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The Contact Center of the Future: Integrated Real-time Coaching

By , April 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm


In our ongoing Contact Center of the Future blog series, we’ll like at some key trends and discuss insights that will transform contact centers and customer experience as we know it.

Today, supervisors and managers have a whole host of technologies available in the contact center aimed at making their jobs easier.

There is technology for forecasting and scheduling, as well as intraday management technology to adjust the forecast and therefore the requirements. All call centers have some type of call distribution – whether through the cloud or on-premise – which provides reports around how many calls come in, average handle time and service levels.

There are also technologies that enable managers to observe and analyze calls – or calibrate calls as far as quality is concerned – and coaching and training for agents to improve their performance, some of which can be delivered electronically.

Bottom line: there is no shortage of technology in the contact center. But all of these technologies, for the most part, are from different vendors and are not totally integrated.

Imagine if they were. Here’s how that scenario would play out:

A call comes in and is evaluated by quality score or a quality analyst. If the agent has a deficiency, workforce management is consulted to determine an appropriate time for the agent to receive coaching. Prioritized coaching and training modules are then presented to the agent to complete. After completion, the agent must re-qualify on this specific skill or issue – including multiple practice sessions with a virtual customer – and prove their proficiency before returning to production.

All of these central technologies would be integrated and automatic so that the coach or supervisor doesn’t have to do all of this manually. Instead, it’s real-time coaching.

Assuming there is a questionnaire that follows the call through the IVR – and the customer says that they are not satisfied – the call can be tied back to a specific agent. The process can then automatically begin again by providing the agent with more coaching when time becomes available in the WFM system.

This would be real-time customer feedback coaching.

Today, though some vendors have integrated two or more of these elements – like WFM and e-learning, for example – call center technology remains largely disparate. Coaches must manually capture performance issues and then determine what needs to be done to improve agent performance way after the fact.

Not only is the process manual and time consuming, but coaching is not immediate and can therefore negatively affect the quality of the customer’s experience. (Agents may not know what they are doing wrong and take many, many more calls before receiving coaching.)

The ROI on a consolidated, fully-integrated solution would be huge.

In the meantime, more and more contact centers are utilizing technology to help automate manual processes, though typically the “integrator” of these disparate technologies is a human being – the analyst or coach.

Rather than have these technologies talk to each other, they are making decisions based on data and pulling the pieces together themselves.

White Paper | Coaching Agents for Customer Experience

The Most Important #CX Training Tool for Your Business

By , April 14, 2014 at 9:33 am

Customer Experience Toolkit

Can you name one of the most powerful and most important customer experience training tools available to your organization?

If you can’t, I’ll answer that question for you. The most powerful training tool, the one that’s going to help your employees deliver a great customer experience, is a customer journey map.

Are you surprised? Don’t be. It totally makes sense. Read on, and you’ll see why.

So, first some basics. In case you missed all the announcements that 2014 is the year of the journey map, why, and what that means, here’s a little background on journey maps.

What is a customer journey map? In simplest terms, it’s a way to walk in your customer’s shoes and to chart his course as he interacts with your organization (channels, departments, touchpoints, products, etc.) while trying to fulfill some need or do some job.  It allows you to identify key moments of truth and incorporate data that shows how you are performing for the customer at those moments.

There is no right or wrong way to map, i.e., how it looks, but there are some basic components. And the map is created from the customer’s viewpoint, not yours. It’s created through collaborative efforts. It’s shared across departments, throughout the organization. It doesn’t sit on a shelf when it’s completed. And it’s never really complete. It’s not linear, and it’s not static. But it is the backbone of your customer experience management efforts.

[Read how Sprint is improving the customer experience by training agents at their desks during downtimes.]

Why do you need a customer journey map? Because it helps the organization…

  • be more customer-focused and customer-centric
  • understand the customer and his interactions with your organization
  • align around a common cause
  • speak a universal language (customer)
  • break down silos
  • achieve a single view of the customer
  • improve the customer experience

For the employee, I believe customer journey maps provide clarity in a variety of ways. Most importantly, the maps offer a clear line of sight to the customer.

Why is that important?

When employees have a clear line of sight, they…

  • know how they contribute to the customer experience
  • know what it means to deliver a great customer experience, and
  • they have the tools and training – and are empowered – to do so

How, then, is it used as a training tool?

The map provides so much great information about each touchpoint, each interaction, in order to facilitate training and coaching about the customer experience, including:

  • who the customer is
  • what the customer is doing
  • how the customer is feeling
  • who the customer interacts with
  • what the customer’s expectations are in the moment
  • where things are breaking down
  • where things are going well
  • what’s most important to the customer
  • if and how the employee contributes at each touchpoint
  • what processes support each touchpoint or interaction
  • which tools facilitate the interaction

It also allows employees to compare and to visualize the actual experience to the ideal experience, i.e., reality versus what it should be or what it’s designed to be. The map provides a lot of information for coaching and training, really adding richness and detail that you wouldn’t get otherwise. And because it’s a living, breathing document, it also provides a lot of opportunities for follow-up training to support the customer-focused culture.

In addition to training, journey maps are also useful orientation tools. Can’t think of a better way, during orientation, to show employees that the organization is committed to customers. What a great way to immediately let a new employee know where and how he contributes and how his contributions matter to the business. What an awesome tool to initiate an employee into a customer-focused and customer-centric culture, to help him see how departments work together, and to teach him about priorities for the business.

Are you incorporating customer experience training into your new-hire orientation as well as into your ongoing employee training? And are you using a customer journey map to onboard or to train your employees in order to reinforce your customer-centric culture? (You do have a customer-centric culture, right?) If not, what are you waiting for?

Remember the old military quote: “The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in combat.”

 On-Demand Webinar | No More Lip Service

The Fundamentals of Proactive Customer Care

By , April 10, 2014 at 9:06 am

 Happy Customer

(This is a guest blog authored by John Amein, VP Product Development of Aspect Software, originally published on April 3, 2014.)

At Enterprise Connect on March 20th, I joined a panel moderated by Sheila McGee-Smith regarding Proactive Customer Care. One of her main points about being proactive is that the thinking is shifting away from IVR automation as a way to deflect calls and reduce costs instead to proactively connecting with customers across all channels in order to provide a better experience while avoiding costs and inbound contacts in the first place. I think she’s got that right, and I left the audience with two key related ideas.

First, in order to be proactive, you have to know something the customer doesn’t know or hasn’t already told you about. That’s fundamental to being proactive! The types of things a company will know are:

  1. Something about the consumer’s situation that hasn’t been shared yet
  2. Something going on inside your company that will affect your customer

For example, you may know that a consumer has not signed up for a particular kind of insurance plan and it’s in their benefit to do so. Or you may know that a loan application is stuck inside your business process and will be delayed by another week. Small companies are on top of these kinds of situations as part of providing a higher level of customer service; it’s part of how small companies compete. So how do bigger companies become more proactive with what they know?

This leads to the second point: You need a platform that enables you to take action seamlessly across all channels. It should be part of your overall customer engagement strategy that we’ve outlined here. At Enterprise Connect we announced a North American rollout of one of our very successful European cloud products we call Aspect Proactive Engagement. North America is just the next stop. We’re spreading it around the globe over the next 12 months.


John Amein, VP Product ManagementJohn Amein, VP of Product Development at Aspect Software, has over 20 years’ experience in computer telephony and voice applications. Prior to leading Voxeo’s product development teams, John was the founder and CEO of VoiceReady, where he delivered the first OEM software to enable rapid speech application development via an intuitive web interface. Voxeo acquired VoiceReady in July, 2006. Previously John had served as CEO of NetBytel, Inc, a pioneer in the field of hosted speech applications. He also held a variety of sales and marketing leadership roles for Dialogic Corporation, which was acquired by Intel in 2000. His current role at Aspect will enable him to further drive innovation in voice response and other leading-edge technologies.

 Keeping Universal Agents Universal

“I Just Heard Your Last Call” – Using Real-Time Agent Monitoring to Motivate

By , April 8, 2014 at 9:36 am

Real-time Agent Monitoring

In the early day of call centers, the outsource company I worked for as a supervisor, and later as a manager, was paper driven. Every day we had reps calling to make sales from pieces of paper that they marked as a sale, no answer, no sale, or other codes we devised. These were collected and counted daily and filed away if callbacks were warranted.

Since we weren’t tech savvy, there weren’t any computers for reps or supervisors, and two supervisors shared one desk at the front of a classroom-style phone room. Each supervisor was responsible for driving sales and keeping the team happy. I was lucky to have a great supervisor who shared team duties with me and he also shared his leadership wisdom.

Our live agent monitoring was silent in terms of muting the call on our end but not invisible to the agents. Since our monitoring phone was on the solitary supervisor desk in the front and no cubicles were in the room, it was often the case that a supervisor would pick up the receiver (no headsets), press the monitoring button and look right at the rep being monitored.

It was a challenge making this “in your face” type of monitoring a beneficial and positive time for our reps, but we soon found that the ability to hear live calls was our chance to immediately reward the reps who showed great skills with customers and also those who were making the effort to improve.

We were able to walk over to the reps when we did hear them excel on a call and publicly thank them in front of their peers. The big smile on their face was our reward. And, when we heard someone having a bad calling day, i.e. no sales being made, we would walk over and tell them we knew how hard they were trying and we appreciated their efforts. We would sit with them and make calls as they listened, coaching in real-time instead of waiting for a formal session later.

In our busy, metrics-driven environments, we may miss the opportunity to use live monitoring to motivate and encourage. Many front line leaders spent far too much time in their cubicles instead of walking the center and simply making the agents feel valued.

I love the agent monitoring tools we have today. The recordings are time savers and the advanced technology available to enhance quality coaching is exciting and beneficial for customer experience. There are equally advanced systems for tracking results and offering incentives to reward agent success.

But sometimes, it’s the simple things that our agents would like from us. Monitor live, walk to their desk and tell them, “I just heard your last call. Thank you for creating a great experience for that customer.”


Employee/Agent Engagement is the Key to Working Harder and Caring More

By , April 3, 2014 at 9:44 am

Agent Engagement

More than 2,300 years ago Aristotle said, “Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.”

If this were written in today’s terms, it would fall under the heading of what we now call “employee engagement,” or in the customer service arena, “agent engagement.”

This simple quotation is only nine words, yet it conveys a very powerful truth. Employees who are engaged in their work – and enjoy what they are doing – will be happier, more fulfilled, and do a better job overall. Here are five simple steps to ensure employees are engaged in what they are doing:

First, hire the right person for the job. Someone with an introverted personality probably won’t be the right fit for an outside sales job or customer service role, and an outgoing person may not be happy if he or she spends most of the workday alone at a desk entering data. But, for most every job, there is someone who will be the right fit, enjoy the work and do it well.

Create fulfilled employees – Step one. Once you have considered the right fit for a particular job, based on not only a potential employee’s education and employment history but also personality type, ensure that they enjoy their work as well. [Read how The General delivered more training and increased agent engagement levels.]

Create fulfilled employees – Step two. You’ve found the right person – he or she loves the work, has the experience and personality – now take a look at yourself. Will this new hire love working for your company? Your job is to make sure there is a positive environment and that the leadership expresses appreciation. This is a major factor in employee fulfillment – it is what takes the fulfilled employee to the next level. It’s a winning combination when employees love what they do and love working for you.

In pursuit of perfection. While perfection in a given task may not be realistically attainable, the important part is having a goal, something to strive for. The work may not be “perfect” but employees need to know that their efforts are worthwhile, and that involves having some sort of measurable goal – a sales number, customer feedback, or other target. When you have the right person in the right job, enjoying the work, having that goal adds a sense of accomplishment.

Employee engagement. If you follow the steps above, the end result will be engaged employees/agents who work harder and care more about the company, their coworkers and the customers. If you have hired the right people who love the work that they do, feel a sense of accomplishment and know that they are appreciated, you will be rewarded with a company full of engaged employees.

The concept of employee/agent engagement, under any name, has been recognized and relevant for thousands of years. And thousands of years from now, it will still be relevant. Employees who are fulfilled and find pleasure in their work will strive to meet and exceed their goals. To paraphrase Aristotle: Finding fulfillment in the work will lead to perfection.

Shep Hyken is a customer experience expert and the Chief Amazement Officer of Shepard Presentations. He is a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and has been inducted into the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in the speaking profession. Shep works with companies and organizations who want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more articles on customer service and business go to

Whitepaper | Reduce Attrition and Improve Agent Engagement

Who’s Really in the Driver’s Seat in Your Property and Casualty Call Center?

By , April 2, 2014 at 9:10 am

Driving Contact Center

When it comes to the insurance industry, your customers are firmly in the driver’s seat. Keep that top of mind, and you are ready to address new customer-centric call centers challenges to reduce stress for your call center agents and ensure high levels of satisfaction for your customers.

The economy is improving, home sales are on the rebound, and – as government regulations continue to change– consumers are more knowledgeable than ever about their insurance needs. They know what they want and they expect more from providers.

Self-service channels and online quotes and comparison sites lead to more complicated calls. Agents need to cross-sell and up-sell, leading to longer handling times. And regulatory compliance issues continue to proliferate.

In this new environment, customer-centric call centers will play a critical role in differentiating insurance providers and building competitive advantage.

Are your agents up for the challenge? Here are three areas of concern you must address if your call center agents are to make a difference to the customer experience:

Self-service on the rise

Today’s customers are simply more informed. Websites offering self-service options, online quotes and in-depth comparisons of competing providers have put the customer in control of the buying and decision-making process.

As the insurance industry becomes more consumer-focused, agents must be equipped with the knowledge and skills they need to handle more complicated customer inquiries and issues. Today’s property and casualty call center agents must be able to resolve customer problems and provide exceptional service with every interaction.

To stand out from the competition, agents must be well informed and equipped with the information they need to provide a consistent and personalized customer experience, but finding time for this preparation cannot impact service levels.

Increased handle times

As insurance becomes more of a commodity in the eyes of customers, pressure increases for agents to cross-sell and up-sell customers with additional products and services. This leads to an increase in handle time, which can ultimately negatively affect service levels.

At the same time, newer channels such as mobile, chat and social media have given customers more available options to communicate with providers. These channels must be well-supported and the customer experience must be consistent across all channels.

Additionally, customer-centric call centers must be able to dynamically scale operations and manage channels to meet changing peaks in demand. Balancing agents across channels allows providers to leverage those agents with the right skills to positively impact the customer experience in whatever channel the customer prefers. Enabling this requires immediately updating agent skill associations based on training and performance metrics, so agents are re-skilled to handle new inquiries in multiple channels right away, responding to customer demand in real time.

Regulatory compliance

As regulatory compliance continues to increase and become more complex, agents must be trained on new policies, changes and requirements in order to effectively handle customer inquiries and claims and provide them with the most up-to-date information.

This training must be ongoing and include alerts and re-certification for agents to ensure they have the information they need to deal with complex customer inquiries while remaining in compliance.

In order to attract and retain customers in this new competitive environment, providers will have to make the enrollments and claims process easy and efficient, improve agent performance and increase overall operational efficiency.

New technologies will play a critical role in the contact center in this new consumer-driven age, replacing manual processes and creating a real-time workforce that can dynamically respond to customer needs.

Insurance Contact Center Case Study

3 Key Ways to Tame the Big Data Beast of Contact Center Metrics

By , April 1, 2014 at 8:56 am


Today’s contact center has the ability to capture a vast and invaluable amount of customer and performance-based data. Sounds awesome, but if the center doesn’t have a formal and effective process in place for structuring, analyzing and strategically acting on the data, then who cares?

We continuously hear about the power of “Big Data” these days. And it’s true – there is a lot of potential power in the millions of pieces of information and intelligence flying around the contact center stratosphere. In order to turn that potential power into real results, however, you have to tame the Big Data beast of contact center metrics.

It’s something many contact centers are struggling with. In a survey recently conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) and sponsored by White Pages, more than one in four contact center professionals indicated that they’re experiencing data overload. And more than three in five said that their contact center metrics aren’t able to provide key customer information proactively to agents.

Taming the Big Data beast doesn’t need to be a Herculean task. Following are a handful of ways that leading customer care organizations are turning the data monster it into their friend.

Embrace speech and text analytics. Top contact centers invest in powerful speech and text analytics solutions designed to analyze every part of every customer call, email, chat, self-service interaction and social post and clearly identify customer insights, preferences and expectations. Such solutions enable the contact center to spot and act on emerging trends, common customer issues, sales opportunities, and specific customers at risk of defecting due to a poor experience.

Tap the power of desktop analytics. Today’s desktop analytics solutions track and report on all agent desktop activity (e.g., how agents navigate through screens, access applications, input information, et. al.) during customer interactions. Such a solution can help a contact center really drill down and identify what’s causing roadblocks and where agent knowledge gaps exist. The center can use such actionable intelligence to improve agent coaching and training, simplify scripts and workflows, enhance systems and applications – all of which can organically shorten handle times, increase first-contact resolution and vastly enhance the customer (and the agent) experience.

Measure the metrics that matter most. Taming the Big Data beast isn’t all about tapping state-of-the-art technology. A big part of it is having a clear vision and direction. Unfortunately, many contact centers measure ‘everything that moves’ simply because they have systems that enable them to do just that. This results in a glut of metrics and data that overwhelms managers and hinders their ability to pinpoint – and take action on – essential items. According to the aforementioned ICMI/White Pages study, nearly half of contact centers (48%) consistently collect and report on metrics they don’t even use.

In contrast, the best centers have a well-defined performance measurement strategy and a streamlined set of contact center metrics and objectives. They focus on metrics that truly drive positive customer experiences and revenue (e.g., Contact Quality, First-Contact Resolution, C-Sat, Cost per Contact) and don’t allow themselves to drown in the dangerous sea of performance-related data that floods so many other centers.

Continuous Improvement in the Call Center


3 Contact Center Metrics You Should Hide from Your Agents

By , March 27, 2014 at 9:31 am

Contact Center Metrics Agents Should Not Know

There are metrics generated by your switch or other reporting platforms that you do not want to put in a contact center agent scorecard. Even if you don’t put them on the scorecards, you should still hide certain metrics from being revealed to contact center agents. It may seem strange that with all of the talk of transparency and building trust that you would do such a thing, and that instead you would want to promote all the contact center metrics that are being used to track agent performance.

Well, what I’m talking about is not an issue of trying to deceive or be deceptive. Instead, it’s is an issue of too much information (TMI) and agents perceiving they need to manage to the metric.

As for the TMI issue, we’ve all experienced this. There are only so many things that we can focus on at any given time. And the reality is, it’s only one thing that we can focus on at any given time. So for contact center agents, if they need to focus on their efficiency-based metrics as well as their effectiveness-based metrics, that in itself creates a problem. But wait, they also need to be technically savvy in regards to the products and services they are supposed to support and sell, and they have to be technically adept at navigating and utilizing the systems that are at their disposal to conduct their work. Wow, I’m getting mentally fatigued just thinking about all this.

In addition to the TMI-effect is the alternate side that says if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Unless contact center agents are totally disengaged, they actually want to be perceived as doing a good job and want to make people proud of them. These are very basic human needs that some may verbally deny yet in fact need to have as part of their work-life. So if agents perceive you’re tracking a contact center metric, even if it’s not on their report card, they are going to try to exceed the performance expectation. And if you do not communicate a goal, they will make up their own. So the saying could be rewritten, “You’re measuring it and I can help you manage it.”

So there are three common contact center metrics that just might not be delivering the impact that you intend when you reveal these to contact center agents, they are:

  1. Number of calls (#calls)
  2. Average Handle Time (AHT)
  3. Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

Number of calls is a pure efficiency-based metric. It is directly associated with speed and control. This metric may be perceived as giving agents a better sense of urgency and an evidence-based way to reveal call control abilities, but it most often brings out the dark-side of agent behavior. Many contact centers are unaware of agents hanging up on customers and transferring customers back into the queue in response to this metric. For organizations that are committed to delivering better customer experiences, number of calls is not reported to agents. They instead use it for scheduling and coaching purposes.

AHT tells you how long on average an agent spends on each call and often includes after-call work time. ACD’s calculate this metric differently. This is another efficiency-based metric that is related to number of calls. In essence, the more time you spend on calls and in after-call work, the fewer calls agents are able to handle within their scheduled work time.

The downside of this metric is also creating the intent that speed is more important than building relationships and connections with customers and supporting their needs. I have seen situations where agents have taken after-call work home and completed after-call work during their break time in order to keep their after-call work time low. For many organizations this creates a significant security risk in addition to the labor law issues due to people working while not being compensated. Contact centers would do better to utilize task management tools that keep their agents focused on customer care while providing adequate time intraday to handle these activities.

Average speed of answer measures how long the average caller waits on hold before his or her call is answered by an agent and is mistakenly interpreted as a quality metric. While it is true wait time does have an impact on how customers perceive the quality of service you deliver, ASA is not a good method to interpret it. ASA can vary widely throughout the day and contributes significantly to the fire-drill and queue-chasing mentality. ASA is better utilized as a diagnostic metric used for people responsible for workforce scheduling and capacity planning and is useful when used in conjunction with intraday staffing.

You may think I’m just picking on efficiency-based metrics. Unfortunately, it’s an easy thing to do because efficiency-based metrics have dominated scorecards in contact centers for decades. It appears that one of the main reasons they still remain is due to habit more than anything else. We all know that speed and quality only go together when we’re talking about a Ferrari. Other than that, you need to have a balance of metrics that you’re reporting. As for agents, it’s time to make these contact center metrics disappear.

Jim Rembach is a twenty-year contact center veteran, SVP for Customer Relationship Metrics and Principal for Beyond Morale. “…His past experience in operations builds the credibility that follows.” Jim is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Practitioner, Certified Contact Center Auditor, and is a CX Expert panel member for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). He is the author of nine books, introducing leading insights into contact center quality, analytics, surveys, employee engagement, customer experience, and leadership development. Jim helps his clients develop the fearless pursuit to engage customers and employees. You can connect with Jim via LinkedIn or Twitter.

Data Overload and Call Center Metrics


Using Social Media to Drive an Exceptional Customer Experience

By , March 25, 2014 at 9:12 am

Social Media and Customer Experience

You probably know by now that connecting with customers on a personal level through social media is beneficial to your bottom line, right? Though how exactly are you supposed to go about that? Do you know where to start? It’s actually not that difficult, but I can understand how getting a good foothold in social media in regards to your customer service efforts can cause confusion in the beginning.

How to Start Getting Connected

Building a sort of “bridge” would be a good idea for your business, and in this case, that bridge would come in the form of a business blog. You might think, “I have a business, so why do I need a business blog?” – especially a blog devoted to customer service. It’s not that you NEED it, but it definitely helps to expand your online presence. Having a blog for people to reference, to learn about updates to your company, to gain insights into how you perceive, establish and work to maintain an intimate connection with your clients and prospects is highly beneficial.

While constructing a blog for your business, build a social media presence via Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. at the same time. Commit the necessary resources to allow your staff to be online representatives for your company, and with anybody mentioning your business name in their posts, your employees will be able to find the posters and – depending on whether their experience with your company was good or bad – will be able to reply to the customer accordingly.

Giving Yourself a Second Chance

Sometimes accidents happen and you end up with an unhappy customer. Why should you have to lose them forever? You don’t have to, and the opportunity to remedy the problem is right under your nose. Either you or your staff can easily find a person who complains on Twitter or Facebook, and address their concerns immediately.

Keep in mind that people want to let everybody know about the experience they had. If they feel jilted, they want to tell EVERYBODY what a horrible business you are. If they had a wonderful customer experience, then they’re happy to spread the good word about your services. Keeping in touch with those who praise your business will further get them to advocate and promote your services because they enjoy your praise and want to do right by you. For those who had a bad experience with your business, talking with them, being open and publicly professional with them, and showing that you want to remedy the problem, will likely get them to give you a second chance.

Finding the Customer Service/Customer Experience Balance

While many customer call center organizations are fully committed to multi-channel customer interactions, some are just coming up to speed, or else their business model and market don’t require as much social media alignment. As I stated before, connecting to your customers in every way possible is beneficial, so you may need to shift your customer service agents to handle social interactions, and that’s where defining your social media customer service process and using sound queue management procedures are critical. Remember, if you aren’t using social now, you need to or you’ll get left behind. And the social interaction traffic is only going to increase, so prepare ahead of time.

How Does this Affect Your Bottom Line?

Here’s an interesting piece of information: American Express performed a study in 2012 that showed those who are involved in social media (meaning just about everybody online) are willing to pay a 21% premium when doing business with a company that’s giving them an exceptional customer experience.

When you build your business to deliver an incredible customer experience, you put yourself in the position of being able to charge more for the same services as your competition. People like doing business with other people they like. Make yourself the person they like, the business they like, and you’re going to be the one they pay.

Webinar | Disruptive Forces

Create Loyal Customers ‘On the Fly’ With a Real-Time Workforce

By , March 24, 2014 at 10:29 am

Intersection of Customer Loyalty Using a Real-time Workforce

(This blog post first appeared on WIRED Innovation Insights on March 10, 2014.)

In today’s market, the ongoing customer experience a company delivers is often its only clear differentiator. For better or worse, even a seemingly happy customer will make the jump to another brand if they can get a similar product or service easier and faster. Companies able to make adjustments on the fly are creating more profitable, loyal customers.

Whether it is an in-store experience or an online customer service inquiry, the customer’s expectation is that service and support should be delivered exactly how, when and where they want it, with no inconsistency across channels.

So how can your business realistically and profitably deliver on this “on-demand” expectation? Start by transforming your workforce into a real-time workforce that can respond to customer demand easily and efficiently.

1. Staff to customer demand. Many businesses approach staffing using historical data because, until now, there really hasn’t been another more efficient method. However, in most businesses there is not a single day that is exactly like the next, which makes historical data just a start to meeting customer demand.

Maximizing staff levels so you have the right amount of employees on hand without overstaffing is not an easy task. However, creating a real-time staffing approach would allow you to diminish unproductive employee down time by reassigning employees to other tasks when customer volume is lower than expected or by offering them voluntary time off as warranted.

Ultimately, a real-time workforce gives you the ability to maximize your operations without compromising service levels. This is possible by managing staff based on your current needs, not what happened yesterday.

2. Support multiple channels. Gone are the days when customers engage with companies in a single communication channel. With the en masse adoption of mobile devices, customers can conduct research, read reviews, solicit opinions and comparison shop without ever speaking to a company representative. By the time they reach out to your company, customers may have already formed their opinion and your workforce has only one opportunity to make or break the customer experience. But think about this as well – the time it takes for a customer to be acknowledged by a customer representative also greatly impacts the customer’s experience.

A real-time workforce allows you to support your various customer communication channels with ease. A scenario might be you have employees set up to handle customer inquiries that come in via phone. If a flood of customers start posting questions and voicing their frustrations on social media, you can transition a number of employees to your social media channels. Being able to quickly direct employees to interact with your customers when and where they’re reaching out to you not only helps alleviate customer frustration, it can also make that customer experience an encounter that preserves (or creates) customer loyalty.

Companies that can meet customer expectations across all communication channels will not only survive, but will beat their competition time and again.

3. Deliver real value to your customers. Customer loyalty isn’t gained solely by positive service experiences. Great experiences are part of the equation, but consistent and relevant offers drive the value you deliver as well.

Most companies have an extensive amount of customer data that can provide insight into customer preferences. By making offers based on preferences and buying history, as opposed to sending out blanket offers to your entire customer base, you can more readily get your customers’ attention. An example would be if a customer has multiple mobile devices and large data plans then their mobile carrier could offer them a discount on hotspot usage — a service they most likely use regularly.

While loyalty is not developed overnight, it can certainly be broken overnight. Be sure your employees have the information needed to deliver truly relevant and valuable offers, and give your customers multiple reasons for wanting to do business with you.

4. Respond quickly and keep your competitive edge. Amazon, Zappos, Neiman Marcus and other brands have set the bar high for customer expectations about service standards. These brands have created a competitive edge with their service levels because they know their customers can get virtually the same goods elsewhere.

A real-time workforce enables companies to have employees and systems in place to deliver proactive communications. If you send out a shipping notice to a customer, use the opportunity to remind them they have something special on the way. You can also provide recommendations to try new products based on their previous purchase history. If you’re going to be delayed in delivering the product, then let the customer know as soon as possible and give them an estimated time of arrival. Customers know service delivery isn’t always going to be perfect, so timely communication and correction, if possible, goes a long way.

5. Adapt at the speed of business. Many products and services have become commoditized making competition in various industries even more intense. The cable industry for instance has huge customer churn because consumers see “cable as cable” regardless of the provider. Customers care that they have Showtime in time for the Homeland season opener.

When competitors make new offers that cause a major shift in the industry, like free premium cable channels for 3 months, companies need to be able to respond. Creating true value around your product or service is imperative in order to keep churn low. Ensure customer facing employees are prepared to match offers if customers are calling to cancel service and switch providers. A real-time workforce lets you proactively communicate with customers and employees to provide a level of customer service that makes your customers want to invest their time with you. A responsive and knowledgeable workforce will help you achieve this. Without this, the competitive advantage is never fully yours.

Get the Right Mix

Customers look at a company holistically and do not differentiate their experience between the various channels a company may offer. This makes every point of contact with the customer critical. If you can create the right mix of proper staffing, customer support, valuable offers and quick response you’ll be on the right track to leveraging the power of a real-time workforce.

Aberdeen Report - Intraday Management