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Top Priorities in Customer-Centric Contact Centers

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Did you miss this Customer Experience Update Webinar from the end of November? No worries! Here’s the archived version. Take notes – the info will help you create a killer Conversational Selling strategy for 2019!

Read the transcript below:

Nicholas Rodriguez: …the highest priorities for Contact Centers that focus on the customer. So, we hope to inspire amazing, thoughtful conversations today that will create actionable insights for you. This webinar series will be recorded, so any webinar attendees that miss this will get the opportunity to watch it at the soonest convenience.

Before we go any further, I do want to thank Talkdesk for sponsoring the webinar series, and helping us to make this happen. So, Talkdesk Enterprise Contact Center empowers companies to make their Customer Experience a competitive advantage. With enterprise class performance and consumer-like ease of use, Talkdesk easily adapts to the evolving needs of sales and support teams and their end-customers resulting in increased customer satisfaction, productivity and cost savings. Over 1,400 innovative enterprises around the world with thousands of seats including IBM, Acxiom and Zumiez rely on Talkdesk to power their customer interaction. Learn more and request a demo at Thanks again Talkdesk.

I would like to start introducing our speakers for today’s webinar. Joining us today would be Tony Medrano; CEO of RapportBoost AI, the leading conversational sales analysis platform for brands that use chips, SMS and messenger tools to engage customers. RapportBoost uses artificial Intelligence to optimize chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness, and other critical contact center metrics.

Also joining us would be Kaye Chapman; the Learning and Development Manager at Comm 100. She is an internationally experienced writer and trainer and an MA student at University College, London, and the world’s number one center for education and social science. Kaye has worked with Fortune 500 companies, governmental and private firms across the world to advance customer service operations, and embed leading learning and development strategies.

And so in the next slide, Nate Brown is the co-founder of CX Accelerator. While customer service is his primary expertise, Nate is able to leverage experience in professional services, marketing and sales to connect dots and solve the big problems. From authoring and leading a customer experience program, to journey mapping, to managing a complex contact center, Nate is always learning new things and sharing with the CX community.

So, without further introductions, let’s go ahead and get started. Tony I would like to start this off by passing it up to you. So, please go ahead, take it away…

Tony: Yeah, thanks Nicholas. So, on the webinar today we are going to go over a few industry trends, at present two-third of contact centers are multi-channel and one-six are Omni-channel, where does your company fit in? Let me help define this terms in a way to frame the discussion. A multi-channel contact center is one that allows agents to interact with customers over several communication channels, where each channel operates in isolation. Multi-channel usually includes voice, email, chat, SMS and even fax interactions. In an Omni-channel contact center, communication channels and their supporting resources are designed and orchestrated to cooperate. The major difference between Omni-channel and multi-channel is the level of integration. According to research from Aberdeen, companies who provided an Omni-channel customer experience achieve a 91% higher year-over-year increase in customer retention, compared to organizations who don’t.

There are many channels and customers often have strong preferences. Why does this matter to us? Customer channel preferences are increasingly important, with more knowledge, organizations can deliver better self-service. Optimization of this knowledge can be accelerated by leveraging artificial intelligence, and employee engagement is a powerful force that can be used to drive customer engagement.

Okay, Nate will discuss the hectic reality of modern contact centers.

Nate: Hello everybody, It is a great pleasure to spend a little time with my friends Kaye and Tony. One of the obvious trends out there, it is more than a trend, it is just the reality, it has been for quite some time, will continue to be one is joggling the many channels within the contact center. We have this poll that we just put up and you guys saw these results, the vast majority of us live in a multi-channel reality, and we are probably working towards that Omni-channel bit as a practioner, that describes us pretty well, in terms of where we are, I think many of us are aspiring towards that more harmonized Omni-channel experience, but as my friend Justin Robben says often, most contact centers have a broken overall toolset. There are so many reasons for that, there’s different agenda that different leaders have that is often times a lack of budget, there is the legacy tool that have crept in, they are impossible for us to shake, and so often it is knowledge and the ability for knowledge to flow through these tools, there are some knowledge that we can’t live without in this tool and there is other knowledge that we can’t live without over here, and having the ability to bring those things together is often times extremely difficult. So, it is a tough road to go, but if we look at the research back in the effortless experience, we know how critical it is to offer the right channel at the right time. And that really is what it is about here, it is not having every channel you see on the screen, and we are certainly going to take more about that with Kaye and Tony, it is about having the right thing at the tight time, so that’s what we are going to dive into. I love one of the steps from the effortless experience, it’s way more about quality resolutions and having one contact to resolve, without having to switch channels or the customer having to call back and forge a new support interaction, it is about that quality versus having all the different channels that are out there, so let’s keep rolling.

Tony: Nate, what do you see is prevailing organization’s most option from offering the right channel at the right time to customers and how can they overcome from that?

Nate: Yeah, it is going to be a matter of what you and your toolset have the capability to offer, and in many cases, we are ignorant, to what the customer actually needs at that time, and many of us will forget to put our feet in the shoes of the customer and walk that journey in enough detail to where we can anticipate proactively where they are going to get stuck, if you look at your operational data within the contact center, it is going to tell you a story, of where your customers gets stuck, and you just got to think about… okay, if we know that the customer is likely to experience an issue here, what stage are they going to be in? Where in life are they? Are they out on the road? Are they like me? I will give you an example, one of my favorite support interactions was with the TWRA; the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, this is a government agency, and I am on the side of the river, wanting to fish and realizing that I forgot to get a fishing license, and I tweeted to TWRA, and they guided me through a self-service portal, and I was able to achieve my fishing license on the side of the stream, and be able to start fishing, and their case, brilliant. They anticipated where their customer was going to be at the moment of need, and they were able to guide me on a Saturday morning nonetheless, to exactly the support that was going to be the easiest for me. So, that’s what we all need to be thinking and doing.

Tony: That’s a great story.

Nate: Thank you.

Tony: So, more about customer preferences, so just like Nate was talking about, not only are customers different, but they prefer different channels in different situations. In many contact centers, agents are burdened with simple repetitive tasks like resetting passwords, checking balances, responding to basic questions. This takes time and hurts both the agent’s job satisfaction and customer’s satisfaction. But when customers have more complex enquires, their channel preferences shift, they often expect a conversation with an expert, and often an immediate response, especially when you are by the side of the stream on a Saturday morning.

Nate: Exactly. The reality of this Tony, I love that chart that you found, I think that’s a very compelling chat, that has absolutely been my reality as a practioner, and we don’t offer a lot of channels that more contemporaries companies would, because we have found that our demographic, it is extremely high complexity, it is difficult software, they are getting stuck in a moment of need where there is a lot of creativity, there is a lot of discussion that is involved and many times screenshots as an example, there is just a load of support, a burden of support at that moment that is very complex and  this reality has certainly played out for me. So, that the simpler the need is for the customer, the more mobile, the more convenient the channel should be, and then refocusing for that greater complexity to, okay, we are going to need to give this customer an extended time, we are going to need to probably have a dialogue with them and where it is different, instead of offering every channel everywhere, it is thinking, okay, at this moment the customer is going to need to have a conversation with us, we are going to give them the phone number, instead of asking them to tweet you, in which case all you are going to do is tweet back with the phone number, it is anticipating.

Tony: Yeah, you are not going to buy automated software with a couple of clicks, Saturday morning, by the side of the stream.

Nate: Correct.

Kaye: Hi everyone, this is Kaye Chapman, just to chime in as well that when we are thinking about organizations, differentiating between simple and complex enquires, it is the ability to do that and to match the enquire types to channels that really promotes the ability for organizations to be able to automate. Because we know for example that chat bots and self service facilities are great for answering these straight forward questions that don’t require kind of personalized information to be given to the customer for example. So it is absolutely all about figuring out what kind of queries fir mostly into what kind of channels, and certainly working out considerations into journey maps, so that you are basically meeting the customer with what they need on the channels of their choice.

Tony: Absolutely. Any other memorable keystone? I like the side of the stream example because it is so easy to remember and timely, and that highlights community and qualities. But what about in real time and non-real times, the used cases there, or digital versus analog?

Nate: Yeah, I had an interesting one last week. Okay, go ahead Kaye.

Kaye: Okay. I think there is personally something around… considering the right channels for the right query types, like we know for example that email is great, maybe for less urgent queries, if you’ve got a customer who really urgently needs an answer, kind of sending email over a long period of time, that isn’t going to cut it. So, what we find is like… it is called “100 ways of live chat” and chat is essentially great, for urgency, maybe for impatient customers. But it also allows us, for example maybe customer’s preferences for privacy, just to give an example, so here at Comm. 100, one of our clients, an online pharmacy who allows customers to consult pharmacists so that they can diagnose and recommend some products. They found that their customers especially, really liked chat. Let’s imagine, maybe you have an illness, maybe a naught toe fungus, or something that is quite worrying or distressing or private or embarrassing. Now, it can be quite a lot easier to talk about that over text without having to voice what you are feeling, and have immediate responses ready as you would need to do over phone. So, that client for example, there is an element of privacy and comfort over chat in that sense, and I see that quite often in health context, especially in relationships, in mental health for example, where we are speaking about different problems that can be really confronting to customers. So, that is story there, using chat, you can still have the immediacy of responses that you need when you are speaking to a client about an urgent issue, but in that particular used case, it is kind of easier for customers to use that from the phone. So, really when we are thinking about appropriate channels for the right journey map, it really does require you to journey map with a lot of different considerations, you’ve got to think about the convenience side of things when you think about urgency, you’ve got to think about preferences relating to digital and analog and the generational aspects… Nate, what do you think?

Nate: I certainly agree with what you just stated Kaye, I have absolutely historically been a bit down on chat, and I don’t have a good reason for that, I don’t know maybe it is because I am in between millennial and Gen X so maybe it is my Gen X coming out, I feel like I was raised where when I had a problem, we would pick up the phone and solve it, that’s what my parents did, that’s the way that I was taught, and chat almost seemed like a bit of a shortcut or something where you couldn’t resolve truly complex things. Last week I had an example, from a photographer for business… I was in to purchase lens, and if there are any photographers out there, you know it is so phenomenally confusing, trying to buy a new lens because it is way too many options and they are all really expensive and it is hard to determine what a good value is, because the specs are difficult to understand. So I went ahead online and the little live chat box pops up as I am sitting there wrestling, trying to do all these research on these lenses, and this guys just asks, hey, is there something that I can help you with? And I just kind of put it on there, and I was like, yeah, what kind of lens would you buy and he just didn’t really think about it, this guy comes back with a remarkably helpful and creative response, and ultimately guided me to exactly the lens that I needed, I was blown away by the usefulness of this chat, for something that I have always assumed could have always be accomplished on a phone call. So, that really blew me away last week.

Kaye: Yeah, and actually that is a really interesting story and what I wonder is whether the chat that you spoke to, maybe he had a very good kind of canned message library or he learnt from that. One thing that we see is that. I certainly agree with you that there is this generational aspect of chat. I don’t want to go into far into generational territory, but certainly the younger generations, you know that they do tend to like messaging, text-based communication. We know this from research. And I think one of the things I find really good about chat is. While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate the use of canned messages all the time, we know that canned messages do help to save time, they ensure consistencies and responses and they can help sort of communicate brand voice clearly, and generally provide quite a lot of efficiencies than voice. But they can also be used as major training tools which is one reason I really like them. So, like one of our clients in Comm. 100, they really like used canned messaging, not so much necessarily in their everyday communications, sort of to rely on them heavily, but they really use them to help agents break the ice and get more insurance to having access to a bank of really reliable and ready to respond pieces of information. So I think that’s one earlier, where there are advantages in chats and once you’ve got that good bank of messages, you can look to automate them and it goes out from there. But I definitely think it’s interesting, I can say I am really weary of getting into generational differences, it is like nothing gets really simplistic and stuff are just based on assumptions. I am the millennials but when you try to talk to me about rap music, it doesn’t mean I am not that cool. Clearly, we can see that the younger generation have got different preferences of communication, so it is very important to consider the appropriateness of the channel alongside with those preferences and really there is a lot to consider when you are thinking about matching the right query types for the right channel.

Nate: Yeah, I am definitely a recovering chat differ, and I am starting to find it more and more useful, and I feel like with social media too, at least a couple years ago I was consistently frustrated with social media channel, all it ever was, was a message saying either call us or send us an email. But I don’t know if maybe it is the introduction of A.I or it is better knowledge-based, but I find it both in the chat and in social media, I am getting far more helpful support than what I did in years past, which is very exciting.

Kaye: Yeah, I am definitely finding that as well. People go on Twitter for example to complain about companies publicly, and it used to be that you would actually just get a message back saying, just call the contact center and you will be like, that is not why I got in touch in the first place, they are going to have to pick up the phone. But certainly, yeah, I have experienced it myself, I am actually getting real help out of social media now and I think a lot of that is the development of the technology, like our social media tool has got better and better and is just an appropriate tool now for contact centers, so I think it is like the technologies as well as organizations recognizing that the customers do have expectations for service on these channels, that they are not just kind of a megaphone customer communications process that they can be used to facilitate actual two-way communication.

Nate: So, the last point on this whole slide, new channels increase reach and availability, I feel like the ball that we all have to joggle as contact center leaders is this reality of customer preference, we need to certainly consider that, but I still maintain that maybe this is just me being in this industry for too long. But it is all about quality over the channels, more than it is over the quantity of channels. If you can’t facilitate a quality resolution over that channel, then either don’t offer the channel at all, or put that channel somewhere else where it matches the customer’s need better.

Kaye: Yeah, I absolutely 100% agree with you, and I think for any organization looking to have add new channels to theirs, it is going to be disastrous if they don’t kind of synchronize their customer experience, make sure that their agents have got access to a good deal of the customer. And generally you need to treat that extra channel as an opportunity to engage more rather than just looking to take the channel off the list. I think what we found really interesting at Comm. 100 is that point around new channels increasingly reach and availability is really important, especially when you are thinking about customer’s preferences for channels, because it is very tempting when we are thinking about how to meet customers’ preferences. So, think about kind of giving you the ability to maybe make your existing customer base a bit happier or maybe to boost these goals or somehow make your offering a bit fluffier and nicer, which is okay, which is great, but actually what we should be doing here is thinking about providing convenient channels so really you can engage more of your customer base which leads to real hard ROI. So, you probably have to start for every customer who complains than 26 customers who don’t say anything and I know I have had it mentioned, as many as 96% of unhappy customers don’t say a word, they just leave. And you ask yourself the question, why aren’t those customers saying anything? Well, it is just because they don’t have the time, or the energy, or the inclination to do so for your existing channels. There is a reason why complaining customers are so fired up when they get with you on the phone, and that is because they don’t want have to be complaining, it is irritating and annoying to navigate through ideas, and explain your problems over and over again when you are really annoyed. So, meeting customer’s preferences, that makes it easier for you to engage that kind of hidden section of the customer who won’t get in touch with you. And we are not just talking about the aligning to customer preferences so you can have happy customers, it is also about uncovering and serving customers that you never knew that you had. And in Comm. 100, it is uncovering that hidden customer base that we found to be super powerful for our client. Like recently, we worked with a customer, actually in my home country, in the UK, that could be building a society, they are basically a mortgage who implement the chat, and they implement the chat and they survey the customer and they found that 62% of their businesses said that if complaint didn’t have chats, they would never have picked up the phone, they would never have got in touch in the first place. And what they found as well is that chat basically, it allows them to do business outside of their traditional market areas, by allowing them to sell to people, he wouldn’t have brought someone to the branch and he would have never gone through the efforts of phoning. Now, that’s really awesome because it shows just by having a new channel, you can embrace really a whole new section entrusted customers that you probably never knew you had access to. So, when I was thinking about meeting customer preferences… yeah, we should do it because it is the right thing to do, and because it makes it easier for people to get in touch, but there is actually a very strong overriding care, it increases your reach and availability, it increases your potential to keep complaints customers to buy, which is why it is such an incentive for enterprises and organization to understand the preferences of their customers and for us to be very bold in other business areas, about the benefits of that from the bottom line which are very clear in that respect. So, it is really an interesting landscape when we are thinking about meeting customer’s preferences because it is the right thing to do, because as sales professionals, we love people and we love people, and we love making things easier for them. But at the same time, it is like the real ROI gain as well.

Nate: Yeah, I am sure Tony is about to yell at us to move on to the next topic, I’ve got one more thing as far as this whole channel conversation here, the effortless experience, appendix A is the issue to channel mapping tool, and it is absolutely brilliant for you to assess if you can offer that channel in a quality way or you should look at an alternative channel or really trying to drive that activity toward self-service, it a wonderful little score card there, so I’d employ everybody to check that out on page 214.

Kaye: Great, certainly.

Tony: Self Service, we would switch to that. Self-services often are a big customer preference, organizations love it because one of the goals of data management is to properly identify, collect, organize and disseminate knowledge. This organizational knowledge forms the foundation for enabling various forms of self-service, such as simple published FAQ, and also more complex chat bots. Brands must know which asset and knowledge they have in order to successfully actually transfer it to a chat bot. For those of you not too familiar with chat bot, a chat bot is a computer program that stimulates human conversations. Chat bots can be auditory or text-based, with text-based chat bots becoming increasingly popular with companies who have web-based sales and support, probably like most of the yearnings. The customer service chat bot however is a unique sunset of the chat bot ecosystem, its purpose is not to sound human or make small talk, rather it is to effectively lead customers to knowledge, customer services chat bots do not need to learn how to actually chat with a sophisticated level of comprehension, they just need to make the customer enquiry process more efficient. Machine learning, natural language processing, through powerful new subsets of artificial intelligence that supports these trends, more organizational knowledge and self-service. I know Nate and Kaye got a few case studies about these topics to share.

Nate: Interesting tale here, in this area, I really feel like I am the Michael J. Fox of the contact center industry, and again we were excited a couple years ago on artificial intelligence and what can we do with this. Then realizing that our knowledge was not in a place where we could correctly utilize this and Bob has been such a wonderful mentor in this area at IBM, amazing work that he has done through Bluewolf over there with the AI in the contact center, but just really realizing through him and through other scenarios, I have got to go back and fix the knowledge problem before we can really go forward in this area and that just became so obvious and clear. And then finding this, not new but wonderful methodology called KCS (Knowledge Center Support), and it has just been the game changer for us and it has breathe new life into our contact center over here in terms of our ability to share and collaborate well our knowledge, which really is the lifeblood of any contact center at the end of the day. So that has been really exciting for us, and I am not going to sit here and preach and act like I am some kind of AI expert, because I am not. But it is fun to dream about what that will be able to do for us once we get our knowledge problem under control.

Kaye: Yeah, just to chime in on that, I work for Comm. 100, we are a chat bot vendor and even speaking from the point of view of a chat bot vendor, it has been amazing to see the amount of hype that has been around chat bots and the amount of the organizations that are really promising these massive returns without really being very clear. Actually, bot implementations are really quite tough, but the message that we are trying to communicate really loud and clear right now is just please think of your customers before you deploy bots. And interestingly Forresters themselves have said that 2019 will be the year of bot backlash, and what they mean by that is customers are going to get fed up which have bots, because a lot of bots don’t know what they need, so either they are being used kind of like a replacement for IVR or they are not inserted into the most appropriate stages of the customer’s journey. Or like you said Nate, the underlying knowledge systems aren’t developed enough, the bot sorts of coding and programing and trainings, to be effective. And because it takes some real kind of force and education and planning to build a team that really can implement and maintain a bot properly, there is just not many organizations who have the right sort of internal human capabilities to do that. So, it is a really interesting landscape, and I think what we are seeing at Comm. 100 is, you don’t have to go full on NLP chat bots at this stage, you can explore kind of various self-service options and you can do things like kind of pair them together to work smartly and to meet some of the customer’s needs. Like at the moment, one of the things we like recommending is maybe implementing knowledge base with chat, that’s got the after effect of reducing chats through agents, it helps customer who are in a rush, and it also a lot easier for those customers to reach out to chat than to do so with knowledge base. If you’ve got a KB system at the frontend of chat, at the customer’s point of need, it means that lots of customers can get quick answers really, without needing to go to through to an agent. So, underlying kind of any self-service implementation are just so vital to really understand customer preferences, but the speed and quick answers and kind of making it easier for them to engage with the appropriate facility.

Nate: Yeah, and I do have a little story for you Tony real quick.

Tony: Thank you.

Nate: I love Kaye’s terminology on backlash of the bot, I have had one or two good bot experiences, but that one that sticks out of my mind was a subscription movie service, I won’t use the brand name, but you can probably use the process of elimination given there is only two of them in existence. But it was one where I could not use the service, I was paying $10 a month for the service, and there had been so many rules and stipulations applied that the service had become completely unusable and through the app on the phone, they really pushed their live chat, and so I engaged on this device, to enquire what is going on, how come I can’t see a movie at any night in this period of time? And it ended up being a bot, but they didn’t even say it was a bot, they were trying to pass it off as a person, and it was one where it was just regurgitating information out of a knowledge base, and it became phenomenally frustrating to the point where I was screaming in the bathroom, at my phone, which I am not proud of, but I think that’s the state of fiery. It’s not even human being that seem to admit that I was put in such an infuriating state by a bot, but when I went back and I looked at the knowledge base and they had publicly noted at the bottom how it would ask if the knowledge base answer was helpful or not, they had that turned on and it was like 357 people found the knowledge-based article to be unhelpful versus like 17 found it to be helpful. They were publicly displaying the fact that their knowledge was broken and terrible, then they made the mistake of applying a bot on top of their broken knowledge, and it made me and many other customers to the point of screaming.

Tony: Yeah, terrible practice.

Kaye: I mentioned earlier that there are real issues with the technical aspects of chat bot implementation, but if you have got broken knowledge, you can’t really build a bot on that. Also, even if your knowledge is pretty good, there is definitely something as well around making the content of interactions feel natural and engaging and complementary to your brand voice. You shouldn’t really just program your bot with all of the answers of your FAQs, like if there is an answer in your FAQs which is 7-paragraph long, you shouldn’t just program your bot to spit out this 7-paragraph all in one go and it seems like the most appropriate way to answer your customer’s question. Because that’s not the way it works with a normal conversation and bots aren’t conversational. So, what we found at Comm. 100 is like, we need to be able to build bots that break responses into manageable chunks or even better they ask a series of questions and they use the responses to gather information and give personalized and conversational feeling answers that are much more inclusive and engaging for customers. But, I am so sad to hear your story Nate, because I mean there is such potentials for bots to see really big benefits for businesses, but I do agree, and I think realistically it is going to take some time for that to actually be realized for the majority. When you think the working well generally has got a really big skill gap in the area of AI, and AI understanding generally. But creating chat bots that don’t just work directly from a technical perspective, that delivers from a customer experience and an emotional perspective, that requires some really kind of diverse cross-functional skills that many businesses aren’t really easily able to connect results on. And I am really happy to say at Comm. 100, we are really glad to be working with some contracts right now, who are on a trailblazing here, but the role of a trailblazer is really a tough one, so we are providing a lot of guidance for them, just to make sure that their bot implementation really delivers quality in the places they are most appropriate. So, it is a really tricky field, because one thing we found as well is that bot interaction that you had Nate, there should have been a human safety net there, there should have been the ability for somebody to have a look at the chat and see that it really wasn’t working and that you were going nuts, and that safety net; it can be a human monitoring, or it can be kind of automated and built-in. Say for example, if a customer says I want to complain, the bot should be able to identify that it and transfer to human. And actually, Forresters themselves say that 60% of chat bot deployment in 2019, they won’t have this live agent safety net attached to chat versions. It allows bots to become effective basically, so at Comm. 100, we found it really important to build those into our chat bot deployment, so companies can really gain confidence in that bot while knowing that their customer experience isn’t going to get ruined. But yeah, 2019; the year of backlash, we are going to see a lot of bot deployment that leave people screaming in their bathroom. And it just breaks my heart because on the whole, it is not the fault of the technology, it is the fault of the implementations and knowledge, and the culture that underlies in.

Tony: Yeah, absolutely, we see at RapportBoost that one of the impediments are either chat bots or really an effective live chat program is organization of that knowledge base and really knowing what visitors want, and understanding those communications between website visitors, customers and the agents.

Nate: It can be done, it just has to be done very carefully I think to Kaye’s point, it will happen, it just has to be done very carefully.

Kaye: I wonder if we could skip out this slide Tony, because we have talked about this quite a lot already really, you know I mentioned the Forresters stats. I think it might be interesting to me, talking about employee engagement a little bit.

Nate: Yeah, I agree.

Tony: …because contact centers have agents and those agents are key to the success, so yeah.

Nate: Okay Kaye, take it away.

Kaye: So, here is the stat piece, only 25% of the working population are actively engaged at work. And when we are talking about engagement, we are talking about people actually getting sort of committed to their jobs and positive about the organization that they work for. So, 25% is such a low statistic, actually I would guess that maybe for call center employees, that could even be lower. Think about say for instance, employees who work in fairly high controlled settings which might be characterized by a large process of compliance with time-based metrics, and very fairly levels of autonomy. And we know through research that engagement at work leads to higher level of effort displayed by employees, and that is really important for customers and employees as it affects how likely they are to go above and beyond and to work for customer outcomes that already are quality. And of course that leads to higher service quality and productivity which leads to higher customer satisfaction, which leads to higher self-retention. So, absolutely it makes sense for organizations to prioritize employee’s happiness because it doesn’t just make generally nice work place with a depth of culture, but it also drives positivity in this metrics. And as I mentioned, it matches directly to the bottom line as it is about optimizing your people to see it as a business result. And way back at the very start of my career, I was a contact center agent myself, and my work in a pretty good contact center with a reasonable amount of autonomy and we did prioritize quality. But the people working very hard, but all of us have nightmare customers and software and systems, what you mentioned that Justin said earlier, contact centers are really working with very broken tools, I think that’s so true, and that makes life really very difficult you’re your poor contact center agents who are trying to get their work done, trying to not antagonize customers, they are trying to be positive and you have all these things working against you, so it can be really tough.

Nate: Yeah, no doubt. There is so much to be said on this topic, we are talking about the premium trends within contact centers, and this has to be discussed because this is the foundation on which that customer experience rests and everyone of this go to. The people are talking, they are hungry for how can I improve the work experience for my people? It is on the tip of everybody’s tongue… There is one resource that I have stumbled on recently that has just changed my mind completely on this subject and has helped me so much as a practitioner, and it is the one called “Prime to Perform” by Leo Dasey and Linsdey McGregor, they are really taking the principles that Daniel Pink and Drive came out with like 10 years ago, that the purpose mastery autonomy and they are modernizing that a little bit to the number one major motivator. And I think this is going to create a quality work overtime, consistently, it is meaningful work, that the number one motivator to create that meaningful work is play, and it is not like buying a pizza and having a ping-pong table, that is a very shallow definition of it. What we are looking at when we say the word play, is establishing a sense of curiosity and excitement about work, and at least in my role at a contact center leader. If you can do that, if you can make your team excited about the works that they are doing, and still curiosity in them, then they are going to blow you away, with the level of service that they can provide and the creativity that would come out of it. that in terms of helping your contact center to not just be that reactive call center anymore, but to get to a proactive customer experience creator and bar setter, I mean what we have been driving and a lot of that has just been creating that sense of excitement and also driving that process in there. Why are we doing this work, the company I work have a very compelling, they were making a safer world and it is fun, it is exciting, it is meaningful, and every one of our organizations have a thing that we do better than anybody else, and it is that constant refreshment that should be pouring into the contact center. You are changing life in some way. You are making people’s experiences better and therefore making their life better in some way. Here is how you impact that, here is how you personally play a huge role in this, because they are the frontline of the organization of that brand advocate, so I just love this topic, I love how many people are searching for this and are hungry to make people’s work experiences better. I don’t know about you Kaye, but I can literally go about this all day, the things that I have tried that have not worked, and the things that I tried that are helping the home run.

Kaye: 100 percent. And I just think making sure that agents know that they master it, it is just so important. Like you said, showing what role they play in the picture, and regardless of where you are in an organization, you can do that in all sorts of ways, you can share examples where agents have really helped and celebrated the thank you cards. We love occasions where customers went out of their way to say thank you. But I think that there is something around helping to reduce the stigma associated with contact center work by reassigning your agents to other business areas. Let’s face it, contact center work, I don’t know about you Nate, I have also worked in a lot of other organization where the contact center is perceived as the bottom of the pile and it is perceived as somewhere skilled work doesn’t happen, where people don’t pay very much and maybe they don’t give much of a damn, and actually we know that reality is so far away from that. So, I would say to anyone managing the contact center out there, shout from the roof tops, about the work that your team is doing and how vital that they are to your business, because that’s great for them, in engagement sense, and it is quite for you, in terms of securing the real value that you know that you know that you are going to bring. So, make sure they know it, because like you said, it is through that that you look at kind of creativity and extra certain motivation, and that obviously got many if they are able to speak up, so many productivity benefits as well.

Nate: How lucky are we Kaye to live in this new world of customer experience? Because I feel like before that new, sexy term, that the contact center was a call center. But now, if we can embrace this reality of customer experience and demonstrate how we in the contact center are leading the charge when it comes to customer’s experience, we have a tip of the sword and that customer experience is what helps you to grow the business, it is way, above and beyond anything else, this is what allows you to earn the right to sell to new customers, to renew existing customers and generate that loyalty. You went from that lowly perceived call center to now, it is absolutely one of the most strategic organizations inside of the company if applied correctly.

Kaye: Absolutely, yeah. Like you said, we are so lucky to be in a space where there were so many CS professionals working really hard to demonstrate the value of the customer experience… And there is a training, somebody who I worked with on Learning and Development and I am really passionate about training, it is really nice that this is kind of shifting in CS is coincided with the shifting and understanding of the benefits of employee training. Because what I am seeing is how the role has changed to become more complex, channels are being added, knowledge is disseminated to all sort of different places that actually lots of people are realizing that you really need to invest in the people, you need to listen to them, you need to demonstrate that fervent leadership, and you need to give them the learning development talent management that they deserve in order to do really great work for our customers…

Nate: One little tip that I am going to share that has been wonderfully helpful in my recent experience, so this whole idea of trying to tie the employee experience to the customer experience, and we developed this really sleek voice of customer button that is used to capture organic feedback coming into the contact center, because we didn’t have a pretty good channel for that previously, and that was so exciting, and it was why we were successful producing that unstructured feedback channel for our customers. But the most interesting thing happened when we gave that to the employees, they asked the question of, what about my voice? Where is my button? It’s like a total oversight on my part, we have not created a good channel for employee voice and we are fortunate to be able to scramble and find this remarkable tool called office vibe, which the free version of this poll-survey system has just been phenomenal, but I mean it is a poll survey tool that you can get true heart and mind of how your people are feeling week-over-week, and it has been a total game changer for us. And we made all these assumptions of what we thought we knew about our people, and we were wrong in a lot of cases and until we created that truly, dedicated channel for their voice we did not have a good understanding of our people.

Kaye: And good of you for asking, because I have seen so many organizations just run with the function, not only about the employees, but about their customers and you know that results in disconnect between what service they perceive they are giving to employees and customers, that’s just what they are actually doing. So, actually implementing those channels and getting most button in place, that really is key to being able to actually address problems rather than being having concerns about them.

Nate: So true, and to use another ‘Justin Robbins’, I think he calls that the CX gap, in terms of that wild gap of perceptions that’s there, of that internal perception of the service that we are providing to our customers, versus the reality of what they are going to actually thinking and feeling, and trying to bridge that gap, not just with our customers, but with our people as well.

Kaye: Yeah, totally. And that is definitely an established mode of thought, and HR as well, when you are thinking about what culture truly is, it is not often the messages that come through the formal channels, it is more of what people are actually saying and thinking about an organization. So, recognizing that difference is very crucial. Nate, that button you mentioned, just to clarify, I think I have seen you demonstrate this at conferences, this is like an actual, physical button, right? It is a physical button that people mash on their desk with their fist when they want to talk, is that correct?

Nate: Yeah, or in your bathroom, wherever you are, where you need to mash the button and be able to be that advocate for the customer and voice whatever meaningful feedback that you’ve received, we just created this ultra-simple USDS key button. It is just a great visual reminder of ‘you are the voice of the customer’. And when you get meaningful feedback, you have the responsibility and privilege to be the recipical for that.

Tony: Wonderful. Let’s move on. On that note, employee engagement; huge topic and my experience at RapportBoost helping contact centers transform, we see it as the biggest driver for success, it is really have engaged other agents, so powerful topic, that is complex and hard to do but when you get it right, you can do a lot of other things too.

Nicholas: So if we can go ahead and get to the summary slide, we can give the opportunity for the audience to ask a couple questions.

Tony: Great. Quick summary here for you; Serving customers in multiple challenges is complex and critical. And customers have increasing power. Knowledge and A.I facilitate better self-service and employee engagement really drives customer engagement. So, this is the foundation for everything. With that, we would love to have as many questions as we can fit it.

Nicholas: Awesome, thanks for passing it along Tony, and I appreciate every one for your wonderful insights… Tony, did you get the opportunity to see the result of the poll at the beginning of the webinar today?

Tony: I did not. Can you just put it again?

Nicholas: Sure. So, it looks like the poll result. If you are unable to see it on your screen Tony, just clarify, 74% results were from answers from the audience saying that they are a multi-channel contact center. 5%; customers with an Omni-channel contact center, 5% do both, 16% do not have a contact center and none selected others. So, just recap on that one. So moving back along, I did want to go into the question and answer section, so taking questions from the audience, we did have one for Nate. Now earlier, you mentioned the VLC button and this half-answers the question. So the question was that if Nate could give at least one example of what didn’t work in his experience with making agents like the work that they are doing. But what was one example perhaps where a solution was implemented and it didn’t work quite as intended?

Nate: Yeah, I was a huge advocate for the whole gamification trend, I guess you can consider it a buzz world at this point. And I do think that there are some values there, but it is just really shallow in it of itself, that whole concept of gamification; which is just simply applying game mechanics to everyday work. So, in that in and of itself, there is no problem, there is no danger, but if all you are doing is trying to make life a game, you really lose sight of the higher calling, the bigger anchor, which is that purpose and I think the reason that ‘prime to perform’ jumped out of me so much at the time where it did, is because I am trying to use chat and kind of distractions to make contact center work more fun, but what I wasn’t doing was making it any better. It is just a very shallow thing. So I think that the concept of play establishing a sense of curiosity and excitement about the work itself, not just the surface-level distractions, that’s where you really get into a whole other layer of meaningful work.

Nicholas: Got it, awesome. Nate, thank you very much for the answer. Kaye, Tony, did you have anything else that you might want to add unto that point?

Tony: No, I like what Nate said.

Nate: Yeah, I think Nate summed that up really nicely. One thing I do see with the new processes like gamification is quite often organizations would see them as a new culture initiative, but then they will think, oh yes! it is going have something positive to culture or learning or engagement. Actually, when you are thinking about sort of changes in the organizational culture, you’ve got these types of positive factors that work to try to improve things and you’ve got these negative factors which makes things worse. So, if your employees are really struggling with a bad knowledge-base, or maybe processes that are so broken that they can’t do their jobs properly. It doesn’t matter how many kind of positive gamification exercises you try and pull on top of that, because the underlying infrastructure that makes work nice is really kind of broken. So, definitely there is something around, when you are putting new initiative like that in place, you’ve got to really pay attention to the basics to make sure that it is going to be received well and it is actually going to add positively.

Tony: Good point.

Nicholas: That’s a great point Kaye, and with that I think it is a great place to end the webinar for today so I want to thank everyone in attendance, I hope today’s presentation was full of interesting, actionable insights to take with you? So, once again I would like to extend thanks to our sponsor; Talkdesk for making this happen and our guest speakers for today; Tony Medrano, Kaye Chapman and Nate Brown for showing us the top priorities in customer-centric contact centers. So you can find customer experience update on Twitter; @cxupdate or if you are more contact center focused, you can find customer contact central; @cust_contact. So, that’s it for today everyone, thanks a lot for joining us, and I hope you have a wonderful day.

Nate: Thanks everybody.

Tony: Yeah, thanks everybody.

Kaye: Thanks everyone.

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David Oates

About David Oates

David Oates is a 20-year marketing and public relations veteran who holds extensive experience in developing as well as executing successful and measurable programs for a wide range of agency, high tech, corporate and government organizations. He is an accredited public relations (APR) expert affiliated with the Public Relations Society of America, and serves as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors for Operation Homefront, California as well as on the Board of Directors for Rotary Club of San Diego. David has worked with Tony since 2001 in numerous capacities such as a non profit Board supporting veterans. He received his MBA from San Diego State University’s Executive Program in 2004 and his bachelors of arts from the University of Maryland in 1991. David was named among the 2009 “40 under 40” list of top professionals by the San Diego Metropolitan.

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