Wednesday, November 29, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Shep Hyken

What is the most important role of the Chief Customer Officer?

In my mind, there three important areas for the Chief Customer Officer to focus on: culture, systems and customer advocacy.

When it comes to the culture, either the company is completely customer focused or it’s not. That begins with culture. It’s how employees are hired and trained, and how the vision or mission is created or changed to reflect a customer-focused philosophy. Customer service and experience must be woven into the fabric of the entire company.

And then there are the systems that the company has in place. The CCO’s job is to help ensure that the systems are customer focused and that everyone – and every department – is working together. Silos must be eliminated, with the goal of creating a unified company that is focused on the customer. The CCO must constantly be asking questions that challenge the company’s systems and processes to be customer-focused.

The third responsibility is customer advocacy. CCO is the manager of the “Voice of the Customer,” which includes direct customer feedback and data analysis. The CCO must understand both the business and the customer well enough to know what data is important and how to interpret the data.

The Chief Customer Officer has his or her hand in all aspects of the company if nothing else than to ask the right questions and keep the company focused. And, at the same time, he or she is the advocate for the customer. There must be a balance between how a company operates and what a customer expects. An effective CCO creates a sense of harmony between the company and the customer.

Shep Hyken is a customer service and experience expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling author who works with companies who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Jessica Noble

What important factors should be considered in the Voice of Customer program?

Listening is part of a customer’s experience

If you listen well, but do nothing with customer feedback, you are squandering their investment. Customers expect a return for their time and candor.

Listen: If you won’t take action –>  it’s not worth listening
  • Gather VOC information from multiple sources 
  • Capture transactional and relational feedback
  • Collect emotional and rational data 
  • Organize data in pre-determined structure
Understand: Pay attention –>  look for recurring themes 
  • Review, evaluate, and quantify all sources of VOC data
  • Uncover clues about what customers want and value
  • Identify root cause. Does feedback stem from org culture, employee training, processes, policy, procedure, or technology? Should this feedback spark innovation?
  • Integrate VOC feedback throughout your organization into business strategy, process, culture, training, and tools  
Act: If you make an improvement –>  let ‘em know
  • Take action with timely customer follow-up
  • Align internal operations and executive priorities with customer priorities
  • Prioritize improvement initiatives and maintain focus
  • Communicate improvement results
  • Sustain continuous, closed-loop feedback

Validate: Show me the money –> know the return on listening
  1. Understand anticipated impact of improvement initiatives 
  2. Identify what to measure quantitatively and qualitatively to gauge:
     Customer experience
     Customer satisfaction
     Customer engagement
     Business results 
  3. Evaluate the lift following improvements 

Jessica Noble is passionate about working alongside customers to transform their organizations, and realize their unique CX goals. She's currently Principal, Business Consulting, at Tribridge. Jessica has a background in Sales, Product Management, CRM and CX consulting.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Sometimes a Cup of Coffee and a Donut Is an Effective Strategy

By Dea Harrington


Recently I read an article by Brad Cleveland that proposed ten things that senior leaders should know about contact center operations. His message was that a basic understanding of what centers do and how they work is an absolute necessity if senior management is going to effectively support and guide this increasingly complex business unit.

When you live and breathe contact center management, it is natural to assume that everyone in your organization has a clear understanding of the intricacies of the center. Trust me, they don’t, and most likely tend to oversimplify its process, people, purpose and the person(s) who manages it. And here is a surprise - this lack of know-how can include your own team members.

Brad’s message reminded me of a solution I had utilized successfully to provide senior management with the necessary insight into the unique challenges of running a center.

The Background

Way back when I was a young vice president of operations I was responsible for a few large inbound call centers, as well as back-end processes. The organization was an established, successful, privately owned company that was totally committed to the customer relationship and, of course, to the bottom line. I reported directly to the owners and senior management, none of whom had an adequate comprehension of call center operations, nor did they want to spend a great deal of time being educated beyond service level performance and budget adherence. After all, that is why they hired call center management talent…

The Vision

It quickly became apparent that what was needed was an ‘internal ‘marketing campaign that would target our senior audience into experiencing, first-hand, the call center environment. Ideally, our audience would not feel as if they were locked in a class room being spoon-fed technical data they did not need. Instead, their senior position within the company would be highlighted by asking them to contribute to our continuing improvement process – sort of like an ‘Executive Quality Assurance’ (EQA) group.

The EQA Campaign

After inviting a small group of center employees to assist with the campaign, a proposal meeting was held with a few key senior managers to discuss the objective, possible strategies, funding and implementation steps. The results exceeded expectations and, after incorporating the group’s ideas and feedback, the following EQA Campaign Plan was implemented:

Stage 1: Initially, we invited our EQA members to a one-hour luncheon that would unveil the plan, the schedule, their role and the importance of their on-going commitment. All aspects of the proposal were reviewed and a packet of materials (including a welcoming letter from the owners, a pamphlet of introductory call center basics, our QA practices and a six-month event calendar.

Stage 2: Two weeks later our Training Manager and I offered a 2-hour course designed specifically for EQA participants that would introduce them to the basic inbound call process and QA performance expectations.

Stage 3: Each month, for the next 6 months, EQA members were invited to a continental breakfast and a half-hour presentation on ‘The Works’.  They were given an accompanying handbook that was organized into twelve parts, with each part featuring two key call center dynamics. After the presentation, they would side-by-side with an agent to hear calls, ask questions and then complete a special EQA evaluation which was then forwarded to me for review with the team. In addition, we used their questions/comments to customize the next month’s presentation.

Stage 4: At the end of the six months, our attendance record indicated that out of eleven senior managers, seven attended every breakfast. The remaining either sent a manager in their place, were put on an off-site project or requested handouts.  A detailed survey was issued to all original invitees and the owners, evaluating all aspects of the Campaign. At the following quarterly management session, the results were presented and discussed.

The Results

Happily, the results were better than I had expected (although I never shared my original projections) and produced the following benefits:
  • Most senior leaders indicated that they gained a better understanding of the center, the agents, our customers, and the previously unknown complexities in balancing resources to objectives. Six requested ‘summary presentations’ for their managers specifically highlighting ‘The Works’.
  • Although we did not request this, three participants volunteered to answer calls or QA in emergencies.
  • Agents who sat with the senior executives, reported that they were impressed that the EQA team members were friendly, respectful and asked good questions (and remembered their name when passing in the hallways).
Most importantly, did the EQA Campaign make executive budgetary and performance meetings resemble the end of a Hollywood musical? No, not quite, but it took me less time to explain specific requirements to reach contracted objectives. It also helped that I had a new level of support from attendees that had not been in the ‘glee club’ prior to the Campaign. Lastly, there was a new sense of appreciation and respect for the employees who provide the best of care to the customer relationship that compensated us all.

Dea Harrington is the founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Harrington Consulting Group, a leading provider of strategic and tactical guidance for organizations dependent upon first class contact center operations. Her blend of senior corporate management experience and consulting acumen has helped a broad range of Fortune 500 companies, non-profit organizations, and higher education institutions develop a process for planning and implementing strategies that align seamlessly with operations. She had been a leader in the development of internal marketing programs that effectively communicate organizational  goals and each employee’s role in meeting them. Follow Dea on LinkedIn.

Friday Funny

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What Makes You a Good Leader?

By Jessica Menapace

On Sunday our Senior Manager of Training and Development, John Kusinski, sends out "Leadership Reflections" to everyone on the leadership team of our organization.  I get bogged down with the hustle and bustle of call center management, but I do my best to read them. When I do read them, I find myself in deep thought about my growth and development, and it empowers and reenergizes me for the week.

This week, I didn't read it until Wednesday, and when I read it ,I wish I would not have waited.  This week we had an opportunity to get career and leadership advice from our CEO. The topic was "If Only I Knew Then What I Know Now". I was intrigued and excited to hear the wisdom and lessons that our CEO had learned from his career.

As I began to read, the very first subject caught my attention, and I haven't stopped thinking about it since. Tip #1 was "Know What You Want First". You can't lead others if you don't know how to lead yourself. Force yourself to think about what being a leader really means, and how you should behave to be a good one.  This statement made me dig deep and try to identify the type of leader I am.

When I thought what being a good leader really means, I couldn't find an answer that satisfied the question. I dug deeper and asked myself some deeper questions. 

What type of leader are you?

What are the key characteristics of your leadership abilities?

Why do you want to be a leader?

I didn't choose to be a leader. Being a leader chose me. I enjoy seeing people succeed. I love seeing people have the "ah ha" moment when they finally get it. I want to know what my employees goals are, and provide guidance and tools to help them reach them. I set the example, and push my people to do better at creating a better work and home life. I genuinely care about the well being of my employees, and work every day to show that to them. I'm committed to my employees, so they become committed to me, and support the vision I have for my department.

When you ask yourself the above questions, what answers do you come up with? Are the things you do as a leader getting you commitment, or compliance to the processes you are putting in place? If you are getting short term results, you may want to reconsider the leadership style you are using.

Are you a leader or are you a manager? 

While managing an outbound call center I pride myself in effectively managing 3 team leads and approximately 80 outbound representatives. I work to meet and maintain staffing needs, revenue goals, budget and program hours for the outbound department, with effective coaching, mentoring, leadership, and problem solving skills.

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Monday, November 13, 2017

1-2-3 Engagement is the Key

By Sean Hawkins

If you want your staff to be engaged, they must first be involved! I constantly seek opportunities to allow people to work and grow in areas other than their current role. We often talk about removing silos between departments, yet many employees remain siloed in their roles. That should not be the case.

1. Get them involved
On a daily basis, I am given a suggestion of some sort. In times past, I would dedicate time to act on the feedback. I soon realized I was spending a considerable amount of time doing this. Instead, I found it helpful to both myself and staff, to include them in the process. After all, if they an idea, they likely had thoughts on implementation. These "projects" have become quite successful over the years. In fact, they have been helpful in shaping (and changing) my opinion on things, that I once was reluctant to entertain.

Being inclusive allows the team member an opportunity to develop new skills, provides more exposure, and it leads to new opportunities for them. In addition to suggestions, pilot programs, and process improvements can be projects that your team can assist on.

Involve staff when establishing processes or procedures that directly impact them. Doing so shows them you respect their opinions, and it also ensures that you get all the input possible in your decision-making process. More so, it's an easy way to ensure adoption, buy-in, and success. 

Those doing the work, are often the one's to identify the best solutions for improvement. In areas where they are the subject matter expert, they know what works. It makes sense to include them!

2. Provide meaningful feedback
One of the best ways to keep employees engaged is through feedback. In its most literal sense, feedback means to give food back. Feedback then, is the process and act of providing, or giving nourishment. Doing so fosters growth, good health and wellness. These are important to each of us, and most often these are the things we seek most in life. However we fail to take this approach in the workforce.

Most often, employee feedback occurs when someone hasn’t performed well or it is time for their annual performance review. Feedback, in the context of our conversation supplements development. It is aligned with professional growth and should take on the form of mentorship or an advisory role.

I like to utilize my 1-on-1 or monthly feedback sessions with staff as an engagement opportunity. In addition to discussing matters related performance and addressing any concerns they may have, I incorporate feedback. Benefits of feedback:
  • Increases self-awareness
  • Provides a balanced view
  • Leverages Strengths
  • Uncovers Blind spots
  • Develops skills
Once feedback is incorporated, reinforce it by rewarding employees.

3. Acknowledgment
Everyone has different motivators. Therefore, acknowledgment must come in a variety of flavors. Make it personal!

Some individuals will view acknowledgment as superficial and inauthentic, if it personal. As a result, they may respond with skepticism, cynicism and sarcasm. Employees want to see something more substantive, such as individual attention or quality time with their boss and/or colleagues, acts of service that make their jobs easier (offering to pitch in on a project or do a favor), tangible gifts or bonuses, or physical touch in the form of high-fives, fist bumps or handshakes, depending on the company culture.

The point is this; true acknowledgment touches the core of the person, by understanding their needs and making a valid attempt at meeting them! And that is what engagement all about.

I have over 15 years of progressive call center leadership and experience in the public, private and government sectors.

I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Keys to Contact Center Consistency and Compliance

By Mike Aoki

I recently had a conversation with Brad Sellors, Managing Director at InfiniteKM, regarding knowledge management systems (KMS), consistency and compliance. Here are our questions and answers. Note, Brad’s responses have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

Why is the issue of compliance important for contact centers? Contact centers need to provide accurate information to their customers. That is especially true for industries such as banking and insurance, which are heavily regulated. Contact center Agents need the most accurate and up to date information. Otherwise, a lot of damage - to the company and the client - can be caused by Agents who misread or omit important information when responding to clients.

How can a knowledge management system help Agents be compliant? Being able to quickly search for the right knowledge article equips Agents with the right answers. To maintain that informational accuracy, you should also set up an authorization/review process so, key documents are routinely reviewed by the right stakeholders.

How can you ensure Agents actually understand the information? You can create online quizzes to test for understanding. So when an Agent arrives for their shift, they can review new information updates, pass the quiz and help their customers. This can all be done via the knowledge management platform.

How can you measure and track compliance? Some knowledge management systems can track who is clicking on daily compliance updates. For example, Agents can track what they previously reviewed to see if they missed any updates while on vacation. Team Leaders can track which Agents still need to review daily updates, while Managers can track which Team Leader groups are up to date. You can even make it mandatory for employees to review certain information on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis so, your organization stays in compliance with external regulations.

How does this help a company operating in a highly regulated industry? Depending upon the jurisdiction, auditors and regulators may require proof that Agents are familiar with the applicable rules. Some knowledge management systems produce reports showing which Agents have reviewed the information and passed the quiz.

We have talked about compliance. Now, how does this ensure consistency? Think of a manufacturer who sells through franchised dealerships. A common challenge is having dealer staff giving different answers than head office Agents. Now imagine both head office and dealers have access to the same knowledge database. So, they both give consistent answers to educate their customers. On top of that, knowledge articles can be tagged for different job types. So, a dealer salesperson can read an article on the customer benefits of an accessory product. Meanwhile, their dealer service technician can see how to install it for the customer. To build on that, each dealer - as well as head office - have their own reporting tools. So, they can track which dealerships review updates and which ones do not. Dealers can see which of their employees are up to date and which ones need a reminder. That ensures consistency.

Can customers access this knowledge database for consistent answers? If a knowledge management system allows you to control access to information by job type, you can also use this system to share certain answers with customers. For example, if a customer searches your website for “extended warranty” information, they get a description of how it works and what it covers. On the other hand, if a contact center Agent searches for “extended warranty”, their search also brings up how to process a customer’s warranty claim. Being able to tag knowledge articles by job type saves you the cost of designing a separate database for customer accessible information.

Mike Aoki is the President of Reflective Keynotes Inc., a Canadian training company that helps contact centers improve their sales and customer retention results. A call center expert, Mike serves on the Advisory Council of the Greater Toronto Area Contact Center association, and was Master of Ceremonies for their 2012-2014 and 2016 Annual Conferences. He was also chosen as one of the “Top 50 Customer Service Thought Leaders on Twitter” for 2014, 2015 and 2016.

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Nate Brown

How do you ensure buy-in from your team?

Looking to get more skin in the game from you team? It’s time to include them from the ground up! There is a magic that happens when your team takes time to learn together. We’ve been going through “The Effortless Experience” this year and it’s been a game changer for us.

We all want to apply the learning and make an impact for our customers. People are far more likely to buy into a change if they have been a key stakeholder from the beginning. Contrast this with the traditional model of a leader always being the one with the new revelation, and updating the team on how they need to behave. This will almost always fail to motivate. Allow your team to drink from the knowledge well….you will be amazed by their creativity! The team that learns together improves together.

Nate is a relationship builder with a flair for execution. He is known for bringing a unique energy to the table that engages employees and takes teams to the next level.

From authoring and leading a client success program, to journey mapping, to gamification, to managing a complex contact center, Nate is the guy to do it right and produce results.

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Understanding the Impact and Importance of Customer Emotions: a Q&A with Maria Pocovi

Lately, there has been great emphasis placed on customer experience, and customer journey mapping. Through insights gained, we in customer service are aware of the importance of utilizing soft skills to better enhance a customer's experience, as well as improving the level of service and support. 

But what insights can we learn by understanding the emotions of customers? How can we better position ourselves as a brand by viewing the journey and experience through the lens of customer emotions? I had an opportunity to speak with Maria Pocovi, CEO of Emotion Research Lab, to learn more the company, her, and the importance of the emotional journey of customers.

Tell me about yourself? What are you passionate about? What keeps you awake at night?

I am from Valencia, Spain so I have a Mediterranean character. I love the sea, food and enjoy live. I am passionate about robotics. I believe in more human machines interacting with us according our emotions helping us. I believe social robots will be a part of our lives soon. What keeps me awake, well I sleep so good! I do my best during the day in the business side with the idea that to run my own company is like a marathon, so I try to keep my body ready for the next miles. And these days I am nervous about my upcoming wedding!

What is facial emotional recognition, and how does it work?

Facial emotion recognition is the ability for machines to understand human emotions. We develop algorithms to understand how people feel in real-time. To read emotions, we use a web cam to translate micro-expressions based on emotional analytics. We can detect if someone is happy, surprised, angry or sadness. In addition to these basic emotions, we also detect 97 secondary emotions and 8 moods.

The technology is now ready to work online. In stores, we can monitor groups of people at the same time.

How are businesses using facial recognitions?

Understanding customer behavior is one of the main uses right now, but the technology is now entering many different verticals. For example, the technology is now being used to help drivers travel more safely.

What industry is utilizing facial recognition and how are they using it?

Well brands from different verticals are using the technology to understand customer behavior, and also to interact in real-time. They are also focusing on who is looking at their product via Attention Index. e are providing ATTENTION INDEX, no one has any doubt today about customer attention is a critical point. This real-time attention provides insight into who is looking your product based on age, gender, and emotional reaction, as well as the frequency in which they are viewing your product.

How did Emotion Research Lab come to fruition?

Three years ago, I found Emotion Research Lab with Alicia Mora, an incredible woman with a great technical background. My background is in business and marketing. I have no idea how to write a line of code! Together, we created the perfect team, consisting of market vision and technical capabilities. Today, we have a team of 14 people with projects in Latin America, London and Spain. New partners from Malaysia and Dubai are also partnering with us.

What separates Emotion Research Lab from other competitors?

I believe we have a more global vision about a human technology interaction. In the last year, we questioned of six basic emotions are enough to fully understand consumers. Oh my, humans are so complex! We realized we needed more. We are different from our competitors because we are measuring those 6 basic emotions, along with 97 secondary emotions, 8 moods, age, gender, attention, and eye tracking.

Many studies have be done, which show a correlation between consumer spending and consumer behavior. What are some behaviors that contribute to consumer spending?

Point of sales attention, and  a positive experience show correlation with the consumer spending. When we are working to increase the effectiveness of media content through ads or promotional material, emotions are key. Happiness means a customer is going to purchase your product. The secret is the emotional pattern, and what creates change in the emotional behavior. So we focus on moods. If someone is elated, calm, exuberant, relaxed, or anxious, we see a correlation.

How should businesses engage consumers emotionally?

Well the first step is to really understanding the emotional experience of their customers. Our technology can help to understand the more complex emotions that customers are feeling, which is impossible to explain in a traditional survey. So, I encourage everyone to test the emotional experience as the first step. Also, develop an your emotional strategy, and understand the emotion of your brand. Are your communications aligned with the feeling that you want create? You most likely know about the customer experience journey, but you must also know the customer emotional journey.

We must start to think about these things. However, take it further, and interact in real-time according the emotional experience of the customer.

Are there any words of wisdom you’d like to pass on to the readers?

We are living in a connected world, but the real connection is emotional.

Maria Pocovi is CEO and co-founder of Emotion Research Lab. She is a specialist in applied research of emotions through facial coding, and has a professional background leading projects in marketing and technology. 

Maria's career comes from national and multinational companies as director of marketing and communications departments. Follow Maria on LinkedIn and Twitter.

#CustServ #QOTD

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

#CustServ #QOTD

"Follow the Leader", Featuring Elaine Carr

What is your top priority, when implementing a training team? The thing I look for the most are people who want to grow and develop themselves, try out new things, experiment, and make things better—no matter how good things are already. So often training folks focus on developing other people and they get stale doing the same old things all of the time. While I want the team to be grounded in the basics of training, basing whatever they are doing on well-supported, researched-backed findings about learning, I even more want people who are constantly looking to get better at their jobs themselves and who can model that for their learners. It is about what I already know and do, but it’s even more about what I’m learning about and thinking about trying out next.

Elaine has been designing and delivering training and managing the training function for more than 25 years. She is a Certified Professional in Learning and Performance (CPLP) and is currently the Training & Development Manager at ICMI. What is she learning next? Elaine is working on her Level 3 (Master Tradesman) Gamification certification from Sententia and expects to have it completed before the end of 2017.

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