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Customer EngagementKathleen's Corner

Customer Experience throughout the Enterprise … Proportion and Perspective

Kathleen Peterson

Kathleen Peterson

Perspective – A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something, a point of view
Proportion – Adjust or regulate (something) so that it has a particular or suitable relationship to something else

“Proportion and perspective” is a two-word phrase I picked up recently while engaged in a drawing class. Drawing is something I do to keep my right brain exercised and engaged! It seems that even during drawing activities my left brain sometimes barges in and impacts the process. (As you may know, the right brain governs aesthetics, feelings, and creativity while the left brain focuses on logic, analysis, and accuracy.) So I can’t help but apply “proportion and perspective” to left brain activities as they relate to the Customer Experience and the different views held by varied levels within the enterprise.

These days, executives are all on board with the strategic value of delivering on the “Customer Experience.” The same is true for Contact Center leaders, but the challenge is to actually deliver on that promise. The reality is that without a clear and consistent definition of the desired Customer Experience, the delivery is just a shadow in the mist.

The Customer Experience remains a strategic focus at the executive level. It has become quite clear that the experience drives loyalty, loyalty drives buying, and buying drives profits. This is a good thing! Far too often though, when we ask for a definition of the Customer Experience from either executives at the strategic level or Contact Center leaders at the execution level we are met with a blank stare. The blankness may be because they think it stupid to ask such a question … no one ever asked that before … or they are genuinely confounded.

When the question is answered, the descriptors include weak phrases such as, “We want the Customer Experience to be great,” or “We want to WOW our customers.” These are terribly generic responses; sadly, these responses are heard at all levels. The key to the Customer Experience is to have a robust definition that is riddled with specific elements that can be translated into operational terms and used to fuel and fund the desired outcomes. As well, Contact Center leaders must be able to communicate effectively those elements to the executive level. Accordingly, the Contact Center is well served by understanding the dynamics of “proportion and perspective.”

Customer Experience throughout the EnterpriseWe must also understand that one’s “proportion and perspective” on managing the Customer Experience is impacted by their position within the enterprise. Consider the executive level; while Customer Experience ranks high on the strategic plan, the proportion it occupies in their day-to-day tasks is small. This makes their perspective a kind of “just do it” mentality.

Proportionately speaking, the Customer Experience is huge at the Contact Center leadership level. It is how this focus manifests that is the real differentiator. When the defining elements of the Customer Experience are left un-defined, execution becomes sloppy. It is like shooting into the mist and trying to hit the shadow! Proportion is used to adjust, to regulate, and to establish a “suitable” relationship … in this case to the Customer Experience. When definitions are unavailable or unclear, alternative regulators will be identified; in the Contact Center that typically means metrics.

When a clear definition of the Customer Experience is lacking it becomes difficult at best to execute on or manage to the promise. Sadly, the default focus then shifts to metrics monitoring. Having established a comfort zone with a metric model that yields success, Contact Center leaders continue to gather data on how many, how long, and how many yes’s there are on the quality form. I am not advocating against metrics. But if management spends a significant proportion of time gathering, organizing, and calculating scorecard data that is how they will lead and how they will define their perspective.

Many a Contact Center leader has been effective in “managing” up by using metric scorecards to illustrate the Center’s performance. To a certain extent, this aligns the executive perspective of “just do it” with a set of metric criteria that everyone has tacitly agreed to being representative of excellence in delivering on the Customer Experience promise. This is interesting since in most of these situations the Customer Experience promise has NEVER been properly defined. How can we measure against something that is undefined?

An additional challenge is that metrics are often “manipulated” to meet the desired target. This further diminishes the value of the exercise and sets the executive perspective of the Contact Center to be that of a factory-like operation … hence a “Cost Center.” This is a difficult perspective to alter once your operation is perceived more back-office than strategic.

So how can you use “proportion and perspective” to make a point to the executive level? First, you must understand fully that executive and Contact Center leadership positions force a distinct difference in “proportion and perspective” when it comes to the Customer Experience.

As stated earlier, proportionately speaking executives have more on their plate than the Customer Experience. Their perspective is that it has been handed off to responsible parties that will perform due diligence. And since no one asks, “Hey what do you mean by the experience?” they have no reason to believe there is a problem until there is some kind of meltdown (e.g., a social media bashing, massive turnover, or loss of revenue). Sadly, once the fallout reaches the executive level, “proportion and perspective” change significantly … and not usually in a good way when it comes to the Contact Center.

Contact Center leaders have ample opportunity to manage the executive view of what it takes to execute on the Customer Experience. It is your job to take the “proportion and perspective” you have of the Customer Experience requirements and translate those to the executive level … on their terms. It doesn’t often happen the other way around, and if it does you may not like it very much.

What to do? Begin! Create an initiative to enter the next year armed with a clear understanding of your company’s vision, mission, and brand. Imagine these as the pillars of your purpose. Next, look for Customer Experience promises being made by Marketing and other departments. Imagine a scavenger hunt for these elements. Have your teams of agents take 30 minutes to search the web, your web site, your annual report (etc.) to come up with as much information as possible. This can actually be fun!

Now organize the information gathered on who and what your company is in the marketplace, the promises made, and the objectives defined. Your best bet is a cool graphic of some kind; you are likely surrounded by many gifted and talented artists and creative (right-brain) souls desperate for an opportunity to contribute in a new way.

Once this information is gathered and organized, ask the question, “What behaviors, systems, processes, training, management, and reporting support our objectives?” If the promise is to make each customer/caller feel a sense of welcome and recognition, map out what that means. Align all the elements necessary to deliver on this promise. I am not suggesting that this is an “easy” or “quick” task; what it is, is a value task. It is a value task that provides the Contact Center with a tool to manage perspective and to illustrate the contributing factors to delivering on the Customer Experience. It also offers a means to recognizing what the CSR controls and what management controls.

This exercise must extend to all elements of the Customer Experience and must even broaden to encompass coaching and measurement initiatives. When coaches coach to metrics, it is a bore! When you coach to something that is bigger and more significant, it changes the proportion of that “element” and hence the perspective at execution.

Too many folks are sleep walking through their professional life … maybe this will help to wake them up a bit. This means making the leap from a Quality Monitor form that looks to have a CSR “use the caller’s name” to one that “uses the caller’s name” to deepen the relationship, build the brand, and further the vision. Now that is a wakeup call!

Consider the power of identifying, clarifying, and mapping out the elements of the Customer Experience. What a gift it is to engage those reporting to you and those to whom you report. I would like to hear your perspective on this and the proportion to which it may impact your career! And remember to keep exercising BOTH your right and left brain!

– Reprinted with permission from PowerHouse Consulting, Inc., www.powerhouse1.com


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