This article was originally published on the FCR blog on November 15, 2018. Click here to read the original.
Of my heroes for their ability to tell an amazing story, Walter Isaacson, author of biographies on Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs, and others easily makes the list. I just finished a listen of his book, The Innovators, and in comparison with his other works, it does not disappoint.
In some ways this book was a contrast from his other biographical works because it highlights the fact that the digital revolution wasn’t brought on by one single person or innovation. It instead was a continuous process of building and improving on the ideas and innovations of others and also required collaborations between individuals with a variety of strengths and abilities.
Another thing you may not realize about the digital revolution is that much of it was initiated and funded by the military. During wartime there was a need to expedite complex mathematical calculations for things like missile trajectories and a drive for better communication networks. It was only later that this technology was made available for personal and commercial use.
I’m not going to spend time recapping the entire book. That would require another listen or two on my part. My one listen was fascinating enough and there were three insights that stood out to me.
Collaboration and competition
Steve Jobs is famous for his desire at Apple to control the end to end user experience, maintaining ownership of the development of both the software and hardware in all Apple products. In contrast, Bill Gates developed software at Microsoft and then licensed it to IBM and its clones. As dependency on Microsoft software grew, computer manufacturers had no choice but to create hardware that could run Microsoft products.
Both Jobs and Gates diverted from a home brew computing culture where hackers and programmers shared everything and weren’t making a whole lot of money in the process. The end result was two massively successful companies that achieved huge success through different paths.
There was a third option in this mix, Linux, which was developed by Linus Torvalds. He made his source code available to anyone to take and build upon it. When you realize that this ultimately spawned Android among many other important technologies it makes sense why Isaacson would mention Torvalds in the same conversation with Gates and Jobs. Of these three men, Jobs is probably my favorite, but it’s difficult to claim that any one of these routes to success and innovation was any better than the other.
Google is customer-centric
As I listen to any book, I’m constantly looking for application to my work in customer experience. Isaacson shares a story about the beginnings of Google, when it was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. At the time, Yahoo and Alta Vista were the popular search engines and the general sentiment around search was that if a customer couldn’t find what they were searching for, they didn’t search properly. They believed the customer was wrong.
Larry and Sergey instead believed that if the customer couldn’t find what they were looking for, they needed to build a better search engine. This led them to develop a page ranking system (which I still only partially understand) that took into account the number of unique links to a page among other factors to determine relevance and deliver better search results.
Google refused to believe that the customer was wrong and instead built better tools to help customers find what they were looking for. The results speak for themselves. Google is the most successful internet company. I’m currently reading Marissa Mayer and the Fight to Save Yahoo! and it’s a pretty fascinating contrast.
Technology is a tool
As Isaacson wraps up the book he touches on artificial intelligence and discusses whether or not a computer can be programmed to think and feel exactly like a human being. This is of particular interest with the rise of chatbots and the seeming drive to replace human customer service professionals with machines. Certainly machines have proven to be able to solve any number of issues, but according to Isaacson, they’re still just tools for human use and will never fully replace humans. I think it’s still fair to say that customer service as we know it today will look very different twenty years from now.
The history of the digital revolution is fascinating. If you’ve had a chance to read The Innovators by Walter Isaacson, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you haven’t, it’s well worth a read, or listen.
Every so often we like to take some time to recap articles we’ve contributed to and awards and accolades we’ve received. It’s been a while since the last such update so we have quite a few. Here are 13 updates for you.
Call Center Weekly is a fantastic blog and I was thrilled to answer the question, “What is an effective way to collaborate with other departments to improve customer experience?” My approach to this question is fairly simple. Focus on building relationships throughout your organization and avoid saying no and instead focus on finding solutions for others. That will make it easier when it comes time to collaborate and improve the customer experience.
I joined several other thought leaders in this article by xSellco to discuss ways ecommerce companies can deliver better customer service. We talk about the importance of empowering agents, understanding trends, being organized, being prepared with an answer, personalization, and a focus on retaining customers.
This was a fun compilation from Lumoa of customer experience thought leaders who were asked if they would recommend Net Promoter Score (NPS). NPS is of course a survey question that asks if you’d recommend the company to a friend or colleague so it’s funny to gauge the NPS score of NPS. I ended up being passive on the topic, caring less about the survey question and more about the action we take on the customer feedback.
Speaking of customer feedback, here’s a guest post I wrote for Kustomer about a complete approach to listening to the voice of the customer. Tools like Kustomer incorporate AI to understand customer sentiment and even help bring together all customer interactions regardless of channel, giving agents a full picture of the customer history. While you’re at it, check out this conversation I had with my good friend, Nate Brown and the folks at Kustomer.
Nate Brown, Founder of CX Accelerator and Jeremy Watkin, Director of CX at FCR - SoundCloud (2229 secs long, 29 plays)Play in SoundCloud
This is a great update from Customer Think Editor, Bob Thompson. Of greatest interest to me was Zendesk’s announcement of their omnichannel announcement and it was an honor to weigh in with my own thoughts on the matter.
I also had the opportunity to contribute to this article by Mike Aoki as he weighs some of the pros and cons of outsourcing versus keeping your support team in house. Of course my preference is that you outsource with FCR.
In this article on ProProfs.com, several experts shared their method for providing great customer service. Here’s what I said:
Rather than giving my customers the “right” answer, I aim to give them the “best” answer. This means taking the time to answer every question the customer asks and even the ones they might not know or think to ask. While it might take a bit more time in the moment, it saves our customers the valuable time and frustration of having to contact support again in the future.
OK it’s not Halloween but these tips are still relevant. Check out this article from October 31 on the FCR blog.
It’s Halloween, the season of scary, and it only makes sense to spend a little time talking about scary customer service experiences. In my past several years of blogging on the topic, I have both my good and bad customer experiences well chronicled.
As I scroll deep into the archives of the “bad customer service” category on my blog I’m reminded that my goal in writing about customer service has always been to observe the bad experiences and use them to fuel learning and improvement. Here are some of my favorite scary customer service encounters and some tips for transforming them into scary good customer service experiences.
Scary Encounter #1: Misinform customers.
My first ever blog post was inspired by a haunting experience at a restaurant in the Salt Lake City airport. I watched a customer ask one employee for coffee. The employee signaled that the customer could walk another 10 feet or so to the cashier to place their order. When the customer made it to the cashier they were informed that the restaurant didn’t even have a coffee maker, let alone coffee. The customer was so upset that they left the other items they were going to purchase on the counter and walked out.
Scary Good Tip #1 – Get it right the first time. Customers contact support because they can’t do something on their own. Giving them inaccurate information renders customer service useless and wastes everyone’s time. Make sure you get it right and always look to answer questions customers might not know to ask based on what you as the expert know they’ll need.
Scary Encounter #2: Be unprofessional and put customers in awkward positions.
I once had a bone chilling shopping experience where the cashier was deep in conversation with a coworker, gossiping about one of their colleagues while ringing up my items. I was largely ignored for most of the experience until at one point they turned to me and tried to loop me into the conversation. It was weird, awkward, and unprofessional.
In another frightening encounter I entered a sandwich shop and one of the employees greeted me with the least friendly, most annoyed tone possible. I still laugh about this one because a greeting is intended to welcome the customer and this was anything but.
Scary Good Tip #2 – Focus on the customer and have a good attitude.Let’s steal a page from Disney on this one where they refer to employees as “Cast Members.” This means that when you are working, your workplace is a stage and you are a performer. This is the time to give your very best. When you’re on stage, give the customer your complete focus, choose a great attitude, and leave any personal issues and baggage backstage.
Scary Encounter #3: Make customers repeat their story many times.
On another horrific shopping occasion I was frustrated after being upsold by an employee for the hundredth time (at least it felt that way). I questioned how they didn’t have a record that I had said “No” the previous ninety-nine times — and yet they continued to ask. It was upsetting to know that the store was clearly not paying attention to my needs and preferences as a customer.
Scary Good Tip #3 – Track customer needs and preferences. No customer wants to continue to repeat themselves over and over again. When they contact customer service with a concern, they want to know they’ve been heard and understood. Always note what was said and promised during a customer interaction so that if they ever have to contact support again about that issue, the next person that works with them can pick up right where you left off.
Scary Encounter #4: Don’t honor your promises.
Upon entering another sandwich shop I was spooked to learn that they were no longer honoring a buy one get one free coupon. Apparently they had made a bad decision to offer that coupon in the first place and lost a bunch of money in the process. Similar to giving customers inaccurate information, promising customers one thing and then not following through is a surefire way to upset them.
Scary Good Tip #4 – Meet or exceed customer expectations and follow through on all promises. Customers love to do business with people and companies they can consistently trust. This especially applies to anything having to do with time and money. If you promise to reply to a customer or call them back within a certain timeframe, it’s best to be a little early. If you issue a coupon or quote a certain price, that’s the price the customer should see when they receive their bill. Never promise anything you can’t make good on.
Scary Encounter #5: Make the customer go the extra mile.
I once was terrified after purchasing some items from the garden center at a department store. The cashier accidentally charged me twice for an item. Immediately after receiving my receipt I spotted the error. I was then informed that I had to walk to customer service on the other end of the store to have the error fixed. I was the one who had to put the effort forth to fix the problem. Any time physical effort is involved in resolving a problem, the idea of customer effort takes on entirely new meaning.
This totally reminded me of a hair-raising time when a rental car company moved but didn’t post their new location online or at their old location.They also didn’t apologize for making me walk a mile to their new office.
Scary Good Tip #5 – Take ownership for the customer until their problem is no longer a problem. Great customer service professionals are both empowered and encouraged to do this consistently. This could be an associate at a store walking the customer to the appropriate location to find an item rather than simply telling them where to go. It could be a contact center agent offering to conference in the other company that’s actually responsible for the problem. Whatever the situation, take responsibility from start to finish and don’t pawn the customer off on someone else or leave them hanging altogether.
Wow, that was scary, wasn’t it? And that was just five scary customer service experiences. If you’re a customer service professional reading this post, take a moment to share a scary customer experience of your own and how it helped you be scary good at your job.
Also, note that a thesaurus may have been used in the writing of this post. Some of these experiences probably weren’t actually as scary as I tried to make them sound.
This article was originally published on the FCR blog on October 26,2018. Click here to read the original.
I’m not one of those people you’ll ever hear utter the phrase, “Everything happens for a reason.” It’s a nice thought when we’re the recipient of a million bucks, or we just so happen to get a great parking spot, or Taylor Swift retweets us (still waiting on that last one). But what do we do with the innumerable tragedies and injustices in our world? Think on those things for a bit and it’s hard to carry on the belief that everything happens for a reason.
That being said, you’re more likely to hear me talk about the good that can come from difficult situations. There’s been a lot being said and written right now about how challenges, tragedies, and failures can spurn us on toward personal and professional growth — and that is a good thing.
A while back I had the privilege of being a mentor through the Support Driven Community to a fellow customer support professional who was a bit newer to the journey than me. For the record, I didn’t sign up to mentor thinking I was God’s gift to the customer support community. On the contrary I had a bit of imposter syndrome going on? What about my past experience in customer service could help someone else? Ultimately this was more of an effort to step out of my comfort zone, try something new, and hopefully do a bit of good along the way.
So I was paired with a mentee who worked in a similar line of work as me and we began meeting every couple weeks. Our conversations typically centered around the challenges of working customer service for a SAAS (software as a service) startup. We talked both about customer-facing challenges and some typical team dynamics.
My goal was to listen as much as possible and then try to offer something of value that would help in her present situation. Somewhere in there I had a funny realization. I was sharing experiences — some difficult and some not so much — from the past and they actually seemed to be helping. In some cases, they even brought comfort amid a challenge. And can I tell you that when I was going through some of those experiences, I never anticipated that they would help someone else?
I guess this post could be about mentoring and I could end with a call to action that implores everyone to mentor, be mentored, or both. While I think that’s important and would personally like to do more of it, I also think we all have circles of influence in a less formal setting where our past experiences can add tremendous value.
Don’t underestimate the potential for the seemingly unimportant or undesirable circumstances of your past to add significant value to the life of another in the present or future. Click to Tweet
I’m not sure you’ll ever convince me that all things happen for a reason, but do I think there’s good that can come from bad situations? Absolutely! And sometimes that good is the fact that because you’ve already gone through it, someone else isn’t alone when they’re going through it.
This article was originally published on the FCR blog on October 20, 2018. Click here to read the original.
How committed are you to getting that deposit back when you purchase and consume a beverage in a recyclable container? I was committed enough to go to my local grocery store — that was before I realized I had to process each can and bottle by hand and the machines wanted to scan every barcode. No thanks.
After a bit of searching I found a local place called BottleDrop and was pleased to learn that they’d give me special bags with labels that I can take home, fill, and drop off full of recyclables. They take care of the processing and deposit the money into my account. It’s a great deal.
On a recent visit, I had a quick customer service question for the woman behind the counter. Before I could ask my question, she blurted out in a rushed tone of voice, “If you’re here to ask for more bags, we’re all out.” I responded with something like, “Thanks for letting me know. I was actually wondering if you can help me get a new BottleDrop card. I seem to have lost mine.” The rest of the interaction was fine. She was able to help me with my question and told me where to go and who to call to get a new card.
It’s the quick and somewhat frazzled response that stuck out to me as I reflected on that customer service experience. One bit of context that’s worth mentioning is that this particular location is typically crowded with a variety of folks — especially those who are either homeless or are near homelessness and recycling is a major source of their income. It’s a volatile crowd and I’ve witnessed altercations on some of my visits. I wouldn’t consider it an easy environment to do customer service.
I couldn’t help but wonder how this environment might take a toll on the woman who assisted me. How many times had a customer yelled at her that day? How many fights did she break up? How many times did she have to deliver the bad news that they were out of bags? How many times did she have to defer to someone else because she wasn’t empowered to take care of the customer?
What do you make of this encounter? It would be easy to solely lay the blame on the customer service professional but that seems a bit unfair to me. As we assess this more holistically, I have three recommendations.
Recommendation #1 – Alleviate product and policy pain points.
Before coming down hard on a frazzled customer service professional, all leaders should first ask what events led them to be that way. And trust me, if you as a manager or business owner take the time to ask your agents, they will tell you in as much detail as you want to hear the problems they’re experiencing. Whether it’s through round table discussions, one on one conversations, or shadowing your agents while they serve customers, take the time find out those issues that frazzle your team and do anything and everything to make improvements and alleviate those pain points.
Recommendation #2 – Emphasize the importance of self care.
One difficult customer is one thing. A day full of them is entirely another. I can remember times as a manager where our queue was out of control and it completely stressed my team out. I’ve also been in their shoes a time or two. I would often tell them, “The queue is mine to worry about, not yours. I don’t need you to be a hero. I just just need you to be the very best you can be on the call you’re currently on.” In busy situations, some agents might attempt to shoulder the load on their own. While the sense of responsibility is appreciated, it’s also a fast track to burnout. My friend Jenny Dempsey says,
“In order to take the best care of others, we must first take the best care of ourselves.”
Recommendation #3 – Coach for better people skills.
I intentionally put this one third in the order of recommendations. It’s so easy when receiving less than stellar customer service to blame the agent. And yes, even though there are challenging issues and incredibly stressful situations, agents can still choose a great attitude. In the scenario above, they need to take the time to carefully listen to the customer before jumping to conclusions. Regularly coaching your agents reinforces the experience your customers should receive.
In my opinion, frazzled customer service service professionals are frazzled for a reason. By working to alleviate the root cause of the stress and developing them both personally and professionally, you’ll have both happier agents and happier customers.