4 Paradigm Shifts for Customer Experience Management in the Contact Center

Updated: January 01, 2012

4 Paradigm Shifts for Customer Experience Management in the Contact Center

Paradigm #1: Context of the Customer's Entire Journey

Studies by TARP Worldwide, a customer experience agency, reveal the root causes of all customer dissatisfaction and contact to companies is:

  • 20-30% due to customers' wrong expectations or customer errors
  • 20% due to employees' failure to follow policy or inappropriate attitudes, and
  • 40-60% due to broader issues throughout the company … such as products and services which don't meet expectations, marketing mis-communications, and broken processes.

Yet customer experience programs sometimes focus primarily on touchpoints. Contact centers often play a pivotal role in most of the customer touchpoints that we typically identify - from inquiries on the web to order fulfillment, potentially problem resolution, cross-selling and community. These are customer touchpoints from the company's perspective.

A careful analysis of the customer experience from the customer's perspective reveals numerous additional steps, beyond touchpoints, that influence a customer's perception of great or poor customer experience. The first paradigm shift is to define your company's solution as a means-to-an-end for the desired outcomes that customers actually buy.

To master customer experience management, it's essential to understand the circumstances that drive need awareness, integration with other solutions, and customers' adaptation, expansion and eventual disposal of the solution.

Paradigm #2: A Window to the Customer Experience

The second paradigm shift is to view your company's Service function as a window to the customer experience. The contact center is an excellent tool for improving customer experience - not only when customers contact you - but also across the entire customer experience spectrum. First, analyze contact center data to paint a clear picture for the reasons why customers contact you. Second, there are many opportunities to close the loop with customers, either individually or collectively, by letting them know what kinds of issue resolution you've achieved. And third, focus on customers' desired outcomes by eliminating waste, simplifying complexities, automating routine activities, leveraging growth opportunities, and improving all aspects of your solutions.

Whirlpool Corporation is a great example of transforming its contact center to a customer experience center - which they call cXc. After a merger in 2006, they focused on employee engagement within the contact center, emphasizing that true engagement happens one associate at a time, through random acts of kindness. 2007 was their Year of Process, focusing on process documentation, comparing best practices, lean work flows, and integration. 2008 was their Year of Technology, leveraging IVR, text and voice data-mining, implementing best practices, and integration. And 2009 was their Year of Quality, building infrastructure and best-in-class performance by skills and brand.

Whirlpool achieved 10% savings each year, along with these business benefits:

- Management used to view the contact center as a cost center and necessary evil … but now views it as a profit center and competitive advantage.

- Incentives were solely on efficiency and cost containment … and now they include customer retention, customer satisfaction and revenue growth.

- Agents were low skilled, with 30-50% annual turnover, and now there are some highly skilled agents and a career path that is a source of management talent, with lower attrition.

- There used to be fragmented customer information, and little or no analytical capability … but now Whirlpool actively mines customer data to identify trends and valuable findings for management across the company.

- Reporting was focused on calls and queue performance, but now a broader set of customers and segment-focused metrics are used.

- Technology silos have been replaced with an integrated multi-channel IT landscape.

Paradigm #3: Re-Frame Value

The 3rd paradigm shift for generating a goldmine from your contact center is to re-frame contact center roles by comparing values and irritants. From the customer's point of view …

Paradigm #4: Leverage Contact Center Data

The 4th paradigm shift is to define value the way customers define it. The cost-benefit trade-off exists everywhere, and from the customers' perspective, value includes products, services, personnel and images, while costs include money, time, energy, and worry. Throughout the customer experience spectrum from need awareness through need extinction, customers have numerous measures of functional, social and personal desired outcomes. We can quantify the cost-benefit tradeoffs for customers as a value quotient, a ratio of desired outcomes to undesired outcomes. For each outcome, the customer's choice of possible solutions can be plotted to gain a more accurate reading of customer experience. This can allow more proactive customer experience management and innovation.

Contact centers can sometimes derail business results by over-focusing on cost reduction, revenue generation, or customer experience. Over-focus on customer experience limits revenue and increases costs; over-focus on cost reduction limits revenue and weakens customer experience; and over-focus on revenue leads to poor customer experience and higher costs. Ideally, contact center metrics will translate customer expectations to tactical execution, balancing these 3 goals.

Cisco's director of its award-winning customer intelligence center, Theresa Kushner, said" More companies are getting to the point of putting the customer at the central part of their data collection systems, and managing from the outside-in. That's when you know you're working to optimize the customer experience."

Remember that the company's solution is a means-to-an-end toward the customers' desired outcome? We easily think of the firm's solution as the product, service and business model that the customer buys. Additionally, the solution includes conveniences such as availability by place, time, form, and so forth … and affinities such as brand symbolism, status, philanthropy, and other brand expectations. And don't under-estimate the impact of policies, processes and culture on your firm's solution --- all impacting the customer's desired outcomes.

It's been said that goodwill or adjusting a policy has a small dollar cost and time cost, relative to a Better Business Bureau claim which runs 16X in dollar cost, and 6X in time. A small claims lawsuit runs 27X in dollar cost and 12X in time. Whirlpool finds that more than half of customer escalations to top management are about policy, such as out-of-warranty repair, parts and exchanges. 20% are product failures … only 3% are cases where agents didn't follow processes or policies.

The contact center is traditionally viewed as the culminating touchpoint after engineering, manufacturing, and/or retail functions have completed their work. The contact center can greatly expand its impact on the company as a whole by mining customer call logs and streaming relevant data enterprise-wide. Through change management, the contact center can influence not only services, but also products, …

Contact center data is largely under-valued. Whereas formal survey data centers around customer satisfaction enablers that the company has defined for tracking customer sentiment, contact center data is customer-generated … as such, it revolves around the customer's world, and is potentially more pure and useful for innovating products, services, business models, processes, policies and so forth. For a panoramic view of the customer experience stream relevant integrated data from sales and service reports, complaint logs, the CRM database, the blogosphere and social media, win-loss reports and formal surveys.

We typically think of customer-facing organizations as the primary recipients of customer feedback. Yet all other functions can and should understand their impact on the customer experience. Stream relevant data to each organization, to make customer experience management part of each employees' job description.

Virgin Mobile has a useful approach for acting on its formal contact center survey. They use a 5-point scale, and pay particular attention to the top-2 box (ratings of 4-5) and bottom-2 box (ratings of 1-2), with an emphasis on the latter. They formed a customer advisory group which looks at surveys with bottom-2 box ratings hour by hour, to identify what went wrong and turn the wrong and turn the wrong into a right. They categorize feedback by contact center skill issues and business operations issues. They also call customers to acknowledge issues when a poor rating is given … people are surprised and pleased with the personal attention and commitment to resolution. Dennis Weikle, VP of Customer Care, says: "We are customer champions across the business groups - we try in everything we do to anticipate the impact on the customer. Over the past year we saw the percentage of bottom box ratings shrink in half."

To manage customer experience enterprise-wide, stakeholder management is essential. A stakeholder is anyone who is directly affected by a change, has something to gain or lose, has information or ideas useful to success of the change.

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