4 Customer Experience Conversations I'm Sick Of Hearing

Contributor: Brian Cantor
Posted: 10/24/2016
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Every Monday, I begin my week by searching for hot customer experience stories.  My hope is that I’ll stumble upon new research, uncover interesting perspectives, learn about innovative technology, or encounter new anecdotes that can inform my work as a customer experience advisor.

The initiative is usually fruitful.  I may not always walk away with inspiration for a new topic to cover in a CCW Digital article, but I’ll at least get the opportunity to “sanity check” my own research, ideas and intuition about what’s “hot” within the marketplace.

Depending on how one looks at it, this week’s “search” was either incredibly unproductive or incredibly productive.  It was your classic glass half-empty, half-full scenario.

On the one hand, I was astounded by how many “dated” customer management concepts were being presented as “hot” customer experience topics.  I’m not talking about ideas that exciting a few months ago; I’m talking about topics that were already clichéd five years ago.

On the other hand, the search gave me the idea to say what everyone in the customer management community is thinking – and call out these dated, overplayed topics for what they are.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’m guilty of touching on these topics.  They’ve become utterly ingrained in contact center and customer experience discourse, and referencing them is almost second-nature.

I’m not right to do so.  Time spent dwelling on these clichés is time spent not solving the real, pressing challenges facing today’s contact centers.

Check out the “customer experience conversations I’m sick of hearing.”  And if you see or hear me discussing them from this point forward, feel free to let me know that you’re sick of them as well.

The contact center is not a cost center

It’s the age of customer centricity.  The customer experience is universally identified as a top business priority.

I, accordingly, have a hard time believing people need to be told the contact center – the department most directly responsible for delivering the customer experience - can be a source of value rather than cost.  I do not believe many C-level executives view their contact centers as “cost centers,” and I absolutely know customer service professionals are confident their contact centers can positively impact the business.

Instead of defending the contact center against this non-existent stigma, our community must instead focus on actually generating value from the contact center.  Arguing that the contact center can be a profit center is unnecessary.  Use the time to actually become one.

Ensure your contact center is engaging customers as effectively and efficiently as possible.  Align your contact center with key business objectives.  Leverage data from omnichannel interactions to identify customer demands, uncover pain points, and improve all facets of the customer experience journey.

The contact center community has won the conceptual battle:  the greater business no longer sees us in a decisively negatively light.  Now it’s time to win the war.  It’s time to walk the talk.

Focus on customer-oriented metrics rather than efficiency-oriented ones

“Stop worrying about AHT…Start focusing on CSAT and Net Promoter Score.”

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that sentiment, I would not need to work for CCW Digital.

But the real issue is not the clichéd, overplayed nature of the conversation – it is the fact that the conversation is misleading.

No, I am not saying businesses are wrong to place customer-oriented metrics at the top of the food chain.  I am not saying an agent’s primary KPI should be how many calls he can answer in a shift.

I am, however, saying that many thought leaders have gone too far in their dismissal of efficiency.

There are obviously some exceptions, but most customers place an enormous premium on efficiency.  You know that whole “time is money” thing?  Yeah, that’s a legitimate concept.

Customers are not calling with the hope of a lengthy, intimate conversation about their families, dogs, favorite food items, and career ambitions.  They are calling with the expectation of a quick, effortless, accurate resolution.

Speed unquestionably impacts customer satisfaction.  A business focused on customer-oriented metrics, therefore, must greatly emphasize the efficiency with which it handles customers.

Offer customer support on social media

It’s 2016. We’re years into the “omnichannel revolution.”  We’re over a decade into the “social age.”

So, I’m sorry fellow bloggers, but your commentary about how “customer support is moving to social media” is no longer fresh.

Those inclined to analyze social customer care should not talk about its potential as an alternative to voice support but about ways to make it a more credible, worthwhile alternative.

How can we improve social response rates?  How can we handle deeper, more specific inquiries given the limitations of social communication?  To what extent should we be incorporating tools like Facebook Messenger into our social customer care mix?  Should we use general contact center metrics or social-specific metrics to assess performance?  How can we better align social with the other key contact channels?

If you have the answer to any of those questions, the contact center/customer experience community is listening.

The importance of culture

We all admire the work environments at companies like Disney and Zappos.  As individuals who go to work every day, we all understand the importance of a warm, collaborative, exciting work environment.

We do not need a conversation about the importance of contact center culture.  We know it’s important.

What we absolutely do need is a discussion covering three key topics:

  • How can you create an alignment between contact center culture and your customer base?
  • How can you ensure your entire business – not just your contact center – adopts a culture of customer centricity?
  • How can you ensure your culture generates performance rather than mere contentedness?

The latter bullet is arguably the most compelling of the three.  As much as we want to work in fun environments – and want our companies to be known for their fun workplaces – our top priority is achieving our key objectives.  “Fun” is almost never one of those key objectives.

“Fun” can be a pathway to achieving those key objectives, but a business must not forget that it represents a means rather than an ends.  “Culture” is not about creating the most fun place to work; it is about creating the environment (albeit one that may involve some fun) that optimizes performance.

A conversation that focuses on the role culture plays in driving performance – rather than the role it plays in simply driving happiness – is far more timely, relevant and valuable.

brian
Contributor: Brian Cantor