Customer Centric Support http://customercentricsupport.com We know what is important, do you? Wed, 19 Jul 2017 16:10:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Why Your Quality Management Program Stinks http://customercentricsupport.com/four-reasons-your-quality-management-program-stinks/ http://customercentricsupport.com/four-reasons-your-quality-management-program-stinks/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 16:00:54 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1510 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 […]

The post Why Your Quality Management Program Stinks appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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 “200% increase in quality” based on your made-up internal scorecard, but have your customers even noticed a difference?  If there was no meaningful change to NPS, CSAT, or CES then why does the internal quality score even matter?  We tend to make assumptions about what the best customer experience looks like and measure to this ideal.  The problem is we are often wrong.  Put the customer in the driver’s seat of your quality program and measure accordingly.  Check out how Jeremy Watkin does a “quality alignment check” which includes the voice of the customer.

 

Reason #4 – Your Coaches Can’t Coach

Many of us work hard on this concept of “calibration,” which in QM world is training people to give a similar score for recurring behaviors.  While this has it’s place, how more critical is it that we train our leaders to have meaningful coaching conversations?  One of the primary duties of the aforementioned QM Committee is to develop a “coach’s library.”  This is a collection of trusted resources that coaches can use to have a robust dialog with the agents and extend real steps for improvement.  Do you have an agent that’s struggling with writing effective emails to customers?  “Writing Customer Service Emails with Leslie O’Flahavan” is for them.  Have an agent who’s struggling to to read their audience and provide the right amount of information?  DiSC Training is likely to help.  The bottom line is you should spend less time focused on score consistency, and more time coaching your coaches.

 

We hope these tips will help you to avoid some of our past mistakes and build an amazing quality program!  A big thanks to Jeremy Watkin, Jeremy Hyde, and Vickie Friece for providing mentorship in this area as we continue to evolve.  Be sure to comment with your tips on how to make QM the very best it can be!

 

Back to Customer Centric Support

The post Why Your Quality Management Program Stinks appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/four-reasons-your-quality-management-program-stinks/feed/ 0
Creating Quality Customer Service Interactions With DiSC http://customercentricsupport.com/creating-quality-customer-service-interactions-with-disc/ http://customercentricsupport.com/creating-quality-customer-service-interactions-with-disc/#respond Fri, 19 May 2017 17:46:25 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1483   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 […]

The post Creating Quality Customer Service Interactions With DiSC appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
 

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 have a good understanding of their agents’ DiSC type, as well as their own, they can design the message with maximum impact.  D’s will generally just want the bottom line with little “filler”.  I’s may want to get personal and “chit-chat” for long periods of time.  C’s often require data and examples for the point to hit home.  S’s may be resistant to changing behaviors and will need small, specific steps laid out to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Enhanced Agent to Agent Dialog – Customer Service is a team sport. When agents are not communicating well with each other, knowledge barriers and poor attitudes are a predictable result.  The DiSC exercise should be done as a team event.  As the learning takes place, the process of becoming vulnerable will increase empathy and understanding across the team.  People are generally far more supportive if they are all playing a role together inside of a shared journey.

How to Get Started

The following are recommended next steps for using DiSC with your team.  Be sure to customize based on your unique demographic and challenges.

  • Take this free basic DiSC exam yourself. The test and results are limited, but it makes for an excellent starting point.
  • Select one of the more comprehensive DiSC products below based on this guide. Everything DiSC is excellent for a team as they offer a combined result report that can be purchased by the facilitator.  Take the exam yourself first to ensure a good fit.
  • Purchase the exam for your team and have everyone complete by a certain date.
  • Find a local certified DiSC facilitator to come and conduct a group session based on the results. If you have team members in different locations, conduct via teleconference with video capability if possible.
  • Conduct “DiSC” refresher sessions on a periodic basis to keep the conversation going and drive the results from the session home. You will also need to adapt as new team members come aboard.
  • Repeat the full “DiSC” exam and team session every couple of years. The results can change overtime, especially as people move into different roles and the team continues to evolve.

Please let me know if I can assist in anyway.  We’d also love to hear your DiSC experience in the comments below!

Back to Customer Centric Support

 

The post Creating Quality Customer Service Interactions With DiSC appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/creating-quality-customer-service-interactions-with-disc/feed/ 0
Customer Service at Sea http://customercentricsupport.com/customer-service-at-sea/ http://customercentricsupport.com/customer-service-at-sea/#comments Tue, 02 May 2017 02:49:55 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1460 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 […]

The post Customer Service at Sea appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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 OneHow 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 member facing significant discomfort.  Where as I may see an annoying guest with a serious entitlement issue, Carnival agents are uniquely trained to disarm difficult situations with grace and calm confidence.  Will Sylvie didn’t explicitly say this, I could see that Carnival is extremely selective in their recruiting efforts.  With a talent pool that spans the globe, the organization is somehow able to find those exceptional people for which these skills are simply part of their nature.

Question Two – How do you create such a positive and consistent service culture throughout the entire staff?

I learned here that while this is a trademark of the Carnival brand, each ship will often boost it’s own cultural utopia.  This particular boat, the Carnival magic, was known for having a very tight-knit crew and placing a premium on relationships.  They are able to keep the energy up and motivate each other through the rapport gained over many years of shared experiences. As Lydia Dishman from Fast Company says, “meaningful work, leisure time, and positive emotions can’t hold a candle to relationships.”

Having now lost my great tan and sea legs, I’m happy that the lessons learned aboard the Carnival magic remain.  Weather you’re 2,000 miles off the coast, or operating a contact center in the desert of Las Vegas, these touches of Carnival Magic can enhance your Customer Experience:


Spend the time, effort, and money to recruit exceptional talent for which patience and empathy come naturally.  While training can help to develop these gifts to some level, the baseline capacity needs to be there.

Enable your front-line staff to make critical game time decisions, even those that may require a certain level of monetary compensation.

Work hard to create a “relationship context” within your group.  Finding ways to bring people together and form friendships is way more powerful than any ping pong table, gift card, or “gamification” software.

 

Here’s to smooth sailing in your contact center for years to come!  🛳

 

 

Back to Customer Centric Support

The post Customer Service at Sea appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/customer-service-at-sea/feed/ 1
Speaking The Language Of CX Value http://customercentricsupport.com/speaking-the-language-of-cx-value/ http://customercentricsupport.com/speaking-the-language-of-cx-value/#comments Mon, 06 Mar 2017 14:45:05 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1437 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 […]

The post Speaking The Language Of CX Value appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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.

Source – Pixabay

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:

 

Source – Insight Squared Churn Statistics

 

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.
  • Source – Pinterest.com

    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 Service can become a place where all the unwanted tasks of the business collect.  It’s easy to become territorial and try to shield the department from anything not directly in the scope of service.  The organizational siege of problems will never end, but this mentality ultimately leads to support being viewed as a non-strategic cost center.  Lower the drawbridge and focus on finding win-win situations for all parties.

For additional reading on speaking the language of enterprise value for CX initiatives, I recommend the following:

I’m sure these tips will help to make your customer voice even stronger.  As Jeremy Watkin says, ROI discussions will not lead to great cultures; customer-centricity and a focus on employees do.  As with most things, it’s all about balance and maintaining a larger perspective.  Leave a comment sharing a way you have learned to speak the language of enterprise CX value!

 

Back to Customer Centric Support

The post Speaking The Language Of CX Value appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/speaking-the-language-of-cx-value/feed/ 3
The Customer Service Vision Statement http://customercentricsupport.com/the-customer-service-vision-statement/ http://customercentricsupport.com/the-customer-service-vision-statement/#respond Tue, 14 Feb 2017 00:30:41 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1398 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 post The Customer Service Vision Statement appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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.

Source – Pixabay

“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 human element.  We are just people supporting other people after all.  While we strive to be knowledge experts, we characterize a more personable tone in our phone interactions and beyond.  Agents are highly encouraged to be themselves and engage in real life dialog with interested customers.

 

So that’s us!  Now it’s your turn.  Here are a few helpful guidelines and questions you should ask yourself when creating your own Customer Service Vision Statement:

 

Source – Pixabay

Create It Together – What makes your company unique?  What makes your contact center unique?  I highly encourage you to ask these questions to your whole team.  Get them involved in the very beginning as you create this statement.  This will build ownership across the team versus another “top-down” communication they need to delete.

Brand Voice – You will want your Customer Service Vision to coincide not just your company’s vision, but also your brand voice.  As Sarah Steely Reed taught me, there is great power in having a consistent brand voice across marketing, sales, and support.  This will reduce the number of mixed messages being given to agents and ultimately to your customers.  It may be a good idea to get marketing involved in this exercise!  Just remember to keep it short and memorable.

Pound It Home – Once you’ve worked with the team to establish your magic statement, find a way to celebrate it!  Having a “vision lunch” or something similar will help to kick things off right.  Repetition is essential.  Have it printed on something like a mug or sign that reps will physically see on a daily basis.  As leaders, use the statement often in coaching conversations, team meetings, and as part of quality assurance.  If you’re not intentional about giving the CS vision statement meaning, it will die off quicker than your favorite character in Game of Thrones.

 

And that’s it!  If you get stuck, don’t hesitate to reach out to me for a quick brainstorm.  One of my favorite things about having a Customer Service Vision Statement is the consistency.  Goals and objectives will come and go, but the vision statement is always there providing inspiration for important decisions.  Best of luck, and may 2017 be a year of renewed vision for your contact center!

 

Return to Customer Centric Support

The post The Customer Service Vision Statement appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/the-customer-service-vision-statement/feed/ 0
Why Mindfulness Belongs in Your Call Center http://customercentricsupport.com/mindfulness/ http://customercentricsupport.com/mindfulness/#respond Tue, 07 Feb 2017 03:43:05 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1376   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 […]

The post Why Mindfulness Belongs in Your Call Center appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
 

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.

 

Source – Unsplash.com

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 larger scale, a few years ago Bank of America leadership was fraught with staffing issues at all of their many international call centers. After analysis of their practices by an outside firm, changes were implemented that included mindfulness. More importantly, the corporate leadership gained an understanding of how important investing in their employee’s overall emotional health and sense of purpose is to company culture. With minor, inexpensive changes they were able to drop their turnover rate from 40% to 12% globally. The financial benefits to improved retention are undeniable.

 

Source – Unsplash.com

Productivity – Within one week of introducing mindfulness to that same small outbound sales call center last year, productivity increased by 17% and they are maintaining it. Absenteeism is as toxic and counter productive to a call center’s productivity as attrition is. In addition to agents being more focused and able to perform at their best, mindfulness creates an overall peace of mind and wellness that decreases call-outs and time away from work. The benefits of a more focused staff can be seen in call length and first call resolution as well. Maneuvering resources for answers becomes a smoother, more efficient task. A clear, balanced mind has better recall and confidence. In addition, a mindfulness practice creates a sense of peace that is no match for the angriest and most difficult of callers to shake. Agents who participate tend to escalate fewer calls and garner higher satisfaction scores than those who do not have the tools.

 

Customer Satisfaction – Employee satisfaction directly correlates to your customer’s satisfaction. Seems to be obvious, but somehow it has been forgotten or overlooked for much too long in the call center branch of customer service. When an agent practices mindfulness, they learn to balance their breath, their thoughts and their actions. Arguably, the customers who interact with them benefit as much as they do. When the most angry, dissatisfied customer is on the line, a mindful agent is much more likely to be able to diffuse the

Source – Tookapic

situation and calm the customer. A mindful agent is more confident and focused, which naturally translates on the phone. Even when policy challenges them to resolve issues in a different way than a customer may request, the agent’s delivery and “humanness” will often make up for it. Rather than having two frustrated people on a phone call essentially commiserating in their unhappiness, you suddenly find that you have the informed and helpful advocate you always intended to have helping your customer. Mindful agents will connect and form a bond with your customers on a personal level. The decrease in escalations means your customers are not getting transferred and eliminates additional frustration.

 

In ten years of informally and two years of formally teaching agents mindfulness techniques, I can boldly and honestly say there is no downside to introducing it to your employees. I have seen it completely revolutionize things, transforming a call center in amazing ways. I have also seen it integrated on a small level, added as a tool along with many others. Regardless, the results are always positive. The degree of improvement corresponds to the level of participation. Whether there is a minimal increase in a few KPIs or it becomes the core of your company culture, it proves to be well worth the time and effort to cultivate.   – Debi Mongan

 

Debi Mongan is a tried and proven leader in the Call Center and Customer Service field with over 25 years experience.  She is an innovator and has excelled at managing call centers both inbound and outbound, handling sales and customer service. She has held call center management positions in the publishing, E-commerce, professional baseball and travel industries.  Debi founded The Mindful Call Center consulting, and is currently dedicated to combining these two worlds and helping Customer Service employees and their companies blossom.

 

Customer Centric Support Home

The post Why Mindfulness Belongs in Your Call Center appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/mindfulness/feed/ 0
The Contact Center – Company Farm Team? http://customercentricsupport.com/company-farm-team/ http://customercentricsupport.com/company-farm-team/#comments Wed, 21 Dec 2016 02:51:10 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1333 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 […]

The post The Contact Center – Company Farm Team? appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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.

 

Source – pixabay.com

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?

 

Source – unsplash.com

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.

Source – unsplash.com

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 it’s irrelevant…. the “stepping stone” job seeker is not disqualified for honesty or for ambition.  We should all be looking to grow and progress in our careers.  However, there are two very different perspectives toward a potential future transition.  On the one hand, you have someone who will dive into a customer service role and earn the right for an internal promotion over the course of time.  Inversely, there are those individuals who simply survive in the contact center doing the bare minimum and feel entitled to move forward after twelve months or less.  Naturally, it’s hard to build a strong team around the second type of analyst.  I’m very happy to bring a perceived “stepping stone” analyst into the team, as a long as I also perceive someone that will handle the transition with patience and maturity.

 

I’d love to hear from you!  Does your organization have a formal policy in place when it comes to internal transfers and promotions?  Do you look for committed customer service professionals or individuals with expanding talent?  Is there anything you are doing to add to the overall company value while maintaining a strong customer service base?

 

Return to Customer Centric Support

The post The Contact Center – Company Farm Team? appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/company-farm-team/feed/ 7
The Land of Customer Service http://customercentricsupport.com/the-land-of-customer-service/ http://customercentricsupport.com/the-land-of-customer-service/#comments Sat, 03 Dec 2016 03:50:32 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1307 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 […]

The post The Land of Customer Service appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
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 interblog2action, 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 fblog1ar 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 guests and wants to create the most memorable experience possible.

 

One could spend a lifetime learning from the Japanese, but I’m forever grateful for these lessons and the time I did have among them.  Here’s hoping we all use these lessons from the Japanese to boost service levels across the globe!

 

Return to Customer Centric Support

The post The Land of Customer Service appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/the-land-of-customer-service/feed/ 2
Lead With Authenticity http://customercentricsupport.com/lead-with-authenticity/ http://customercentricsupport.com/lead-with-authenticity/#comments Sat, 10 Sep 2016 02:33:09 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1275 It used to be that leadership created an intentional barrier between themselves and their people. A manager would not risk compromising the clean simplicity of working relationships by dragging in the messiness of real life. For better or worse, these days are far behind us. In order lead your employees well, you’ve got to put […]

The post Lead With Authenticity appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
It used to be that leadership created an intentional barrier between themselves and their people. A manager would not risk compromising the clean simplicity of working relationships by dragging in the messiness of real life. For better or worse, these days are far behind us. In order lead your employees well, you’ve got to put yourself out there. Your people want to know you, the real you, and share meaningful life experiences in and out of the office. It is possible, however, to go too far into the personal realm and lose your ability to effectively manage. How does the 21st century leader find balance? How can we relate as messy, imperfect people, but still command the respect required to produce results? The following is a collection of simple tips to help you find balance and lead with refreshed sincerity. These are leaders who greatly value human connection, and have used the power of relationships to ultimately improve both the employee and the customer experience.

 

WatkinA great rule of thumb is to envision a model of great customer service and deliver that to your team members. They are after all your internal customers. Listen to them– deeply. If they share about a personal struggle or challenge, take note and follow up with them to see how they’re doing. Do your darndest to be flexible around what’s most important to them– whether it’s taking a longer break to see their kid perform at school or taking off a little early on their birthday. That stuff goes a long way to show transparency and build deeper connection with your staff. – Jeremy Watkin

 

SarahBeing a 21st-century leader means periodically putting away the technology and asking better questions. What’s going on in your home life? What motivates you to come to work every day? What drives you to do well in your job? We have such a tendency to focus on metrics, and KPIs, and goals, and we forget that there is a human behind all of it. I was chatting with Russ Laraway from Candor Inc. recently and he mentioned that leaders are having too many imposter conversations with their teams. They need to be having better conversations. “You have to understand someone’s past and someone’s future in order to know what they will do in their present.” It all starts with better questions. – Sarah Stealey Reed

 

LOThe best leaders I’ve met are the ones who give employees time and attention before problems flare up. These leaders make themselves available to employees all the time. They hang out. One excellent leader I knew volunteered to serve as a scribe during problem-solving sessions. He did the typing for his staff, a task which caused him to focus and listen to what his employees had to say. His team never had to beg for his attention or beg for a 15-minute slot on his calendar. He demonstrated that leadership doesn’t have to be complicated. Make yourself available. It works. – Leslie O’Flahavan

 

ToisterAbraham Lincoln’s leadership provides a great example that’s still relevant. He would often meet with his generals, cabinet members, and other people in their office so they would feel more comfortable. 21st century leaders can do the same thing. Engage employees in environments where they’re comfortable so you’ll get the real them and they’ll get the real you. This includes physical environments, like the employee’s workstation, but also virtual environments like email, social media. Etc. The one caveat here is a manager should never forget they are the manager, which means they have responsibilities to both the employee and the organization. For example, it’s probably okay for a manager to organize a fun happy hour after work, but it’s not a good idea for the manager to engage employees in a drinking contest. – Jeff Toister

 

DempseyFor our one on one meetings, we use a system called MOFO. It stands for Meaningful progress, Obstacles, Focus for next week, and Organizational pulse. We list our work and non-work related items in each category to discuss during the meeting. While we want to get to know our team on a personal level, some people are more guarded than others. Having the MOFO system building a causal structure for discussion, it opens the door to talk about the good, the bad and the challenging happenings that we may otherwise overlook. Another key is to step away from the desks and take a walk outside, grab coffee, or sit in a nearby park. You’d be surprised at how much easier it is to talk when you’re not confined inside of an office. – Jenny Dempsey

 

Rembach1. Know yourself the best: Authenticity requires that we know and understand our purpose and values. If we do not understand what they are and can convey them through various forms of communication people will not be able to see if our actions are congruent with our intent.
2. Admit your mistakes: Being authentic is one of the anchors of trust. By not admitting to your mistakes you will be putting up a false front that will undermine the ability of people to trust you.
3. Convey your limits: Nobody likes a no-it-all. You’re probably not one. Also you know that people dislike liars even more. When you realize you do not know the facts and yet you convey information that you want folks to accept as fact you will compromise your credibility
4. Be courageous: You were born and raised with core beliefs to respect and care for your fellow man (all of mankind). Standing back, judging, harming, blaspheming and eroding any fellow human being is living an untrue life. – Jim Rembach

 

BrownDuring one on one meetings with employees I’ve gotten into the habit of turning my computer monitors off and my phone to silent. Scheduling the time with them is great, however if my attention is divided I’m losing a valuable opportunity to establish a real connection with them. Active listening is so rare in our society that when practiced well, the individual will take notice and feel greatly valued.  Finding small ways to communicate you care will add up to something big. – Nate Brown

 

HawkinsBe authentic, be transparent, and be honest. Otherwise, leadership is not for you. Your team members are people, not metrics. They come to work dealing with real life issues which impact their performance, and emotional well being. Taking the time to connect on a personal level allows you to better serve them, which leads to their success, and yours. This comes by way of building trust, effective communication, and respect. Leaders need to show they care by giving their time, advice and attention. Be present, and involved with your team on a daily basis. They should consider you a part OF the team, not just the boss of the team. – Sean B Hawkins

 

TopfLeadership is a never-ending chain of activities, attitude(s), and examples. A leader is only as good as her/his last opportunity to lead. Leadership is what happens both when people are watching/listening/paying attention as well as what the leader does when no one else is present. – Neal Topf

 

gbFrankly we as leaders need to understand that our people do not come to their jobs without baggage. The new employee you just hired has a learned set of rules (good or not so good) from their past employment experiences. Guidance for the new employee must be top of mind for the leader. All employees have real lives outside of work too with family challenges, sicknesses, losses etc…  As leaders we must not only be managers but we also must cater to the human element of feelings, ego, and needs (kinda what we learned from Maslow) then alter how we interact so we can be of true help to our team members giving of our true self to help them. When leaders work in this manner great things happen. – Gerry Barber

 

We hope this has been a helpful collection! A bit of authenticity can make all the difference in the world as you lead your team. As Karin Hurt and David Dye say in the book “Winning Well” – “You can have all the great plans, six sigma quality programs, and brilliant competitive positioning in the universe, but if the human beings doing the real work lack the competence, confidence, and creativity to pull it off, you’re finished.” As with so many things in life, it always comes down to our people and forming meaningful relationships!

 

Return to Customer Centric Support

The post Lead With Authenticity appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/lead-with-authenticity/feed/ 2
The Key to Great Customer Service: Collaboration http://customercentricsupport.com/the-key-to-great-customer-service-collaboration/ http://customercentricsupport.com/the-key-to-great-customer-service-collaboration/#respond Thu, 01 Sep 2016 15:40:56 +0000 http://customercentricsupport.com/?p=1252 When it comes to creating an exceptional service culture, nothing is more important than a team’s ability to collaborate well.  Both the agent and the customer experience will be exponentially better with 360 degrees of partnership – agents partnering with each other to share knowledge and solve problems, leadership partnering alongside agents to understand the […]

The post The Key to Great Customer Service: Collaboration appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
When it comes to creating an exceptional service culture, nothing is more important than a team’s ability to collaborate well.  Both the agent and the customer experience will be exponentially better with 360 degrees of partnership – agents partnering with each other to share knowledge and solve problems, leadership partnering alongside agents to understand the front line, and everyone partnering with customers to foster a meaningful relationship.  It may sound simple, but building this type of environment is quite difficult.  Here are three proven ways to promote collaboration, as well as three behaviors to avoid.

 

Thumbsup Collaboration Enhancer No. 1: Limit Top-Down Decision Making

Typically when a change is made in a contact center environment, it is leadership reviewing a set of metrics, deciding on a course of action, and announced to the agents as “the new thing.”  Most change should flow in the opposite direction.  Empower your agents by giving them raw data and challenge them with your service vision.  Ask your whole staff, not just leadership, how the customer experience or the agent experience could be improved.  When a team member comes up with an idea that makes a difference, it should be widely celebrated.  This will give everyone buy-in to the decision making process and they will no longer be victim to the “change of the week” from senior management.

 

ThumbsupCollaboration Enhancer No. 2: Get Out of the Office!Image

In order to build a relationship culture where people are excited to collaborate, they need to build friendships outside of the office.  The workplace is almost impossible to connect on a human level with the constant barrage of problems.  People will often start to resent their co-workers in a high-stress environment….unless you give them a chance to decompress and form a real bond.

 

ThumbsupCollaboration Enhancer No 3: Walk the Walk

As a leader, you can talk about a collaborative environment till you’re blue in the face, but until you walk the walk and actually set the example it’s not going to happen.  Show your team what it looks like to break down silos and form partnerships.  Resist the temptation to speak negatively about other leaders.  You may think your earning credibility with your team, but inside they will just wonder what you are saying about them behind closed doors.  If you build others up, you are pouring a strong foundation for collaboration.  See “A Promise of Positivity” for more on this topic.

 

thumbsdownCollaboration Detractor No 1 – Overuse of CompetitionImage2

Competition can be a great motivator, and should be sprinkled into your reward / gamification programs for variety.  However, the vast majority of the time should be working for ways to bring people together and align toward a common goal.  It’s nice to establish a winner, but in doing so you simultaneously create a larger population of losers.  Your objectives in a contact center are such that everyone should be working together to achieve and win – ultimately helping the customer to win.

 

thumbsdownCollaboration Detractor No 2 – Allowing Negativity to Fester

As Petra Coaching says, “A players will not play with C players for long.”  If there are no consequences for poor performance or negativity among the team, collaboration will fail.  People should be inspired to work at their highest level and respect their peers.  This is nearly impossible if they look around and see agents that are not meeting expectations and nothing is done about it.  Accountability must exist on all levels and be part of the culture.

 

thumbsdownCollaboration Detractor No. 3 – Polarizing Quality Management

Quality Management should be a process in which management and employees identify improvement opportunities together and work on them together.  It should be channel for helpful feedback and building them up as objectives are achieved.  There is a fantastic article by Jeremy Hyde on how to involve you agents and foster collaboration through your quality management process.  Check it out here.

 

Image3We hope these tips will help your team to play in harmony with one another!  Please share anything you’ve done or seen to enhance a spirit of collaboration within the contact center.

 

Return To Customer Centric Support

The post The Key to Great Customer Service: Collaboration appeared first on Customer Centric Support.

]]>
http://customercentricsupport.com/the-key-to-great-customer-service-collaboration/feed/ 0