Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Scripts, the Death of the Call Center: 3 Tips to Get Back to Human

We’ve all been there. You have a simple question that needs a human answer. You grit your teeth and dial the 1-800 number. You finally get a human being from a company’s call center and the next thing you know you’re giving lines of lead qualifying information and banging your head against a wall as the person on the other end of the phone reads a teleprompter script leading you both down a pre-determined decision tree that has nothing to do with your question (re: Comcast now infamous blunder).

Humans seek human interactions. The death of the call center is because we aren’t allowing our sales people to have a personality. With so many CRM (customer relationship management) tools that automate, score, segment and predict interaction, we’ve forgotten the biggest asset of a contact center… a human.

Three important tips I’ve learned working in, leading and collaborating with contact centers:
  1. No scripts. Pivot to a consultative selling outline to include an objective, open ended questions list and QA (quality assurance) check list.
  2. Never use personas. Personas can ruin a sales interaction quickly by creating a stereotype before the open ended questions begin. Remember: assumptions = make an ass out of you and me. Personas are for marketing mix and creative optimization, not for sales or customer service teams.
  3. Give your people 100% control of the customer experience on every contact. As Tony Hsieh exemplified in the Zappos model, lead with a white glove experience mantra. That means let your sales and service team make customers happy. Cut out beurocracy and complicated management approvals and transfers. This is the only way to drive loyalty and word of mouth.
Time to go back to using good ol’ common sense. Personality wins every time. And that personality is human connection. No script.

Follow my blog @ whatyoudotodayisimportant.com or on Twitter @tnewco

Thursday, May 14, 2015

100% Response Rate: Why Automation Will Never Replace a Human Touch

I mandate a 100% human response rate to our customer’s questions and complaints. This is across all digital properties and includes: social, email, blog and review sites.

Maybe it’s my Midwestern upbringing where I learned to write hand written thank you cards from the age of five. Or maybe it’s because the power of a human interaction will win every time.

Think about your most recent purchase – one delightful and one disgruntled. What separates the delightful from the disgruntled is a human. A human that chose to connect on a personal level. A human that chose to go off script. A human that chose to use common sense. A human that chose to admit the mistake.

Companies that are winning, big or small, empower humans to interact with their customers. A recent study found the telephone is the preferred method for 88 percent of people seeking to resolve customer service issues, suggesting that real-life interactions are still paramount to customer satisfaction.

We maintain our 100% human response rate by using a three step triage approach. The medium varies from a digital post to a phone call to an email to snail mail.
  1. Our social team handles most of our customer’s questions.
  2. If a question needs a more technical answer, we pull in and introduce our scientific medical team.
  3. Any complaint gets a personal touch by our CEO. And as important, advocates get a personal touch by our CEO.
The most important part of being human is to admit a mistake. It’s actually quite simple. And it’s one of the things most companies miss. I am delighted every time my Starbuck’s barista gives me a free drink coupon. And 99% of the time, I’m not expecting it. Starbuck’s knows getting your order right and quickly is a premium. They've empowered their employees to ensure customers know this is their priority. I don’t go to Starbucks for the quality of their coffee. I go to Starbucks for the consistency. The consistency of product and baristas.

As companies scale, they replace human with automation. The mistake is not automation. The mistake is not putting a human in charge of deciding when to automate. There is no human behavior that can be predicted by an algorithm. Invest in the headcount that will tell the machine what to do. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

8 Hours of Sleep: The Key to Leading in Life and Management

Arianna Huffington (@ariannahuff) impressed and inspired me the moment she walked on stage at the 2015 Marketo conference keynote three weeks ago.

‘Having it all’ found her in a pool of her own blood as her cheek bone hit the corner of her desk when she fainted from exhaustion. This moment led her on a journey to discover that having it all isn’t being proud of 24/7 availability and boasting about only sleeping 4 hours a night.

Having it all means 8 hours of sleep! This was one of those hand to forehead, Homer Simpson d’oh moments. Think about it. Every time I get a straight eight, I’m unstoppable. I make better decisions. I work out. I am more patient. Loving. Creative.

Which leads me to another great quote from Arianna’s keynote – “Nothing kills creative more than stress!”

And what’s more stressful than moving from meeting to meeting from 8am to 6pm? No breaks. Your in box keeps growing. A question for us all. Are we ever really present?

Arianna challenged us all to be present in our lives. From work to home to a simple walk to the coffee shop. To be present means you listen and you notice. You engage.

That led me to immediately change my meeting rules. No devices. Paper only. If you can’t be present, don’t accept the meeting.

That also meant I had to take a hard look at my engagement at home. “Mommy, why do you always type on that computer?” “Mommy, stop looking at your phone! Look at me!” Guilty.

Now my phone goes on vibrate when I walk in the door. I turned on the ‘do not disturb’ function from 9pm to 6am. And my status update is a conversation looking eyeball to eyeball with my husband… not my Facebook ‘friends.’

So far I still have a great career. I haven’t missed a deadline. My oldest daughter has stopped asking me to be a stay at home mom. And my daily trips to Starbucks have decreased from 3 to 1 a week.

Off to get my 8 hours… zzz.  

p.s. Arianna aims to change the zeitgeist of present day always on business culture. Her four pillars to having it all in life: Wellness. Wisdom. Wonder. Giving. If you’re inspired, read her book Thrive