Tag Archives: customer service

The 4 P’s Of Contact Centre Transformation

Contact Centres. People love to hate them. The internet is full of venom and disgust at the industry. One blog I read last month suggested that “working in a Call Centre really is no different to being in a Chain Gang, albeit with mildly improved wages and less manual labour”. A recent article in The Independent said “Contact Centres have got to be the one thing we can all agree to hate”. And a BBC News poll held last year asked viewers “Are Contact Centres the sweat-shops of the 21st Century?”. Truly shocking stuff. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAFhAAAAJGI3OGVmZjExLWZhOGYtNDUyNi05NmNjLWJjODJiMTIyM2EwZA

It seems at times that our frontline Customer Service operations are generally about as popular as a bath with a boa constrictor.

It’s no surprise then to see that there are many organisations attempting to improve the way their Contact Centres work. After all, no organisation wants their customer experience to be considered to be about as pleasurable as a visit to a dentist with random arm spasms. They want solutions – and there’s plenty out there.

A simple Google search reveals a plethora of improvement models, methodologies and ideas about how to deliver significant improvements in the performance of Contact Centres. From Kaizen to Six Sigma, from fancy IT systems to training programmes, the sheer range of choices is mind blowing.

If you’re looking to improve your Contact Centre, it can be very difficult to determine the best way forward. And the worrying thing is, despite the insane number of “solutions” on the market, many customers continue to report that their experience of organisations is getting worse. What are these attempts at improvement missing?

It’s quite simple – they don’t address ALL of the key areas that influence Contact Centre performance. To fundamentally transform a Contact Centre you have to treat it systemically. In other words, deal with all the elements that make up its performance.

In this article, I would like to show you the four key areas you need to address in order to transform your frontline Customer Services operation. If you are able to improve each of these areas, you will see significant systemic transformation in your performance. And most importantly, your customer will LOVE you.

Ready? Here they are.

The 4 P’s of Contact Centre Transformation

1. PURPOSE (What We Do)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What does our customer need that we can provide?
  • What is it that we need to do to make a positive difference to our customer’s life?
  • Why are we the best people to do that for our customer?
  • How will the customer’s life be different after dealing with us?

Why Is This Important?

It has always surprised me how many organisations struggle to articulate their purpose from the customer’s point of view. It is important to remember that your Contact Centre exists solely to serve the customer’s specific need. You have no other reason for being.

The sad reality is that many Contact Centres lose sight of their purpose and often become focused on things such as meeting arbitrary targets, managing demand and enforcing policy and procedure.

If the entire organisation clearly understands their purpose from the customer’s perspective, you become unassailable. If the focus of everything you do is based on the fulfilment of your purpose, the customer WILL notice. If it based on arbitrary factors, your customer WILL notice.

Can YOU define your purpose?

 2. PEOPLE (Who Does It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What do my people value?
  • What is the culture within the team?
  • Why do they behave the way they do?
  • How do they feel about their working life?
  • Where are their thinking skills at?
  • How does their behaviour affect the customer experience?

Why Is This Important?

You may well have heard the old phrase “people like to do business with people”. It may sound like a cliche, but it is absolutely true.

Unfortunately, there appears to have been a trend in recent years for organisations to focus mostly on processes and procedure while ignoring their people. The reality is that people make or break your organisation. This is especially true of Contact Centres, where the behaviour and mindsets of the people dealing with the customer are absolutely crucial.

If you want to understand why people behave the way they do within your team, look inside them. If you want to change the way people behave, again, you have to understand what’s going on inside them. Remember that people will act out their internal beliefs and values. No matter how many processes and procedures you put in place within your Contact Centre, your people will still spill elements of their self-esteem and mindset into their interactions with your customers.

How do you expect a person to focus on what’s going on for the customer when they are dealing with low self esteem? How can a person manage difficult customer behaviour when they don’t know how to control their own emotions?

And most importantly, how can a person give good customer service when they are not allowed to play to their strengths because of the policies and procedures that are in place?

How well do YOU know your people?

 3. PROCESSES (How They Do It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • How does the work flow from the initial customer contact through the the delivery of the service?
  • What is the proportion of value demand (what we’re here for) to failure demand (things we don’t want to deal with, e.g. complaints)
  • How many people are involved in the process?
  • What is creating delays in delivering the work?
  • How much of what we do is adding value to the customer and how much is waste (unnecessary)?
  • Do our advisors have the necessary tools to deliver what the customer needs?

Why Is This Important?

All too often, we don’t scrutinise the way in which the work works within our organisations. I often hear the phrase “that’s just the way we do things around here” when I question people about why things work the way they do. Unfortunately, the customer doesn’t see it that way. If the way in which your service works is not optimised, the customer WILL notice.

What’s more, if things aren’t working well, your staff will notice. Contact Centre advisors rely on well designed business processes to deliver the best quality service for their customer. If they are hampered by inefficiency and waste, they will become less able to deliver a quality service. They will also become frustrated. This will further impact the customer experience.

How well are YOUR processes designed?

4. PERFORMANCE (How We Know We’ve Done It)

The Questions To Ask Yourself

  • What measures are we using to monitor performance?
  • How do our measures relate to our purpose?
  • What do our measures tell us about the customer experience?
  • Which of our measures are arbitrary from the customer’s perspective?
  • What effect are our measures having on staff performance?

Why Is This Important?

We have a tendency within our organisations to measure the wrong things. Contact Centres often operate to arbitrary targets which do not relate to the purpose from the customer’s point of view. In fact, many Contact Centre measures are designed to assess whether advisers are correctly following process and procedure.

If we measure the things that are important to the customer experience, our performance management becomes considerably more focused. Imagine a team of advisors all concentrating on delivering what the customer wants, armed with measures that clearly show them how successful they are in achieving that. This has to be better than a group of people trying to meet arbitrary targets, living in fear of retribution if they fail to achieve them – as is the case in many Contact Centres.

What measures do YOU have in place to monitor performance? Are you measuring the things that matter to the customer or are you blinded by arbitrary targets?

Summary

Consider the 4 P’s. Where is your Contact Centre at? If you understand your present state in all four of these areas, the route to transformation will be clear.

Real change comes when you understand what’s going on. Make it your job to understand and one day your customers will no longer compare their experience of your Contact Centre to non-anaesthetised ingrowing toe-nail surgery.

Let’s work together to banish those Contact Centre horror stories for good.

For a full audit of the performance of your Contact Centre, or for a general discussion about the content of this article, please contact me by emailing info@franklinhackett.co.uk.

Don’t Listen To Your Customers, Look Into Them – Predicting Customer Needs

Being something of a petrol head, I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the latest version of the infamous MINI hatchback. I have to tell you that my wife and I are massive MINI fans. We have had three different modern MINI models in the last 10 years and we have loved every single one of them. True, they are impractical, noisy, uncomfortable and ultimately a bit conspicuous. But at the same time, they are extremely good fun to drive, infinitely customisable, well made, full of character and utterly iulovable.

So it was something of a surprise to find that I absolutely hated the new version. Being a hard-core MINI fan, you would think I would lap up BMW’s latest offering as though it were manna from heaven. I didn’t.

You see, they fundamentally changed the car. And the reason they changed the car so dramatically was that they listened to their customers.

This may sound counterintuitive, but listening to what your customers tell you is fundamentally a bad idea. Let me explain.

Asking The Customer What They Want = Trouble

When they set out to develop the latest generation of MINI, BMW conducted aggressive market research and customer clinics. They asked customers what they didn’t like about the existing MINI model. Customers came back with plenty of criticisms. The hard suspension, the levels of noise inside the car, the lack of rear space, the lack of boot space, the poor position of some of the switchgear, the centre speedo being slightly pointless, build quality criticisms. The list went on and on.

Now you may assume from this plethora of problems that customers absolutely hated the car. And yet they didn’t. They completely and utterly adored it as if it were a member of the family. The level of loyalty to the MINI brand was astounding. So why were customers reporting all of these problems? Problems that were inherent to the design of the car?

Well, they were just answering the question BMW posed! If you ask somebody what they don’t like about a particular product they will often tell you and they may even come up with a considerable list not dissimilar in length to the one these MINI customers came up with. This however, does not necessarily mean that they dislike the product on the whole.

So, with this laundry list of customer criticisms, BMW set about changing the car to ensure that all of these faults were addressed. This was about as intelligent as attempting to climb the West Pier ruins in Brighton during a force 10 gale. The end result of this obsessive tinkering was a larger car with many of the original unconventional elements that made MINI’s so distinctive taken away and replaced with conventional designs. The unique toggle switch controls on the centre stack for the windows were replaced with ordinary buttons on the doors. The retro central speedo was removed and placed above the steering wheel – a conventional position. The funky fluted leather seats were discarded in favour of larger, less quirky BMW items. The car was made several inches wider and considerably longer in an attempt to create interior space. The suspension was softened to create comfort, at the expense of driving enjoyment. The steering was made lighter, losing the go-kart feel that many owners loved about the previous models.

The new car IS more comfortable, more spacious, quieter and more refined. It has a more logical interior layout. It’s easier to use. It incorporates the latest in gimmicks, sorry, “modern technologies”. It feels and drives like a small BMW. And many of the core customer base, me included, hate the thing.

What BMW failed to understand here, as many other companies also fail to do, was the “give a shit factor”.

The “Give A Shit Factor”

The give a shit factor comes down to one thing. How much do customers really care about the things they criticise? You see, although customers in BMW’s clinics had plenty of criticisms about the MINI, their level of dissatisfaction with these things was relatively low. In short, they weren’t that bothered. In fact in many cases it could be argued that customers actually felt that these things were part of what gave the car the character they so loved. In taking them away and sanitising the product, BMW destroyed the character that made people so loyal to the brand in the first place.

Now at this point you might be thinking what’s the complaint here? BMW asked the customers what they wanted – they listened and made relevant changes. Is that not what we should be doing? Listening to the customer?

The point I want to make is that there is more to satisfying customers needs than just listening to what they say. The difference is understanding their needs. This is significantly more sophisticated.

Customers Don’t Know What They Want

The problem is the customers are rarely able to clearly articulate their needs. If you ask them specific questions, you’ll get specific answers. While this may work in some situations, it is not wholly reliable. Most of the time they tell you what they THINK they want, not what they actually need.

The reason is they don’t understand what they need. Understanding their needs and providing the product or service to meet them is your job, not theirs.

A famous example that demonstrates this is the iPad. If you had asked people in 2010 what they wanted in the device of the future, they would not have described the iPad. In fact when the iPad was launched, Apple came in for significant criticism – “a big iPod Touch”, “no USB drive”, “where’s the keyboard” etc, and yet this device completely changed the entire landscape of computing as we knew it then, leading to the proliferation of tablets and other mobile devices we see today. What made a difference with the iPad was Apple’s inherent understanding of people’s needs. They listened to what people asked for but looked into what they said rather than taking it at face value. This allowed them to anticipate features and design ideas that would give people the results they wanted.

If Apple had listened to what customers said in 2010, they’d have developed something akin to a stylus driven MacBook with the keyboard sliced off. And nobody would have bought the thing.

Looking Into Your Customers

Do you understand your customer’s needs? Can you see further than them, anticipating their requirements and providing the solutions that deliver what they need? Do you understand what they give a shit about and what is really not that relevant to them?

Understanding your customer is about much more than market research and customer clinics. It’s about what they don’t tell you. It’s about the hidden information that holds the secret to unlocking the best solution for them. You can deduce this by looking into them – thinking about what might enhance their life, make things easier, surprise and delight them. To do this you need to 1. gain understanding through insight and 2. care.

Don’t listen to your customers. Look INTO them.

Remember, your job is to anticipate the future and bring it to the customer. That’s what they’re paying you for.

Don’t ask them – they don’t know!

P.S. Don’t let me put you off the MINI – it’s still an excellent car, it’s just… different.

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John Hackett

Managing Director, Franklin-Hackett Ltd.