Recapping the 2017 ICMI Contact Center Conference

Ruth McCullen and Jeremy Watkin had the pleasure of having Virginia from Kingman Ink draw as we helped contact center leaders tell better stories.

This article was originally published on the FCR blog on June 9, 2017. Click here to read the original.

I had a fantastic time at the 2017 Contact Center Expo and Conference in Orlando, Florida. Joined by my colleagues Ruth McCullen, Valerie Gordon, and more than two thousand contact center professionals, there were many opportunities to network, see cool technology, listen to fantastic keynote addresses, and learn from experts on a wide variety of topics. Rather than overwhelm you with a comprehensive report, I’m just going to bullet point some of my favorite highlights.

Keynotes

I’ve attended a few of these conferences and this year’s lineup of keynote speakers was among the best. Doug Lipp, Shep Hyken, and Chip Bell were incredible. Here are some highlights:

  • Doug Lipp instantly gained credibility when I learned that he was the longtime Head of Disney University at Disney, a company synonymous with incredible an customer experience. In addition to doing a spot on Donald Duck impression, he talked about the laser focus of Disney cast members on the core values: Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Capacity. The images that will remain in my head from his presentation are that of Walt Disney picking up trash and Snow White kneeling next to a little princess with a disability. It’s incredible what happens when everyone in an organization lives the values — something we should continuously strive for.
  • Shep Hyken dazzled and entertained us with a variety of magic tricks that I still can’t wrap my mind around. He talked about how we build trust with our customers by delivering a consistent, predictable experience. And this doesn’t have to be a home run on every call, but instead an experience that’s consistently above average every time.
  • Chip Bell did a fantastic job of wrapping up the conference and inspiring us to deliver a customer experience that sparkles. He shared an example of the guest at Disneyland asking a cast member, “What time is the 3 o’clock parade?” Customer service professionals who are focused on delivering a great experience look beyond that question and understand that what the customer is really asking is, “What time do I have to get to the parade to get a good seat for my family and me?”

Sessions

There were a number of learning tracks at this conference, making it impossible to attend even a fraction of them. That being said, here are my favorite highlights from the sessions I attended.

  • Building an award-winning customer experience – Dan Moross, Director of Customer Experience at MOO gave us an inside look at their operation. In short, they have a refreshingly human approach, completely doing away with IVRs and scripts and focusing on getting customers the help they need quickly and efficiently. Dan said that when they do journey mapping at MOO, they always look for at least one thing their team can do and one thing they can share with the rest of the organization to improve the customer experience.
  • Using improv to improve customer contact center training – Evan Watson from the AICPA shared an incredibly refreshing approach to training where he uses techniques learned from improv classes. He did several exercises with volunteers and had the whole room rolling with laughter by the end of the session. I can recall how nervous I was when I took my first support call and can see how improv can really benefit.
  • Who says quality assurance can’t be fun? – I’m not sure I realized what a hot issue quality assurance is in the contact center. When Nate Brown and Vicki Friece polled the room, just about everyone was “in between” quality forms or unhappy with their current process. They reminded us of the importance of focusing more on coaching and empowering our agents and less on checking boxes on a form.
  • Keeping the rockstars on your team – I didn’t actually get to attend this session but I did get to hear the song Jenny Dempsey performed in her session geared toward finding and keeping the top performers on your customer service team. Give it a listen.
  • Better background checks – Valerie Gordon, FCR’s Strategic Talent Acquisition Manager presented alongside Checkr and talked about how they’ve significantly helped FCR streamline the hiring process. The turnaround time for a background check on a new hire has been reduced from 5.5 days to 1.5 days!
  • Bad Bots- I shared the stage with Jeff Toister, Leslie O’Flahavan, and Peter McGarahan to debate the pros and cons of chatbots. I learned about Trim, a bot that can actually lower your Comcast bill on your behalf. We also warned of the dangers of a bot that drones on and on without connecting customers with the solutions they need. Also, don’t fixate so much on chatbots that you overlook artificial intelligence that mostly runs in the background to help customers find the right knowledge base articles or helps agents select the right answers to send to customers.
  • Using A.I.M to tell better stories and move the needle- Finally, I had the opportunity to present with my colleague, Ruth McCullen, FCR’s Director of Client Analytics. We shared a simple model to help leaders tell better stories in their organizations in a way that will have a greater impact. Using a variety of classic stories we talked about knowing who our Audience is and what we want to accomplish, or our Intent. We then practiced using the classic story archetype to build our Message. Here’s an article we wrote that details our presentation a bit more.

Books I plan on reading

I came away from the conference with a couple new books on my reading list:

Were you at the conference? I’d love to hear what some of your favorite insights were from the week.

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience at FCR, the premiere provider of outsourced call center and business process solutions. He has more than 17 years of experience as a customer service and experience professional. He is co-founder of the Customer Service Life blog and a regular contributor. Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

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