’s our responsibility as CX leaders to be a powerful voice for the customer. However, our ability to perform in this function is greatly enhanced when we also understand the objectives of the larger organization. Viewing the world through the lens of the customer is vital, but you will lose focus and credibility if this is the only perspective you have. You must bring narratives together in order to find truth and tell the right story. Enterprise value is the language of the executive. Learn to speak it, or become stuck between customer needs and organizational understanding. Using statics such as these from InsightSquared will bring your narrative out of the hypothetical “touchy-feely” realm and give you credibility in associating CX initiatives to the bottom line: Are you a Customer Service leader looking to speak the language of enterprise value? Start with these simple actions: Solve a problem that’s not (directly) your problem – Understand the challenges that your sales and marketing leaders are experiencing and find a way for customer service to be involved in the solution. Customer service can nearly always make a positive impact on sales and marketing challenges. Helping the organization achieve a more consistent brand voice is an excellent example. Read “Chief Customer Officer 2.0” by Jeanne Bliss – Whether your organization has a CCO or not, the idea of bringing leaders together to create a customer growth engine is a total game-changer. This book will help you to see the big picture and renew your thinking. Give yourself more dots to connect – As Steve Jobs said, “Creativity is just connecting things.” Think about the part of your business for which you know the least. Get intentional about learning this area and other areas so that you can be more creative in solving the big ticket problems. Avoid the “fortress” mentality – Customer...read more
I know what you may be thinking. Yet another meaningless corporate raw-raw statement that will be forgotten in a week!? I’m with you. Two years ago, I would have been in the same state of mind – but before you do your best Judge Judy eye roll and surf on, I challenge you to give the Customer Service Vision Statement a chance. There are few things this remarkably simple that pack such a huge ROI potential for our teams. It was an ICMI workshop by the one and only Jeff Toister that first turned me on to the concept of a Customer Service Vision. Since that time, the truth of his statements have taken root and evolved into a new mindset for me. This is not a rewording or a replacement for your company’s vision statement….quite the opposite in fact. In many ways, it’s like a completion. Our most powerful motivation lever as leaders is to create meaningful work tied directly to the company’s purpose. Sadly, according to CX luminary Scott McKain, two thirds of an organization’s employees has no idea what makes their organization unique. It’s no wonder why company vision statements are often distant and irrelevant to what actually transpires in the life of an employee. A Customer Service Vision Statement is your opportunity to bridge this gap, and channel purpose into everything from quality management, to coaching conversations, to rewards and recognition. Hopefully the why is now clear. Next up, we have the what and the how. I’ll break down our service vision at UL EHSS and offer tips on how to create your very own. Our Customer Service Vision: “Supporting our customers and each other in a manner that’s effortless, accurate, and friendly.” That’s it. You may be thinking “how silly to write a 700+ word blog about a 14 word statement.” Well, I’m a silly guy. I also believe the best vision statements are short enough to actually remember. Let me unpack this statement briefly, as it will help your thought process as you go about creating your own. “Supporting our customers and each other” – The key phrase here is “each other.” We sometimes push a customer focus to the point where we blind ourselves to the simple fact that Customer Service is a team sport. When a culture is established where agents go out of their way to help each other, your ability to assist customers increases exponentially. Make the privilege of serving one another a big deal. “Effortless” – For our demographic, great customer service is all about facilitating resolutions quickly and easily. When we can get our administrators back to work with minimal drama, we’ve done our jobs well. There’s no “wow” moment required, and “delight” rarely leads to increased customer loyalty (view Customer Effort vs Delight blog here). “Accurate” – The keyword is knowledge, which enables accuracy. A support organization is really only as good as its ability to create, curate, and distribute knowledge. We are working hard to become a “KCS” or knowledge-centered support team. We also create a culture of life-long learners. Everyone should be continually growing in his or her knowledge and abilities. “Friendly” – In a world overrun by IVR’s, chat bots, and automated messages, our support team places a huge emphasis on the...read more
Practicing mindfulness has been a popular concept in western society for many years now. Introducing mindfulness in the workplace has become fairly common, especially for corporate leadership teams. These tools are not just for the leadership any more. Successful mindfulness and meditation programs have been integrated at every level in major companies like General Mills, Ford, Aetna, Google and Procter & Gamble, just to name a few. Customer service and contact center staff need the tools to reduce stress, increase focus and productivity, as much, if not more than the average office worker. It is a tough job emotionally. Unfortunately, many of the workplace mindfulness programs available require a commitment to downtime for participation that is just not practical in a contact center situation. The good news is that introducing mindfulness on a smaller scale, in a less intrusive way to the work shift still has a positive impact! Case studies have shown improvement on just about every KPI with the contact centers that simply gave instruction on mindful breathing and encouraged agents to practice it throughout their day. Better metrics, happier customers and more engaged agents are results we all want to know more about. Without doubt, there is a place for some level of mindfulness in your contact center. Let’s back up for a minute and make sure we are on the same page about what mindfulness is and what it means. There are varying degrees of misconception, not only about what mindfulness is but how accessible it can be. Simply put, mindfulness is focusing on and living in the moment. That’s it. Being here and now, giving attention to this moment in time. Easier said than done. Mindfulness techniques are used to work toward achieving the state of being in the moment and focused on one thing at a time. No one is ever completely mindful 24 hours a day, every day, hence the term “practice”. There are effective and positive benefits to practicing mindful techniques whether you spend hours or merely minutes a day on the process. So, now that we understand what it is, how and why does it belong in your call center? There are three main ways I have seen the introduction of mindfulness to a team of agents affect positive change: Retention – Investing in an agent’s EI (Emotional Intelligence) creates a loyalty and desire to excel at their jobs. A small midwestern call center I worked with last year was really struggling with attrition. This was compounded by being in a location with a very limited pool of candidates. It was important that they retain the reps they brought on board and that just wasn’t happening. Only one of three new hires were staying for six months or more. With no sweeping changes, just a little revamp of training and adding mindful techniques, the improvement was almost immediate. Not only during initial training, mindfulness was encouraged and practiced with all reps on the floor as part of the overall culture. Now, at nearly ten months later more than 65% of that group of agents is about to celebrate their one year anniversary with the company. In addition, there has been little or no attrition with existing reps and they are now planning to expand. On a...read more
Adapted from original post featured on www.ICMI.com in November 2016 Most of us can agree that losing top talent outside the organization is something we should work to prevent. However, something leaders don’t talk about as often is the very real phenomenon of agents leaving the contact center to pursue roles in other areas of the business. I will warn you right away….this is not a subject for which I have all the answers. That being said, it’s a very important topic with a huge impact and it should be discussed. This dialog was a sidebar theme in one of our recent ICMI chats, and many expressed interest in taking it to the next level. My hope is to generate a conversation and help all of us become more aware when it comes to positive internal turnover. It’s no wonder contact center employees are a hot commodity for other hiring managers within the business. Where else do you learn the products, services and the customers more intimately than the front lines of customer service? As Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) stated, “Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.” There is no better training ground, and it stands to reason that contact centers have become somewhat of a “farm team” for many companies. While positive internal turnover can be a very good thing both for the analysts and the larger organization, is it possible to go too far? Customer service is critical to the customer experience and the business. Should we not have top talent in the contact center? Should they not stay there long enough to make a significant impact and lay a foundation for more analysts like themselves? According to the QATC, the average turnover rate (internal and external) is 26 percent annually. Most leaders would agree it’s very difficult to build a high functioning, sustainable team when 1 in 4 people are gone in twelve months. No one wants customer service to be thought of as a revolving door. When the contact center is not a priority for the business, how can the customer be a priority for the business? The challenge is finding balance between the “farm team” mentality and being a talent hoarder. This requires a partnership between customer service leadership and the rest of the organization. One possible solution? Perhaps there is a two year expectation (minimum) for any contact center employees prior to transition. The first year is about learning process, technologies, customers, etc. Year two is about getting more strategically involved in the business, lending a hand in the training and development of newer representatives, and participating in cross-functional projects. This gives a sustainable platform on which to continually rebuild the contact center, while also providing great talent to the rest of the organization. Another thing to consider is the expectation a new analyst brings to the table when they are first hired. I’ve interviewed a large number of professionals for customer service roles in my time as a contact center manager. In addition to attitude – aptitude – fit, I’ve got one big question on my mind. Is this person serious about a customer service role, or are they just looking for a quick stepping stone into the business? At the end of the day...read more
Japan is famous for it’s hospitality and customer service culture. I’ve always wanted to experience this for myself, and in October I was given the unique opportunity to do just that. While my trip was short, I was able to experience four different cities and absorb a full range of cultural experiences. Despite major differences in each location one thing was remarkably consistent: incredible customer service. So how do they do it? How can they infuse a service culture into their entire population that transcends generational gaps, wealth barriers, and stereotypes? The roots of this answer extend back hundreds if not thousands of years, but it really boils down to one key theme- respect. Below are two key learnings we can all take away from this utopia of customer service. One of the most surprising phenomenons in Japan was how great the service was on each and every interaction, regardless of the context. We stayed in some extremely nice hotels and dined in a few unbelievable restaurants. Most would have expected top notch service – and it was. What I didn’t expect was approximately the same level of service when buying junk food at a 7/11 convenience store! The cashier would delicately place the change in my hands with extreme care and a bow. The goods were purposefully bagged and handed over with a smile. I felt extremely valued for my 75 cent purchase, proving that the service received has nothing to do with the value of the transaction. Such treatment happens by default because that’s how they treat one another. It was a wonderful reminder that everyone deserves wonderful customer service, not because it’s a company core value or because they signed a contract, but because they’re a person. It took about 20 minutes after landing in The States for the stark difference in (most) American service cultures to hit me. I ordered Mexican food in the airport and the employee tossed it out in front of me and walked away toward his next task. It absolutely shocked me at the time, but the ironic part is I would not have even had noticed before experiencing Japan. Like nearly everyone around him, this employee was focused on doing his job and moving to the next task, instead of focusing on the actual human at the counter. It’s a simple paradigm shift that makes a remarkable difference. Another thing the Japanese do better than anyone else is combining professionalism with fun to create a custom experience. One of the coolest experiences of my life so far was staying in a “Ryokan”, or traditional Japanese inn. Thousands of years of tradition culminated in an ultra-conservative service experience unlike anything else in the World. But underneath it all, the staff was an absolute blast. They didn’t let a simple thing like speaking totally different languages stop them from getting to know us. Once they had a good pulse for their audience, they even started to poke fun at one gentleman’s especially short shorts and had us rolling with laughter (including the victim himself). This demonstration of personality took the service experience from unique to unforgettable – it brings a smile to my face every time I think about it. At the heart of the Ryokan is a staff who sincerely cares about it’s...read more