Tag Archives: customer service

Just how “effortless” is CX when served on a silver platter?

One would think that the more you’re in contact with a customer, the deeper your relationship will grow. The opposite is true.

If a customer comes into contact with you directly, the likelihood of you retaining their business decreases fourfold, according to research by the Corporate Executive Board and presented by Matt Dixon, the best-selling author of “The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty.”

This is because a whopping 84 percent of customers value ease of use and low effort over channel choice. Dixon’s research has left him with the overwhelming conclusion that excellent service is not delightful. In fact, it’s a key driver behind disloyalty.

Reducing the customer’s effort increases loyalty and reduces attrition. Low-effort means that they shouldn’t be hearing scripted agents or having to repeat themselves. They shouldn’t have to jump channels or endure countless transfers.

The CEB conducted a series of surveys that found that 88 percent of low-effort customers increased their spending and 94 percent who had  low-effort experiences were more likely to repurchase later on, Dixon says. So, how do you reduce customer effort?

The Three Pillars of Effortless Experience

1.) Channel Stickiness. Self-service is where it’s at. Customers don’t really want to talk. Agents are aware of this fact that holds true across ages and  demographics. But because customers are still picking up the phone, senior executives are reluctant to acknowledge this shift in channel preference.

It’s true that telephony wields the lion’s share of first contacts, but this is unfortunately due to the lack of other viable options. Most callers (58 percent) first attempted resolution through self-service options and another 25 percent were online while also on the phone with the agent in an effort to learn how to resolve the issue themselves in the future. The customers want fast resolutions without having to jump channels.

2. Next Issue Avoidance. The worst question you can ask a customer is also one of the most common closers, “Have I fully resolved your issue today?” Dixon says this question sends two bad messages to the customer – that they are being rushed off the phone, or that the agent may be missing the deeper issue at hand.

Think of it this way – if you were measured by first-contact resolutions wouldn’t you avoid asking other issues exist? When asked in the study whether a first-contact resolution had been achieved, 77 percent of companies believed that it had. Their customers didn’t agree — only 40 percent felt their issue was entirely resolved.

Callbacks for repeated issues are a byproduct of both explicit and implicit issue failures. Fifty-four percent of explicit failures are because the agent failed to resolve the issue in the first place. Implicit failures arise because the agents failed to see the adjacent issues at hand, or the problem behind the problem. Ask your tenured customer service professionals to help identify the chain of “problem events,” so that you can think ahead of the customer, not alongside of them.

3. Mismatched perception of effort. Consider the behavioral economics of your organization. If the agents are advocating on behalf of the customers, then they are also empathetic to their upsets. One hotel chain told its front-desk workers to move out from behind the service counter to physically stand next to the upset client. This nonverbal communication led to a decrease of 77 percent in customer effort for the hotel. 

The same goes for the spoken word. We’re all aware that words hold weight, Dixon says, but are you aware of what you’re saying? Delivering bad news in a positive way is at the cornerstone of customer effort perception. This is where Disney is exemplary. For example, when a park visitor asks a Disney employee when the park closes, they respond, “We’re open until 9 p.m.,” instead of “It closes at 9 p.m.” This simple shift to positive language led to a decrease in customer effort by 73 percent.

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The CX Edge: Customers are King

Nearly 90 percent of CMOs report that building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus of their departments’ strategic and competitive vision for 2016, according to a recent Forbes study.

Building trusted customer relationships is a significant focus for many strategic and competitive visions this year. This is why the latest data and analytics technologies was at the top of almost every discussion at the CX Impact event in New Orleans, as attendees learned the tools to build credibility and long-term relationships with customers. This CXImpact Report, that summarizes what it takes to make your CX strategy next level, shows you how.

Cigna on customer-centricity & experience

Have we reached the end of the call center? Not according to Mindy Lamb at Cigna. That being said, personalization is key to keeping clients and it doesn’t happen overnight. In this interview, I sit down with Mindy Lamb at Cigna to chat about how personalization, customer-centricity and experience can lead to customer retention, thereby leading to long and fruitful relationships.

Mindy Lamb is Head of Operating Effectiveness – Customer Experiences at Cigna.
Mindy Lamb is Head of Operating Effectiveness – Customer Experiences at Cigna.

Most of us are well aware that retaining customers is more fruitful than forging new relationships. Will you tell us about the customer lifetime value at Cigna? How has developing long-term relationships provided better value for customer and company alike?

Customer lifetime value is an ongoing concept that Cigna and many other companies are starting to use. It’s not the only metric we use, but it’s developing and ongoing as we figure out how to leverage it better. If you think about customer lifetime value only, it really is a predictor of an individual customer’s profitability over time. So when you combine the power of that information with personal segmentation of your customers around what they need and what they value and then you understand those customers that have higher profitability projection for your company over the course of their lifetime it allows you to prioritize bringing those capabilities, products and services that individual segments of customers value the most. You’ll see higher retention where you prioritize and spend your money and investment dollars to drive that retention. Of course we benefit because their with us and they benefit because the longer they’re with us the deeper our insights grow into what they need and value so we can continue to deliver on it.

Customer centricity has been redefined in today’s new digital paradigm from a B2B and B2C perspective. Are you now more enabled to use metrics to determine the value of your relationship with your customers?

It’s been around for a long time. For a long time we’ve heard web to call, what’s the call rate, etc., and that’s real. If they’re going to the web to try to achieve their services and they can’t and they have to call, then we’re aware that their satisfaction scores go down. That’s one way you can look at it. But beyond that in this digital age of social media and multitudes of apps; we at Cigna try to meet the customers where they are in order to determine if they have a particular need or a interest. From there we can personalize that information within the digital space and watch to see if they react to that digital channel. We can measure what they find interesting, what they don’t and how to reach them in the way they want to be reached.

There will always be a need for a contact center, but more and more in the Internet age, people like the advantage of going to digital technology to find solutions to what they’re looking for.

How have you aimed to ‘retrain the brains’ of agents to find new means of customer acquisition?

It starts first with technology. Once you understand your individual customer segments, what they value and what they need, then you start to understand the additional acquisition opportunities in the product that you have for that customer to find value in. The technology enables the agent to then take a client in an inbound channel and then segue into a conversation that centers around them. They can say, “I know this about you, and based on that we also have X, Y or Z, would you be interested in hearing more?” It’s really about placing the information in the agent’s hands so they know what to pass along to the customer to continue the conversations.

Not all businesses have robust budgets. How can these agents create a customer experience that is five-star without all the trimmings?

Particularly as it relates to the agents and what they can deliver – if you don’t have the budget and technology is a challenge for all of us – it’s important to remember that at the root of it is people serving people. The best thing you can do in that regard is focus on your hiring and retention of your employees and hire for the right capabilities. You can train individuals to be computer saavy, but what you can’t train so much, and what you’re really born with, is what I call the “servant’s heart.” You either have it or you don’t. You can hone people’s skills around being personal or empathetic, but that person’s never going to be successful at really getting to the heart of customer-centricity and helping customers if they don’t have that baseline nature.

The best thing to focus on when you don’t have the five-star budget and all the wizardry that comes with it is to first start with the right people and then make sure that you incent and reward them right. Give them the power to satisfy the customer within the constraints of whatever the product or service is that you’re delivering. What you may consider as a small ability to make things right or give something back to the customer is in reality the opportunity to create both a great branding image and empowerment for our employees to know that they’re making differences every day. So hire right for the personal touch, for empathy, for people who can proactively think of creative solutions for customers and then empower them to do so.

“Real Help” 211 LA County’s Motto, Is a Model for Customer Experience Success

The theory behind excellent Customer Service isn’t complex: Do everything in your power to assist caller inquiries in a timely manner and do so with a smile. Simple, right? Not so fast. Support environments are complicated and mired with numerous hiccups.

Amy Latzer and her team at LA County's 211 offer "Real Help" to their in-need callers.
Amy Latzer and her team at LA County’s 211 offer “Real Help” to their in-need callers.
Amy Latzer, Chief Operating Officer at 211 LA County, says providing excellent Customer Experience starts with proper training. In this interview, she answers the question, “How do you train and develop a staff that is able to possess a skillset that goes above and beyond the caller’s expectations?”
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By Hannah Hager

What is it that your customer wants? This seems to be a simple question, yet the end goal of customer happiness often gets lost in support environments that are mired by multiple transfers, dead-end calls, impersonal agent interactions and disjointed communication across channels. These poor practices damage customer loyalty and, in turn, deliver your clients straight into the hands of your competitors. So how do you temper the issue of when a call center unintentionally loses sight of the end goal: a successful interaction — from the customer’s viewpoint?

An excellent customer experience is always front of mind for Amy Latzer, Chief Operating Officer at 211 LA County. 211 LA County is a private, nonprofit organization based in San Gabriel, CA. Its 60 agents serve all 10 million residents of Los Angeles County, fielding nearly half a million calls per year.  The center, which has been in business for around 35 years, will soon celebrate its 10 year anniversary of receiving the 211 designation.

She and her team are in a unique position when it comes to implementing an effective Customer Experience strategy – 211 callers are most often in a state of mental or physical distress. Therefore, her team must respond in an especially caring and compassionate way from the get-go.

How do you train and develop a staff that is able to possess a skillset that goes above and beyond the caller’s expectations? Amy says it starts with training.

“It starts with the hiring selection.  It really, really requires a very specific skill set and personality type.  These are not easy calls.  We’re handling calls from some of the most vulnerable, at-risk population in LA County,” she says.

Unlike many call centers that field requests that can be mitigated with the click of a few buttons, 211 LA County callers sometimes cannot comprehend or express the root issue of their problem. Further, not only do they not know what they need, they don’t know what to ask for or what resources are available to them. This has potential to significantly dilute the Customer Experience process and underlines the importance of hiring quality from the beginning.

Issues with Customer Experience arise when agents are devoid of training and instead are given checkboxes on a Quality Assessment scorecard. What happens then is that an agent will plug in an empathetic or validating statement somewhere in the call that doesn’t sound natural or make sense. This is not the kind of experience 211 LA County expects from its agents.

To deliver truly exceptional customer service, you have to impress a sense of humanity within your agents, Amy suggests. She trains her agents to be curious, sensitive and possess the natural ability to be and sound empathetic in order to offer the caller validation.

“Real Help” 211 LA County’s service delivery motto, means to impress that the call line is more than just a number and the agents are going to give more than just a number for another service.

Lastly, after the call is concluded, she and her team collect the information from each call in order to analyze the reason behind the call and determine the effectiveness of the service rendered. They couple this with the gathered demographic information, which helps tell the full story of who is really calling. In the end, these steps lead to better referrals and better service.

“Understanding our caller population helps us really paint a picture of our community, so that people are going to have a healthier life and families and individuals will thrive,” Amy says.  “If we do not do a good job, if we do not create a good experience, those opportunities are going to go somewhere else.  So it’s really important that we deliver on that promise.”

The Top 5 Reasons Big Data Is Valuable to Your Business

Have you started thinking about how your company will value and leverage your big data assets? If not, it’s time to play some catch up.

Cross industry businesses have welcomed big data analytics with open arms after seeing its benefits first hand. As proof, the McKinsey Global Institute delves deep into the benefits of big data in their report, “Big data: The next frontier for innovation, competition and productivity.” What they found were five, actionable reasons businesses need to jump into the practice with both feet. Here is what they determined:

1. Big Data Brings Improved Business Models, Products and Services

What’s with the flurry of excitement that accompanies each new generation of the iPad? The folks at Apple are pros at understanding what their customer needs – sometimes even before they do. Manufacturers now use data captured when consumers use their products to improve upon their existing offerings, thereby creating new and improved models that benefit the consumer and push them to buy.

2. Putting A Smile On the Face of Your Stakeholders

Improving transparency leads to improved quality of product and service. Big data can be made readily available to relevant stakeholders, which creates value by reducing search and processing time between departments, according to McKinsey. Big data keeps everyone in your department moving in the same direction.

3. Peek Into Personnel Performance

Upper management will be empowered by the collection of more accurate and detailed personnel performance data that can be reported in real or near real time. Find out instantly your company’s turnover rate or its total number of personnel sick days, according to the report, to try to understand the root causes of certain performance-based issues.

4. Customize Your Customer Experience

You’ve been segmenting your customers for years, but now it’s time to microsegment them. Big data empowers organizations to tailor their products and services to meet the very specific needs of each customer. An example the report gives is tailoring applications on a smartphone based on the owner’s personality.

5. Find the Algorithm Groove

According to McKinsey Global Institute, “Sophisticated analytics can substantially improve decision making, minimize risks, and unearth valuable insights that would otherwise remain hidden.” They site the following examples; tax agencies can flag candidates for further examination or retailers can use algorithms to fine-tune inventories or pricing structures.

Now is the time to jump on the big data bandwagon.