Execs In The Know- A Global Network of Customer Experience Professionals

CR Summit New Orleans

The Hottest CX Trend in 2019 – “Reward your customers to invest in your employees”

What did you say? Really??? That can’t be right!!!!!

We predict that 2019 will be the year where businesses realize how easy it is to reward their own customers, save money and use those savings to invest in their own people.

Digital transformation is the strategy of transforming customer engagement by shifting from traditional models to digital ones like crowd & gig models, AI and pure self-service. The benefits of this are clear; they offer millions of savings per year and, to date, the prospect of lower cost to serve has been one of the main drivers for change
Continue reading

How to Create a Successful CX Strategy for Product Launches

The following is a guest blog written by Nancy Breed, Senior Director of CX Consulting, at TaskUs. Learn more about TaskUs by visiting their website.

To learn more about this topic and other challenges in CX, join us at the Customer Response Summit, in New Orleans on February 4th-6th, 2019.

With 80% of new product launches failing annually, it’s no wonder why modern businesses of all sizes are looking for advice and guidance when they’re first coming to market, launching new products, or extending product lines.

The technology industry is perhaps the most vulnerable to product launch failures. Despite how innovative a new product might be, if the service experience that supports it is second rate, enthusiastic reviews will quickly turn into very public complaints. These issues can stem from a variety of reasons such as issues with customer support operations and quality design expertise or the absence of an end-to-end customer experience (CX) strategy to name a few.

For example, a well-known social media company prepared to launch a new product that deviated from its typical playbook. With past product launches, typical customers were young, technically savvy, and well-versed in employing self-service tools and user communities if they needed support. However, its leaders knew that their existing approach to customer support would not match the need of the new product due to a broader audience profile in regards to age and technical skill.

This social giant needed to find an experienced partner to help them design a CX strategy for their new product and to build out a customized, end-to-end CX strategy that would work for their new group of users. The ultimate goal of this endeavor was to gain rave reviews from customers by enabling the support agents with the smartest training, processes, and tools to deliver an amazing experience.

Attend our panel at the Customer Response Summit in New Orleans to learn how TaskUs CX consultants developed a process map for each intended experience, optimized and developed channels and agent performance, and created a CX organization that fostered the success and adoption of a new product.

Computer says no — Why my dad hates automation in customer support

The following article is a guest post written by Edmund Ovington, VP Global Alliances at Unbabel, a company that combines Artificial Intelligence and human expertise to remove the language barrier between companies and their customers. For more information about Unbabel visit their website. 

When people start talking about automation in customer support, and how computers are taking over and why we no longer need human agents, I think of my dad.

This may not come as a surprise to you but my dad hates automated things and computers (Little Britain is likely to blame). He was, of course, born in a world where you would speak to bank managers, toll collectors, and supermarket cashiers – in fact you’d often have a personal relationship with them.

And he’s not the only one.

They say humans yearn for human contact and, if given the choice, they will always prefer interacting with another human. The logic behind this is that we are a highly social species, we live in society and are innately designed or programmed to interact with each other.

This argument has some scientific truth to it: in one study by Ryan W. Buell, customers who used ATMs more than human tellers had a lower level of satisfaction with their banks. Buell, who is now at Harvard Business School, found in a different experience that people calling Metlife to claim death-related insurances, receive an automated condolences message – and were a bit freaked out.

On the other hand, wasn’t this argument of human contact used against removing toll operators? Or even the iconic phone operator? Against self-service checkout at supermarkets?

The thing is, not all customers are like my dad. Personally the less humans I need to ‘deal with’ in everyday ‘normal’ tasks, the better. If I can solve a problem or get something done without talking to a human I feel pretty productive and thankful about it, actually.

In other words, this is what we all need to understand about automation in customer support. You’re automating it for the people. And it can’t be feast or famine. It needs to be just right. It needs to be nuanced.

Since I joined Unbabel as the VP of Global Alliances, I’ve been working closely with companies like Zendesk, Salesforce and Concentrix, to figure out ways to improve customer experience and make it more efficient.

And when it comes to automation there’s one rule of thumb: Automation is great, if – and only if – it brings you closer to your customer. Anything else is a bad move.

So how do you know what to automate and what not to?

1. Understand your product

It all comes down to your business and product. Is your product easy to implement? Or do you usually have to walk your customers through implementation? Are you B2B or B2C? How’s your customer service team organized? Do you have physical stores or is everything online?

These are all relevant questions you should be asking yourself at this point. If you have a complex product you need to make sure that automation doesn’t stand in your way. You want it to be the source of simplicity and efficiency not of frustration and negativity.

A good example that I like to give is Bang & Olufsen, the Danish high-end consumer electronics company that designs and manufactures audio products, television sets, telephones, and so on. So basically their traditional customer base is people walking into the store and talking to the person they bought the product from. I mean, if you’re going to spend 10k-20k in a TV set you might as well talk to a human to make sure you’re making the best choice and that you have excellent customer service in the future.

However, more recently, Bang & Olufsen diversified and released a new line of products called B&O Play where they are selling headphones and speakers to a younger audience at a more affordable price. So, in this case, they had to flip their model. These new products are simple, easy to use, and highly scalable, and their target audience loves automation. In the end, to deal with scalability what they did was to keep providing excellent customer service by having human agents while using AI to make those agents much more efficient.

So, in the end, it’s all about the product you’re selling and who you’re selling to, which brings me to the next point.

2. Know your audience — age and geography

It’s crucial that before you look into automation you get to know your customer. How old are they? Where are they from? What kind of help do they need while using your product?

Most people agree on this: if millennials are your audience, automation is great. They’re not that much into talking to other humans. And they hate talking to anybody on the phone.

But does this mean they want everything to be automated? Well, not necessarily. And here’s where most people get it wrong. It’s not that Millennials don’t want to talk to you, they just want a better customer experience overall, and if that means less of hassle they’re gonna go for it.

Another thing you should bear in mind is looking at where your customers are coming from. Most people neglect the importance of culture in consumer behavior, and yet it is paramount.

Do people in Japan like chatbots? Or do they prefer talking to a human? What about in France? Or in the US? According to a survey by LivePerson, for instance, European countries tend to be more receptive to chatbots. But people in the US? Not so much. 59% of Americans said they preferred talking to a human other than a machine.

Bottom line is: get to know your customers, and how old they are and where they are from to deliver the best, tailored customer experience.

3. Analyze your common queries

The truth is, your customers are used to a certain standard and they know what to expect. So make sure you look back and understand the kind of help they need from you. What type of questions do they ask? Are those easy to solve problems? Things you can automate or put in your FAQs?

Look into your common queries and if you have a lot of those there’s just so much you can do to make the whole process better. There’s a lot you can automate and improve. So why not put part of your customer service operations on autopilot?

That’s exactly what platforms such DigitalGenius are doing by using AI to understand conversations, automate repetitive processes and solve your customers’ problems. This will help you automatically deal with the most common queries such as refund requests, order status inquiries, cancellations, and so. And the great thing about this is that it will allow you to cut down costs and keep things efficient.

4. Automate what you can

In the end, it’s not a matter of artificial intelligence and automation replacing your customer support agents but rather giving them superpowers for them to be more efficient.

It all comes down to making smart decisions and understanding where automation can help you achieve better results, increase customer satisfaction, cut down costs, scale operations, and have a better and personalized customer experience. Live chatbots sound great. Self service options are super useful. AI-powered translation too. I mean, your possibilities are endless.

It’s really just a matter of knowing what will bring you closer to your customers. And who knows, even my dad may change his mind.

Edmund Ovington

VP of Global Alliances

Edmund drives value for Unbabel’s customer base through close relationships with key partners and investors (including Salesforce, Microsoft, Zendesk and Concentrix), as well as building out Unbabel’s US operations from NYC. He has over 10 years experience scaling technology, specifically B2B SaaS, companies such as Yammer.


How to Win the Hearts of Customers Who Have More Choice Than Ever

This is a guest post from Brian Millham, President, AMER Commercial and B2C Sales, Global Strategy, Salesforce.  Salesforce is a Gold-Level sponsor of Customer Response Summit New Orleans (Feb. 4-6, 2019) and they will be on hand to answer questions and showcase solutions to some of your trickiest CX challenges.

Have you ever switched to a different cafe in the morning because the service at your usual place wasn’t quite right? Or have you decided to not buy an item you needed when shopping online because the website was moving at a snail’s pace? We’re all guilty of it. As consumers, we’re increasingly disloyal — so it makes sense that your customers may be, too.

I’ve been meeting with Salesforce customers for 19 years and the one thing that’s stayed constant is that businesses everywhere want to stay close to their customers’ needs and wants. They want to keep their customers loyal. In Salesforce’s recent North Star Report, which surveyed over 500 Salesforce customers, we found that 40% of those who prioritize digital transformation agree that improving customer experience is a main objective.

So it’s time to go beyond just thinking about general “customer centricity.” You must examine closely what changes you need to make for your customers.

Making a change

Every customer is different and you need to be able to personalize every interaction they have with your company — gone are the days of one-size-fits-all. But before going any further, you must have the tools in place to create a 360-degree view of your customers in order to truly enrich and improve their experience.

In retail, for example, you can’t ignore the ongoing unification of the online and in-store experiences. The alignment of these two elements can be extremely powerful when done correctly, creating the ultimate personalized shopping journey as customers browse and purchase. Giving customers the freedom to buy online and pick up at their local store is just one way to create a great retail experience.

This is your opportunity to really win customer hearts and minds — and create enduring loyalty. Customers want to get involved with the brands they love, so providing a platform that enables this is a way to ensure they keep coming back.

Take a closer look

In addition, customers also want brands to be one step ahead by predicting their needs rather than meeting them when required. By analyzing purchase data and customer service interactions, for example, is one way to uncover important insights. Technologies like AI are revolutionizing this process by automating analysis and generating deep and valuable insights about trends and behaviors. This data can then be used to inspire tailored offers or product suggestions, giving brands the edge while enthralling customers with an intuitive service.

This provides an understanding of customer trends and behaviors regionally that allows for businesses to plan strategically and streamline their operations. This could include managing stock levels effectively and reducing disappointment at checkout, which ultimately helps maximize sales.

Teamwork makes the dream work

You’re only ever going to have a full view of your customer if there’s a truly collaborative way of working within your business. As Mirko Gropp, the Head of Global Digital Sales Transformation at Telstra, indicated in our report, this kind of approach requires “profound changes to a company’s operating model.” By working in close partnership with IT to implement the right technologies, you’ll be able to provide your customers with the enhanced experience they demand.

Meeting face-to-face with your team and sharing goals and objectives for a particular customer will help ensure customer success.

In addition, teamwork must be a mantra that runs throughout the business as organizations hurry to embark on their own digital transformation journeys or achieve compliance. There’s a natural aversion to change that must be addressed to ensure that teams and departments understand why they need to use the new systems, rather than sticking to the “old ways” of doing business. When they understand how the new technologies will help them get their job done, they’re more likely to climb on board.

And with new systems in place, it’s easier for businesses to learn and understand what customers want and need – even before they know themselves. When that happens, businesses can present consumers with the choice that’s perfect for them – and keep those customers delighted and coming back for more.


5 Trends Changing the Future of Contact Center Performance Management & Training

This is a guest post from AmplifAI’s Customer Success Officer, Melissa Pollock. Visit AmplifAI’s website to learn more about how the company.

“The secret to success is good leadership, and good leadership is all about making the lives of your team members or workers better.” – Tony Dungy, NFL Coach

We hire them. We ask them to do a job. A very, very important job. But the core responsibilities of frontline Contact Center Sales and Service roles have become increasingly more involved, the number of applications and subsequent need for multi-tasking has continued to deepen, and the volume and level of skills required to successfully manage customer interactions have drastically expanded.

As we struggle to keep up with customers’ communication and service demands, contact center technologies and evolving operations processes, our Agents struggle to adapt and grow as well.  Understanding how these changes are impacting our frontline employees’ jobs and expectations is essential to proactively providing what they need in order to learn and perform the tasks we’ve hired them to fulfill.  As leaders we not only affect their practical and cognitive capabilities, in terms of tools and training, but also their psychological willingness, desires and confidence!

5 Trends Changing the Contact Center

Looking at our industry, there are five clear trends that have, and continue to evolve our operational realities. We have to acknowledge and plan for how they affect our frontline Customer Service and Sales teams’ ability to engage, learn and perform. If you’re already aware and on top of these things, terrific and well done! If not, start some conversations around how you can integrate planning for these trends into your 2019 strategies for frontline performance management!

1.      Hiring Growth, Not Decline 

First of all, it’s important to note that frontline Customer Service jobs have been on the rise for the last six years, AND, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that growth to continue by another 5% over the next 10 years. AI isn’t eliminating customer service roles, it’s simply changing them, evolving what is handled by machine, and what is handled by humans, and what is handled through a blend of Human+AI.

2.      Live Agents still drive CSAT

CFI Group’s 2018 Contact Center Satisfaction Index report states that live Agents still drive customer satisfaction, because Voice is still 79% of channel volume.  Furthermore, the survey results clearly show that the faster the call is handled, by the first agent, on the first call, the higher the customer satisfaction ratings.

With ongoing job growth, and customers’ reigning preference for voice channels, we need highly-skilled, empathetic, articulate, and efficient Agents!  AND, we have to equip them with tools and resources that are easy to access, easy to use, and that give them the data and answers they need, quickly!

3.      Increasing Job Complexity 

With all the new tools and resources that have come available in the last decade – from cloud-based CRM and Contact Center Applications, to Intelligent IVR’s, Chatbots, and Omni-channel Communications Platforms – technology is playing a HUGE part in modernizing our operations and improving the insight available to our teams, and the service available to our customers.

New tools and technologies also continue to increase the number of applications and processes Agents must integrate into their daily workflow. As a result, we have to specifically consider the effects of new tools and processes on Agent workflow during the planning, roll-out and training phases. Consider asking:

  1. What Agent-level processes will be affected?
  2. What Supervisor-level processes will be affected?
  3. Who will redesign the process(es) to align with the new tool/capabilities?
  4. Who will communicate and train the revised/new workflow?
  5. Who will inspect use of the revised/new workflow and tools?
  6. How will you collect input on the accuracy and effectiveness of the workflow in use?
  7. Who will communicate and train any adjustments to the workflow?

These considerations are important to ensure Agents are equipped to use the new tools and procedures in ways that add value to customer interactions, not road blocks!

CFI Group states; “The challenge is not with making the tools available; it is with making access to those tools effortless and simple for the customer.”  I add, even more importantly, effortless and simple for our Agents!

4.      Automation Elevates Skill Requirements

Beyond new tools, emerging tech like Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and IA (Intelligent Automation) are driving semi-automation of certain functions with the Contact Center – from finding trends in WFM data, to profiling customer history and providing cross-selling suggestions, to analyzing customer sentiment, to answering basic customer inquiries, to pushing personalized learning content directly to Agents, to telling supervisors who to coach or recognize.

These automations are taking on the simple, the rote, and the repetitious – all with the intent of freeing up Agents to perform the more complex and uniquely ‘human’ work. They’re making possible a smart divination of duties between man and machine, and in some scenarios a blended-handling or co-facilitation of the customer experience. Either way, the new normal is that Agents need to tap into a broader interpersonal skill set, and a deeper knowledge of product and service portfolios and problem-solving. To that end, we have to re-imagine the learner experience – integrate new customer use cases, tool, and workflow examples in on-boarding and training, along with leveraging new methods for training transfer and practice.

5.      Expectations for Consumer-like Learning

The Information Age and subsequent Digital Transformation of everything have made a substantial impact on personal learning – nearly all of us consume content on-demand, in-the-moment, from any number of devices, and across multiple media outlets. In a few clicks, we have access to an article or a video that demonstrates how to do most anything!

Now look at our organizational learning; while we are evolving into less formal, more digital, and more flexible learning opportunities, there is still a great majority of learning that must be done off work, offline (away from or outside of our natural workflow), and that is largely generic, i.e., applicable to a target role and its common skill requirements.

Where and how we access content, as well as the style and length of that content, determines whether that learning is engaging, relevant and useful for modern learners. (And while perhaps initially driven by Millennials and Work-At-Home Agents (W@HAs), ‘modern learner’ now includes anyone using smart-device technology in their personal lives!)

The digital-consumer Agent appreciates and expects the efficiency and engagement of shorter, more individually relevant, and more readily available self-learning, self-coaching, and self-development opportunities. So, as we are deploying new technologies and processes for improving customer experiences, we also need to look at learning and performance management platforms that are driving improved employee experiences!

The Future of Success in Contact Centers:

I love this quote from Shep Hyken, because I believe it holds the same truth for Agents: “True loyalty doesn’t come because of an app. It doesn’t come because you have a punch card where after ten punches you get a free sandwich. It is about the relationship. Take away those ‘perks’ and would the customer still be loyal?”

So, no, it isn’t pizza or gift-cards. The key to success in the contact center of the future, is to engage and empower in ways that are enabled by technology, but driven and supported by humans. 

It’s making it easy to access tools and training, do work, see performance, learn and build skills, compare to peers, optimize incentives, plan career development, and share learnings and experiences!

Related Resources:

  1. 5 Ways Leaders Can Model High-CX Behaviors
  2. 3 Ways to Drive Effortless Employee Learning Experiences
  3. WFO: A Systems Thinking Activity

Melissa and the AmplifAI crew will share their expertise at Customer Response Summit New Orleans (Feb. 4-6, 2019). Stop by our Innovations Lab to see their results-driven solutions in action.

How the Best Brands are Transforming Their Contact Centers Into Revenue Centers


The following is a guest post from Mike McCarron, VP of Customer Success at Gladly.

Imagine a future where your top salesperson isn’t from your store on prime Rodeo Drive, but Judy, a customer service agent working out of your Denver contact center. Unlike the flying cars promised to us in Back to the Future, the idea that your contact center can be a main contributor to your company’s revenue isn’t a distant reality—it’s something companies can realistically achieve with the right people, a modern technology platform, and a focused effort on building strong, lasting relationships with customers.

The State of the Cost Contact Center

In today’s contact centers, much of the conversation revolves around cost and efficiency.

How do you reduce the time an agent spends helping a customer so they can move on to the next person in line? Are the projected cost-savings enough to justify the investment in your next IT or customer service project? Resources in the contact center today are becoming increasingly squeezed, with contact center managers being expected to hit ever-expanding goals with less.

But when companies focus their efforts strictly on reducing costs and average handle times, there is a danger that their service can become too transactional, which isn’t the most conducive to building close, lasting relationships with customers. That means companies stand to lose out on the incredibly valuable ROI of cultivating a loyal band of customers truly engaged with their brand.

Show Me the Money: The ROI of the Engaged Customer

The aim for any customer service team is to ensure the satisfaction of their customers—that any questions that were asked are answered, and any issues resolved. But the returns from not just meeting their expectations, but truly engaging with your customer can far outweigh the results of just ensuring that your customer is satisfied.

According to studies by the Harvard Business Review, a fully engaged customer spends twice as much annually as a customer that is ‘highly satisfied’. They also account for 37% of a company’s revenue despite making up just 22% of their consumer base.

An engaged customer is also more likely to evangelize on behalf of a brand. And since 92% of consumers are more likely to rely on reviews from friends, family, and the Internet rather than company-sponsored advertising, that’s free publicity that companies cannot afford to ignore.

While many factors can contribute to a customer’s engagement with a brand, people are powerful, and the human connection can be one of the most impactful and, often underestimated, tools in a company’s toolbelt. To help facilitate that connection, it’s important that companies arm their customer service agents with the context, technology, and the freedom to focus on the customer and build the rapport and connection that keeps customers loyal.

Transforming Your Contact Center

The ‘People’

Hiring: The agents you hire today may be very different from the type of agent you need to support a revenue-generating contact center. For the latter, an agent needs to have both issue resolution skills (with the necessary empathy and people skills to understand and connect with your customers) as well as sales skills (to be able to recommend items or services in a way that is helpful to the customer, and not a hard sell).

Training: The way you train your agents will also have to change to adapt to the new revenue-driven strategy of support. Instead of just knowing how to answer questions, an agent should also have a keen understanding of the breadth of products and services you offer, and understand when to offer which to a customer. And while contact center agents are typically trained in areas like problem resolution, escalation management, and customer empathy, they’re usually not as well-versed on the ‘sales’ soft skills, which involves being able to put themselves in the shoes of the customer and predict what they may like or be interested in that they haven’t even asked for.

The ‘Process’

Metrics and KPIs: Over the past 20+ years, contact centers have relied on the age-old metrics of  Average Handle Time (AHT) to measure performance. And while AHT is a useful metric to understand agent efficiency, it isn’t enough on its own to give you the full picture when your focus shifts towards revenue generation. An agent may, for example, have to spend longer on the phone when trying to connect with or sell to a customer. If judged purely on AHT, that extra time would be viewed as inefficient. But when you overlay the revenue gain from that added time taken—for example, if it generates an increase in revenue of 20% because the agent is spending more time with those customers to understand them, know them, and recommend them products—then it doesn’t make sense to judge the agent on AHT alone.

Incentives: As you reconsider the metrics and KPIs with which you measure your contact center, the way you incentivize agents should change with it. For example, while the traditional approach is to incentivize agents based on low AHT, a revenue-focused model should prioritize ‘conversion’ over the time taken to handle a customer. Agents should also be given sales quotas to hit, so they understand their goal and the part they play in generating revenue for the company.

Accounting for Outreach: How you determine the staffing needs for your contact center will also change under a revenue-generating model. While you’d traditionally base your forecasting on the volume of inbound customer interactions, a revenue-generating model needs to account for the added man-hours (and manpower) required to conduct proactive outreach to those customers. For example, you might currently forecast that each of your agents can handle around 45-50 customer interactions per day. But to allow your agents the capacity to interact with your customers and turn them into engaged customers—whether that’s through proactive outreach, or simply spending more time to understand their needs—your forecasting needs to expand to account for the extra time and resources required to do that.

The ‘Technology’

Empower agents: Moving towards this model of forming deeper, more personalized relationships with customers requires agents to have a better understanding of who the customer is—and that means arming your team with up to date, modern tools necessary to facilitate that. The customer service platform that your agents use should provide them with the necessary customer context for them to build upon when speaking to a customer—for example, are they a high-value shopper? Are they more likely to buy full-price or on sale? Do they prefer a window or aisle seat? If agents don’t have visibility into a customer’s past transactions, or their individual preferences, they’ll essentially be flying blind when it comes to recommending products or services.

Having the past interactions between the customer and the company readily available also gives agents a history to work off of, so customers feel as if they’re having one continuous conversation with your company, instead of several, piecemeal interactions—and that’s far more conducive to building a trusted connection than a purely transactional, one-off approach.

Company-Wide Investment: Customers provide the companies they buy from with a considerable amount of information about themselves: their personal contact information, spending habits, purchase preferences. Yet most companies will admit that they still don’t have a full picture of who their customers are, not to mention the most valuable ones that may be accounting for a majority of their top line revenue. And that’s because unfortunately for many companies, all that valuable insight about their customers is usually siloed across multiple systems in multiple places, without a single way to bring all that contextual information into one view for the heroes on the front line-your customer service agents.

The best brands realize that customer service isn’t just the responsibility of the customer service team. That every single person in the company has a part to play to service the customer. As one of our favorite brands, JetBlue, likes to say, they consider themselves a customer service company that just happens to fly planes. When companies bring in the technology and tools to marry all those siloed points of information into a single source of truth for your teams to leverage, they are wildly more productive, happier and then can deliver a happier experience to your customers – one that often times leads to repeat business and repeat revenue.

We’re sharing more stories and experiences of brands transforming their customer service strategies on Feb 5th at the Execs In the Know Customer Response Summit, Customer Shop Talk session. I’d be happy to continue the conversation.

Mike McCarron is the VP of Customer Success at Gladly, a customer service platform that enables companies to focus on people talking to people throughout a lifetime of naturally productive conversations. Meet us at the Innovation Lab to see how Gladly can help put your customer back at the center of service to build the kind of long-lasting, personal relationships that lead to loyalty and revenue.