What can we learn from the award winners?
In the year of the London Olympics, the gold medals for Customer Experience were handed out at the UK Customer Experience Awards on Friday 21st September.

Here, one of the judges, Paul Weald, Strategy Director of ProtoCall One, gives us his insight into the seven golden steps that you could take to improve your own Customer Experience.

Introduction
For the past 6 years I have had the privilege of judging some of the best annual Contact Centre Industry Awards, which has given me a unique perspective on what ‘good’ looks like across leading UK organisations. Every year the standard of entry has increased, with new innovations and success being demonstrated.

Customer Experience has always had a role to play in the best submissions – with an equally strong dose of passion, management magic and staff that always demonstrate a desire to do the right thing for customers.

This year I judged the UK Customer Experience Awards. A unique one day event, where in each category six short listed finalists present to a judging panel of four in the morning and then after a quick count of the scores, the awards are presented that afternoon at a Gala Lunch.

My category was Best Large Contact Centre, and the winners were Lebara. They demonstrated that a memorable customer experience is best created when an agent achieves an emotional connection with a customer. Building upon the core psychology of communication “it is not what you say, it is how you say it”, they translated their vision to ‘make lives better’ into a powerful operational culture that reinforces this emotional connection with customers

Reflecting on the day and where our industry is now in terms of the roadmap for Great Customer Experience, I have defined a seven step checklist that you can use to plot your own course towards becoming an award winner.

 

Seven golden steps
The first step is to create a framework to measure the business results of investing in Customer Experience.

For an award winner such as Lebara, this was much more than just using the typical operational measures such as First Time Resolution and Net Promoter scores. Within their mobile sector, reducing customer churn is the Critical Success Factor and so Lebara measures the churn rate for all customers who contact their operation versus the equivalent churn rate for those customers that purely self-serve. In this way they can demonstrate the positive ROI that their Customer Service operation provides in protecting future customer revenues in a highly competitive mobile telephony market.

In terms of creating the road map for customer excellence, it is vital to bring to life the different types of customers who deal with your contact centre operation. If your staff are really going to understand customer needs and wants, then they need to do that consistently – day in, and day out.

Lebara has created a mnemonic SMILE which stands for being Supportive; creating Moments of connection; treating people as Individuals; having a sense of fun and Laughter and having customer Empathy.

Why go to the trouble of understanding customer personalities as well as needs? You do this because memorable customer experience is best created when an agent achieves an emotional connection with a customer.

As a judge, that was the key difference for me this year between Lebara and the other category finalists.

So how do you know the impact that your operation is having on customer experience? In order to measure it, you need to capture customer feedback, ideally in real time. Post interaction surveys can be delivered using a variety of automated tools via text message, email and post call IVR surveys, and you can even make outbound calls to a sample of customers to gain more insightful feedback.

It is also important to be able to tie that customer feedback back to a particular agent transaction. That means every team member in your operation knows the difference that they are making to the outcome that customers really want.

Building upon the previous steps, you now know what customers think about the quality of service that your operation is providing. The next step is to be able to pinpoint the training needs for each individual member of your team. Many operations are already using call and email assessments to check the quality of interactions, implementing a full quality framework takes this one step further by scheduling and tracking agent development activities through a variety of coaching, eLearning and group training methods.

You will also recognise that creating a great customer experience is dependent on having great staff. Most organisations have an annual survey process whereby they capture the mood of staff, how engaged they are towards the operation and its ability to deliver exceptional customer service. But what happens in the intervening 11 months between survey periods?

This is where social media has a role to play within the contact centre, using tools such as Yammer to allow staff to share ideas and for managers to ‘take the temperature’ of how staff are feeling – right here, right now. Many staff are already familiar with using Facebook within their own personal friendship groups, and Yammer uses similar tools in a closed user group business environment.

To help gain that employee engagement, it is vital to have a clear customer orientated vision that you can communicate with your staff. The easiest way to define this vision is to create a set of statements that act as guiding principles for your organisation that drive the behaviours of your staff. The acid test of customer centricity is that every member of your team should know these statements “off by heart” because, they are embedded into every training, monitoring and development task they do.

Conclusion
Just like the decision to invest in athletes training for the London 2012 Olympics, judging this year’s UK Customer Experience Awards demonstrated to me the value that investing in a great customer experience programme can have on the future success of the business.

How you approach applying the seven golden steps will vary between organisations as will the stage of your journey towards Customer Experience excellence. You need to decide for yourself what works best for your own customers and for your own culture.

To help you plot your path to success, you can download the following white paper multi-channel communications to find out how to bring to life these seven golden steps for your organisation.


About the Author:

Paul is a contact centre specialist with 15 years of business consultancy experience covering all aspects of people, process, technology and Customer Experience. He has been a call centre industry awards judge since 2007.
As Strategy Director within Protocall One, he brings a strong focus on helping clients to achieve excellence through the application of innovative technology solutions.

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