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The Truth, The Whole Truth...

Contact Center Expo & Conference keynote speaker Chip Bell reveals three customer experience truths.

I have to be honest; I enjoy debates when both debaters have some of the truth on each of their sides. This was the case in a recent spirited conversation I had with the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) of a large utility company.  The discussion centered around three features of customer experience—time, access and connection.  These features aren't always completely appreciated (the whole truth) by many contact center managers, but contact center managers’ “this is how we do it” positions are driven by having some truth on their sides.  

Time management is not experience management

Contact centers are enamored with time management.  The metrics are up on the wall for all to see.  The clock is embedded in many key performance indicators.  There is the average handle time, average time in queue, calls per hour, adherence to schedule, average speed of answer, etc.  We love these metrics because they are irrefutable.  It’s like judging a speed skater instead of a figure skater.  The truth is, customers do care about time, but there is a larger truth.  If the clock is the sole performance driver, it can lead agents to focus on the service expedience instead of the customer experience.  

Time management

My last call to Zappos took much longer than I expected.  My last flight on Southwest Airlines was delayed thirty minutes due to weather.  My last trip to the doctor included a forty-five minute minute wait because my doctor got tied up in surgery.  What do I remember?  Not the clock.  I recall the charm of the Zappos agent; the humor of the Southwest flight attendant; and, the fact that the receptionist at the doctor’s office gave me a Starbucks gift card and one of those flashy buzzers you get at a restaurant. She told me she would buzz me at the coffee shop a block away when my doctor was ready.  What can make your customers smile while the clock ticks?

Access is a bigger deal than we thought

I was among a group of bank customers standing in the rain at 8:55 am in front of a branch.  All the bank personnel were in position inside waiting for the doors to be unlocked at 9:00.  Once inside, I asked the receptionist why they didn't just open a few minutes early.  I got the “bank hours” rule.  So, I asked the branch manager if there was a legal or security reason for waiting.  He said, “No, but we open at 9:00.”  His rules trumped our ease, and it underscored the fact that access has a new meaning in our time’s up world.

Time is the gatekeeper to the important portals of our lives.  It governs access to what we want or need, when we want or need it.  And the cyber world has taught us to abhor the arbitrariness of that gatekeeper.  “Why can’t I reach someone when I need them?”  “Who has time (there’s that word again) to be shoehorned into a world of commerce with such inane rules?” Yet, as a metaphor for access, it opens the opportunity to reshape the customer’s perception of time and access. After all, what time does your competitor (Amazon) close?

All customer connections are emotional

We love technology that solves customer needs.  It lowers our costs and there is no worrying about morale or those pesky performance reviews.  Computers do exactly what their programs tell them to do.  Where were we before virtual hold, IVR, self-service, ACD, CRM, and omni-channel management?  And now we have really cool tech toys like speech analytics, predictive dialers, and computer telephony integration that populates the screen from the ACD without agents having to look up customer information.

I watched a truck driver at a rest stop use his tire tool to destroy a vending machine over a simple offense:  the machine kept his money without giving him his package of Fritos.  It is vital to balance high tech with high touch.  All customers value emotional connections.  While technological convenience is clearly a boon to satisfaction, we must never forget that in the customer service business we are still people serving people.

Conflict resolution experts teach us all to replace “yes, but’s” with “yes, and’s.”  Harmony and progress come from finding the truth in our opponent’s position as a path to collaboration.  “Seek first to understand,” wrote Stephen Covey, “then to be understood.”  My CCO friend and I discovered absolutes stop exploration and myopic perspectives only fuel inflexibility rather than understanding.  Whatever your position on what is “best” for your customers, consider two key questions:  Is there a larger truth than the opinion you hold?  And, what would your customers say?