What a fantastic couple of days at the Arizona Biltmore!  Despite a general soreness from impromptu desert hiking, as well as a beard full of whipped topping from the “Wild West Olympics,” it was a remarkable event.  Naturally, Customer Experience and AI were on the tip of everyone’s tongue.  There is no doubt that the contact center industry is poised for massive changes.  While this evolution can be intimidating, it spells a huge opportunity for those leaders who are capable of accelerating magic.  Summarized below are a few of the most popular trends coming out of the event…

Most of us are not ready for AI

The AI revolution is truly at the doorstep of Customer Service…and it will change the face of the industry forever.  Sadly, most of us are years away from being able to implement AI in a meaningful way.  As Justin Robbins says, even the basic tool sets in most contact centers are broken.  How can we bypass the milestones of omni channel and a useful knowledge base, while expecting to virtualize support?  Great knowledge and harmonized service across all channels are the foundation on which AI will rest.  It is not too late for contact centers to fix the core and pave the way for the future.  Implementing the methodology of KCS (Knowledge Centered Support) is a likely next step.

Customer Experience is not about where, it’s about how

There was a significant amount of dialog with regard to which area of an organization should the Customer Experience function reside.  A poll of the event audience showed a great deal of inconsistency, with many rolling it up as part of Customer Service.  At the end of the day, it matters very little where you stick it.  I’ve seen organizations with vibrant, meaningful CX groups modeled in all sorts of different ways.  Many assume that organizations with a dedicated CX function have a massive advantage.  This is not necessarily the case.  Customer Experience is a philosophy that must reach every area of the business in order to be effective.  Therefore, CX leaders are simply coordinators and facilitators.  We cannot do the work of CX ourselves.  Our job is to inspire others and compel them to deliver exceptional experiences, while modeling what these behaviors look like.  This transformation can be driven from essentially any part of the organization, so long as they have the long-term appetite and the skills to navigate change.  If you are waiting for someone else to take up the CX mantel, perhaps it’s time to find your inner Moana and rise to the challenge yourself!

NPS still has value

One of my all-time favorite sessions as a presenter was “The Case Against NPS” alongside Matt Beckwith.  The question on the table…does the 15-year-old metric of NPS (Net Promoter Score) still have a place on CX dashboards?  We conducted it as a court-room spoof, Matt as the prosecuting attorney against NPS and myself as the defending attorney.  The jury was the audience, exercising the freedom to move about the room to either the “con-NPS” or the “pro-NPS” side depending on how arguments persuaded them.  As one might expect, there were passionate supporters on both sides.  The room was split right down the middle, with a handful of folks that just couldn’t pick one way or the other.

NPS Pros:

  • There is no better metric for benchmarking data…across industries, historical timelines, and geographic regions
  • There is still no better metric for the overall Customer Experience.  CES or Customer Effort Score, is an emerging second, however this was designed to be focused on the customer support touch point specifically, not the overall customer journey

NPS Cons:

  • A rising number of consumers are confused by the question.  Some don’t understand it’s a hypothetical “would you recommend” versus actually requesting them to go out on social media and write a recommendation
  • While NPS does correlate to customer loyalty for most, it does not for all.  Many organizations have attempted to implement the metric as part of their VoC programs and have found it to be irrelevant for their demographic
  • Some programs may find more relevance with an alternative such as CSI (Customer Sentiment Index)as introduced by Bob Hayes

The bottom line is there is no “magic metric.”  CX professionals must have a well-balanced dashboard featuring a variety of perspectives to get the fullest possible picture of the customer journey.  For most of us, NPS should still be one of these perspectives.

Taking Care of Your People

As it should be, another recurring theme is our ability to motivate and encourage our staff as they perform customer care related work.  Between difficult calls, challenging co-worker situations, inefficient toolsets, a lack of centralized knowledge, and so many other factors, it’s no mystery way the burn-out rate is so high in the contact center.  We must do everything we can to make the job life-giving, versus life-sucking.  One idea for encouragement comes from the medical field.  Nurses in many hospitals have the ability to initiate a “code lavender.”  This simply means they have navigated a difficult situation and require emotional support.  Why not have one in the contact center?  Create the ability for agents to easily edify one another after a difficult call or tricky situation.  Not only is the individual who initiates supported, but it will bring the whole team together and create more of a family atmosphere.

The second theme from the event that will absolutely help your employee experience is to remove the obvious technology and process barriers.  Challenge senior leadership to have a coordinated, consistent approach to both technology initiatives and knowledge management.  Learn from employees on a regular basis where the hurdles exist, and allow them to assist in the solution.  When tools work well and knowledge flows through the organization, a tremendous amount of stress is alleviated.  The agent will be capable of delivering of facilitating a higher quality resolution even faster.

Digital Transformation and Customer Experience Go Hand-in-Hand

Speaking of tool sets, one of the latest trendy phrases in just about every organization is digital transformation.  Often times, this digital evolution can happen in a vacuum apart from Customer Experience.  This should not be, as the objectives have significant overlap and is often driven by the customers themselves.  While there is no “magic bullet” for Omni-channel, we still need to keep fighting to make it happen as customers expect it.  Additionally, we need to create a seamless experience between self-service automated channels and human support.  While modern CX software is making this a possibility, you cannot solve this problem simply through investment.  Experience design and process must guide customers to the best resolution path while anticipating their needs.  By combining digital transformation with CX best practices, the organization is equipping themselves for far greater success in both.

A huge thanks to Matt Beckwith for introducing me to such a wonderful group of people, and to Brooke Filson for giving a suspicious looking stranger a shot to present.  The icing on the cake was getting to meet CX legend Matt Dixon in the flesh. It’s a surreal experience to have a slide in your presentation quoting a famous author, only to have said author sitting 30 feet from you. 😄  Find out more about the Customer Contact West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange here and I hope to see you in 2019!

Nate Brown’s sweet spot is helping employees understand the customer journey and how they can play a role in improving it. Yet he is well versed in a variety of CX disciplines, including journey mapping, survey process and analysis, voice of the customer programs, employee engagement and many more. In his role as Director of Customer Experience at UL EHS Sustainability, he works tirelessly to improve both the agent experience and the customer experience in a multi-site, multi-platform environment, leading the client experience program for UL EHSS. 

Previously, Nate was Manager of Customer Support and Migration Consultant for the UL Workplace Health and Safety group. Twitter: @CustomerIsFirst  LinkedIn: Nate Brown