Five Common Misconceptions about creating best in class Customer Experiences
At the tender age of 18, I started working in a call center that served (wait for it) FREE COFFEE! I felt so grown up. We had a dress code and everything and I was stoked. At that time, some people had cell phones, but most had contraptions that you plugged into a wall and get this, you couldn’t see the person on the other end (the golden age).
Guess the primary channel for communication in the call center… I’ll give you a second… okay then a hint… the word “call” has something to do with it. Yes! Phones!! Over 90% of our volume came by way of calls and the remaining 10% was fax. No, not efax. A real, actual fax machine.
At that time, human interaction was not only expected, but it was the only way. Interactive Voice Response systems (IVRs… press 1 for this, 2 for that) were fairly new, and the internet was just picking up steam (I feel old).
Today, we live in a world where information is available at your fingertips, literally. If you want something, you just search for it and it magically appears. We’re in the age of self service and reduced effort. That’s what your Customer Experience should really be about.
This brings me to my first point.
#1: Customers don’t really care that much about speaking to a real person.
Okay, okay… I see the boxing gloves, and I can tell you’re ready to battle, but hear me out. I’m going to share a personal experience. I recently reached out to a company with a question I deemed simple. Much to my chagrin, the answer was not in the knowledge base or help desk, and I was required to send an email. Two days later, I get a response back that was clearly pre-written, because the answer to my question was in the bottom section, and the top was perhaps for someone else. Not sure… BUT, I do know a better experience would have been for me to either have been able to find that answer myself OR to have received an instant response with the answer to my question.
To put it simply, Customers don’t care to talk to humans, they just want a resolution. So instead of focusing on putting butts in seats, focus on pre-empting your Customers needs, reducing their efforts and when needed, have a person available to answer their questions live (during reasonable hours).
We're now at point two...
#2: You must operate 24/7 to deliver great service.
I can see you’re probably ready to stop reading now, because you’re thinking: this lady doesn’t know what she’s talking about… Au contraire! I do. There are some businesses that need to deliver 24/7 service. Did I say businesses? I meant emergency response centers. Yes, those. If you’re in the business of saving lives, by all means, operate 24/7, 366 on leap year. If you are in the B2B space, and your Customers operate 24/7, and your service offering can stop their business, then yes… you’ve signed up for no sleep. However, if you sell shoes, and orders received daily before 11 AM are packed and shipped the same day, and everything else goes out the next day… why 24/7?
If you can’t deliver results 24/7, you shouldn’t be operating 24/7. Getting a 2 AM call for something that must wait until 9 AM means just that… wait until 9AM. During the holiday season, I can see a need to extend hours, but again I recommend extending only to the extent that you can deliver. I assure you, on Christmas Day, no one is thinking: let me call and order new shoes. They’re just not. Sorry!
There is a way to deliver 24/7 service, should you choose and it doesn’t require people. Help Desks or Knowledge Bases deliver 24/7 support for FREE. Well not “free” … but, I think you get it. I know what you’re thinking: they’re so stoic, so disconnected. You know what else they are? Full of useful information if you set them up right. They will drastically reduce Customer effort and can actually deliver great service.
I say a great Customer Experience is a fast and efficient Customer Experience. Truthfully, nothing else matters.
If you're thinking Help Desks are techy and feel impersonal.
#3 This is for you.
You know what’s super impersonal, and a nightmare to use? Static FAQ sections with no searchability. If you have static FAQs, you need a Help Desk. Help Desks are your FAQs on steroids. Customers can search their answers and find their own solutions. This saves you time and money. If you’re finding that you’re still getting requests for a live agent for questions that are present in your Help Desk, consider re-wording your answers to focus more so on the solution, no fluff.
Let your Customers tell you what it is they need from you, and quickly adjust your Help Desk with new answers to continue to drive your volume down. This is one recommendation I always give to my clients: Deflect, don’t deter. If your Customer wants to get in touch with you, don’t make it impossible, but be transparent about when you’re available or not available. It’s important to manage expectations.
Or you could always send your people contacts overseas. That seems to be the thing to do. It’s cheaper. But it’s certainly not better.
#4 Cheaper is better.
I’d much rather type into a Help Desk than to have humans answering the phones and addressing concerns the same as robots. Speaking of robots, chatbots and auto responders can do the same thing as a person reading a script, for about the same or less and get you the same result: an escalation to someone on shore if they are not happy with the answer received.
In Los Angeles, it’s expensive to grow a Support team. In most cases, the wages paid are not livable wages and this causes the crabs in a barrel effect, and extremely high turnover. How do we combat this?
With my team, I allow them to make decisions and choices. We will answer Customer inquiries for our Client, but we treat each engagement as a learning opportunity and we quickly adjust any materials to avoid having to deflect, not deter. This has drastically increased retention and allows for better pay. Their job is far beyond answering complaints.
Once businesses stop seeing Customer Experience teams as the people who answer the phone, reply to emails are respond to chat messages, we all win. There’s a wealth of information within that team. Letting machines handle the black and white and people handle the gray will afford you more time to train and build true Subject Matter Experts (SME) who can engage with your Customer moving it from Contact Center (or “cost” center) to a revenue generating center.
No business exists without Customers, so why do we treat the people who service the Customers as less than equal? Expect more + pay better = Happier Employees = Happier Customers.
The caliber of person you hire makes all the difference. So many times, I’ve seen the head of CX role go to the person most willing to work nights, weekends and holidays (see #2) or the person who is kindest. Working more, doesn’t make you better. Working smarter makes you better. What businesses should be looking for is the person who can lay a scalable foundation for your growth in the most efficient way.
#5 You may believe that the person leading CX has to be the most empathetic leader. But, I say they kind of need to be a shark.
If they’re not a shark, you will end up needing me and I can be a shark, or Nannie MacPhee as I’ve once been called. From the onset, you should be setup to scale. Your processes should work for 1 employee or 100, for 10 Customers or 10,000. The sweet empathetic person may be able to do this, but likely not. Once you’re ready to scale, you’re then looking for someone who has built teams quickly before, and that comes at a healthy rate.
Depending on your projections, you should be looking to hire someone for your head of CX role who has had responsibility for close to double the headcount you think you will need in a year’s time (by the way, your headcount projections are probably also wrong, but that will be another story). The reason you want this is because this person will understand what it takes to get you where you’re going and will be of great importance to you when you go beyond that number.
What you want is someone who understands the operational piece who can build the structure and hire the right personalities to engage with your Customers.
Here’s what I know for sure: there is no right or wrong way to build your Customer Experience. I take that back, building the Customer Experience YOU want is the wrong way; building the Customer Experience your Customer wants is the right way.
I’d love to know your thoughts.