Transforming the Customer Experience as Contact Center Leaders

Jeremy Watkin with SunShine BenBelkacem of Matter Group in front of the incredible infographic she created during his presentation.

Jeremy Watkin with SunShine BenBelkacem of Matter Group in front of the incredible infographic she created during his presentation.

This post originally appeared on the FCR blog on June 24, 2016. Click here to read the original.

Last month I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on transforming the customer experience at the2016 ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference.

I kicked off the session by presenting two scenarios near and dear to my heart. The first is from those situations where there’s a bug in the system or something is broken and “everyone” is calling about it. When you alert someone in leadership they either respond with an outright “no” or something like “prove it to me that this is more important than the nine million other projects on my list.

The second scenario is the case where your customer satisfaction scores are stuck at 85% but your goal is 90%. You’ve tried a variety of things including incentivizing your agents to be nicer. No matter what you try, the needle doesn’t move.

If either of these scenarios have been a source of frustration for you, this post will give you a practical process to transform your customer experience.

What is customer experience?

It’s important for us to first define customer experience and recognize that it’s NOT synonymous with customer service. I define customer experience as:

Every aspect of your business that customers interact with during the course of doing business with you.

Take a moment to think about all of the departments in your organization that impact the customer experience. For example, when engineering releases a product that has a bug in it. Or consider when sales promises a customer a certain price and that price doesn’t match the price on their first bill. Of course, in both cases customers will call customer service.
pie-graphPicture all of the departments in your organization as one big customer experience pie. When thinking about where customer service fits in,Ingrid Lindberg characterized it best. She says:

Customer service is the safety net when something breaks down in the customer experience.

What this also says is that we folks in customer service have a tremendous opportunity to share our insights about the customer experience with the rest of our organization – especially when something’s not working.

Voice of the Customer

The next step is to think about the voice of the customer and all of the different ways we can listen to what they are saying. Here are some ways in the contact center:

  • Surveys – Whether it’s Customer Satisfaction, Net Promoter Score, or Customer Effort Score, surveys are a great way to listen to customers.
  • Agent Feedback – Your agents talk to customers directly. Take some time to listen to them and get their insights about the customer experience.
  • Quality Assurance – Think about it. You’re already listening to the calls. Why not pay attention to what’s going on with the customer experience at the same time? Add a “customer experience driver” field to your quality forms and challenge evaluators to fill it out.
  • Talk to Customers – Many customers are more than willing to talk about their experience. If you have a customer share a word of frustration, chances are they would be more than happy to elaborate.

All of these methods can work together to help you really paint a complete picture of what’s going on with the customer experience.

Properly handling feedback

Regardless of the methods you use to gather customer feedback and especially the survey you use, there’s a lot more to it than simply tracking a score. Here are some key things you should be doing with customer feedback:

  • Listen and read – It’s important to read and listen to what customers are saying. Most surveys include comments and they should not be ignored. I actually modified a Ken Blanchard quote for this:

Feedback is the breakfast of champions…but sometimes it tastes like dirt.

  • Determine root cause – Take time to categorize your feedback to quantify what the top drivers of customer dissatisfaction are.
  • Recover service – Don’t forget to make things right with customers who had a poor experience. Sometimes this has the power to turn a strong detractor into a promoter.
  • Address quality and training opportunities with agents – Be sure to celebrate the good feedback about your customer service team but also take the time to coach agents on ways they can better handle these situations in the future.

Customer Journey Mapping

Customer journey mapping is an important concept for us to understand in the contact center. It’s important for us to have a complete understanding of each of the top drivers we identify. It’s easier than you think to communicate an issue poorly with the rest of the business and have them devote time and resources to fixing something that doesn’t improve the customer experience.

Jim Tincher of Heart of the Customer defines journey mapping as:

Customer journey maps are a visual representation showing how a customer uses your product or service, or the decision-making process that turns a potential user into a customer.

He goes on to say that:

A poor customer experience is an undefined one.

We have an opportunity in the contact center to join with the other departments in our organizations to design a great experience. Oftentimes, customer service doesn’t have a seat at the table in these discussions.

Making our case

If we’re going to move the needle and get decision makers to actually improve some of the top issues impacting the customer experience, we’re going to have to build a case. This means quantifying the prevalence of these issues and the cost associated with them.

Here are some of the ways you can quantify how frequently some of these issues occur:

  • Tags and dispositions – Whether it’s tags in your ticket system or dispositions in your phone system, you can assign them to certain issues and get a quick count of how many contacts you are handling about a specific issue.
  • Abnormal spikes in volume – If you took a hundred more calls on a given Wednesday than you do on any other Wednesday and you know you had a particular issue that day, chances are, many of those extra hundred calls were about that issue.
  • Cancellation reasons – Work to find out how many people are canceling about a particular issue.
  • Take a sample – For short periods of time, it’s ok to have your agents keep a tally of how often they deal with a particular issue. This gives you a good estimate of daily volume.
  • Feedback – As mentioned earlier, keep track of your top drivers in your customer feedback.

Once you know how often issues occur, it’s time to think about the cost. Here are two ways to associate a cost with certain issues.

  • Cost per contact – If you know how much your company spends on customer service in a given month, divide that by the number of contacts you handle. That will give you a cost per contact. You can multiply that by the number of contacts you’ve had about a particular issue to get a rough estimate of the cost.
  • Cost per acquisition – Your marketing team should have a rough estimate of how much it costs to acquire new customers. If you know that cost and you know how many people are canceling about a particular issue, multiply that by cost per acquisition and you’ll have a good understanding of how much you’d have to spend to replace the customers you’re losing.

Close the loop

The last step in this process is to close the loop. Whether it’s customers or agents who took the time to share feedback, be sure to let them know that the time they spent sharing that feedback was not in vain. By listening and taking action on their feedback you will positively impact customer and employee engagement. That’s a win win!

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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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