Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Charity Makes Organizations Great - Pay it Forward

By Ron Rhodes


Thus far my articles have almost exclusively been dedicated to themes to service my colleagues in the fields of Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and Contact Center management. This writing is not an exception. BPO is a people-intensive industry in which organizations are defined by their ability to attract and retain talented personnel. What kind of company do you want to work for?

People, especially the expanding millennial workforce, respond favorably to organizations with a well-communicated sense of purpose and are led by leaders with progressive insight, vision, and compassion. The importance of charitable activities through which companies and their employees can solve individual problems and have broader community engagement cannot be overstated. Charitable programs add credibility to brand, equal to or beyond that of earnings and dividends. More significantly, they provide unforgettable moments and paint the time people spend with companies as positive experiences with lasting illumination.

Charity is “the voluntary giving of help.” One of the seven virtues, the word charity is often used interchangeably with love. I know this, but I’m not sure where I learned it.

Apartment 3J, 180 Troy Avenue, Albany Projects, Brooklyn, New York. Sometime in the early 1960s, a small boy interrupted his mother to ask if he could stay up a little later and watch The Millionaire, his favorite TV show. Though he couldn’t yet form the words, he found the show’s premise, hopeful and inspiring. His mom said yes and that night for sure there would be no monsters in his closet.

The Millionaire was all about a wealthy philanthropist who, through his agent, a poised, dignified gentleman named, Michael Anthony, would present unsuspecting recipients with “a cashier’s check for one million dollars.” Each unique episode told the story of how this unanticipated charity would help them face mounting challenges in their lives. Somehow their benefactor knew and the doorbell rang just in time. “I’m Michael Anthony…” the visitor always began. He presented the gift and he never left without the subtle suggestion that in time they should “pay it forward.”

Although Robert Fredrick Smith was born in Denver - a long way from Brooklyn - in December of 1962, just a tad late for the show’s original run, I enjoy the speculation that he caught a few of the 206 episodes of The Millionaire as they re-ran on CBS. Whoever knows what experiences give birth to an idea? If not this or not solely this, I am positive of the influence of his Ph.D. parents, both educators, or the fact that his mother carried him in her arms during the 1963 March on Washington. He was not quite 9-months old, but who’s to say that as Dr. Martin Luther King eloquently offered the words, “I have a dream,” young Robert’s soul was not subliminally and permanently touched? If not one of these or any of these then surely the words a young carpenter once spoke in Galilee, “…for this is why I have come.” Mark 1:38.

Whatever his inspiration, on Sunday, May 19th, 2019, investor Robert F. Smith, CEO of Vista Equity Partners, stood in front of the 400-student graduating class of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia and announced that his family was making a grant to pay 100% of their student loans. This is clearly an initiative to help them begin their adult and professional lives without the burden of the department that they were certain to have been pursued by for many years to come. Mr. Smith, of all people, understood the business equation, expedite positive cash flow. The personal equation is even more substantial, however, invest in the asset of infinite possibility, reinforce it with a sense of charity, legacy, and pride. Take this gift, make the most of it and then pay it forward. The world will be a little better for it.

I watched Mr. Smith’s speech on CNN from the Philippines and I was awestruck by the gesture. Between stories of war, starvation and political unrest, between meteorological catastrophes and toxic, immature tweets, a single man made an unselfish investment in the future of people he didn’t even know. Candidly, I have never wished for or am sure I would ever want 4 billion dollars net worth. To prove this, I have exhibited the poorest personal investment and savings habits as the years have gone by. But I do wish and will strive to be as unselfish as I can be on, at least, a relative basis. My life has been a continual trail of blessings and perhaps underserved opportunities so when the man said, “pay it forward,” I applauded. (I also liked the movie.)

So, what now? I’m the General Manager of a small BPO that supplies accounting, healthcare, real estate, technical support, and graphic design services to US companies. Our president and I have been preparing to launch a charitable grant program for our employees to help them with their personal challenges. This can be anything from unanticipated medical expenses to the restoration of property loss and personal debt. I had the honor of helping to launch and administrate a similar program in another company and I know, first hand, the rewards of being on the giving end of Robert F. Smith moments, though a little smaller in stature.

Charity makes organizations great. While mob mentality and bad intentions can be contagious. The effects are usually short term and often a cause for deep regret in later life. Human kindness and generosity, however, are compelling and irreversible life-long influences. As leaders in our industry, regardless of your role, you can have a profound impact on the character of your organization and the advancement of mankind, one person at a time. Remember, you yourself are the recipient of the hopes, prayers and good intentions of so many others. Pay is forward.
 
 
 
Passionate about mentoring and developing the industry’s future leaders, in 2000, Ron authored Fundamentals of Call Center Management, a guide intended to help entry level managers, as they begin to master their craft. Having spent 20 years with category leaders, American Express, Nestle, Moore Business Forms (now RR Donnelly) and Comcast, Ron's background includes an additional 10 years of key global BPO assignments with TeleTech, Convergys, Stream, STARTEK and now Connext. Ron's international experience includes stints in Jamaica, Canada and currently the Philippines.
Connect: LinkedIn 
 

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Magic of Trust

By Gail Meintjies


This article was originally published on LinkedIn.
 
I can’t stand being micro-managed. It drives me mad. I can’t stand doing things without knowing why they must be done. Just going through the motions because that’s what the job entails doesn't work for me. I work extremely well under pressure. If there’s a short deadline or an overwhelming challenge, that’s when I perform at my peak.

That’s me; I know my strengths and I know what makes me tick.

I’ve been part of many teams, and I’ve led a good number of teams over the years, and this is what I’ve learned – one size does not fit all.

We don’t all enjoy autonomy or work well under pressure. Some people prefer to do what they are asked without challenging the routine.

And that’s okay.

When I’ve gone into a new team, started my own team, or taken over a team, I have one rule that I go by.

I don’t want to hear the gossip, or the technology glitches, or even the issues the team had with their previous leader.

When I meet a new team member, the first thing I want to know is who they are. What their goals are, what pushes them over the edge, what inspires them, how they function.

Building trust

According to Forbes
, problems that most teams experience are as a result of a lack of trust. This includes poor performance, a lack of commitment and tension.

The common definition of trust is having a firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone.

If you do not take the time to get to know your team members, personally, there is no way to understand their reliability, their truth, or their ability.

Here are some tips from Forbes on how best to get to know your team members:
  • Listen: Ask questions in personal meetings, as well as in a broader forum. Listen without judgement, listen to learn and understand. Take notes, either mentally or after your meeting, because in this way you remember more. When next you’re meeting with that person, connect with something you’ve learned about them.
  • Be Brave: The best way to learn about what inspires and motivates people, is to share your own story and experiences, and share your interests, fears and goals. When team members see that you are genuine, they will be willing to trust you.
  • Work with the Team: Whether you’re a leader or a team member, one of the best ways to show individuals that you’re truly interested in them, is to spend time in their space, with their permission. People generally enjoy sharing what they are doing and showing others what they know. It will boost their morale and again show them that you’re really interested in who they are.
  • Recognition: Appreciation is a fundamental human need – not only does it show team members that the work they are doing is appreciated, it shows them that they are valued.
Guidelines for building trust and connecting are always helpful, but there’s one thing that I believe must be present, and that’s being genuine. These actions need to be done with genuine intent, genuine willingness to learn and understand, genuine want to connect with people.
 
When you truly understand your team members, you can appreciate their actions and reactions in the situations they face, and you will be equipped to journey with them through the trials and tribulations, in a way that is meaningful to them.
 
In a work environment I believe that it takes perseverance and hard work to create a trusting environment, and that the work begins with me.
 
 
Gail Meintjies is a skilled Customer Service professional, offering 12 years’ dedicated experience in the banking industry and 4 years’ earlier experience in journalism. Her background is rich in mentorship, coaching and training, and the consistent delivery of exceptional customer service.

Committed to process improvement, and possessing excellent problem solving skills, Gail has the inherent ability to identify situational needs and provide rational and intelligent solutions. Her exceptional organisational skills, attention to detail, and self-motivation, enable Gail to manage multi-levelled workloads with diligence and focused precision. 

Connect: LinkedIn
 





Thursday, May 2, 2019

Why We Need Less Leadership

By Kathryn Frankson

Ok, ok so we still need leadership. But, as someone who just wrapped an Experienced Manager training I'm now convinced that we actually need more management. Even typing that feels a bit underwhelming because management conjures up thoughts of scheduling, status reports and approving PTO; however, when done right management is truly the catalyst for achieving business outcomes. Why? Because management is exactly 3 things: 
  1. Clarifying the Objective
  2. Creating a Plan to Meet the Objective
  3. Facilitating the Plan
People are fundamentally motivated by understanding what they need to do every day and having the resources and trust to do so.
 
And as someone who recently shifted into a new role with a new team and new projects, this was a timely reminder.
 
It's easy to get swept up and anchored in the positives of leadership, because there are many. Leaders influence culture, leaders drive change, leaders have vision and clarity which motivates others to follow.
 
But to execute strategy and unite teams, especially as we all take on more, faster, in an ever-changing market, the need for banding collaborators together with clarity around objectives and a road map to get there...is more important than ever.


Kathryn Frankson is a B2B event sales and marketing professional at UBM. A believer that 2019 communication means knowing how to get the markets attention through thumb stopping content, audience development and storytelling, she executes sales and marketing strategies in the catering, food service and special event space.

Connect: LinkedIn 

 
 



Wednesday, May 1, 2019

5 Ways Tomorrow's Contact Center Will Deliver Value

By: Andrew Gilliam


Imagine what the world will be like after you've checked off every box on your customer experience to-do list. Pre-purchase anxiety no longer exists, thanks to careful messaging and word of mouth. Product issues are eliminated at their root-cause, before goods leave the factory. Service failures are anticipated, and recovery is automatic. Customer journeys are frictionless and fault-tolerant, because they were meticulously studied, optimized, and fortified. Contact centers played a vital role in bringing your organization to this paradise, but will they still relevant? Yes, more than ever!

This article explores the contribution of contact centers towards the end of an organization's customer experience journey. Their mission, methods, and role within a company will change dramatically, but important work will continue to happen in the contact center. These fives ways are just the beginning of how tomorrow's contact centers will continue to drive value.

Proactive Engagement
Today's contact center mission is painfully reactive. Customers experience a problem, and they call. Customers have a question, and they chat. Customers are overwhelmed, and they tweet at us. With so many customers to help, it's hard to imagine making more work for ourselves. In the future, that's exactly what we'll do. As companies perfect the customer journey, the problems, questions, and uncertainty that contact centers mitigate will disappear. Instead, they'll focus on a more noble purpose: engagement. Contact centers will be freed up for post-purchase check-ins and follow-ups that nurture relationships instead of repairing broken ones. Contact centers will always be the face of the organization they serve, but tomorrow's contact centers will be friends instead of repairmen.

Community Building
Online support communities are nothing new; they originally promised to reduce support costs by relying on customers to help each-other. Many companies have online forums, but most have become ghost-towns where pleas for help go to die. Ubiquiti Networks' community-driven success demonstrates the full potential of customer communities. They don't provide traditional phone or chat support for most of their enterprise networking products, which helps them to offer disruptively low prices. Instead, customers go to the online support forum for help, where they interact with other customers and senior Ubiquiti engineers (who actually built the products in question). Ubiquiti representatives also have a strong presence in third-party communities and on social media. They're not there to sell, Ubiquiti's existing customers take care of that.

As customer journeys are refined, root-causes are solved, and automation steps in, the mission of tomorrow's contact center will shift away from near-term resolutions to long-term relationship building. With their day job out of the way, contact center professionals will refocus their creativity and skills towards building strong customer communities.

Harnessing Unstructured Feedback
Through engagement and community building activities, there's no doubt that tomorrow's contact center professionals will be exposed to an abundance of feedback. The unstructured feedback gathered from these activities will prove to be some of the organization's most valuable knowledge, provided it's leveraged effectively. Capturing, structuring, and applying these lessons learned will largely fall on contact center leaders close to the front-line. Unlike traditional market research, companies will gain insight into how products actually perform in wild, uncontrolled environments.

Product Development
Contact center professionals have always had to be experts in the products, services, and markets they support. In the future, smart organizations will use the in-house expertise from their contact center to design, refine, and promote their products. Not only will the contact center be an invaluable test bed, but they'll be the inspiration for future product and service offerings. Front-line contact center employees are closest to market demand, they interact with it daily. Solutions generated in the contact center will be at the forefront of the product lineup.

Content Marketing
Content generation is currently relegated to a few artsy interns in the marketing department. It can be an effective way to share a message and build a reputation, but it's time consuming and won't always hit the mark with customers. Worse, it can come across as being too "on-message" or lacking in personality. As demand for content increases, tomorrow's contact centers will step up to the challenge with renewed passion. Contact center professionals often have untapped talents and creativity. Paired with their deep knowledge about customer needs and challenges, they'll create content faster and more effectively while making sure customers have a laugh along the way.



Andrew Gilliam is a passionate customer experience innovator and change agent. He’s developed new employee portals, created effective surveys, and built silo-busting escalation systems. Andrew’s background in Information Technology put him on the front-lines of customer service as an IT Support Center Analyst. His vision: deliver Amazing Customer Service and Technical Support™.

Learn more at andytg.com, follow @ndytg on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Listen to Your Heart (or your calls)

By Diana Aviles


I’ve chatted with speech analysts from all walks of life. They speak many languages and are versed in different speech analytics solutions. Despite the fact there are some differences in approaches, we can all agree on the one thing, we consistently struggle to get our organizations to understand: you still need to listen to the calls.

I can bucket, categorize and query the life breath out of everything you need, but at the end of the day it does not absolve you from some type of manual listening. I am notorious for saying that our goal in speech analytics is to help make insights easier to obtain- not outright replace human listening.

What good is a category or query to an organization, if you have no context outside of those key terms and phrases it was programmed with? How do you know if a process is successful, or if it is failing, if you aren’t engaged with the actual agent and customer interaction? What actionable intelligence are you getting from static data? Very little to none. But, you can change that.

Speech Analytics (SA) is an extremely interactive process. It is very exciting to get your hands dirty and discover all sorts of wild stuff you never would’ve found without SA. Sometimes it may feel like it takes forever, but simply adjusting your perspective to see it as being for the greater good of your organization will brighten your outlook and reveal vast benefits. Listening to 100-200 calls certainly will not injure you. There are different strategies on how to create listening studies that are effective and efficient at any size.

The aspect of SA that makes us awesome, is that we can pull insights from data and have the flexibility to further think outside the box, while exploring those insights on a deeper level than our more structured data contemporaries. Speech Analytics is about tying together trends to tell a story, that can help an organization make business decisions. You are doing yourself a big disservice, if you are just sitting around building out queries, and running reports without trying to take a peek at the bigger picture.

So please, do yourself a favor and listen to your calls. I promise you it's worth every second of time you invest in it. 


Diana Aviles is a long time speech analytics fan with a specialty in Nexidia Interaction Analytics. 

She is a vocal speech analytics advocate with the primary objective to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Connect: LinkedIn

Monday, April 22, 2019

Work Ethic, Attendance Management, Mom and The Mrs.

By Ron Rhodes 

There is a quote I enjoy from Reginald F. Lewis, the Baltimore-born CEO/Investor whose life provided so many early inspirational lessons for me. Mr. Lewis once said,

“The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately,”
words that bring to mind a belief that seems to have faded with the 20th Century.

The belief I refer to is often described as work ethic which, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a set of values centered on the importance of doing work and reflected especially in a desire or determination to work hard.” Your Dictionary.com adds this: “an example of someone with work ethic is a person who gets to work on time every day and always works long days to get the job done.” All of my sources describe work ethic as “a moral good.” It is in it and through it that one can achieve prosperity and enduring emotional reward.

These days, however, given the perpetual advancement of time saving technology and the pursuit of work-life balance, burning the midnight oil should not be considered a (work ethic) requirement. It should suffice that you are willing to do what is needed, when it is needed, but if you don’t need to stay in the office, by all means, go home, hug your kids and pet your dog. Do you want to have and be recognized for having a good work ethic? Of course, you do. So, show up consistently and punctually and when you do, do good work. I learned that from the late great Mamie Rhodes (miss you Mom).

But our purpose here is to share thoughts about the management of employee attendance. Beginning this way served only to illustrate that work ethic is the metaphorical parent of attendance related behaviors. You’ll likely agree that attendance is the first and most controllable employment essential because without it, nothing else really matters.

My wife manages a team of customer service professionals within a large Philippine-based BPO (Business Process Outsourcer). One of the (hopefully many) advantages of our life partnership is that she is entitled to a sort of informal professional mentoring (free of charge) where she may seek my advice and either take it or suggest what else I might consider doing with it. 😊 Thankfully, she does acknowledge that I have a great deal of practical experience in BPO and contact center operations. I may, on occasion, share valuable insight that could help her as she advances. Alas, she is Filipina and quite direct so she doesn’t really put it that way. She just says I’m old so I should know stuff by now.

A frequent topic of discussion for us is basic attendance management and why it has become so difficult over the years. I’ll get to my theories and suggestions, but first it seems important to review why staff attendance is so important in a BPO/contact center setting. Start with pricing. Forget the ideals for the moment. The fact is that BPO pricing is typically based on transaction quantity, but more customarily, some increment of time; per minute, per hour, paid or productive. This is almost always measured by modern automation. It follows that if employees don’t show up when scheduled, you (the BPO) may not bill for that time or those transactions while you are still saddled with most or all of the employment expenses. From a purely business standpoint, this is not sustainable over a long period.

Next, there are a chain reaction of negative service issues associated with poor employee attendance. You will likely be understaffed, resulting in queues or other work-related backlogs, client dissatisfaction and threats to business stability.

Finally, there is the spiraling decline of morale within your department and the fact that behaviors, positive or negative, can be contagious. This is especially true when recognition, where positive, or accountability, where negative, are either, not present or consistently applied.

I have seen and heard of all kinds or practices and devices intended to drive compliance with attendance policies; from “perfect attendance bonuses” where employees accept jobs and then are paid extra to come to that job; to actually making daily calls to (I emphasize) adult employees during which you remind them of their schedule and seek confirmation that they will honor it. Both of these have questionable foundation. One says that we do not expect or feel we have a right to a workforce with a strong work ethic; therefore, we will pay extra and hope the incentive drives the behavior. The other is a bit more dangerous because it allows little balance on the accountability scale. The manager not only owns developing employees, but is expected to literally coddle them as if they were small children. Personally, I would be offended if my manager continually called me just to remind me to come to work…and not because the call wakes me up. The very power source of a strong work ethic is pride.

I suppose I am also not a fan of elaborate attendance point systems with challenges and buy backs. And of the approach many organizations take to scrutinizing and validating medical excuses (people in the industry know exactly what I mean). I guess you could say that I’m old school. Establish a policy based on a fair and reasonable definition of excessive absenteeism and then the chair is either empty or it isn’t. I would trust and respect all reasons for unplanned absences so a note from your doctor is not necessary. I would simply manage excessive absenteeism and patterns of abuse. Again, the chair is either empty or it isn’t.

As far as managing attendance, I advise my wife to be proactive. Have sincere and direct discussions with your team members. By this I mean that directness and sincerity have to be a two-way street. This is not a time for Facebook or emails. During these discussions three (3) things should happen: 1) The importance and rationale around attendance policy (or schedule) adherence should be clarified. 2) Compliance expectations should be clearly set and 3) If a particular employee has attendance challenges, openness and honesty should be encouraged with the hope of discovering and addressing the root cause. Then be consistent. Say what you mean and do what you say. This expectation will become culture over time.

Yes, there are occasionally reasons that employees are unable to come to work, but then they are 23 years old. I figure if I can bring my sore from old sports injuries, diabetes and high cholesterol managing self into work regardless of what time of the day or the week I’m scheduled, someone considerably younger has a much better shot. This is about choice and character, after all, is the sum total of the choices we make in life.

 
 
Passionate about mentoring and developing the industry’s future leaders, in 2000, Ron authored Fundamentals of Call Center Management, a guide intended to help entry level managers, as they begin to master their craft. Having spent 20 years with category leaders, American Express, Nestle, Moore Business Forms (now RR Donnelly) and Comcast, Ron's background includes an additional 10 years of key global BPO assignments with TeleTech, Convergys, Stream, STARTEK and now Connext. Ron's international experience includes stints in Jamaica, Canada and currently the Philippines.

Connect: LinkedIn 
 
 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Agile Customer Service

By Gail Meintjies
 
 

This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

When it comes to serving customers, these projects need to start with the consumer needs and work back to the technology and software that should be in place to cater to these needs.

In conjunction with this, any organization needs to understand its DNA and adopt a passionate customer-centric approach throughout, to gain customer buy-in.

Creating Agile Customer Care

By focusing from the outside in, working with collaborative teams, and adopting an Agile project management approach, organizations can use Agile customer care to:

  • Achieve fewer break downs;
  • Boost first contact resolution;
  • Assist customers to help themselves find solutions to simple problems;
  • Streamline processes and software to suit the customer rather than stick to legacy systems.
One of the most important aspects of new age project management is to ensure Agile distribution. According to Accenture, the five main characteristics of Agile distribution are:
  • Offering customers what they need, not what the business has. This is done by personalizing products and services;
  • Replacing complex distribution processes and continually adjusting offerings as the market dictates;
  • Transforming fixed costs, such as paying rent, into variable costs and investing savings into revenue-generating opportunities, such as purchasing start-ups;
  • Combining physical and digital channels to gain more market share;
  • Making channel decisions quickly and often, based on customer needs and market demands.
 
It is imperative that organizations move outside their usual social media circles in the digital distribution playing field, and come up with unique initiatives to grow their consumer base.

 
An Agile Workforce

Organizations lose billions by investing in digital solutions that are not accepted by employees or customers. Ingenious solutions and marketing ideas that are aligned to actual customer demands, are nothing, without the buy-in of employees. The Agile teams in place need to hold skills and traits such as:
  • Collaboration
  • Effective and efficient communication
  • Fast execution
  • Flexibility
  • Discipline
  • Taking accountability and responsibility
SCRUM masters need to be leading their teams by placing their focus on becoming the best they can be, while Agile coaches must be in place to help the teams that need to apply the Agile practices, do so effectively. They need to be there to review what has gone well and what needs more work, and to get the support of employees’ managers.

This can be done with the help of the product owners creating a compelling vision of the project, and communicating it to employees and their managers, to obtain that buy-in from the beginning.

HR need to step in and consistently explore ways in which to create an Agile growth strategy for the business and its employees.

According to a Harvard Business Review study, businesses need to attract employees who go after innovative opportunities passionately instead of sticking to what they know.

One thing is clear – customer centricity should be engrained in a business’ culture from the very beginning, and the right teams should be employed to move the business forward.

 
Organizations lose billions by investing in digital solutions that are not accepted by employees or customers.

 
Building Agility for the Customer

By definition, Agile is an iterative development methodology that values human communication and feedback, adapts to changes, and produces working results.

By incorporating working software, and using customer data analysis and collaboration effectively, Agile businesses can stay ahead of their competition simply because they are catering to their customer’s needs.

However, despite the relevance of software making the user interaction simpler, it’s critical for organizations to realize the importance of the human interaction element throughout the Agile journey.

Software that is used to collect customer interaction data effectively, means that each consumer is met with a personalized approach. In some instances, software can be used to direct the customer requirement to a specific person or area within a business, providing consumers with the best advice they can get.

 
It's critical for organizations to remember the importance of the human interaction element throughout the Agile journey.


According to Brand Embassy (www.brandembassy.com), a 2017 study shows that a staggering 70% of 18 – 24 year olds have stated that brands which fail to personalize their communication and interactions, will lose them as a customer.

Personally having 12 years’ experience in the banking industry, Accenture’s view that retail banks are in a fortunate position to be ahead in the Agile approach, makes sense to me.

Unlike digital-only or physical-only (think online stores and retail stores without online distribution means), retail banks have both a digital and physical presence. Digital platforms such as self-service banking where a client can open an account online, make payments, and get feedback on simple solutions; are already in place. At the same time, customers can visit physical branches. In using both platforms, branches may need to revamp their approach, but are fortunate to not have to build from the bottom.

The more prominent banks have a large amount of customer data at their fingertips which allows the testing of real-world scenarios. This creates the space for banks to define the markets, products and customers they wish to target; even creating personas in the marketing space.

Banks can purchase start-up capabilities or invest in integrating white-labels into their value chains, and in so doing, cater for the fast-paced market changes.
 
It’s important to realize that organizations should seek Agility in customer service not only by being Agile in one area, but by adopting a multi-dimensional approach.

By having a very personal, in-depth understanding of customers; embedding a customer-centric culture; and investing in and empowering team players to be innovative; organizations will continue to move forward.
 
 
Gail Meintjies is a skilled Customer Service professional, offering 12 years’ dedicated experience in the banking industry and 4 years’ earlier experience in journalism. Her background is rich in mentorship, coaching and training, and the consistent delivery of exceptional customer service.

Committed to process improvement, and possessing excellent problem solving skills, Gail has the inherent ability to identify situational needs and provide rational and intelligent solutions. Her exceptional organisational skills, attention to detail, and self-motivation, enable Gail to manage multi-levelled workloads with diligence and focused precision. 

Connect: LinkedIn

 

Monday, April 15, 2019

Women Leadership & Customer Experience

By Stacy Sherman (MBA, CX Certified)
 
 

This article originally appeared on Doing CX Right

There’s an increasing amount of conversations about Women and Leadership, and I love it! I believe that the next generation, including my own daughter, will have more opportunities to share their voice, without judgments, and pursue jobs that had been traditionally filled by men.

I’M WRITING THIS ARTICLE FOR TWO REASONS:

1. TO ENCOURAGE PEOPLE, ESPECIALLY WOMEN, TO BUILD THEIR SKILLS AND FOCUS ON A CAREER IN THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FIELD.

CX is not a fad. It’s here to stay and reputable companies are seeking expertise. Voxpro interviewed five women leaders who talk about the need for females in high-level customer-focused roles. I couldn’t agree more. You can read about what the ladies had to say in an informative article: “Why We Need More Women Leaders in CX.”

2. TO INSPIRE WOMEN TO PURSUE THEIR PASSIONS.

I’ve learned a lot over the past 20 years working in large and small companies. I know first hand the challenges in pursuing a career while balancing parenthood. I am elated that more companies are committed to creating a culture where women matter and employee diversity is valued. Below is a recap of a recent interview of me in honor of International Women’s History month. I hope it serves as inspiration for all my readers.
Source: Schindler Elevator Corp
 

INTERVIEW SUMMARY:

Q: EXPLAIN WHAT YOU DO IN YOUR ROLE.

A: I’m currently the Director of Customer Experience, leading a team focused on delivering best-in-class Customer Excellence and Employee Engagement that serves as a brand differentiator. My role includes establishing & implementing innovative Voice of Customer (VOC) initiatives that provide a deep understanding of how customers interact & feel across all touch points. I’m also leveraging data, including Voice of Employee (VOE) feedback, to enhance customer journeys, and collaborating with cross-team to “close the loop” resulting in record high customer Net Promoter (NPS)scores.

Q: WHY IS GENDER EQUALITY IMPORTANT?

A: Gender equality is important because all people deserve access to the same resources and opportunities. If two individuals with similar skills &  education apply for the same job or promotion, there should be no difference in the evaluation process. Unfortunately, equality has not been the case over time and I’ve witnessed this. I am very glad there is now a cultural shift so that my kids benefit in positive ways.

Q: WHAT HAVE YOU OVERCOME TO GET WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

A: I have overcome “inclusion” situations in past workplaces. For example, there’s been a multitude of times that I was not invited to all male meetings, even when my level or related positions were in the room and topics pertained to my job. I’ve overcome challenges by communicating tactfully with people and articulating the value I bring, so they’d understand my perspective and need for inclusion. While self-advocacy is not easy, it is essential and a contributing factor for my success.

Q: WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO THE NEXT GENERATION OF WOMEN ASPIRING TO GET ADVANCE THEIR CAREERS?

A: I encourage everyone, especially women, to communicate openly and honestly, and deal with uncomfortable situations head-on versus an avoidance approach. Be impeccable with your words and choose the right moments to contribute. You have 2 ears and 1 mouth. Use them accordingly. Also, always be learning and advancing your skills through formal and informal education. I obtained my MBA years ago but continue to get certifications from prestigious institutions to sustain my position as a credible thought leader. (Read more about my Rutgers CX Course)

Q: WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST PIVOTAL PIECE OF ADVICE YOU’VE RECEIVED IN YOUR CAREER?

A: There will ALWAYS be obstacles. Know what you can control and focus your time and effort on those things. People often say “No” without even thinking about situations, but there IS a path to “Yes!” Be creative and figure it out!


Q: DO YOU HAVE A FEMALE ROLE MODEL THAT HELPED YOU GET TO WHERE YOU ARE TODAY?

A: Executive Director Stacey Aaron-Domanico from my former job at Verizon, taught me about leadership and authenticity through her actions and words. We are still connected, and she inspires me to be amazing and genuine in everything I do.
If you like my article, please subscribe to DoingCXRight to continue getting updates. And, join the conversations about customer experience, employee engagement and much more on Twitter & Instagram.

Stacy Sherman is a results-oriented Customer Experience (CX) and Digital Marketing professional with a proven track record increasing brand awareness, sales, and loyalty at B2C & B2B companies of all sizes and budgets.

She’s worked on both the client side and agency environments leading projects for reputable brands (Martha Stewart Crafts, American Girl, Perler Beads) along with well-known Telcom companies (AT&T and Verizon). Stacy is a Founding CX Board Member and Advisor at Rutgers University.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Removing The Training Wheels - Self Service Solutions in Speech Analytics

By Diana Aviles


I feel like I often say, “One of the biggest challenges in speech analytics is...” in many of my pieces since there are so many moving parts in what we do. From getting the SA program launched, to maintaining the program so that the organization continues to see value in the investment- it’s all a challenge.

However, something to think about is how you want your SA program to sustain itself in the long run. Sometimes it seems easier to keep all the knowledge on how to utilize the tool to yourself, but I have found that organizations who operate like this find themselves with very burnt-out speech analysts since what often happens is they become inundated with countless requests. They start feeling like the nerdy kid in school who the popular kids only talk to when they want to copy their algebra homework. So how do you reduce this? With self-service solutions.

What does “self-service solutions” mean? Well, it means that you and your team will have to get comfortable with teaching people who are interested in utilizing speech insights on how they can produce those results on their own. It might mean you have to decline certain requests, but kindly offer a 30 minute consulting call to show them how they can run the report on their own. You can also see if you may host a bi-weekly, one-hour “Ask us Anything” type of call, with your most frequent requesters, to see what kind of things they are interested in looking at. “You wanna see AHT? Sure, we can show you how to run a report that shows this, and we can even set it to indicate outliers if you would like.” “You want to see how often an agent uses the proper closing greeting filtered-down by supervisor? Absolutely, we can show you how to set that up.” This allows you to get an idea on what the organization actually cares about so that you and your team can aim to be as proactive as possible with your insights.

Also, by establishing self-sufficiency it will help alleviate the workload from your folks so that you can better focus on all the cool types of studies that you’re dying to do. It also helps maintain value by having more than a select few people know how to use the tool. Remember, at the end of the day as speech analysts you should be aiming to spread the word about speech analytics as much as possible. You should be looking to always share your experiences with other people. Those experiences often turn into valuable insights that improve ROI. Heck, even in my new role, I find myself still learning new tricks from my colleagues because each of our experiences with speech analytics is unique.

Ultimately, this boils down to a culture thing. If your organization’s culture is one where no one wants to step out of their comfort zone, unfortunately there's not much you can do to fix that, but it is worth trying to put it out there and see who bites. I can guarantee you there is at least one person in your organization who would jump at the chance to see how the magic happens with speech analytics.


Diana Aviles Senior Speech Analytics Consultant, Wells Fargo

Diana has been working in speech analytics for 8 years with a specialty in Nexidia Interaction Analytics.  She is a vocal speech analytics advocate with the primary objective to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer experience.

Follow Diana on LinkedIn.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

All About the Feels? Why Emotion Plays a Critical Role in CX Success

By Cohan Daley



“Feel the feels”, “all about the feels”. Whether you love it or hate it, this phrase highlights a key point about digital communication. Customers are increasingly turning to self-service, chatbots or messaging apps, but while digital channels may be replacing voice for some interactions, how your customers feel about interacting with your brand is more important than ever. 
 
In the words of Maya Angelou, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And actually, isn’t this as true of customer experience as it is our relationships with friends, family and colleagues?
 
Yet our industry as a whole is still failing when it comes to meeting customers’ emotional needs.
 
The 2018 Temkin Experience Rankings raised alarm bells for the industry when it reported that just 7 percent of 10,000 consumers who took part in the research said they felt good about their interactions with brands.
 
Why does this matter?
 
There are numerous studies which demonstrate that emotion is critical to a brand’s bottom line. I’ve provided just a few examples below:
  • Organisations that optimise emotional connections outperform their competitors by 26 percent in gross margin and 85 percent in sales growth (Gallup, Customer Satisfaction doesn’t Count)
  • 63 percent of customers with positive feelings about a company will remain loyal, while 74 percent will go a step further and advocate for the brand (Customer Think)
  • Best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one (Forrester)
  • Emotionally-engaged customers are three times more likely to recommend and repurchase, less price sensitive and less likely to buy from a competitor (Harvard Business Review)
Emotion trumps success and effort when it comes to building long-term customer loyalty. So what makes your customers feel good about dealing with you? The foundation of good customer experience is making it enjoyable (not just easy) for them to complete their journey with you. It’s vital that your customer journey planning takes this into account:
  • Ensure that you are investing in customer experience from your customer’s perspective rather than making it fit your internal systems and processes – and remember that understanding customer feelings about your service is essential at key stages in the process. While it is vital to capture the behavioural elements of the customer, emotion is a crucial part of the picture
  • Design customer interactions that engage with customers at the most critical times in their journeys with a message that connects emotionally and is delivered through their preferred channel
  • Gain executive buy-in by creating a direct link between emotionally-engaged customers and desired business outcomes
It might look straightforward but most CX professionals know how hard it is to follow these precepts. It starts with understanding your customers, planning the customer journey based on the real-life needs and motivations of these customers and removing the technology barriers to implementing these journeys. Many brands have invested in legacy systems that operate in silos and it can be difficult to join these up to provide the seamless experiences that your customers crave.

People are struggling to access the assets they need in their existing platforms and alongside their on-premise systems. West is embracing cloud-based platforms like UCaaS, CPaaS, and CCaaS so we can help our customers pull all the systems they need together. Over the last year we’ve focused on creating a cloud-based contact centre platform that allows us to move capabilities in and out of business systems, while providing a 360-degree view of the customer.
 
Feel the same way as we do?
 
At West we’re passionate about delivering technology solutions that enable emotional connections, whether by empowering agents to empathise with customers, by offering joined up omnichannel journeys, or by allowing customers to self-serve if they want to. If you want to build emotional connections with your customers, then download our expert guide, Why Eemotional Connections Are Vital to Delivering Outstanding Customer Experiences, which includes a wealth of practical advice.
 
 

Cohan Daley, UK&I Acquisition Country Lead, West Unified Communication Services
 
Cohan is a highly-motivated, energetic and accomplished professional armed with a keen knowledge of Customer experience and Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) A graduate of Reading University, his Neuroscience degree led to his interest in data science, A.I. and Machine Learning. And Cohan's passion for sharing his knowledge was recognised by ICMI who included him in their Top 50 Contact Centre Thought Leaders on Twitter in 2014.
 
At West he has built a strong internal following for his talent to use available data and information, internal resources and creative thinking to successfully create commercial opportunities. He built the company's Customer Experience practice in EMEA, an achievement which was recognised by his promotion to UK&I Acquisition Country Lead in 2019. In his spare time Cohan has a real passion for sport and enjoys spending time with his children and family. Cohan is highly competitive and trains in mixed martial arts and boxing disciplines.
 
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