3 steps to improve your CX now

Incidentally, these three steps apply to pretty much any process we want to improve ūüôā

1. Measure. before you are able to make some good planning, you need to have metrics¬†to be able to base your improvement upon. I am not talking about that stack of reports coming out of your acd or cti…You should have by now learned that it’s not the single data but the correlation between data that really¬†affects performance. So, bring together a team of analysts and try coming out with a bunch of KPIs that¬†assess your business, your performance and your CX in a contextualized and related fashion.

2. Be ready for change. Once you have measured your impact on those KPIs, it’s time to put some thoughts into change. Change is good, and defines your company’s strategy and effectiveness towards CX, because it’s where most of the change is and will be happening. If you are ready to measure, you should not be scared of testing and trying and experimenting until you are satisfied with the results.

3. Put this in a cycle. Now you are able to measure and to foster change, so you should by now also be able to put together an optimization cyclic process for it. This will keep your boat rocking despite the bad weather because you basically have gifted yourself a wonderful automated improvement machine that will work with you and for you in the search of the perfect CX.

For the info-graphics lovers:

3 steps to improve CX

Email as a (bad) automated service?

Dear Big Credit Card Corporation,

being a customer of yours since the late 90’s (which incidentally and sadly also gives away my age), I think I gave you enough fees to have me granted a decent customer care when my name appears today in a new card request.

Instead, I get an automated, impersonal message where it is clear that none of your (sophisticated?) systems put together that, with the same name, personal information and postal address, I am indeed the same person currently using another card.paperino

Plus, when I take the time to respond, very politely, that you should _not_ ask such stupid questions as you should just make the effort of a quick search in your own database, then the ultimate insult surfaces: another automated email, identical to the first!!!! As if your script does not even bother to check what has been previously sent!!!

Apparently there is some more automation as I then get the same email after 5 days, so this means somewhere in your systems you must¬†know what’s going on…or maybe you are really completely in the dark and keep sending the same email over and over.

Is this a joke? Are you telling me that in twenty-fifteen you cannot join two databases and understand that the same person is requesting another card? That you, a finance institution, of all the companies, don’t have enough resources for proper customer care and a decent customer experience via email????

Dear Big Credit Card Corporation, I am so disappointed and sad, that I will just avoid answering your emails and will wait for your systems, if ever, to kick in and contact me properly. Meanwhile, please go and check around some best practices of customer experience via digital channels: this may help with your evident struggle.

Kind regards,

a customer

The random customer journey

When talking to customers and partners about digital channels, I rarely hear¬†composed expressions like “Oh sure we have those, there is a strategy and a plan, and a complete¬†map of the customer journey, and all is perfect, thanks”.

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In fact, the answers I get most of the times are more like “we have no clue on what to do, and our customer journey is completely random”.¬†Which, you guys, is good news! A random customer journey means that your customers are still willing to spend time browsing through your available channels, despite¬†sometimes being stuck somewhere, or getting the wrong answers. They believe in your company, and in the fact that at some point you will see that they are using all of the digital channels (for the engineers, more about naming convention in one of my latest posts), and improve their service following their choices.

Obviously, the target of any company¬†is to drive the journey, and guide customers through it, by completely mastering their jumping from one channel to the other, while measuring impact and effectiveness with smart dashboards and stats. But in real life, there are very few customers at this stage, and also, you need to know that this stage is not final. It is just a step, in a cyclic process of optimization of the CX, that at some point will need to dynamically adapt, according to the many variables that move, in¬†real time,¬†within¬†the company’s and the customers’ fast environments.

If the good news is you have a random journey, or call it¬†a window of opportunity, the bad news¬†is there is a lot of work to do, and usually it has little technology involved (although with the right technology the mapping is a lot easier and faster). Most of the work is, in fact, related to internal and external processes that have an impact on the journey, and to putting together all the departments that are not willing to talk to each other because, historically, they were never related. Today, all your communication-driven processes, internal and external to the company (I would dare to say all of them:¬†is there any part¬†of your¬†business still without communication?) need to be integrated and consistent because this is the image reflected through an omni-channel customer care. So if you have offered multiple channel access to your customers¬†in a random way and still have people browsing through it, it’s time to plan for a thoughtful and thorough assessment and re-design of your CX, before they change their mind and go to the competition’s random journey.

“He had found a Nutri-matic machine which had provided him with a plastic cup filled with a liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. The way it functioned was very interesting. When the Drink button was pressed, it made an instant but highly detailed examination of the subject’s taste buds, a spectroscopic analysis of the subject’s metabolism and then sent tiny experimental signals down the neural pathways to the taste centres of the subject’s brain to see what was likely to go down well. However, no one knew quite why it did this, because it invariably delivered a cupful of liquid that was almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.” (Douglas Adams, The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)

Setting CX expectations….the smart way.

I recently contacted my ISP to renegotiate my account plan (I’m sure it happens anywhere that new customer offers are way less expensive than your current plan, which, to a loyal customer, always looks kind of a fraud) and the agent over the phone stopped our conversation almost mid-sentence to clearly state that, if contacted by a third party for a CX survey, and if I was happy with the service, then the right score should be 9-10 out of 10 because (as he then pointed out) scoring a mere 8 would not give them their bonus.

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My first reaction to this, while smiling and thinking of how my mother used to tell me at school that only excellence would be rewarded (the 9-10 out of 10 score), was to assure the guy that I would put the highest number available, and that I would tell my kids that the same method would be applied to them, from now on [sadistic evil mother’s face ON].

Then I¬†started¬†thinking of my school background, and how often a very good score did not get me gifts and rewards because it was considered as my duty, while excellence on the other hand was perceived as “going beyond duty” and therefore much more chased, sought and finally appreciated. This set the right expectations for the professional and personal life beyond as an adult.

So did this guy really gave me an exceptional CX? Did he go beyond his duty during our call? He basically called me to offer a discount that would bring my plan to an average compared to the competition, said that this was the only thing he was allowed to do, which besides I gladly accepted, as am not keen on swapping provider every other month.

But an exceptional CX? A 9-10 out of 10 score? What would be my expectation for such a score? What if he had told me that the discount he was offering was beyond his duty and he was probably not even allowed but wanted to help anyway? Even while offering the same discount, I would have probably rated this CX as exceptional, but the way he presented the offer made it seem like normal operation, so nothing really _beyond his duty.

Do you see the problem here? It’s not the rating, it’s the question to the customer.

If we set the score on another perspective, things might change. What if instead of an exceptional CX we start measuring the customer effort score, i.e. how much effort did the customer have to put in solving the problem? I basically scheduled a callback on the website and the discount I wanted came right at my door. So if the question was “in a scale of 1 to 10, how easy it was getting what you wanted?” I would have definitely rated this a 10.

Sometimes we need to make sure our expectations are set right for our CX, otherwise we risk rating with wrong mindset and encourage a culture of highly rated mediocrity¬†while on the other hand we strive to reach perfection when it’s already in front of our eyes.

Oh, and by the way, I gave the guy a 9. ūüôā

The unbearable lightness of a good customer experience (Einmal ist keinmal)

mind

One occurrence is not significant. This really sums up our feelings towards customer experience. If we happen to find the unicorn of CX, where everything runs smoothly and is fabulous and neat, we will still rant about the other 99% of occasions which left us sour-mouthed.

And why is that? I mean why can’t we brag about one nice experience and make it up for the other fails? I guess the answer is bordering philosophy and the fact that there is an intrinsic lightness to our experiences with companies and providers.

Or is it¬†just that companies and providers are not making the effort and don’t deserve our feelings nor¬†to be considered meaningful?

For now on, my resolve will be to spot any good CX and post it here, so it is no longer non-significant, at least for a few bytes. ūüôā

Lost in survey – and 5 tips to get the most out of it

I promised to post about surveys as a lot of people periodically complain about the very existence of them. On the other hand, a well designed and well accepted survey is one of the most powerful tools companies have to understand their audience. Some guy told me, a few days ago, that not only he loves responding to surveys and expressing his opinion directly, he specifically loves long and complex questionnaires, as opposed to quick polls.

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The world is really a funny place! ūüôā

So here’s 5 tips on how to push your questions out to customers and prospects:

1. Set your goal straight. even with a long survey, you need to have one specific goal in your head that you want to reach by pushing out questions¬†(net promoter’s score, first call resolution, etc…): remember that bugging your customers for no reason is never a good idea.

2. Define your target. As the same set of questions might not apply to different demographics, also depending on the channel defined to collect responses, it is usually wise to decide what the target is, and plan accordingly.

3.¬†Keep it short. No matter how many questions you have to ask, if it takes more than 5 seconds to read, we’ll skip to the next, and if forced to answer it might not be accurate. And remember that I only know one guy who loves long surveys…

4. Keep it simple. The lure of a complex, branched, multi-path survey might make you want to hyper-analyze every bit of information provided. But as it comes, people love simplicity, especially when performing a boring task. The more complex the survey, the higher the abandon rate. Plus the analytic of a simple survey will be refreshingly straight to the point.

5.¬†Give rewards. You are asking my honest insight of your business and 5 to 30 minutes of my time, and you want all of this for free? C’mon, you know better than that.

Gamification of the CX

One of the most annoying things, as an engineer, was the much¬†dreaded user acceptance test. Mostly it was horrible because in our heads all was working properly and no issue was to be perceived in our¬†freshly designed user experience. But reality was slightly different: engineers are not the most common sample of users, sometimes our heads are much more crowded and complicated compared to other people’s.¬†So how can we ensure that our customer journey not only conforms to the designer’s specifications, but it does so in a way that the end users can benefit those specification and actually use our designed experience in a successful way?

Just one word: gamification.

gamification

Keep the task fun and give rewards to your users and they will engage and be part of the CX more willingly:

the customer journey map: make it fun!

I mentioned in a post that we still write scripts, only today this is much more complicated with omni-channel, i.e. the ability of users to jump from one channel to the other and back, all within one interaction. This brings on the necessity of mapping all the jumps and exits from one channel to the other so that this journey is safe and protected and it never ends with a dead end or an error or missing data from one channel to the other. Does this sound fun at all? Not really. Spike it up by adding user levels to discover new channels (meanwhile they will train and become proficient in the original engaged¬†channel), give¬†benefits when jumping correctly from one media to the other, provide the ability to get social and brag about the engagement…

the user acceptance test: keep the fun!

and when I say user, I mean it. Not your colleagues engineers, not your boss or your friend who is a geek, you need to put the interaction out for common users who might not even have computer skills – or might have it different in their head (think of mac users ūüėČ ). So plan to give your “little creature” to real users, carefully review their honest feedback and make the necessary changes to keep the journey as smooth as possible, even if this includes cutting off parts of the configuration or adding “obvious” information and guidance. Make some rewards for those users who test, such as adding their suggestions, advance their level in the engagement, etc..

Remember you’re designing this for real users and the success of the application comes directly from them, not from another engineer testing it or from a score of the application design tool. Make it fun, and the users will love the engagement even when it’s not 100% smooth: heck, they’ll even want to help you bring it up to speed. ūüôā

5 signs of a (very) wrong customer experience

Whenever we’re trying to get hold of a company, and regardless of the chosen channel, there are five¬†things that define¬†a bad experience:

1. no Consistency. I’d like very much that the same information I read on the website is the one published on the other channels, including the agents’ response. This is especially and sadly true for the public administration, where often the digital channels are not updated and the latest information is not right there, it is instead inherited from agent to agent like a bedtime story.

2. no Context. If I am browsing different channels and finally get to call the customer service, I’d at least expect them to know that I have tried other channels and possibly raise my request’s priority according to the time I am spending on the issue, not the time I am spending in the voice queue.

3.¬†no Content. I passed the voice portal maze, the website and the app, finally got hold of a human being who doesn’t know a fit about me or my problem, or even the company I am supposedly calling, because he/she is probably working for another company in another country altogether.

4. no Care of my problem. once I gave up the self-service way and decided to interact with a human, it makes me cringe to find out how little interest the human I am contacting has towards helping me and solving my problem.

5.unsatisfied¬†Customer. Sometimes the service is really good and the product rocks, but you still have a cranky customer that for no apparent reason will rant endlessly to and about your company.That’s just life!!

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A short chat survey? Sure, why not!

Recently I was browsing through a website, and got a small discreet popup asking if I could answer 3 questions.

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I usually skip surveys as they are painfully long to answer and bring little benefit to my cause (more about surveys in another post), but the non-intrusive aesthetics, and the promise of a short interaction made the decision for me, and so I ventured into the jungle of customer experience surveys.

This particular one revealed itself to be a nice surprise: not only the 3 questions were really appropriate and totally related to my browsing, the last one even gave me the chance to pick one of 3 improvements I would have liked on the e-commerce page I was visiting!

If only this could be the average survey…

Diaries of the voice portal (part 2)

Few weeks ago I wrote¬†about the first voice portals, back in ’97.

Fast forward 5 years. VoIP communication is all the rage and we all merrily jump in the wagon (we do love us a new technology, don’t we) and start working on the network. All without knowing a thing about IP stuff, hoping that the behavior of our nice little voice toys, on IP transport, would be the same. And obviously it is not. images (1) I remember getting a call from a customer one afternoon timidly complaining that their voice responses (and in fact the whole¬†contact center) was not answering calls: it was, in fact, ¬†dropping calls. Now, dropping calls in a telephony environment is like the worst thing that could happen, only second to a complete major outage of the platform (or death in the family), so I righteously panicked and called the network guy that was in charge of the VoIP configuration. He answered calmly that he got the customer call as well and that he did get immediately into the system, checked his beloved router and saw that all was fine, so he scheduled the support for a more convenient day. He would look at the issue the next day as soon as he was in the office.

WTF?!?

Well, that was my first encounter with the “network guys”, where a bit of network outage did not mean _panic and destruction_ but only a few packets lost here and there, no fuss, no big deal. Hence the first lesson learned with VoIP: synchronous communication does mind if packets are lost, and even a few seconds outage IS¬†a big deal and will probably at best miss portions of the interaction, at worst drop the whole connection. In the end it was the carrier’s fault and the connection with the voice gateway took all the blame, but after this occurrence the network guy never missed a “dropped calls” alert again. ūüôā