Instant CX gratification?

As users, in engaging with companies, are we more focused on the result, or on the instant gratification?

If I have to reply, I would definitely say that I’d rather have my problem fixed than a very quick, yet inconclusive, answer that will force me to prolong my CX journey.

But, on the other hand, when I contact a company and have immediate feedback – of any sort – my internal personal rating of that company raises immediately, even if the problem that prompted me to engage them is not _really_ fixed. I can hear my inner conscience mutter a lazy “yeah but..”, but cannot deny the thrill of having some sort of instant gratification, albeit for different purposes.

As companies try and find new ways of assessing their CX quality and strategy, it should be imperative that consumer expectations match the company’s offering, while often this is not the case. Consumer expectations are freight and volatile, mixed with brand awareness and the constant time constraints, so that sometimes we give a high score to a specific interaction only because of its speed and type of channel, not with the final quality of the experience. But as complexity arises, we’re no longer measuring a “first call resolution” but an entire journey that could span several channels and that is directly linked to a company KPI. The speed of answer is as important as the answer itself, mostly because we are now used to fast-everything and do not accept any sort of delay.

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What are your thoughts on this? Would you rather have instant gratification or effective resolution  from your providers? And how should CX quality be measured then?

 

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The “Mobile First” dilemma

I often have customer meetings where we talk about the web part of a customer experience, and how to present information to the user. One of my first questions, once we have talked about the strategy and how the experience would flow through the CX journey is: “how is this experienced through a smartphone?”, or “what if the journey starts from a smartphone rather than a land line or a computer?”

Random Statistics:  1.2 Billion mobile web users are estimated worldwide, with some 25% of the overall web traffic being mobile.

In my experience as a user, I realize there are applications that I have never opened in my laptop browser: Uber, Instagram, Waze, Facebook messenger. The whole social media folder is now 99% of times accessed only via smartphone. I have tried the Whatsapp web extension but then thought “what the heck? I don’t really need another distraction on my screen, I already have the mobile beeping and blinking”.

There are, though, applications that I rarely or never use on a smartphone: writing this blog only happens with a proper keyboard a large screen and a huge cup of coffee, the same goes when choosing a holiday location, as I want to see large and detailed pictures of the houses I am renting, and even a Google maps tab to calculate the distance from airports and stations.

The on-line shopping is trickier: obviously, being a woman, I like buying clothes and accessories and doing it on a large screen helps with details of fabric and textures….but if I need quick shopping, as in Amazon-prime-misc-stuff-that-I-happen-to-remember-only-when-bathing-kids-or-cooking-dinner shopping, then the smartphone is my friend as it only takes a couple of clicks to get through an order and I can then forget about it until the package arrives. Blissful!

Developers who make smartphone apps spend their work day staring at a large screen and fighting with the constraints of a smaller mobile screen, so I totally understand that there might be frustration around this. There is some online discussion around mobile first design and the impression I got is that yes, you need to adapt to this new way of using the web, but large screens are still there and offer so much more features and context that sometimes it’s really tough to start with mobile all the way up. On the other hand, designing with a mobile first approach has the advantage of forcing you to disrupt, to see things differently and to (sometimes over-)simplify the experience.

A company’s customer experience does not always start from a smartphone, but typically will somehow pass through one at some point. If defining a CX journey is also helping the company to drive their customers to their preferred method, then it should be mandatory to step back and see the big picture, trying to understand if a mobile first approach will help or stop the user in their journey.

So my suggestion during the discussion is to try and picture a mobile everywhere in the journey, and see how it fits, then pick the moments where it was most useful because of its strengths (mobility, proximity, quick and easy access) compared to having a user open their laptop or computer or use different channels. Then try and make the customer’s life easier by reflecting those strengths to the wider picture and the mid-long term strategy of the business. The result is obviously never the same, but hey, have I mentioned the need to experiment? 🙂

When digital gives you privacy

The other day I was on public transportation and obviously everyone was tapping on their smartphone, included myself, when I realized someone was loudly talking on their phone. In a place packed with people, a middle aged lady, presumably a psychologist, was discussing a clynic case with lots of detailed information about some poor guy. Then after a few moments, a young lady was making a couple of private appointments, with loads of information we really did not want to hear.

The reaction of the whole audience was:

1. heads up from the smartphone

2. show indifferent/annoyed/amused stare to the loud-talking people

3. a guy actually swapped place fuming as evidently realized he really did not want to hear the conversation.

This made me think that I usually tend to make my phone conversations with sensitive information very private, as in “home-office-when-nobody-else-is-at-home” privacy, and otherwise any other information exchange with other people happens on other media. And I kind of like that so much, that I was in the annoyed/amused reaction while listening to stuff that now I cannot un-hear.

Whenever you need to communicate you often have the choice to define the context, and based on this, to decide what channel best suits the interaction. Digital helps people keep their privacy, sometimes. (yes I know that it defies privacy in other ways, but still) Companies should be able to understand the psychology that is behind every channel choice and this kind of information is highly useful to plan the CX journey, as you are able to get the most out of every media, for what the media is actually and beneficially used for.

Context is key to correctly mapping the journey and the business drivers related to it, and should be considered first when planning a CX optimization process.

You! Yes you! What is your social care strategy?

I now use on a daily basis LinkedIn, Twitter, FB, Snapchat, Instagram, Vine: I know there’s a lot more but there is also some work, family time and personal taste involved here.

Sometimes I read posts and responses from companies and brands that are simply amazing: witty and competent and sarcastic and smart. These are the kind of interactions that will make me love (or at a minimum, deeply respect) a brand or a company or a person in the social space. Not only they responded, but the person behind the keyboard went the extra mile and put some brain in the response, and the result is sometimes really awesome.

This happens maybe once or twice a month, often with big corporations, sometimes with smaller businesses, often with public figures, sometimes with a single individual who is simply being him/herself.

Should it happen more? Hell, Yes!

We have passed the stage where companies needed to be out there and respond promptly to just survive; now they need to be out there and present and smartand amazing. This is how it’s done and once someone breaks a threshold, the new level instantly becomes the norm (or so my kids teach me every day).

So back to the contact centre (or CX centre, or CE pod or any new cool name you might want to call it), if training your agents to handle responses in the fastest and most proficient way was a challenge, and typically the main one, now you need to up the notch and think that the people who are out there, publicly responding to your customers, not only need to be trained for excellence: they need to be amazing no matter what. The so called dedicated team, which typically is a small team of interns who are passionate about social, now needs to become a centre of excellence of your contact centre, in order to provide jaw-dropping awe-inspiring posts and tweets and interactions that can bring your brand to the next level. The “social experiment” team should be one of amazing people (incidentally, that also reflect your company’s view and mission) selected by checking their public profiles, challenging and engaging them with the best results, finally spotting the social excellence and bringing it into your strategy.

Figuring out how to use well all the social channels is the hard part, and largely depends on the type of brand, business and target customers. But it’s not impossible if you have the right people working on it. I remember how many years ago, working as a contact centre engineer, I used to tell my customers that the overall strategy must always start with people, and while technology and channels and rules of engagement drastically changed with time, this bit of wisdom thankfully did not.

3 steps to improve your CX now

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

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

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. 🙂

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

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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. 🙂

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! 🙂

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 😉 ). 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. 🙂