Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Looking for some magic to motivate the troops?

By: Diane Morneau

Even before considering gamification tooling, managers have at their reach  inexpensive magic to motivate the troops:  exploiting collective passions. With a presentation software, we can associate a project to a trending topic - a sports event, a rising Internet game, a TV show, etc. - and create an ambiance for a project. People get mobilized and connect with each other in a collective passion. Why not spice up a project through the thematic?! Let me share some examples.

We are currently running Olympics to support a global enablement effort. We thought a little competition would be stimulating for this time sensitive delivery - we have 4 continents in the race. As the number of staff differs between locations, the targets are expressed in percentages of the local team, not to create Davids and Goliaths. Using multicolored graphics to report regularly on progress, interest picked very rapidly. Relevance of choice is important. The Olympics model was ideal for this two phase project: the preliminaries focused on the practice while the competitions are focused on the delivery. With the appropriate choice, the model helps the planning and the running of the project: things fall in place more easily.

In the next example, we wanted to enable everyone with knowledge that a few acquired through dealing with critical situations. We wanted the postmortem findings to reach contributors across the globe. Rather than deliver the lessons “dry”, we organized Jeopardy games. We used the data from the post mortems to feed the questions for the game. The games helped reinforce and spread the learning. While two teams faced each other competing for a day off, the game-show format extended the fun and learning to the entire audience.

The thematic can also be used for the sole purpose of creating interesting reporting. A few years back, I used the then-trending "Tiny Tower" game to model the reporting of a five phases re-engineering effort. We built a storyboard scene of a six stories building: the lobby where all participants appeared, one floor per phase and the roof. The participants were Bit-characters dressed in their country flag. During the project, we followed the bitizens progress through the floors, all the way to the much coveted roof. Each country wanting their bitizens up on the roof first, this lead to friendly peer pressure and alliances.

Rewards are most often Corporate provided - merchandise points, time off, or other items alike. Variety helps. In a world where Open badging is picking up in popularity, virtual rewards are increasingly given consideration and may be of interest. In my previous role, I lead a team of account managers who have great autonomy to find ways to personalize their service to bring value to their customers. To celebrate success and inspire others in their actions, I started each team meeting with a Superman slide where bullets highlighted accomplishments to which the contributors would speak. This was the most appreciated part of the meeting. I extended the metaphor by rewarding quarterly a top contributor with a collector comic’s book.

There are a myriad of events with global visibility that managers can choose from. Knowing your team members and their interests outside of work may help set the mood for the magic, else, the wisdom of the crowd can help identify trending topics. Even temporary, this little extra can go a long way to support the team members in developing their relationship and in their project delivery. Create and enjoy the moment!

Diane Morneau, M.Sc.
Manager of Communications, Offerings and Knowledge Development IBM 

Diane worked for several computer manufacturers, in pre- and post-sales’ positions, supporting technological progress and adoption. People-oriented and actively engaged, she assumed teaching, coaching, management and marketing roles. Achieving customer success through teaming, transferring knowledge and finding creative solutions to challenges are her true motivators.

Follow Diane on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Intraday Automation: Modernizing the Contact Center

By Kyle Antcliff

Contact center directors and the analysts who cover issues and trends relevant to the contact center and customer service are aware of the need to modernize and make contact center operations more efficient. So why does it seem that too often business unit leaders, including in marketing, IT and up to the c-Suite and board of directors, do not make the connection between the level of customer service the contact center provides and revenue growth? The answer can be as simple as the traditional role of the contact center has been to only field customer questions after marketing has launched its campaign and generated leads. However, not only have customer interactions become more complex, the contact center now collects volumes of information that can be invaluable to the marketing department during the planning stages of a campaign. Implementing the approach of intraday automation into contact center operations automates monitoring and uses the data to trigger a host of real-time workforce adjustments in response to changing conditions. The result is a real-time workforce that is more productive and delivers a better customer experience vis-a-vis competitors.

Customers expect to be able to interact with the frontline in a store, on the phone, in an online chat window, via email, and across social media platforms expecting immediate help with their questions. Trying to manually oversee interactions across all these channels and raise or lower staffing levels to meet customer demand wastes time, money and is prone to errors. In other words, the frontline has fallen behind the times. The entire operation of contact centers remain reactive and understaffed with undertrained operators. Not surprisingly, according to the Temkin Group, only six percent of companies rate themselves as customer service leaders.

In addition to preventing the frontline from providing excellent customer service, these taxing pressures breed unsatisfied employees, which raises attrition and increases the operating costs as new employees are constantly vetted and trained to replace the steady stream of employees who leave. The contact center needs a new normal that optimizes operations and frontline responders.

Forrester reports that 77 percent of US online adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service (Forrester), so it is critical to focus on improving an agent’s performance, service delivery and efficiency.

Intraday automation technology delivers a means of turning the mountains of data that come in at high-speeds into real-time workforce adjustments.  

Forward-thinking companies once trying to outrun challenges in the contact center can now overcome them and observe the following upsides via intraday automation: 

·         Optimization: Today’s manual monitoring and reactive process impacts costs, agent morale and engagement, and the customer experience. With Intraday Automation, frontline workforces respond in real-time to optimization opportunities. For instance, periods of lower or higher call volume, imbalance across interaction channels, overstaffing, understaffing, and individual adherence issues.  A more agile frontline workforce can adjust throughout the day to deliver a more consistent customer experience.

·         Training: In most contact centers, training and coaching are the first things pulled from an agent’s schedule.  With intraday automation, training is accomplished in response to a dip in customer volume.  In this new mode, a portion of unproductive idle time gets converted into usable time for training, coaching or even back office work.  Agents are prompted to work on assignments but redirected back to customers should demand come back to forecasted levels.  Insurance provider The General used intraday automation and turned what was unproductive idle time into two and a half hours of training time per agent per month without adding headcount or having to manually schedule it.

·         Reduced costs: Overall, businesses face the risk of losing staff and lowered profits in the long-term. A more agile frontline workforce can adjust throughout the day to deliver a dramatically better and more consistent customer experience, at a lower cost. By acting smarter they can allot their financial resources more efficiently through staffing, training, and decreasing agent turnover.

Before intraday automation, contact centers were incapable of responding to the influx of data. As contact centers begin to manage multiple interaction channels, including chat and social, the proliferation of data only increases. For the first time, Intraday Automation enables contact centers to take advantage of the many optimization opportunities that exist throughout the day.
For businesses, the results directly affect business success by creating a sustained, improved level of customer experience, while saving time and money.  

Kyle is a thought leader on how a real-time workforce delivers a better customer experience. Before joining Intradiem, Kyle was Chief Operating Officer at TALENThire (workforce management) where he led the company’s growth and recognition as a Georgia Top 40 Technology Company. Prior to TALENThire, Kyle served as Vice-President International for Marketworks (eCommerce) where he played a key role in the Company's 65% annual growth and acquisition. Kyle graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and holds an MBA from Northwestern's Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Change is Good! Successfully Navigating Change in Your Center

By: Sean Hawkins

Change is inevitable! If you don’t manage it, it will manage you, and the results can be disastrous!  So, what are some ways to successfully navigate change?  This was the key agenda item discussed by contact center thought leaders Sarah Reed, Gerry Barber, Larry Eiser, Brad Cleveland at Contact Center Expo & Conference 2015

What made this session meaningful, besides receiving wisdom from a great panel, was the use of actual case studies.  The panelists were able to describe in detail the methodologies used to bring about change while avoiding some of the primary pain points associated with the change process.

The panel discussed the following four phases to change that must be managed:

  • Denial
  • Resistance
  • Commitment
  • Exploration

Each presents a unique set of behavioral challenges that will hinder effective change.  Emphasis was placed on how to reconcile these behaviors, right the ship, and bring a transformation that is meaningful.  A sentiment shared among the entire panel was to understand change is not a swift process. As Brad stated, “you can’t turn the ship around overnight, but you can start the turn overnight”. This is done by admitting and accepting there is a problem.

Through each step in the cycle of change, the audience was presented with the actual steps the speakers undertook to guide the people and processes.  Examples of the behaviors displayed, and thoughts expressed in each phase were discussed along with some best practices to correctly manage them.

  1. Some particularly noteworthy comments:
  2. Inspire and coach during change
  3. Change is journey, not a destination
  4. Establish your baseline and your vision
  5. Get the right people “on board”
  6. Effective communication with all stakeholders is a must
  7. Celebrate the journey and each milestone

This group of thought leaders gave relevant content that has been tested and utilized throughout their careers. For those going through change, the process became less daunting as a result of this informative session.  Many in the crowd expressed the pleasure in attending and look forward to returning to their respective contact centers with a renewed outlook.

This article originally appeared on ICMI.

Sean is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.
His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" award for Small to Medium-Sized Centers.
Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

How To Deliver A Top-Shelf Customer Service Experience

By: CJ Silva

The customer is always right.  Anyone who’s been in business or worked at a call center knows that the truth can be very, very different.  The secret of successful customer service rests in the customer never being told that, yet being educated about your company’s goals and visions in the process.  Many customers who need help are frustrated because whatever they bought isn't working to their expectations and it's often difficult to channel that frustration into something productive. With a little work and forethought, you can manage to reduce, or even remove, that frustration.

Get to Know Your Customers
The first step in anything is to know what you're getting yourself into. When it comes to customer service, that means getting to know about your customers. How old do they tend to be? Where do they live? What are the most important facets of their lifestyles? Are they mostly students? Families with children? Do you cater to a particular hobby? All of these things may be important in establishing a comprehensive sense of your customer base.

Involvement in social sites is key. Today, just about everyone is on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or any of the other popular social sites. Your company should be there, too. It's not only a great way to interact with your customers directly, it's a way to get to know them.

In a brick-and-mortar store, one way to make customers feel like you care about them is to address them by name when they arrive. You can do something similar even if your business is wholly online by using the information you've learned to personalize your interactions with your customers. When you care about your customers, and understand their needs, that immediately raises the quality of the customer’s experience.

Customer Participation Brings Them Back for More
Using either social sites, or your own website, ask your customers questions. Set up surveys to ask them how they think you're doing. Not all of them will rate your customer service or have ideas about how to improve, but many of them will, and some of their advice is well worth your time.

Consider a place for customer reviews. It's very likely that most people who go to a website to buy something read any available reviews before they make a final decision. Good reviews can make a sale for you better than any ad copy ever will.

Take the time to read all constructive reviews, even (or maybe especially) the ones that aren't so flattering. If you have the opportunity, see if you can find out what went wrong with the poor reviews by contacting those reviewers personally.  Reward them by offering some incentive and talking with them personally.  In fact, reward your customers for being customers, no matter how they have viewed the experience with you.  That interaction can turn even the most jaded ex-customers into brand evangelists.

Offer a Better Web Experience
It goes without saying that your website should be functional. Strictly functional, however, is not a great customer experience. Your site needs to inspire the senses. People respond to appeals to the senses, so if your site is appealing, it will enhance the customer experience.

Another old saying applies here: "A picture is worth a thousand words".  This is especially true when it comes to the limited space available on a webpage. There's only so much space to display what you want your customer to see, so it's important to make that space count. You may not find pictures of your product particular interesting, but most people like to see what they're getting before they take the plunge and buy it.

If you're going to make your website graphically engaging, perhaps even with multiple images per product or different views of what you're offering, you have to make sure your website is up to the challenge. The last thing you want is for customers to move to another website because it takes several minutes for the pictures to pop up.

Do not forget mobile users. Your content should be viewable on any platform, whether laptop computer, desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. There are millions of people who use a phone as their primary access to the internet. Take advantage of that by making your website mobile-friendly. As long as your site is able to load in a few seconds, customers will stay to browse, and when they want to browse your site, that is also a clear sign of a good customer experience.

Staff Matters, Too
A company that is more than one owner is going to need to train staff to better handle customer service. The quality customer experience is directly linked to the person who answers the phone when they call. Taking time out for customer service training is essential, but it doesn't stop there. Offer incentives to representatives who leave the customers feeling better than before they called.

When it comes to top-shelf customer service experience, take some time to think about how you would like to be treated as a customer.  Think about the last purchase that you made and what you’d like your call centers and customer service reps to say if you had to call them.  There is where you can set your own company apart from the rest.

 CJ Silva is VP of Operations at KOVA Corporation.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Power of Now: Secrets of a Successful Customer Journey

By: Sean Hawkins

How well do you know your customers?  I am certain many of us think we know them very well.  We may form our opinions based on recent interactions, feedback, or surveys.  While each of these offers great insight into understanding our customer, they are only chapters in the larger story.

To fully understand your customer you must take an all encompassing view.  Those mentioned above give snapshots and are based on single interactions.  To truly know your customer, you must look beyond a single exchange.  This is the power of the customer journey.  What is the customer journey?  In its simplest form, it the overall customer experience across all touch points within your organization. Justin Robbins, Senior Analyst at ICMI, gave an insightful presentation today at Contact Center Expo and Conference that unlocked the challenges to successfully map the customer journey.

Recognizing the customer journey starts before the contact center interaction, and continues afterwards is of great importance. The contact center represents only a part of the journey, but it’s a focal point for the journey. Justin explained it best when he said “agents own the moment even though they may not be able to deliver”.  There are moments to excel, enlighten and delight that we must capitalize on!

To the public, the service center is the place for issue resolution.  However, within the organization, processes and policy may not allow for this.  This results in agents being ill equipped to provide the best possible service. Before long, agent morale is low and it is only a matter of time before this influences customer experience. We all agree happy agents equal happy customers, but let’s not lose sight of the inverse.

This is why journey mapping is critical to the contact center. Understanding where the inefficiencies are, and working to resolve them, will empower agents and create an experience customers will enjoy.  As highlighted in the session, mapping the journey is not a quick, easy process.  It takes work, time and patience. However, if there is a sincere commitment to excellence in the service department, understanding and improving the journey is a must.

A few items that were mentioned at great length were to:

  • Identify Stakeholders
  • Identify Channels & Touchpoints
  • Understand the emotional journey
  • Create a blueprint
This was a highly attended session with an engaged crowd.  The material presented was excellent and Justin provided clear and concise instructions.  Attendees received a wealth of information and best practices that is certain to ensure their customer journey mapping project is successful.  ICMI and Justin Robbins are to be commended for providing this informative discussion. That Justin was funny, enthusiastic and passionate about the subject matter was icing on the cake!

This article originally appeared on ICMI

Sean is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" award for Small to Medium-Sized Centers.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What Every New Contact Center Leader Should Do

By: Sean Hawkins

A new contact center leader has been brought in to “turn things around”, and most of the staff are not thrilled!  How many of you have experienced this scenario?  It's a common one that most of us have experienced.  Sadly, this transition is not always a smooth one. Feelings are hurt, buy-in may be hard to achieve, and new leaders are often alienated and/or misunderstood.  What is one to do?

Sarah Reed provided sound advice for a new contact center leader that is certain to pay huge dividends. During her one hour session at ICMI’s 2015 Contact Center Expo & Conference in Orlando, Sarah offered up the acronym BFO, or Blinding Flashes of the Obvious.  As she explained, “these aren’t new concepts” instead, they are tried and true methods of leadership that make sense because they work.  In fact, she reiterated that because these steps have proven favorable, they should be repeated.  So, what are these BFO’s?

As you can see, these steps aren’t revolutionary. Yet, they are necessary to help new leaders establish themselves, gain buy-in, and triumphantly integrate into the new team. But, success is in the details! Attendees were offered real world examples of how to practice these steps.  With each point, Sarah was drill down and deliver practical applications. This is where it all came together!

For example, don't merely introduce yourself, but do so through explaining your personality, leadership style, passions and purpose.  What does it mean to lead strong? Sarah suggested volunteering for causes that are dear to the team members and/or the company.  All throughout the session, sound advice and years of experience, wisdom, and best practices were poured into the audience. This resulted in an engaged and motivated crowd eager to set in motion the wealth of knowledge and information given.

To give this presentation “two thumbs up” would be a disservice. Awesome would not be an adequate description.  This session was a must not only for new leaders but all leaders.

This article originally appeared on ICMI.

Sean is a Contact Center manager with over 13 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.

His contact center is a past winner of the ICMI "Global Call Center of the Year" award for Small to Medium-Sized Centers.

Follow on Twitter @SeanBHawkins