I was recently asked to share my thoughts on a number of questions regarding the recent past and immediate future of contact centers by Contact Center World, a global organization providing industry insights and networking opportunities. I've captured some highlights below and hope you find a useful insight or two - enjoy!Q: In your opinion, what has been the greatest challenge the contact center industry has faced in the last 12 months?
A: Dealing with all of the variables now facing contact centers and primarily the Omnichannel.
Q: Why do you believe has this been a challenge?
A: As we move into an Omnichannel world, challenged with how to be brilliant via all channels, more is being demanded of contact center leaders then ever before. We are no longer an industry focused primarily on servicing or selling on the phone - now, we need to take into account live chat, social media and mobile and continue the traditional alternatives such as e-mail. Doing so requires increased creativity, a mastery of managing multiple priorities, the ability to build a highly diverse team and technical savvy to leverage the latest cloud based technologies.
Q: In 2018, what do you think will be the top priorities in the contact center industry for each of the following (1 answer for each please): a) Contact Center Directors b) Company Executives c) IT Directors d) Human Resources Directors (please state a, b, c, d as you answer)
A: For Directors: Brand of leadership required for an Omnichannel world. B) For executives: Defining the right Omnichannel strategy combined with the justification of hiring a chief experience officer. C) IT Directors: Sourcing the right SaaS based technologies to stay current, cost effective and enable the most efficient employee and customer experience. D) HR Director: Finding the best talent - an arduous task for any contact center today.
Q: What impact have "external events" even had on your company, and how have you adapted your business?
A: I would say that the number and degree of natural disasters across the globe, including earthquakes, hurricanes and forest fires severely tested the resilience of affected companies, either for being in an affected location or for supporting those who were affected. A strong business continuity plan and owner would have been paramount.
Q: Do you feel the service you personally get as a customer is better or worse than it was a year ago? Please share some examples to illustrate your view.
A: I would say it's neither substantially better or worse. I continue to experience inconsistencies in quality of service, especially with Fortune 500 companies. I am definitely given routine pause for thought after many of my experiences as a consumer. If I were to identify one piece of advice for service executives, it would be this: "Equip your employees with the right tools and resources to deliver memorable service and equally important, make my interaction simpler and one that requires less effort - and personally engage me to see what you can do differently. I almost never hear from companies beyond routine online survey requests.
Q: What contact center technology or other innovation excites you the most right now?
A: Artificial Intelligence - the ability to predict customer behaviour based on a behavioural analysis of prior interactions and match a servicing approach accordingly is fascinating. Of course it has to be executed right.
Q: Can you share a great story of service you received when contacting a contact center in the past year? If so, please share!
A: In brief, I spoke with a large cable provider about a series of poor experiences trying to set up our service. There was a number of mistakes made involving multiple phone calls, technician visits and poor demonstrations of listening, empathy and execution. When I arrived at the President's Office to escalate my concern, I was met with the kind of employee everyone is after; someone who is genuinely kind, empathetic and willing to resolve our issue - and did she ever. Suffice it to say that she ensured they would hold onto our business for a while. And why: because in one phone call, we had the right technical solution created, generous compensation for our ordeal and everything conveyed in a quick, efficient and empathetic manner. Perfect!
Happy Holidays to all of our readers! Yes, we know they are mostly in the rear-view mirror by now... We hope that your holidays were joyous and your shopping was full of memorable customer service experiences! But just in case it wasn't... What better time than the New Year to present our Customer Experience Wish List for 2017!
In a world full of so much choice, how do you make your business standout? In our experience, savvy companies are using the customer experience as a means of distinguishing themselves from the competition. By offering a unique and unforgettable experience (no easy task!) they hope to be the one you'll remember and choose the next time you need something. So, whether it's a small business selling hand crafted chocolates, a midsize hardware chain competing with the giants or an international hotelier trying to be your home away from home, there's a good chance they're all focused on creating a memorable customer experience.
Here are the things that we think all business should be doing to standout in 2017!
Here's a recent example of what unexpected look like for us:
Recently, my wife took our 2 year old son to McDonald's for a treat. My wife placed her order at the self-serve kiosk and was waiting with our son for her food and drink when an employee spotted her. Recognizing how challenging it is to ask a 2 year old to wait patiently - you know what I am talking about!, this employee insisted that my wife and son take a seat and relax and that she'd bring the food over when ready. How about that?!
And then this employee went a step further - I know! After returning with their food, she came back with crayons, stickers and paper to keep our son entertained. To say my wife was blown away is an understatement. Way to go McDonald's, you took an everyday experience and made it exceptional! This is exactly how to stand out! And yes, we made sure that employee and her leader(s) knew how we felt about it.
If you have any great stories on how companies are making the ordinary experience extraordinary, we'd love to hear about them! We know there are many great examples out there!
And on that note, we'd like to wish all of our readers a fabulous 2017!
Eli and Jennifer
Lets talk about the one year, limited warranty. Or as I like to call it, the "We don't have enough confidence in the quality of our products to guarantee them beyond 12 months" warranty. Moreover, we will only cover certain scenarios if the product does break. Every time I am shopping for something, such as a TV, laptop, or appliance, I often see the one year limited warranty label and it leaves me questioning retailers (even Apple) as to why they will not stand by their product.
Is it a lack of research and development? Is product testing not rigorous enough? Is it too costly to guarantee the working order of something beyond the first year? I don't mean to oversimplify but as a consumer, if I am going to invest hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars into something, I should feel confident that it will last - that may not mean a lifetime, especially with today's more complex, breakable technologies, but it should be two years at a minimum and better yet three - and without limitations.
So , why don't all companies stand behind their product? And why do some do so more than others? I can only speculate but I believe like too many corporate decisions, it comes down to money. I think companies have a two fold strategy. First, products are just not made like they were twenty years ago. Ask anybody who fixes these products for a living and they will confirm it. They certainly have to me! It comes down to the reality of integrating more and more electronics such as LED displays, increased automation and additional functionality.
By adding such complexity, companies are creating products that will break more easily than before - that's the reality of integrating so much technology. Consumers will then be left with two choices, repair or replace, which often will depend if an extended warranty was purchased - excluded are most issues occurring in year one post purchase. This brings us to reason number two for why companies do not build things like they used to - innovation. Technology is advancing so fast, that many of us are waiting for the next version of something before we've even really experienced what we just bought - Apple has perfected this strategy with the iPhone.
Therefore, our temptation and impatience are capitalized on because many of us want the next great thing and then the NEXT great thing after that, and it may only be two or three years later. This is the simple reality of the age we live in and the speed with which companies create something new. For those who are more patient and want to ensure we don't pay for break downs, after one year you can buy an extended warranty for about 20% of the product's cost - that's not cheap and if you have an issue you likely won't deal with the manufacturer.
So, where does this leave us? While I don't have a definitive answer, I do believe that companies can do better overall and regardless of the financial equation. After all, if I can cite 32 known brands that stand by their products for a lifetime, why can't everyone guarantee at least two years and better yet three? Read about these brave brands here article - how's that for standing behind your product?!
When we put our hard earned money into something, we should have confidence that it will last - that doesn't imply it's immune of repair, but if something needs to be fixed, it shouldn't cost us more money to fix it, especially in the first 2-3 years. And I shouldn't have to buy an extended warranty program to protect it.
We are Customer Service Simplified! If you or someone you know needs help of any kind improving their customer experience, we'd love to help! Learn more about us at www.simplifyingservice.com.
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Authenticity. How important is being authentic? How valuable a tool is it in the workplace? How can someone become even more authentic and then evaluate how they come across to others? Peter Aceto, CEO of Tangerine Bank, recently talked about it's importance at a conference I attended and it got me thinking - just how much of a difference maker being authentic can be - so let's delve a bit deeper.
I touched on authenticity briefly, when I blogged about leadership earlier in the year and I believe it merits it's own blog. Authenticity is simply not something I see in people everyday but when I do I am instantly won over. This is especially true when being an employee (in a former life...) or a customer.
Professionally, I see two areas where being authentic can be a huge difference maker: LEADING AND SELLING. In each area, authenticity can lead to a great deal of influence and trust from those we interact with.
Let's start with Leading: In my experience, employees crave empowerment, participation, recognition and most important, someone they can truly learn from. If you encourage someone sincerely and it comes from a good and unselfish place, it can create a relationship of trust and belief in YOU, as a leader. And when this happens, the employee becomes very willing to listen to what you have to say and believe in what you are trying to do - the result of which is your team fulfilling its potential.
Now, this isn't as simple as it sounds. It takes hard work to remain authentic, especially in a corporate environment where politics, pressure and achievement often dominate. And with the general expectation to overachieve on corporate objectives, traits that can require great patience, such as care, perseverance and authenticity, are more difficult to attain. Especially for those who don't come by it naturally.
Being authentic needs to be woven into your personality fabric; it has to be sustained to be believable. Let me qualify that being authentic is not a prerequisite to be successful but I really believe that it makes you a better Leader. Being authentic encourages trust and buy in from those around you, and this often translates to better results. I have seen this time and time again in my own career.
Selling authentically can be even harder. Sometimes we may be asked to sell products or services we don't entirely believe in. When this happens, our ability to remain authentic can become difficult. For the most part though, the very same principles apply. Of course, you want to be selling something you believe in. Look at how it helps your customer be better. What value can it add? Find one nugget that you can believe in sincerely. And if you truly can't get behind your product in some way, it might be time to find something else you CAN support. It is nearly impossible to fake authenticity and any reasonably savvy consumer will see right through you.
If you are selling something you believe in, then let that work to your advantage! Be passionate and energized and share your excitement. Use the steps above to learn how you come across to others. This is a really powerful tool as you strive to become more authentic. Finally, look for specific ways to show you're sincere about what you're selling; find something specific that resonates with you and share it! Better still, if you also own the product or service, share why you chose it for yourself.
Too often, we find insincerity in the workplace, instead of honesty and authenticity. Strive to find an organization that aligns with your own values and ideals so you can keep YOUR integrity and principles intact. If they are, it will be that much easier to be authentic in all of your interactions.
A few things that will help you be authentic (as a Leader and a Seller):
People have a genuine desire to feel good and being authentic fits right into that desire. If this is already who you are, kudos! Keep doing what you're doing and strive to evolve even further! But if you want to change your approach and become more authentic, now's the time! The results will follow.
We are Customer Service Simplified! We help companies improve their Customer Experience - if you need help of any kind, we'd love to hear from you. Pay us a visit us at www.simplifyingservice.com to learn more!
My wife and I have travelled quite a bit and we've enjoyed every moment of it...well, almost every moment. We'd be lying if we didn't admit to encountering some pitfalls along the way. Who hasn't? When you consider the number of organizations involved in travel, it's a fair assumption that not everything will go perfectly. It's also probably safe to say that you're bound to meet with at least a little disappointment. (Unless you're flying a private jet, going to your own private island...but that's another blog!) The key is to avoid MAJOR disappointment. Travel is a gift, at least for us, and to lose even some of that joy is a shame. We make sure to set reasonable expectations and use companies we can depend on (for flights, hotel, car, etc.).
Since we are customer experience consultants and quite resourceful, we believe we set ourselves up well when preparing to travel. One of the simplest forms of escape is the Caribbean all inclusive (AI) resort. We've made eight AI trips in the last 10 years and have enough first hand knowledge to let the world know what we think. And let's face it, as Canadians living with too much cold and snow over a 12 month stretch, the temptation of white sand, clear blue water and an icy beverage or two is too hard to pass up - at least for us!
So what makes one AI resort stand out from the others? Are there themes common to all of them? What makes the experience so popular? What can you expect as a first timer? How expensive are these getaways? Which AI resorts do it best? Are there specific destinations that make more sense as an AI trip? Is there an argument for avoiding the AI experience altogether? What are the alternatives? Does time of year make a difference? Let's take a closer look.
The AI argument FOR - what do we like about it?
The AI argument AGAINST - what do we not like about it?
The elusive AI CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE - what needs to improve?
This is where all AI's can improve (at least the one's we have visited). While there are various areas where some do better than others, and none we've visited have failed entirely, we are unconvinced that any resort has nailed the ideal customer experience. Some of the inconsistencies include:
All in all, we are in favour of the AI experience. While there are substantial ways most tour operators and resorts can improve, those seeking an affordable holiday in a warm place, with access to great pools/beaches, decent food and drink and some good company, this is the trip for you, especially if you like to remain seated. Just be sure to do your due diligence - we suggest reading a handful of 3 star reviews on Trip Advisor, which are often balanced and helpful.
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