Stellar - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
‘Best practices’ is a term that is commonly used while referring to processes or procedures that are prescribed as being most effective. In the context of customer experience management, the question arises - can the implementation of best practices lead to differentiation?
One could argue that if best practices are defined as established practices, implementation of these practices would merely be playing catch-up with market leaders. Implementation of best practices would be similar to playing defence rather than playing offence, and would help a company survive rather than make a significant dent in the marketplace.
Here’s our point of view on the matter.
From a customer experience management perspective, companies need to look beyond 'best practices' and establish 'breakthrough practices'.
Breakthrough practices are policies, processes, and procedures that focus on driving what is possible to achieve differentiation. Breakthrough practices are 'fit to purpose' and reflect the vision, strategy, and brand values of a company. Best practices are objective and established; breakthrough practices are subjective, dynamic, and disruptive.
For example Zappos, a company that focuses on 'customer happiness' as a key brand value, ignores the best practice of measuring 'average handle time' as a measure of contact centre agent efficiency and instead uses ‘after call wrap up’. This frees up their agents to devote the necessary time to establish an emotional connection with their customers and address their issues to satisfaction. Then, while agents are not interacting with customers and their throughput becomes more relevant, they are measured on wrap-up time. Zappos' breakthrough practice is one of the key contributors to its legendary customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
In another example, EMC discovered that even though their customers were highly satisfied with their products, they did not necessarily demonstrate loyalty to the company. EMC decided to ignore the traditional measures of Customer Satisfaction and NPS to gauge customer experience, and instead established Customer Loyalty Index as a measure of customer experience and loyalty. The index hinges on three questions:
- Is the customer satisfied overall with EMC's people, products, and services?
- Is the customer likely to purchase EMC products and services again?
- Is the customer willing to recommend EMC's products and services?
Customers must answer "yes" to all three questions to be categorized as loyal.
Supported by a holistic, data driven closed-loop process, EMC’s award winning breakthrough practice of managing customer experience is now being adopted by other technology companies.
In summary, in the world of customer experience management, adopt a breakthrough practices mindset if you want to drive differentiation based on brand values.
- Consider established best practices as a point of reference, and not the destination
- Look beyond competitors into practices across other verticals and geographies
- Feel free to ignore best practices, and define policies and procedures that are 'fit to purpose'
- Innovate and differentiate
What breakthrough practices have you applied at your companies?
About the author
Amrita Bhattacharyya – Director of Consulting Services
Amrita has over 12 years of management consulting experience with top-tier consulting firms in the US working for Fortune 500 clients, and executive leadership experience in Australia. As a former management consultant, she has had the benefit of exposure to a varied mix of business challenges across multiple industries, business models, organizational cultures, and enabling technologies.
The breadth of her experience enables her to look beyond the obvious, which is particularly powerful in the realm of customer strategy where success often is determined not only by operational and people excellence, but also by challenging established best practices and doing things differently.
Publish Date: June 12, 2015 5:00 AM
It’s the thing we’ve read about, planned for, and braced ourselves to be ready to tackle for the last couple of years: the reduced reliance on traditional voice channels that threatens to change the face of the contact centre industry forever.
As consumers ourselves, I doubt there would be much surprise that people are more readily embracing social media and web chat as channels of choice. They’re always available, you can manage your grievance or enquiry while you’re also doing something else, and – most glorious of all – you don’t need to listen to hold music.
In January 2015, over 3% of the customer interactions Stellar managed for our clients were via social media or webchat. And while that’s obviously proportionately small, it’s the relatively rapid growth, the variety of channels and enquiry types and immediate impact on the customer experience that is the truly astonishing part. Across the travel, tourism, government, telco and ISP sectors, Stellar currently manages an online community of over 430,000 customers across our clients’ social media sites, and handles 455,000+ digital service interactions a year. In addition to the astonishing growth is the impact this has made on the service profile with smaller teams, a different agent skill set and new and emerging technologies, which are changing the look and feel of our existing contact centre environments.
We have been talking to a lot of our clients in a range of industries, navigating nervousness about brand protection to reach this inevitable tipping point. However, there are still plenty of organisations and companies still holding out on offering digital service to their customers – whether social media service, web chat support or emerging digital channels – and it’s a similar range of concerns that’s stopping them from embarking on this journey.
Digital and especially social media is still viewed by many to be a risky channel to open, citing issues around brand protection, complaint management and the prospect of issues being discussed openly in a public forum. However global evidence suggests that the greater risk is not doing anything at all and ignoring your customers online. Studies by Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers – a frightening statistic
Through this experience, Stellar has found that opening up and embracing these channels creates opportunities to interact, engage and rescue customers that in the pre-digital age would have moved on to a competitor or not used your product again. By setting up the correct processes and by giving your social team the power to resolve issues and manage them in the channel in which they’re raised, you have the ability to save customers, make them happy and turn them into brand advocates in that very same public forum. That’s money-can’t-buy publicity, and it’s easy to do well.
It’s hard to prove success
Cost and Return on Investment are key elements of all digital discussions. These channels do require investment – in technology, people and time – and the return on this investment has often been difficult to measure.
Bain & Company found that when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company. Harvard Business Review found that customers who encounter positive social customer care experiences are nearly 3 times more likely to recommend a brand. What this shows is that when done well, the ROI for these channels will please even the digital sceptics within your organisation.
Social solutions have come a long way very quickly, and we can provide the technology, the processes and the tools to measure the tangible benefits of these strategies. Whether the cost saving from call deflection, the incremental revenue of additional sales that wouldn’t have existed without a digital engagement approach, or the NPS and issue resolution of these channels, we have the ability to measure it and provide you with all the information needed to take back to your senior management team and prove the success of the channel.
It’s a fad!
Yes, there are still people out there claiming that the digital bubble will burst and we’ll all go back to sending letters any minute. The reality is that digital channels aren’t a pure replacement of traditional channels; they co-exist as complementary avenues, allowing you to engage with people who were previously out of reach for your organisation. So don’t give up your pen license just yet, but it’s impossible to ignore what customers are trying to tell us, with every action they take. Where social media used to be focussed on pushing out marketing activities, the dynamic has changed, with 67% of consumers now using a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing (J.D. Power and Associates).
A Nielsen study found that 33% of users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.
Now, even though 67% still prefer other channels, that’s 33% of your customers who would have a better experience with your brand if you connected with them online.
The other piece of real data that’s too compelling to ignore is around the value of the experience from the customer perspective. Regardless of industry, our existing web chat services are delivering an average Net Promoter Score of 55+. And while social media satisfaction can be measured by sentiment as well as NPS, the trends are the same – digital service customers are happy customers.
Customers are flocking to these channels because it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s where they already spend their time. By meeting them there you can reduce risk, reduce costs and increase revenues, while gaining valuable insights into your processes, your products, your competitors and your industry in real time.
One customer’s story
Theory is one thing, but the most powerful motivator to get your social strategy started is seeing how other organisations are succeeding. So below we’ve outlined the story of one of our early adopters of social media service – a Government transport client.
This amazing client, despite the perceived risk by some people in the industry, decided to tackle negative sentiment around product and services head on. The service needed to be 24/7 and responsive to engage with the travelling public and ensure users returned to this channel again.
Over the course of a year, a channel that was previously entirely controlled by customers has turned into a two-way engagement, and the results and customer sentiment have been outstanding. Happy customer, happy public.
So is it all over for contact centres?
It’s so clear that “Digital” isn’t spelling the demise of contact centres, merely triggering the next evolution. It’s an opportunity to have rich, rapid, rewarding engagements with your customers, and it enhances the contact centre opportunities, rather than replacing them. It’s a really exciting time to be working in customer relationship management, and our “Stellar Enhance” offering is bundling up everything we’ve learnt so far and everything we’re delivering to our fearless customers already.
Customers have changed, and so has the humble contact centre. If you’re ready to unleash its potential to create better customer relationships, give us a call (or a Tweet!).
About Andrew Hague
Andrew Hague is Stellar’s Business Solutions Digital Lead. As a passionate advocate of the potential that digital presents for unparalleled engagement with customers, Andrew sits across the design and delivery of the digital strategy for all of Stellar’s clients. Throughout the sales process, strategy development, implementation and ongoing operation of the service, he adds his expertise and understanding of how to manage social customer care well.
Andrew brings his curiosity, expertise and hands-on enthusiasm to every engagement, and he firmly believes that continuity between strategy and day to day operations is the secret to a dynamic, successful digital solution.
We are the voice behind some of the world’s biggest and brightest brands. As Australia’s leading contact centre and business process outsourcing provider, we’re instinctively restless in finding new ways to add value and potential to every customer interaction.
From traditional phone and email activities, to complex back office, cutting edge social and digital services, and multilingual operations, we don’t just deliver; we delight. And we continue to add value to our partners by analysing our performance and suggesting better ways of doing business. A Stellar partnership is about more than just having the solutions; it’s about helping to define the questions.
Frost and Sullivan have named us Contact Centre Outsourcing Service Provider of the Year for the last three years running. Every day, across every industry and every medium, we create better customer relationships.
Publish Date: February 17, 2015 5:00 AM
If you’re in the business of customer service, you’re probably also in the business of running a contact centre. And while customer experience may be top of mind, that doesn’t mean that the contact centre can always be your core focus. So how do you strike the balance between a welcoming customer experience, happy employees, and solid business outcomes?
There are a lot of factors underpinning a successful centre, so it’s helpful to think about your centre’s performance in three major categories – setup, day-to-day operations and customer management strategy. Here are a few key questions to think about within each category:
1. The setup of your contact centre
The right contact centre location and a strong operating rhythm is critical to the success of attracting and retaining the right employees; in our experience, if you get these elements right, you can go a long way towards driving stronger outcomes for your customers.
- Is your centre based in a location that provides good facilities for your employees, encouraging them to stay working with you?
- Are you attracting and retaining the right people with the right skillsets to keep your centre running well?
- Do you have the building blocks in place to establish and sustain a strong operating rhythm - keeping track of all your metrics and communicating your successes?
2. Day-to-day operations of your centre
Ensuring everyone is aware of their performance and the impact that they have on customers is a key part of success in a centre. Sharing information on the key performance attributes across the company will help to build a stronger emphasis on how individual contributions drive customer service and financial performance.
- Are all of your employees aware of the right KPIs to target, and are there coaching processes and resources in place to help employees grow, and exceed expectations?
- Do you have clear scorecards to observe trends in performance and identify areas for improvement?
- Are incentive programs in place to encourage strong employee engagement
3. Alignment of your centre with your customer strategy
Your centre cannot operate separately from your overall strategy for customer engagement and your brand. The contact centre is on the frontline of how you define your customer management strategy.
- Have you defined targeted outcomes for engaging with your customers across all channels, including digital channels like live chat, mobile and social media?
- Is the quality of your customer interactions measured through a framework that aligns to your overall customer experience strategy? Is there consistent awareness amongst your agents as to how each interaction should look and feel for customers?
- Are you aware of the drivers that impact your call quality, in relation to what customers expect?
- Do you track the extent to which your customers are likely to be promoters or detractors of your services throughout the customer lifecycle?
It’s a lot to consider, but each of these factors relate your operations back to the same critical element: the customer. Taking each of these areas into account will help you establish a scorecard to measure the health and success of your centre. Each area will have a different priority to you depending on the scale of your business and the channels you use to deliver customer service. Invest some time to think about how you could improve functions and measure your ability to keep your customers happy.
Publish Date: August 25, 2014 5:00 AM
Not so long ago, the art of conversation involved simply mastering your words and manners while in the same room as someone else. Then the contact centre arrived, and skills mastered in the face-to-face world transformed to rely on voice alone. Now, the digital age is driving us to even greater evolution.
Today, a conversation is borderless, timeless…and potentially not even a word is spoken. Five years ago, it would have seemed impossible that your customers would be able to contact you not just in person or by phone or email, but that they would be tweeting and sharing and pinning, demanding on-site web chat, and crowdsourcing their answers from a forum of informed strangers. But this is just the beginning of our new reality.
The explosion of new interaction technology over the last few years has unharnessed customer expectations, and shows no sign of abating. Customers are now able to ask what they want, where and when the question occurs to them. They can share their opinions with the world, rather than just their families. They can share experiences with strangers, and share ideas and tips on products and services. This new frontier of conversation is both exciting and challenging – how do we translate the skills of the old art, and turn our hand to the new?
The starting point is simple: discover what defines meaningful conversation to your customers. For each medium, what are they looking for? Low cost immediate service, bespoke service tailored to them as an individual, recognition of their previous interactions regardless of channel?
Just because a customer is online, don’t assume they want casual tone. Just because a customer calls, don’t assume they’ve got plenty of time. Find out what conversations they want to have with you, and how they want to have them. Technology doesn’t mean you have to throw away what you know – you just have to find out how to use it differently.
It’s time to let our craft evolve, creating the modern art of c
Publish Date: June 12, 2014 5:00 AM
Interacting with your customers across several channels has become common nowadays. Once upon a time, we may have assumed that customers would interact with us either in-store, on the phone, or online, and that we didn't necessarily need to be too concerned about the customer experience being seamless across all channels. Time has proven this assumption wrong.
It has now become critical to be flexible in being able to respond to both your existing customers and potential new customers who are keen to explore what you have to offer across several channels, often all at once.
There is a lot of talk about the need to serve the “omni-channel” customer. The term multi-channel has been around for a while, but what about omni-channel? What is the difference? And why is it worth understanding for your business?
Multi-channel refers to offering services across more than one channel (e.g. a retail store, call centre, on the web, or on a mobile device). It has also been seen as a way to grow at least some of your sales and/or service online.
Omni-channel is an extension of multi-channel. It examines how customers interact with several channels throughout the customer lifecycle, from looking up product information for the first time, through to purchase and after-sales service. The key difference to multi-channel is that customers are now often using multiple channels at once, and are now expecting a consistent experience across each channel.
Here's a few things to consider when assessing how ready you are to serve the omni-channel customer:
- Do you know how many of your customers interact with you across each channel?
- Do you provide a consistent standard of customer experience across different channels? Are there any gaps in the products and services you can offer across channels?
- Do you track your customer satisfaction / net promoter score by channel? If so, does it vary significantly?
The benefits of embracing an omni-channel approach for your customer interactions include the following:
- Helping your customers save time in interacting with you, in turn driving an increase in the number of customers who are willing to promote your brand
- Increasing your ability to convert sales across all channels
- Reducing the overhead you incur in administering customer interactions across various channels
The key message of omni-channel is to deliver a consistent customer experience across every channel your customers want to use. If you can deliver this streamlined consistency, you're going to have a lot more advocates for your brand.
Publish Date: May 19, 2014 5:00 AM
Customers increasingly want to engage with businesses through channels beyond the traditional call centre or retail environment. Given that there is an increasing proportion of non-voice customer interactions, and this trend is expected to continue, is your business ready for this evolution?
Here are a few trends that you need to consider in relation to digital customer service:
- Customers want to interact with you in their own time, and not be limited by traditional trading hours: increased emphasis on non-traditional working hours and frequent travel has driven a higher likelihood of customers not being able to shop or make a customer service enquiry in traditional business hours.
- Customers are always online these days: the increased popularity of smartphones and tablets has changed the types of transactions that are done in the physical vs the digital world. Customer expectations of what transactions can take place via a smartphone have evolved substantially in the last few years, for example paying bills, transferring money and buying tickets to events.
- You need to provide a quick turnaround time for resolving issues, even beyond what traditional channels can offer: more people are turning to non-voice based channels for customer service, both in a self-service and assisted manner – and they expect immediacy, regardless of complexity
Your ability to engage with customers across new channels, such as social and live chat, is a major part of being able to meet the change in this trend. Having worked with several companies at different stages of their own digital service evolution, we’ve seen a clear correlation between those who take the time to understand WHY the channels are so important, and those who successfully make the change. Invest some time up front to understand why it’s important to your customers, and it’ll be much easier to understand WHAT you need to do.
Publish Date: May 19, 2014 5:00 AM
Last time I talked about some basic concepts to start the NPS journey, and the importance of ensuring the score was just the start of the journey and not the outcome.
A key element to becoming a customer centric organisation is engaging your front line employees. Ultimately, it is your front line team who engage with your customers and deliver outcomes.
Here are 6 simple tips to engage your people to drive NPS outcomes for your business and customers:
Make sure your team understand what NPS is, how it is calculated, why you are measuring it and how it is part of an ongoing program to improve the customer experience. Let your team know how you will be communicating outcomes and how you want them to participate in the program. This is essential - otherwise NPS becomes background noise and the team will continue to focus on traditional KPIs.
2. Set a target
Once you have been running your program for a few months and understand your baseline score, set an aspirational target and a KPI for your contact centre to reach. Clearly communicate this and create a visual display in the centre that the team can track month on month. Include NPS as part of the centre’s scorecard to ensure it is a target for everyone.
3. NPS Champions
Establish NPS champions in your centre who meet each month, discuss results and help maintain focus and momentum. This team will help drive the ongoing program, keep the conversation going and support process and other changes. If you have a large centre we recommend one champion per team, as sharing and tracking team results is a very easy way to create involvement and a bit of healthy competition to deliver the right outcomes!
4. Feedback from employees
Your employees have a wealth of information about your customers, what frustrates them and what delights them. Make sure you workshop outcomes with your employees, collate ideas about what will work and what won’t. Once you have identified some drivers, workshop what you can do to change the process – sometimes the solution is a very simple one!
5. Sharing results
In addition to sharing the monthly number – preferably tracked each month and very visible in your centre – share results at team level if they are available. Create a team competition around their results and put in place rewards for the team with the best results. Don’t just focus on the number; share verbatim comments - both positive and negative - at centre gatherings and team meetings.
6. Rewarding results
Delivering great customer service is the responsibility of everyone in the centre. Make sure you reward the team when they reach or exceed targets. Celebrate together and make your NPS a critical focus. Also make sure to reward individuals – hand out certificates and publicly acknowledge positive customer feedback when an individual receives it – we have noticed many customers like to thank an individual by name in their verbatim comments – why don’t you thank them too!
NPS is all about the customer and this is the fundamental message you need to have in your centre. It is an outcome that is owned by everyone, not just a number that is put on the wall each month. If the customer is not at the centre of everything you do, measuring NPS will not help. Make the customer part of every conversation and make this the cornerstone of your focus and you will improve your NPS.
Publish Date: February 17, 2014 5:00 AM
One of the advantages of working for an outsourcer is that I get the opportunity to understand how each of our clients is using their net promoter score to drive a better experience for their customers. Our clients are doing just that – using the feedback and score to better understand drivers of low scores and modelling what drives a customer to be a promoter. Each is using their data to better understand and respond to customer needs and we get to help them on that journey, adding our experience across multiple industries into their specific service.
Not all companies are so advanced in their management of NPS though; many are still spending a lot of time and effort to obtain a score, but seem unsure what to do next. If you want to make a difference and improve your customer experience, collecting the score is only the first step of the process. First you need to understand why it’s important, set up clear targets or benchmarks that you want to measure yourself against, and then put an action plan into place to close the gap.
Even if you don’t have a lot of information there are some easy starting points. Look at your NPS score each month and track that against activities and events.
- Did you make grade of service each month? (While this won’t necessarily drive a good result, it can certainly explain a bad one – who is going to recommend your product or service if they have just spent 30 minutes waiting to talk to someone?)
- Were there changes to the service that occurred – was there a price increase, a service outage, a double bill run – that could have affected a particular month’s score?
- What were the common themes in your verbatim comments from detractors? Did a billing issue come up often, are customers telling you that there is a service issue or misleading information, and so on?
The above can help you to understand what may be impacting your NPS. I also recommend that any survey includes a few additional questions:
- What was the reason for the call (if you cannot identify it from an inbound queue)?
- Was the call resolved to your satisfaction? Yes, No, Too early to tell
- How would you rate the ability of the agent to resolve your issue? 1-5 or 0-10 scale
- Would you recommend my product or service? 0-10 scale
- Why did you give us that rating?
The above provides a wealth of information that can help you start to understand issues by correlating the results. Was the NPS the same across all reasons for contacting you, or are contact reasons driving a variable NPS? Are unresolved calls resulting in a low NPS score and does this differ by reason for contact? Does the customer’s perception of the agent’s ability to resolve their issue impact NPS and does this vary by reason for contact? What are the verbatims telling you? This data is a good starting point to understand some of the underlying hot spots and drivers for your NPS score.
I recommend you start with your detractors and the lowest score call type. Listen to some calls, study the verbatims and workshop with your front line employees. Sometimes there are some easy wins and you can make a real difference very quickly. Keep the focus and work through the issues. As you undertake your program you will continue to develop a better customer experience, and just as importantly encourage your team to start thinking differently about how their actions can impact your customers. It is hard to create promoters for your brand if your frontline team are not promoters themselves.
All of the above is just the start. Close the loop and contact detractors, ask them for the reasons they are unhappy and turn them into promoters.
NPS is a journey and one that will deliver rewards for those who follow up and apply discipline. You don’t have to solve all the problems today, you just need to start the process.
Publish Date: January 20, 2014 5:00 AM
As an outsourcer, we see a lot of requests for tender/proposals and the quality and clarity of these can vary dramatically. There are a lot of common mistakes that make it very difficult for companies wishing to outsource to get a real understanding of their options and even the potential costs of outsourcing.
Some of the common mistakes include lack of clear volume requirements which make it difficult for your prospective partner to accurately forecast your resourcing needs and may lead to different responses being received. Another common mistake is confusing and often overly complex pricing schedules which make it difficult to compare apples with apples.
Some guidelines to follow to help you select the right partner and get the most out of the selection process include:
- Clearly outline your resource requirements, including call volume patterns at a daily and weekly level. Average handling times (AHT) for each transaction type is an essential piece of data to include. If you have intraday profiles of call arrival patterns, include them – a good outsourcer will be able to accurately forecast your resource requirements to deliver a realistic solution.
- Define your key customer service drivers – is it sales, customer service, first call resolution, or something else entirely? Ask for examples of how a company has delivered these outcomes in the past.
- Specify what is a ‘must have’ versus a ‘nice to have’. Often proposals want a full outline of social media channels, IVR automation and so on, but the buyer doesn’t currently have the budget to support these innovations, or is interested only in the capability for future initiatives. Including the cost of deploying these solutions may artificially inflate the base pricing you receive, so ask for them as separate cost items.
- Pricing needs to allow you to really compare outsourcing offers. A simple way is to ask for a price per agent, or per hour, or per transaction. Ask for a fully wrapped up rate with any additional costs clearly outlined. Many pricing solutions are a “cost plus” model – additional services such as reporting or quality are an extra cost not included in the base line cost. This may lead to surprises after you have selected a partner.
- Focus on partnership and relationship – are the people who are presenting the solution people you feel you could work with? An outsourcing relationship needs to be based on open and honest communication and transparency – you’re going to spend a long time working together to delight your customers Ask about the change management process – every call centre solution is a dynamic one with ongoing changes in your customers’ needs and your business drivers. Flexibility and responsiveness are critical elements of partner selection – ask for process and examples.
Finally, don’t be afraid to work with an outsourcer when you are planning your solution. A good outsourcer who is in for the long haul will work with you to identify the issues you need to be aware of and what solutions are available. Often there is not a one size fits all – there are many options available and an outsourcing partner can provide a range of solutions that could suit you.
Publish Date: November 25, 2013 5:00 AM