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Delivering the Customer Journey: We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Change Management!

By , July 17, 2014 at 10:04 am

Customer Journey and Change Management

What is your company’s approach to change management?

In last month’s post, I wrote about the customer experience inflection point. I stated: There comes a time in every company’s history, present time, or future when it must change or adapt – or die. In order to change or adapt, there must be some systematic process in place, a process that gets everyone on board and marching to the same beat; that process is often referred to as change management.

On Wikipedia, change management is defined as: An approach to transitioning individuals, teams, and organizations to a desired future state. In organizational change, the approach is structured to ensure changes are smoothly and successfully implemented to achieve lasting results.

Why is change management important for the customer journey? Ultimately, we listen to customers in order to improve the customer experience, and this really means changing how we currently do things. The best way to approach both your customer experience management (CEM) strategy and how you will improve the customer journey as a result of listening to customers is to have a clearly-defined approach in place.

As you start to think about the strategies and steps involved in CEM, you realize that it is a change management process in and of itself. So the steps to transition to some desired future state are probably no different than what you already know. But for fun, let’s run through some of the key tenets.

Executive buy-in is a must if any organizational or other changes are to take place. To win the hearts (emotional) and minds (rational) of your executives, you’ll need to build the business case, which will require some quick wins to show not only what can be done but also your commitment and persistence to achieving some outcome. As change is implemented, further quick wins may be required.

Going hand in hand with that (“some outcome”) will be the need to develop an inspirational and aspirational customer experience vision; it will define and outline what you see as the future state of the customer experience. It will briefly describe the experience you plan to deliver. And it will serve as a guide to help choose future courses of action. How can you manage change if you don’t know what you’re changing. Define it. Communicate it. Early and often.

This will be important because you’ll also need to get employee buy-in. Change cannot be imposed or forced upon employees; they must be involved in it, understand the what and the why, and help to shape the outcome. When they’re involved in the changes, they are more apt to be accountable and to take ownership.

At the same time, empower employees to do what’s right, and let them know that it’s OK to make mistakes during this process: own up to mistakes, fix them, and move on. Reinforce the right actions, and model and recognize the desired behaviors. All of this will be a reflection of your culture and a relentless focus on a great employee experience. Changes must become a part of your DNA.

Cross-functional buy-in and commitment will also be key. If change is to happen, if the experience is to be improved, silos must be eliminated, and the organization must work together as one.

Beyond developing that framework, some other important things to keep in mind:

  • Listen to customers – past, present, and future. Identify not only their needs but the tasks they are trying to achieve. This is the groundwork that must be completed before you can begin to execute on your change management. You need to understand the present state before you can head to some desired future state.
  • Design the new customer experience based on understanding who your customers are and what jobs they are trying to do with your organization’s products or services. Incorporating principles of human-centered design is a good idea at this point. Bring employees into the innovation and design processes.
  • Implement changes across the organization based on who your customers are and what they are telling you. For employee buy-in and involvement, communication and training are key, as well. And model the right – the desired – behaviors for them.
  • Measure the changes and their impact. Recalibrate and redesign as needed. You may not get it right the first time. That’s OK. Speed of re-innovation and redesign are important testaments to your commitment to change. Don’t sit on it.
  • Communicate. It’s your best and most important tool in the change management process. Use it early and often.
  • Deal with objections. Not everyone likes change. Haters will hate – figure out how to bring them into the fold. We need everyone on board. You may have to go back to the basics, i.e., getting buy-in (hearts and minds). Socrates said: The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new. Let’s make that the mantra.

One last tip… you’ll want to prioritize your changes. You can’t make all of the changes at the same time; pace yourself. Remember that the customer experience is a journey

Do you need to think about change management? I think you know the answer.

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. -Richard Buckminster Fuller

White Paper | Value in Naysayer Feedback

Preventing the Accidental Customer Experience

By , July 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

CX Airlines

It turns out, companies that performed worse on the American Customer Satisfaction Index actually performed better in terms of stock market performance. Can you believe it?

True, it was an anomaly in 2013, but it happened. Historically, though, companies with higher customer satisfaction ratings actually outperform those with lower customer satisfaction in the stock market. But how could something like this happen?

It’s helpful to first understand the business value of the customer experience. It’s simple, really: when customers have a good experience, they buy more, which ultimately increases revenue.

In our recent webinar, “Preventing the Accidental Customer Experience,” customer experience expert Kerry Bodine (@kerrybodine) shared some interesting facts:

  • 81% of consumers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience (about a 5% premium).
  • 70% have stopped buying goods or services from a company after experiencing poor customer service.
  • 64% have made future purchases from a company’s competitors after experiencing poor customer service.

Most companies today understand the connection between the customer experience and customer loyalty and spend a lot of time trying to create a brand people will identify with, Bodine says.  [WHITE PAPER: Ask the Customer Experience Experts]

She used the example of the airlines, which have launched a number of recent campaigns that make this promise from United’s, “Flying the friendly skies,” to Delta’s, “Flying is more than just a flight: Delta continues to elevate the flying experience.”

Yet, these marketing promises often fall short, as there is a disconnect between promises made and the frontline service reps of the organization. Bodine shared a recent experience her husband had with Delta.

He was taking a trip from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It was the last flight of the day, and though there had been lots of flights cancelled for bad weather, his flight was cancelled for mechanical reasons. He was not offered another flight that night, nor a complementary hotel room, and the best they could offer was a flight the next day that went to Sacramento, Salt Lake City, and then finally back to San Francisco.

Definitely not living up to Delta’s promise of “elevating the flying experience.”

Bodine then hopped on Twitter and tweeted to Delta Assist, who promised to be “listening around the clock, seven days a week.” She tweeted, “2 AM, husband’s LAX->SFO cancelled b/c of broken plane. No hotel & rather than put him on SWA/UA direct, 3 connections tomorrow!”

No response. So, 10 hours later, she tweeted again. Over two hours later, Delta finally responded with, “Thank you for your patience, we have had EXTREMELY high call and twitter traffic due to the weather conditions across the U.S. How may I assist?”

Though Delta had spent so much time and investment making the promise of an outstanding customer experience, they had really left the customer experience to chance. In this example, despite the bad weather, they didn’t have a plan to staff up to handle the increased call and Twitter volume.

Unfortunately, says Bodine, this type of thing happens all the time. Companies make promises but fail to follow-up on these promises – and it’s often the contact center that feels the brunt.

So many times, the contact center is viewed as a cost center rather than a strategic arm of the business, keeping the promises – both implicitly and explicitly – made by marketing organizations.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, says in his book, Delivering Happiness, “Our belief is that the telephone is one of the best branding devices out here.”

How can you move from a reactive approach to customer satisfaction to proactively creating an outstanding customer experience that builds your brand and customer loyalty with every interaction? Click here to open the on-demand webinar, Preventing the Accidental Customer Experience.

Webinar | Preventing the Accidental Customer Experience

The Three Contact Center “Coacheteers” and Agent Engagement

By , July 8, 2014 at 9:28 am


In the Alexandre Dumas novel, The Three Musketeers, the main characters are Musketeers of the Guard. They fought in battle and also formed a royal guard for the protection of the king.

Dumas penned their famous and often quoted “all for one, one for all” motto in this novel. When I read this phrase recently, I thought of the daily battles fought in our own contact centers to keep the customer experience great and agent engagement top-notch.

We also have three musketeers of sorts in our centers. I like to call them our “coacheteers.” They are sworn to protect and fight for our customers and agents when problems arise. These are our front line leader supervisors and managers, quality analysts and trainers.

Unfortunately, instead of “all for one, one for all” in unity, some centers have seen the motto instead become, “all for me and my group”. With this focus, the customers and agents are certainly lost in the battle of control.

At times, our coaching for quality isn’t a unified effort with clear missions and goals for all of the “coacheteers.” The trainers, quality analysts and supervisors may operate separately and even become hostile when quality scoring or their processes are questioned during calibration session. They are more concerned about being right and protecting their turf, instead of asking how what they are doing is truly impacting customers and driving agent engagement.

I recently observed this type of turf war during a coaching session. The agent we listened to had responded to a customer’s questions accurately, empathetically and positively based on what the customer needed regarding the status of a complaint. The problem had been completely resolved, much to the customer’s delight. Instead of kudos, the agent received a “fail” on the call from the quality analyst because the analyst said that the agent should have told the customer that there had been a initial failure to enter information correctly by an agent at another company location, hence the delay.

The agent objected to this (and rightly so) responding that telling the customer about the details of the failure, including the failure of a co-worker, would not have done anything for the customer but upset them again after having the problem resolved, and the customer happy.

This agent’s supervisor and quality went round in circles for days about this. The excellent customer experience itself was completely lost during these disagreements over what should’ve been done and instead it became all about quality’s need to be “right.” The agent was upset and now views the quality analysts as antagonists rather than part of the same team.

To add to the agent’s frustration, the customer in this scenario sent an email to his supervisor telling how pleased she was to have this particular agent’s help since he quickly provided the information she needed and was very empathetic regarding her problem.

At your center, do you have agent coaching and quality initiatives that are “one for all, all for one” or “it’s all about me”? Make sure your trainers, quality and front line leaders are working together to create an atmosphere that is positive for both customer and agent engagement success.

White Paper | Reducing Attrition

Though Customer Service Isn’t Perfect, It Can Be Excellent

By , July 3, 2014 at 9:22 am

Customer Service Excellence

Everyone knows the old saying, “Nobody’s perfect,” and since customer service is delivered by human beings, it won’t always be perfect either. There will be mistakes, problems and complaints – hopefully not many, but they will happen from time to time.

However, there can be a benefit to striving for perfection. If the goal of your customer service is perfection, you are well on your way to providing excellent customer service.

I heard my friend and colleague Art Holst speak at an event recently, and his words got me thinking about this idea and about customer service motivation. Art is a former NFL referee and he talked about his friend Bart Starr, an NFL star quarterback. Starr is known for the following quote:

“I don’t think it makes sense to strive for perfection. Perfection is not attainable. I believe totally in striving for excellence, and I think there is a great deal of difference between the two. Although we strive for excellence, we set sensible goals because one of the most frustrating things in the world is to set our goals so high that we have no chance of reaching them.”

I found another quote on the same topic by Edwin Bliss, author of “Getting Things Done.” Similar to what Starr said, Bliss stated:

The pursuit of excellence is gratifying and healthy. The pursuit of perfection is frustrating, neurotic, and a terrible waste of time.

Both of these quotes make a distinction regarding the reality of reaching perfection. Perfection is not reality, but by setting a goal of perfection – and having a realistic understanding that there will be a glitch now and then – will still set you on the path to excellence.

Related: Intradiem Examines Customer Experience Impact on Cable Providers in Consumer-Driven Market

You will have interactions in which the customer service you deliver seems perfect. It is attainable – but in reality, not 100 percent of the time. We wouldn’t be human if something didn’t go wrong sometimes. Look at those times as opportunities, though, and use them to offer excellent customer service by addressing the complaint or problem in a way that impresses the customer. A good recovery can actually increase the customer’s confidence.

I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard a company’s customer service referred to as “perfect.” However, words like “great,” “amazing” – these are used to describe many top companies’ customer service.

So, shoot for perfection! Even if it’s realistically unattainable, just having perfection as a goal will ensure that excellence is within reach.

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

 Benchmark Report | DMG WFM Report 2014


Agent Coaching that Your Workforce Actually Wants to Receive

By , July 2, 2014 at 9:16 am

Bad Agent Coaching

According to a study that I’ve completely made up to make a point, 90% of contact centers either don’t provide any agent coaching or provide agent coaching that makes agents wish the center didn’t provide any coaching.

While a total lack of coaching certainly won’t win your contact center any awards, it’s actually better than providing bad coaching. Bad coaching not only fails to effectively address the performance issues that are driving your customers up a wall (and away from your company), it also makes agents completely resistant to coaching, and can lead to them stuffing their supervisor in the trunk of a car.

Most agents want to improve and to delight customers, and thus are open to – and even welcome – coaching and feedback, provided the coaching/feedback doesn’t make them want to cut themselves [VIDEO: Automating the Coaching Process].

Following are several coaching tactics shared by contact centers that never have to bandage agents’ arms or rescue supervisors from a car trunk:

Deliver coaching in a timely manner. Coaching is of little use if the agent doesn’t receive it until after they’ve quit and moved to Marketing. In the best contact centers, supervisors provide clear and concise coaching and feedback soon (and sometimes immediately) after a customer interaction that the agent totally blew. Such timely instruction not only limits the number of customers who must endure poor service going forward; it also shows agents that the organization is on the ball, cares a lot about customers, and is willing to invest in agents not sucking.

Gives agents an opportunity to self-evaluate. Supervisors that let agents start off the “what needs to improve” conversation find that coaching goes much more smoothly and drives improvement. Agents tend not to embrace input and feedback that comes in the form of a unilateral attack. The best coaches give agents the opportunity to review their monitored contacts and allow them to express how much their performance stunk before the coach goes and does it for them.

Lead with the good. When it comes time to provide feedback (after the agent’s self-evaluation), good coaches start by acknowledging and recognizing what the agent did well, as opposed to opening with something of a more critical nature that may put the agent on the defensive. Even if the agent stunk up the call, a good coach will still find a way to lead with something positive: “Bob, you did an excellent job of being in your seat, continuing to breathe, and not pressing ‘release’ when the call arrived. Now I’d just like to talk a little bit about how you swore at the customer and broke into tears before pressing ‘release’….”

And when it comes time to address the problematic aspects of the agent’s performance, top coaches are graceful and tactful in their approach. They point out the issue or behavior in question and ask the agent what they could have done differently. This results in a collaborative conversation that makes the agent feel respected and forget all about the headset shocks and repetitive stress injuries they must endure all day long.

[Read how Intradiem helped this global outsourcer drive improvements in both FCR and AHT by automating standard coaching processes and delivering targeted coaching to agent desktops during downtimes in call volume.]

Show, don’t just tell. Agents often complain, “They tell us what we did wrong, but they don’t show us how to get better.” The best coaches eliminate such complaints by using recordings (or email/chat transcripts) of past agent-customer interactions that demonstrate a desired skill or behavior they want the agent in question to emulate. For example, if an agent is struggling with excessive handle times, the coach can have them listen to a recording featuring an agent demonstrating excellent call control. Or if an agent is unwittingly coming off as rude to customers, the coach can sit them down to listen to a call handled by an agent who isn’t a total sociopath.

Telling an agent they have to decrease their handle time and/or not be less sociopathic doesn’t work nearly as well as showing them what call control and courtesy sounds like and asking them to comment on what they’ve just heard.

Turn your customers into coaches. As good as your supervisors might be at providing agents with feedback, there’s just something about customers’ direct comments – taken from post-contact surveys and hate mail – that cause agents to really take notice and strive to improve. Having a supervisor tell an agent he needs to work on his empathy doesn’t hit that agent nearly the same way as having him listen to a recording from a post-contact survey and hearing the customer say, “The agent I spoke to made me want to learn a deadly martial art.”

Where agents may occasionally feel a supervisor’s or QA analyst’s take on their performance is subjective or biased, there’s no way an agent can argue with the “Voice of the Customer” – unless, of course, the agent really is a total sociopath, in which case he should be transferred immediately to a job in IT.

Webinar | Real-time Coaching

Special Sauce for Lower Contact Center Attrition

By , June 24, 2014 at 9:24 am

Special Sauce for Lower Contact Center Attrition

You know the drill. Agents don’t get the training they need. Performance suffers. They lose confidence and become unsatisfied, and before you know it, they’re gone.

Not only is this expensive, but it’s your customers who ultimately pay the price, as unskilled and unhappy agents don’t typically deliver an outstanding customer experience.

We are currently building a contact center in Atlanta that averages less than 6% attrition per month, which is very competitive and much lower than the industry average. (Best in class contact centers typically have attrition rates of around 8%, but centers routinely experience 20% attrition with some as high as 50% per month.)

How are we doing this? It’s really not that complicated. Here’s our secret sauce:

  1. Hire the right people. Our agents go through multiple interviews to make sure they are the right fit. The final interview is with a floor supervisor for buy-in before we hire them. They also take a qualifying skills-based test to ensure they can handle the work.
  2. Pay a fair wage. Ever heard the adage, you get what you pay for? It’s true. Once you hire the right people, you have to pay them a fair wage. We pay our agents anywhere from $1.50-$2.00 more than the average starting wage.
  3. Give agents schedule flexibility. We allow our agents to bid on their schedules from the time they are out of class and have completed initial training. Agents have the flexibility to choose the schedules that are the best fit for them.
  4. Give them plenty of training. In class, agents receive a lot of individual attention through hands-on practice and role-plays. Once they get to the nesting stage, the ratio of lead agent to agents-in-training is 1:4. The goal is to make agents feel comfortable so that they can effectively do the job.
  5. Give them plenty of coaching. We audit our agents both side-by-side and remotely with a ton of coaching. We make it very clear that coaching is good – not punitive.
  6. Promote from within. Ninety percent of the time we promote from within, giving agents a clear understanding that there is a path and opportunity for promotion and career advancement.

The result of this “special sauce” is low contact center attrition, but the real benefit is that you have a more confident and skilled agent workforce that is more experienced and better equipped to handle customers and provide a consistent customer experience.

Ultimately, lower attrition also means lower training costs, which adds to your bottom line and makes your center a more productive and profitable part of the business.

Webinar | Preventing the Accidental Customer Experience

Where is the CX Inflection Point in Your Customer Engagement?

By , June 19, 2014 at 9:15 am

CX Inflection Point

There comes a time in every company’s history, present time, or future when it must change or adapt – or die.

That’s a pretty melodramatic statement, isn’t it? Maybe. But perhaps it’s also an eye-opener for some companies.

Why? Well, that time is known as an inflection point. What’s that, you say? According to Investopedia, an inflection point is: An event that results in a significant change in the progress of a company, industry, sector, economy or geopolitical situation. An inflection point can be considered a turning point after which a dramatic change, with either positive or negative results, is expected to result. Companies, industries, sectors and economies are dynamic and constantly evolving. Inflection points are more significant than the small day-to-day progress that is made and the effects of the change are often well-known and widespread.

They go on to explain that: Andy Grove, Intel’s co-founder, described a strategic inflection point as “an event that changes the way we think and act.” Inflection points can be a result of action taken by a company, or through actions taken by another entity, that has a direct impact on the company.

So, in order for the business to move forward – successfully – some change or shift needs to occur at that point. I think the customer experience plays a huge role. Don’t think so? I’ll name a few companies, and then let’s talk: Kodak, Blockbuster, Circuit City, RIM, Nokia.

I don’t think there’s a big event within the organization itself that signals you’ve reached the customer experience inflection point. It’s more about the signs all around you; the winds of change are blowing. What are some of the signs?

  • Things you’ve been doing for your customers that worked before don’t seem to work any more
  • Customer needs shift, but you can’t or don’t keep up
  • As a result, customer engagement is down – they’re just not that into you any more
  • Competitive influences cause a shift, but you can’t or don’t keep up
  • Everyone around you adapts or advances, but you stand still

What are some of the causes? I think there’s a big one. You don’t listen or have stopped listening – to customers, to employees, and to the marketplace. Or maybe you listen but you just don’t really hear what’s being said: you don’t care, or you think you know better. Customers don’t know what they need, right?

How does an organization move beyond the inflection point? How does it survive and come out better and stronger on the other side? How do we take the business to a new level?

Without a doubt, serious changes need to be made. Let’s start with this high-level list:

  1. Leadership: It starts at the top. If you’ve got the wrong leadership in place, it’ll be really tough to steer the ship in the right direction. I’m reminded of the struggles that J.C. Penney has had and is having.
  2. People: You need to have the right people on board: employees who want to be there; employees who are passionate about the brand; employees who are motivated to push through the tough times and see the business survive and thrive. This may require training, hiring for new skills and new attitudes; you’ll certainly want to be sure there’s a culture fit.
  3. Employee Engagement: I list this separately from “leadership” and from “people” because employee engagement is a two-way street that requires both to work together for the greater good. When employees are engaged, their passion and ambition for the business will ensure they are focused on its success.
  4. Employee Empowerment: This is no time to not trust employees to move the business forward. You hired each individual for the background, experience, and value that he/she brings to the table. Let them contribute. You’ll be amazed at what this level of trust can do for employees, and, ultimately, for the business.
  5. Culture: Tying the items just mentioned together is the culture; ideally, at this point, the culture shifts ever so slightly into a culture of survival. But, having said that, if you’ve got a strong culture in place already, there should be no shift.
  6. Processes: Kill the bad ones, and create new ones. Bad processes are often deal breakers. Map the customer journey, from the customer viewpoint, to understand the processes the customer must go through to engage with your business, but also take a look at what happens behind the scenes that hinders the employee from delivering a great experience.
  7. Customer Experience Redesign: Clearly, what was working for customers before is no longer working; this could be products, services, service, and more. Understand your customers and their evolving needs. Define personas. Take a look at that map you just created and figure out where the painpoints are. Figure out where customer needs have shifted and where your competitors excel. Listen to customers, employees, and the market. Act on what you hear. Sometimes they really do know what they want. Even if it is a faster horse.
  8. Innovation: Take a human-centered approach to defining and designing new products and services for your customers. Do your homework. Listen to your customers. Design and deliver based on their needs. It’s OK to think ahead, too.
  9. Customers: If you’ve built a fan base over time, if you have a community of customers that have been by your side, that want you to survive, they will stay with you through thick and thin. If you’ve got this fan base, you should never reach this customer experience inflection point. In theory. But, customers can’t control your internal decisions. Ah, perhaps you’re not as customer-centric and customer-focused as you thought you were. Hmmm. Time to fix that.

There are probably more things that a business can do. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

There is at least one point in the history of any company when you have to change dramatically to rise to the next level of performance. Miss that moment – and you start to decline. – Andy Grove

 Benchmark Report | Contact Center WFO

Contact Center Data: It’s Here, It’s There, It’s Everywhere!

By , June 17, 2014 at 9:17 am

Contact Center Data

There are many articles, webinars and conferences with an emphasis on big data and contact centers. Naturally with that being such a hot topic, many in the C-suite and savvy managers are looking at ways they can utilize the best practices.

If you are getting on board the big data train, make sure you consider the following:

1. What are you going to do with all the data?

Much like the confusion over which center metrics are key, having lots of numbers and trend details sitting uselessly in a report won’t improve customer experience or your bottom line. Contact center data is just data, unless we combine with great business practices to implement where and when it makes sense to take action.

2. Are your customers and employees associating “Big Data” with privacy invasion?

With the recent concerns about business loss of data and invasions of personal privacy, many customers are leery of sharing too much information with you. How much is too much for them? Look to your agents and customers across channels, who may be telling you their concerns, without you even having to ask. If you aren’t getting feedback, start asking so you can be prepared for Big Data use questions from both inside users and customers.

3. Are you making assumptions based on last year’s data?

Like most things in our businesses, timing is everything. Some execs spend way too much time discussing what should be done, and then discussing again ten more times only to find that the window of opportunity to use feedback and data collected is past its prime and things have changed in the market again or customers have moved on. Plan to take quick actions whenever possible.

4. Who controls contact center data collection, interpretation and use of information?

This is where it gets even more interesting. If there is infighting among internal parties who want to control and disseminate the information, the focus on the data opportunity is lost and it becomes more about the power play.

Personnel are also key to analysis success. Do you have the right people on board to work with big data? Are you offering them training to improve their analytical skills?

5. Big data vendor promises

Run from vendors who are promising you immediate success or total differentiation from your competitors six months from now. Big data capture and analysis means different things to different companies so make you’re your vendors understand and have experience with your size business, industry, and understand your marketplace, customers and your data goals.

Using contact center data effectively takes commitment, time, resources and the ability to move quickly with information learned. Ultimately, all of this means nothing if you don’t have the right blend of people, processes and technology properly aligned to support your efforts with customers on the front lines of your center.

Webinar | Real-time Coaching

A Personal Journey to a Customer-centric Service Culture

By , June 16, 2014 at 12:26 pm

Customer-centric Service Culture

Last month, we attended the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) 2014 Insight Exchange at the Loews Atlanta Hotel, where one of the key presentations was from Bob Johnson, president of Sprint Retail and chief service and information technology officer.

In his presentation, Johnson talked about the personal nature of the customer experience and how to build a customer-centric service culture. The key in order to empower your frontline staff, said Johnson, is to keep it simple and stay focused on three things:

#1: Start at the top. The goal is to improve the customer experience, which must be mandated by the CEO and communicated to and supported by every level of the organization.

#2: No silver bullets. Strengthening your brand in turn drives profitable growth, but this takes a lot of hard work and focus on process and passion to execute.

#3: It has to make money. To generate cash, you must reduce your overall cost structure.

These priorities, Johnson said, were set by Sprint’s CEO in 2007 and are still relevant today and shared at every operational review and shareholder meeting.

Employees are your brand, Johnson explains, and continuously reinforcing what your brand is all about with your employees helps them reflect it to your customers. At Sprint, the single most important metric is customer churn, so it’s critical that employees understand how they impact the bottom line.

For Sprint, focusing on the customer and moving beyond traditional service metrics is a three-way stop between retail, customer management and information technology. The goal is to make customers feel that they are part of a community – not just purchasing a device.

Starting at the top

Since 2004, Sprint and its brands have initiated and managed robust, but discreet social media initiatives and programs aimed at improving customer satisfaction and retention. These initiatives include digital marketing, Facebook, social care, blogger engagement and the creation of social media “Ninjas.”

As a result, Sprint has nearly two million online followers and fans of its brands, 1.2 million visits to the Community each month, 2,800 monthly product reviews on, five million Sprint Space views each quarter, 3,300 subject matter expert advocates (Ninjas) that have been developed and activated throughout the entire organization, and more than 5,000 unique profiles responded to by social care each week.

Volunteer employees monitor blogs daily and reach out to proactively help customers and promote the Sprint brand. They have hand-written more than 900,000 thank you notes to customers as part of this effort! When it comes to building a customer-centric service culture, the message from the top is simple: volunteer to make a difference, perpetuate the brand, and be proactive!

No silver bullets

There isn’t a single technology or tool that will transform your organization overnight. When Johnson came on board, he first implemented a performance measurement system to focus on improvements and call drivers and a call routing system to optimize call delivery. Understanding call volume drivers highlighted opportunities to deliver faster and more frequent communication.

The next technology opportunity was the implementation of Intradiem to recover time and improve agent performance through repeatable, self-taught, self-paced training. (Johnson said this piece was the best thing they ever did to improve the overall customer experience.)

Sprint also began using customer surveys to evaluate customers’ willingness to recommend Sprint’s products and services to others.

By focusing on what drives customers to call in, Sprint was able to better understand its highest volume of calls, anticipate customer needs, and solve issues on the first try, therefore increasing FCR and preventing customer callbacks.

It has to make money!

Sprint’s two biggest expenses were call volume and credit and adjustments.

As a result of these initiatives, call volume was reduced and Sprint was able to reduce its total number of call centers from 74 to 40. Sprint was also able to train agents to only give customers adjustments when necessary and to not “train” customers to ask for credits. Ultimately, operating expenses were reduced by 50% and credits and adjustments were reduced by 80%.

These reductions ultimately save the company one billion dollars per year.

And that’s not all! Sprint has also been named the most improved company in customer satisfaction across all 43 industries during the last five years.

Benchmark Report | US Contact Center Decision Makers' Guide (Contact Center Performance)

Customer Service Journey Map Should Lead to Instant Gratification

By , June 5, 2014 at 9:38 am

 Customer Gratification

Here is a great customer service strategy: Instant Gratification.

This doesn’t happen at the end of the transaction. This must happen at every step of the way. During the customer service journey there are multiple touch points, times when the customer either interacts with a company’s employees, website or product. The idea is to make every customer interaction an experience that delivers instant gratification.

This concept of instant gratification tied to customer service came from a recent conversation I had with Frank Jacobs, the founder and CEO of Falcon Products. The company makes table bases. At one point, if you walked into a restaurant almost anywhere in the world, there was a pretty good chance that the table base was made by Falcon. Frank has since retired, but his enthusiasm for how he treated the customer still burns a strong flame.

Frank felt that there needed to be instant gratification at every touch point. The goal is to avoid the opposite of instant gratification, which I, for lack of a better term, am going to call Instant Misery. Imagine if the customer opened their box and found fingerprints all over the stainless steel table base. Or, perhaps the customer called with a problem and had to be put on hold. Or there was a part missing from the box. You get the idea.

Not only do those negative touch points provide misery. They also cause a customer to question if they are doing business with the right company. It erodes confidence.

[Read how one financial services company realized an average improvement in call quality that was almost twice  their program goal after just 30 days of using Intradiem.]

Where can you find instant gratification in the customer experience? There are many places:

  • Calling technical support and having a customer service representative answer within ten seconds
  • Asking for help on Twitter and getting a response from the company in less than five minutes
  • The positive greeting you get when you walk into or return to a place where you’ve done business
  • Getting a problem resolved on the first call, without being transferred
  • Getting notification confirming that your online order was accepted and is in the process of being shipped
  • Occasional messages updating you on your order or project
  • When you receive an expected package in the mail – on time or even sooner than expected

I haven’t even scratched the surface on all of the different places in the customer service journey that you can create instant gratification. So, here is your assignment. Sit down with your team and create a customer journey map. Look for the touch points along the way that are opportunities to create these moments. At the same time, look for places where your customer might find instant misery. Once you identify these places, go to work at eliminating misery and creating instant gratification.

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

 Benchmark Report | Contact Center WFO