How Contact Centre Leaders can move towards being a CX Leader
Editor: While this article was written in 2019, the tips provided by Daniel Ord below are still applicable for any contact centre no matter what year!
I still sometimes hear Contact Centre leaders in 2019 say that their senior or functional management doesn’t support their Centre.
If you work at a cult status company like Zappos you’re clearly fortunate.
Your high level of Customer Experience (CX) ambition is aligned to and reinforces that of your company.
It’s a virtuous cycle.
But what if you’re the Centre Manager in a company where your purpose isn’t seen as mission-critical?
Where management doesn’t meaningfully embrace Customer-centricity.
That’s a different scenario.
Sure – you can’t control the level of CX ambition in your company.
But go ahead and pursue your personal CX ambitions – even if they don’t align to the current CX ambitions of your company.
John Maxwell writes “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”
Don’t settle for becoming an outcome of your culture.
Consider yourself a driver of your culture.
I think that’s putting first things first.
3 Tips for Contact Centre Leaders
Tip #1 – Get involved with the Customer Experience (CX) Vision
Not every company decides to pursue a CX strategy. At the end of the day, it’s a business decision.
And don’t let the false use of lingo in companies fool you.
Rebranding everything as ‘Customer Experience’ when it used to be called ‘Customer Service’ doesn’t make it so.
They’re different things.
Window dressing doesn’t equate to strategy.
A Customer Experience strategy – a big topic – addresses:
- What kind of experience you intend to deliver to Customers
- The objectives, goals & metrics you set to measure success
- The outside-in perspective of the Customer to ensure your aim is true
- The ways you plan to engage everyone within the organization to deliver
- The long- and short-term actions you take to achieve your objectives
I’ll cover CX Strategy more in a future article.
But for our purposes today let’s look at Point #1 -what kind of experience you intend to deliver.
Because this is where your CX Vision lives. It describes the intended experience in vivid and compelling terms so that everyone knows what that experience should look like and feel like. In Service Design it might be called your Value Promise.
If your company has a defined Customer Experience (CX) Vision in place, life is good.
You’re in a great position to align your quality program & performance standards to that vision.
No more excuses to use weak standards like ‘Use the Customer’s Name 3x’.
What if your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place?
If your company doesn’t have a CX strategy in place, then it isn’t likely to have a CX Vision in place either.
But hey – don’t let that stop you.
Sometimes Contact Centre Leaders need to shape their own destiny. You can and should put together a strong Service Vision.
By the way, I tend to be very particular with terminology here. I don’t call this a Customer Experience Vision.
The reason is simple.
A CX Vision by definition and application incorporates the entire organization and its ecosystem. If your scope of authority extends only across the Contact Centre or Customer Service function, it’s better to be precise and call it a Service Vision instead.
Because it’s not organizational in scope.
But, over time and with your influence, a great Service Vision can readily evolve into an organizational CX Vision.
So think big when you craft it!
And the Service Vision often does double-duty for how we treat each other. It doesn’t just have to be for Customers. It can be for Employees too.
Sometimes I use the analogy of ice cream. What ‘flavour’ of service do we deliver around here.
Coming up with your Service Vision
To come up with your Service Vision it helps to look at what your company says about itself.
This is where I begin when I’m designing a Mystery Shopper research or Quality Assurance program.
Read your company website.
The company vision, mission and values can often be found there.
What’s your purpose? Who are your intended Customers? What role do you play in their lives?
Articulate how your company describes itself.
Next, look at your company’s brand attributes & values.
What kinds of promises does your company make to current and prospective Customers when they use your products & services? What do your ads say? What kind of images are used? What kind of lingo appears in marketing communications?
Articulate the brand promises your company makes.
Now you can put these findings in front of the people who work in your Centre. What do they think? Does it ring true?
Your goal is to develop and codify a Service Vision (a statement), which is often supported by a focused set of 3 – 6 Service principles.
And by going through this process you’ll be better equipped – when the time comes – to help other departments and functions work through their CX Vision.
When anyone asks your Contact Centre Agent what kind of service they deliver around here – they can tell you.
And specifically how they apply the vision & principles to their daily interactions.
Easy to talk about – but it’s the doing that sets you apart from others.
In closing, the CX Vision, the Service Vision and CX Strategy are big topics. They’re worth taking the time and effort to read, study and discuss at a much deeper level than is presented in this short article.
But I’ve found over the years, the best CX & Service strategies begin with a solid vision.
Suggestion #2 – Please don’t call a horse an apple
It’s wearying to see how many Contact Centres have rebranded themselves as Customer Experience Centres and how many Contact Centre job titles have been changed to incorporate ‘Customer Experience’ into the title.
But you can point at a horse and call it an apple all day and that won’t make it so.
This type of rebranding exercise pollutes everyone’s understanding of what CX really is. Because CX – by definition & application – must incorporate the organization as a whole.
Sure – your Contact Centre has some impact on the overall Customer Experience for those Customers who choose to use your resources.
But their overall perception of your company is influenced by so many (other) factors and is fluid over time.
McKinsey writes that Customers think in terms of their journeys, not in touchpoints. That can be hard for Contact Centre leadership – in charge of large and labour-intensive touchpoint – to take onboard.
Especially when for years we’ve all been taught that the Contact Centre is the most important touchpoint in the company.
It’s helpful for Contact Centre people to understand that they’re a subset of a subset in the world of CX.
First comes CX which covers the entire organizational ecosystem.
Then within that ecosystem, you have the Customer Service function – most easily viewed as the human to human interactions Customers have with you.
And within the Customer Service function, you have the Contact Centre.
If I were training my Agents today I’d spend time sharing key Customer journeys.
Why did the Customer contact us? Where did they come from? Where are they likely to go next? What’s our role and opportunity in this experience?
When Contact Centre people stick their flagpole into the ground and claim they are Customer Experience, they do a big disservice to every other employee and stakeholder in the organization.
Ultimately, the smart use of Customer research allows you to evaluate the importance of the Contact Centre touchpoint to the Customer across key personas and journeys.
We talk about research next.
Suggestion #3 – Build your Customer Research Know-How
You’d hope that the Contact Centre leaders would be experts in Customer Research know-how.
That they’d jump at every opportunity to understand the needs, expectations and wants of their Customers.
That they’d bang on the doors of their Service Quality department and ask to be a part of the research programs undertaken.
That they’d be open to learning the (sometimes) harsh truth about what Customers have to say.
But one potential barrier I’ve seen often is this one.
When senior management has unrealistic expectations around quantitative outcomes, Contact Centre leaders may not be so keen to let poor results & findings see the light of day.
I met one Contact Centre leader who was so terrified of an upcoming management meeting on their Contact Centre survey results they called in sick for the presentation.
Fear is a terrible way to motivate change and when Customer research is seen as ‘scary’ that inhibits the desire to learn more about research.
Another potential barrier I see is this one.
Research is a fascinating but complex topic. It involves a lot of what I call ‘First Principles’.
First Principles are the essential knowledge you need to understand the topic with some level of mastery.
In Customer Research that includes essential knowledge around topics like –
- The role of qualitative research
- The use of structured vs. unstructured data
- Descriptive, predictive and outcome metrics
- Forms of ethnographic research
- Relationship vs. transaction survey practices
- The role of statistical viability
- Basic research terminology – mode, median, average,
- More research terminology – correlation, regression, causality
- Service & experience design research
To learn and understand these concepts take time and effort. But the payoff is tremendous.
In an era where more information and data is produced than at any other time in human history, dusting off those old statistics books and re-mastering quantitative & qualitative research matters.
Experience design is based on qualitative research methodologies in particular.
Get your Customer Research know-how up to speed. It helps you make sound sense of how you can understand Customers better.
Of course, I could have had 13 suggestions – or 5 suggestions or 11 and so on.
But after some thought to my own personal experience, what I’ve learned working with Clients and the amount of time and effort required, I hope that these suggestions resonate with you and are helpful.
Here’s to all your CX ambitions for 2019 and thank you for reading!