Friday, November 11, 2016

Is “Tired Of Trying” An Excuse Not To Innovate?

By Ray Stasieczko
Article reposted with permission

I was talking with a friend the other day and realized just how infectious complacency is within organizations that stifle ideas and squash team members’ enthusiasms. These organizations have pushed their best asset — their people — into what I call the “Tired of Trying Zone.”
It seems that all organization large or small believe they are innovative, cutting edge or some other tired phrase. The reality is innovative organizations are not the norm, and most organization won’t get out of their own way. The very essence of the term “innovative organization” means its people are innovative. So why is it that organizations spend more time deciding how not to do something than doing something? When you look at technology-born organizations, such as Facebook, Google or Netflix, the companies born after the 1990s, you see a stark difference in how the work force feels toward innovative thinking. Here’s why
Frankly it’s disturbing to see great people so disgusted with their organization’s attitude toward innovations they simply stop trying. Some reading this will say it’s their own fault; they should quite go somewhere and be appreciated. I must admit I think that way most of the time, as well. However, sometimes current life circumstances make that decision much more complicated for some.
So let’s blame the leadership, After all, if these leaders instead searched for better ways, they would welcome new ideas instead of slamming the door. They would force their lower-level managers to explore better ways, not simply manage older ways. Some organizations are so focused on “the way it is,” because they are only compensated on “the way it is.” What if organizations actually compensated their people to not only manage “what it is,” but also imagine what it could be?
I believe it’s time for the imagination bonus plan. Come on, leaders. Use your imagination and develop a program that rewards the team to think of ways to innovate. Then those great people won’t utter that dreadful commentary, “We’ll never do that,” or “We take forever to do something different,” or “I’m not going to say anything; it’s useless.”
In today’s changing world, organizations must invest the time and resources in addressing the way it’s going to be. The RD departs of the past move too slowly and usually carry the weight of outdated policies. It’s time that legacy organizations innovate their policies and their attitudes about how they look for and bring back the future – allowing them to prosper even more today.
Everyone that works in the company should also be members of the R&D department. The amount of information available today is staggering. Today’s leaders must figure out how to manage an overload of ideas from their teams, instead of following outdated management practices that teach teams not to care.
In closing; to leaders who believe their team cares about the company’s future more than a pay check, you’re delusional. That is, unless you’re a leader who actually pays the team to look to the future. If you’re one of those organizations, kudos to you.

MY CREATIVITY and passion for innovation has inspired my career and continues to guide where I go and what I do. Over the last four decades, I have had both success and failure. I have built things from strictly imagination to successful implementation. I started my working life in the grocery business over 40 years ago. From the aisles of the grocery store I went on to serve in the U.S. Army as a Military Police Officer and after serving three years and receiving an honorable discharge I found my way back to the grocery business. At the age of twenty-two I held the position as one of the youngest store managers in Winn-Dixie history. In the late 80’s I joined Lanier Worldwide Tampa Florida. I quickly excelled in the industry, eventually built and sold my interest in two Office Equipment Dealerships in Wichita Kansas. In 2014 my wife Liz and I relocated to Nashville where I joined ImageQuest as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, In that roll, I oversee every aspect of ImageQuest’s service delivery platform. I also enjoy my new hobby of writing about the experiences I’ve had in life, and business.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Moments of Truth in Problem Resolution

By: Debbie Szumylo

In every organization there are critical customer interactions known as “moments of truth.”  A moment of truth is defined as: “a time when a person or thing is tested, a decision has to be made, or a crisis has to be faced.” “Moments of truth” can result in a really great, memorable experience, or one that doesn’t meet the customer’s expectation and leaves them angry and frustrated.

One of the “moments of truth” that can provide the greatest opportunity to strengthen the relationship with a customer is problem resolution. Seems odd, doesn’t it? However, consistent, exceptional responses to problems cannot only resolve the problem, but turn into such a great experience that your customer remembers it for years to come.

The degree to which a customer was satisfied with the resolution of their problem is a huge factor in their overall engagement. Customers who are “extremely satisfied” with the way their problem was handled are twice as likely to be fully engaged with an organization. In fact, many times, effective problem resolution can create a customer who becomes more loyal than a customer who has never had a problem with your organization!

How can you effectively work your way through a problem with a customer that results in a stronger, more loyal relationship?

  1. Recognize that the customer is anxious and feeling stressed before they even let you know about the problem. Talk to your employees about how emotion further impacts a problem.
  2. Be in the moment and listen with empathy. Place yourself in the shoes of the customer and make an effort to understand their problem.
  3. Apologize and mean it. If you are truly listening, your authenticity and sincerity will be clearly evident.
  4. Make every effort to solve the problem the first time. Remember, the customer is already upset and transferring them or asking them to talk to someone else will frustrate them even more.
  5. Keep your cool. Your emotions can also be affected by an angry customer. Try to focus on the problem and not the person.
  6. Devise a follow-up plan. Follow up with the customer to further show you care.

There is no way to completely avoid customer complaints. But, when you take ownership of the problem, and find a quick, satisfying resolution, you can transform an otherwise disappointing customer experience into an amazing and delightful “moment of truth” for your customer.

Debbie Szumylo Manager, Customer Experience at Thomson Reuters Elite, has 15+ years of proven successes in experience design, strategy development and analysis.

Listed as #58 on Onalytica's top 100 Big Data and Customer Experience Influencers, February 2014.

Quoted in OneReach's "What's the Best Way to Improve Customer Service? 63 Influencers Weigh In", October, 2015

Member of Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA)

Follow Debbie on LinkedIn and Twitter

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Top 5 Ways Contact Centers Annoy Customers

By: Erica Marois

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” –Bill Gates

What’s the secret to delivering outstanding customer service? Start by addressing customer pain points. If not, you may be sending your customers straight to the competition. According to 2015 Harris Interactive research, 69% of customers are willing to pay more for a product or service with a solid service reputation. Does your company fall in this category, or belong in the service hall of shame? The stakes are high, and if you want to provide superior service you need to eliminate the process, policies, and procedures that contribute to customer frustration.

In Brad Cleveland’s book Call Center Management on Fast Forward, he outlines ten key expectations that shape customer sentiment today. If you’re not meeting these expectations, you’re probably annoying your customers, and you should definitely stop.

This post will cover five of the most common ways contact centers annoy their customers. Be honest, which are you guilty of, and how can you improve in 2017?

   1. Being Difficult to Reach/Not Being Responsive

Basic phone support during 9-5 business hours is no longer enough. Your customers are connected. Are you? While small businesses can’t always offer 24/7 customer support, they can (and should) provide customers with self-service options outside of normal business hours. Furthermore, make sure customers can find you easily! Go look at your website. How easily can you find the proper phone number, email address, or social handles to use for service? The standard service hours? Modern accessibility means communicating clearly, and doing so on the customer’s terms. Forcing them to hunt for information is a fast track to frustration.

Ignoring them all together is also a recipe for disaster. For example, your customers are having conversations about your company on social media. Whether or not you choose to respond speaks volumes. According to research from Maritz and evolve24, 70% of customer complaints on Twitter goes unanswered. Is your company an offender? Start thinking of ways to listen and respond to customers in channels you’re currently ignoring.

   2. Being Rude, Disrespectful, or Apathetic

The companies with sterling service reputations commit to hiring and retaining employees with a passion for customer experience. Skills are easy to train, but attitude-- not so much. An attitude of courtesy, respect, and customer focus, starts from the top. Accordingly, executive leaders need to set the tone, shape the culture, and demonstrate respect to customer support professionals. Agents are often the only point of communication between your brand and your customers. Stop treating contact center agents like entry-level hourly employees and start treating them like they’re important team members--because they are.

Moreover, tolerating apathetic, disengaged employees communicates that your customers aren’t that important. And one toxic team member can destroy morale for the whole center. Don’t let that happen. 

   3. Wasting Customer’s Time/ Not Resolving the Issue on the First Contact

Next up on the list of contact center offenses are two enormous time wasters that truly annoy your customers. First, having to repeat information. Second, having to reach back out a second time to resolve an issue

In order to solve these problems, find the root issues. To get started, try these tips:

  • Secret shop—call your contact center, visit the website and look for self-service options, test the mobile app, send a social inquiry, etc. Take the time to walk in your customer’s shoes, so you can experience their pain points. Never assume you know what those pain points are, and never assume that a process you think will work well actually will.

  • Ask your agents for feedback—they are often the best source of customer feedback and insight. Tap into their knowledge, and go further by encouraging them to submit suggestions for improvement. 

  • Partner closely with other departments—the customer experience depends not just on the contact center, but the organization as a whole. Every single interaction a customer has with your brand impacts their perception and their experience. Keeping the lines of communication open between all departments prevents disjointed experiences, and ensures that everyone is aware of issues that require attention. 

   4. Keeping Customers in the Dark

Speaking of open lines of communication, this one is simple. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Be proactive. Are power outages possible in the near future? Are you rolling out a new app? Will mobile banking shut down for a few hours? Let your customers know ahead of time—don’t wait for them to discover a problem on their own. Keeping customers in the know with proactive updates demonstrates respect, and also simplifies life for your agents.

Again, cross-departmental collaboration is key. If your contact center isn’t aware of marketing promotions, outages, or IT challenges, how can your team relay the information to customers?

   5. Not Providing Well Trained & Informed Staff

Perhaps the root of all of these missteps lies in the extent contact centers invest in their employees. We’ve all experienced the negative effects. How often have you called a contact center for help and gotten the run around because the agent wasn’t prepared to handle your request, or had no prior knowledge of your history as a customer. As Sheri Kendall-DuPoint pointed out in a recent #ICMIchat, training should move beyond information dumps, and instead, focus on active and action-oriented learning. Some of the best ways to accomplish that are through peer-to-peer learning and on-the-job, scenario-based training. For more advice on effective training practices, check out Elaine Carr’s What Works in Training article series.

Bringing it All Together

Delivering stellar customer service isn’t easy, but definitely worth the extra effort. By eliminating the common frustrations customers encounter, your contact center can be a hero. Not just for customers, but for the company as a whole. Commit to solving these problems and your reward will be more satisfied and loyal customers.

How has your contact center cut out the red tape and found ways to provide an improved customer experience? I’d love to hear your ideas! Leave them in the comments or send me a tweet.

Erica is the Community Strategist at ICMI. With a background in marketing, public relations, and social media, she brings more than eight years of community management experience to ICMI. 

Erica oversees ICMI’s robust network of community contributors – 500 strong! She also hosts ICMI’s weekly tweet chats (#ICMIchat) that feature dynamic, interactive discussions with thought leaders and innovators in the contact center community. Connect with Erica on Twitter: @EricaMarois

#CustServ #QOTD

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Perfect Customer Service: A "How To" from Zappos

By: Nicole Bump

There’s been a lot of talk over the past few years about the need to create a positive customer experience, across channels, devices and touchpoints. This includes customer service. The idea is, provide great experiences and you’ll create loyal customers—even brand advocates.

We’re all aware of how important it is. But we still don’t see too many shining examples of how it should play out, which is why I’d like to share one of those exemplars with you today from a customer’s (me!) point of view.

Get Me To Buy…Again.

I have been a huge fan of Zappos for years. I don’t remember my first purchase, but somewhere early in my Zappos-customer days, the company offered me VIP status. I got a special URL to log in as a VIP shopper, and this status afforded me free one-day shipping. Shoes that arrive next day?! Count me in! This VIP status (which I’m sure cost them little to nothing to label me with), as well as the one-day shipping, were two stellar moves by Zappos to keep me coming back as a shopper.

Returns are also super easy, which comes in handy when I buy one pair of shoes in multiple sizes (gotta make sure they fit!) or send four different pairs next-day to a hotel I’m staying at because I have no shoes for the wedding I’m in that weekend (yes, I’ve done it).
Zappos provides a great buying and returning/exchanging experience…but that’s not enough to succeed.

Keep Me Happy…And Fast.

Inevitably, I’ve encountered some problems here and there with the shoes I’ve bought from Zappos. This is where it’s critically important that a company respond well and quickly to address the customer’s concern.

Firstly, I bought some sandals for my son in early August. A few weeks later, one of the Velcro straps had already stopped functioning, requiring that I duct tape his shoe shut (he was fine with this solution, but I was not). I contacted Zappos via chat and was connected with a friendly and quirky representative. She apologized for the defect, informed me that the shoe I wanted to replace was no longer in stock and let me pick out another pair. The new pair I chose cost an extra $10, which she waived. This slightly-odd but amusing representative told me I could keep the old shoe and perhaps use it as an eclectic planter.

She had already won me over (I sang her praises on Facebook while still in the chat), but this woman went a step further to ensure my satisfaction: she awarded me a $50 coupon code for my next purchase and gave me instructions on how to make sure it would be applied properly (wait until I’m sure the shoes fit, then contact customer service to apply the coupon retroactively). I couldn’t believe was I was experiencing. Of course, I had to add an update to my Facebook post about the coupon. 

, I spent several weeks and many shoe orders trying to find sneakers for both of my boys this fall. I finally thought I had them both set with a pair of reasonably fitting shoes when my three-year-old decided to throw one of his brand new shoes out of the car window while we were driving on the highway (according to Henry, the wind blew it out). Of course, this was no fault of Zappos’ or the shoe maker’s. But I was deeply mourning Henry’s brand new sneaker, and I emailed customer service hoping they might help with a discount on a second pair.

About an hour later, I already had an email back from Macey at Zappos explaining that, while the circumstances were not covered by their return or exchange policy, I was not to worry; she had gone ahead and reordered them for me at no charge.


I was absolutely floored. She also told me I might want to hang on to the extra in case my little guy decided to throw any more shoes out the window.

The response was timely and went above and beyond what I had expected. I addition, she signed off by telling me she had to get going so she could get back to listening to her new pop playlist she had created over the weekend.

Thanks for the Personality

Both of these Zappos representatives responded to me in a timely fashion and exceeded my expectations—all while making the experience fun and personable. You better believe I went back on social and praised Zappos again.

While I’m no contact center expert, I know enough about marketing and customer experience to know Zappos is doing several things right. Is your brand delivering customer service like Zappos?

Nicole Bump is a strategic marketing and communication professional with a passion for content creation across industry verticals, genres and platforms. She's a creative thinker with an eye for detail, and a results-driven performer that consistently exceeds expectations.

Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn