For me, coming from a Contact Center background, Customer Experience Management (CEM) is about understanding the experience of a customer that triggers the contact. CEM is about teaching your people that have daily contacts with Customers to seek that understanding. CEM is about using that understanding to make changes to the way the company works and interacts with its customers. With the objective to take away the negative customer experience or, if this is not possible because you cannot influence the experience, pave the way for bringing in a positive one.
CEM is about taking it back to where it all starts: The Customer places a Call.….And ask yourself: WHY?
The answer to this small question will not be easily found within most companies. Simply because most of the systems and processes have been designed around internal processes and other system/department limitations or interests. Typical Contact Registration codes are at best focused on the question of the customer and more likely on internal department-names / company or industry specific vocabulary and processes. (Could this be also the reason why CSR’s/ agents tend to log poorly on the reasons they get to choose from and put all the valuable information in the "open remark-field"?)
The WHY-question is also hard to answer by listening to or capturing the question of the customer. The WHY question is about emotion, the event or non-existing event, the trigger, before the question arises. The WHY question is about the Experience of the Customer that results in a question, request or complaint. To avoid confusion: The WHY-question is not the same as the Root-cause. Root-cause is about seeking answers. The WHY-question is about seeking understanding.
HOW do I understand WHY?
Understanding the WHY is not a case of implementing a new system. Understanding WHY is about a mental change: your job is not to answer a question or process customer requests (transaction based / reactive approach), your job is about understanding customer behaviour in reaction to experiences that result in contacting Customer Services (value based / proactive approach; don’t forget to answer the question or request in the most effective and efficient way possible though ;-). Since most Contact Center Managers have a practical nature here are some practical things you could DO to start understanding WHY today.
Set-up and teach a structured conversation-pattern aimed to answer the WHY-question first
We all teach our CSR’s/agents to follow a conversation pattern in general and more speciffically to start a conversation with a proper introduction and the question: what can I do for you / how can I be of service etc.. Why not start with the question (or be it the first follow-up question): May I ask you why you are contacting us? or: what is the reason behind your question? This line of questioning is also more effective because the agent/CSR is actually directly driving to the analysis-phase with a clear understanding of WHY the customer took the effort to place a call. This will aid significantly in finding the right solution/answer/offer for the Customer. The CSR/agent is now also in a much better position to show true empathy.
Start logging the answers to the WHY-question before your CSR/agent can go into the analysis phase of the conversation
Logging of the answers to the WHY-question is an important step that should enable you to analyse in detail and makes it possible to establish (cor)relations between the questions and WHY people are contacting you (as well as with other metrics you can derive or obtain). Most systems used in contact center will ask the CSR/agent for logging after the call. Because of its importance do not ask your CSR’s to log after the call in time they always get pushed out of to be available for the next call; start logging when the question is asked (this will also enhance usage of a good structure in the call), even with open non-structured forms, that are more difficult to analyse. Analysing this information will provide you with a good first step in understanding WHY.
Seek another source to confirm your findings of the WHY-question analysis
It’s important not to rely on one source of understanding. Having a starting point will help you get more out of other methodologies that are available: i.e. (customer satisfaction) surveys, customer focus groups and alike. Of course your line of questioning in surveying or focus group discussions should have the same goal (understand the customer experience behind the contact). Simply asking for a score on a scale of 5 or 10 will not suffice.
Also think about the sample of customers that you use for surveying. For traditional satisfaction surveys you will take an ad random significant sample size of your customer base (that has contacted the Contact Center). For the goal of understanding WHY it is best to identify and focus your selection also on other parameters, like there are: Customer with repeat traffic, customers with specific product-combinations etc. Analyse the results of the surveys, but also from contact registration, for these different customer groups. The more and deeper you try to understand your customer’s contact drivers the better.
But: Dont’get lost in your analysis: stay focussed on the big chunks of traffic and the dominant dissatisfiers first. Once you have attacked these, new ones will come into sight if you continue on this path.
Last but not least: complete the feedback-loop
With your CSR’s/agents daily on the phone with your customers, your forecasting specialist trying to find out how much traffic they can expect (*see a small remark on this at the bottom of this blog) and your training/quality department aiming to increase agent knowledge and skills, make a real effort keeping all of them into the loop with your thinking and the results of your analysis. Share your obtained understanding, ask for their feedback (do they recognize the pattern of behaviour) and ask for their ideas to positively influence the Customer Experience right where it starts.
Sharing knowledge is not only about sharing the answers, it’s about sharing the understanding too!
*The knowledge and daily work of forecasting specialists tends to focus on the 15 % to 25 % of volume that sticks out on top of what they call “base-line”. For planning purposes that’s good enough, for understanding purposes you need to know what the other 75 % to 85 % is about and what customer experience drives this. Most of the time your forecasting specialist actually do have a good idea around this. They just don’t use the knowledge, because it is irrelevant for their goal. Bottom line: leave nobody out of your WHY-question-quest.
Good reads CEM and CCC: