What Digital Customer Engagement Really Demands

March 28, 2014

We are currently in the era of digital disruption. It is comparable to other great periods of social transformation, such as the Industrial Revolution and prior to that, the emancipation of knowledge catalysed by the printing press.

In each period, the status quo was blown out of the water and a new order established.

Once In A Lifetime

In today’s version, it is the ongoing integration of technologies that is tipping the balance and causing a changing of the guard. And as with all truly impactful transformations it affects all. In our case that includes brand and customer, brand and employee, B2C and B2B. Across every type of market, public or private and every geography.

Put simply, a digital world changes the way we work and live. It compresses, accelerates and scales how events take place. It enriches, connects and enables entirely new ways of doing things. Running through the centre of any of these new scenarios are the themes of connectivity and real time information.

For sure BYOD (bring your own device) is extra complexity and an unwelcome new reality for CIOs to manage. But it reflects the fact that the world can now carry the world in its pocket. This mass consumer empowerment was perfectly channelled during the Jobs era of Apple domination catalysing the world wide distribution of post pc technology.

Others have now caught up and both smartphones and tablets are currently in the classic phase of getting cheaper and better over ever shortening cycles of intensive competition. The connected customer has arrived. Hence we now have a world of omni-channel retailing, social customer service, multi- device ownership, showrooming and real time personalisation.

And that’s before our cars and white goods start checking themselves in for a service before we even recognise the symptoms.

New Behaviours: New Responses

The new generation of customer is autonomous and expects brands to support that behaviour.

Much digital ink has already been spilt exploring other associated changes in consumer behaviour. We know that brand trust has declined. Instead we favour the views of family, friends and authentic online reviews.

We know that reliance on brands for information has equally weakened. Customers help other customers across the lifecycle. From awareness to support. In some respects the brand now acts as tier 3 support. Involved only when it gets complicated.

In response, brands are redefining their value from simple information gatekeepers to entertainers, impresarios, experience generators and custodians of knowing what switches your lights on. They need to in order to stay relevant.

Just go visit any recently refurbished flagship stores to witness this change of emphasis first hand. Think about what Angela Ahrendts meant when she said that there is no distinction between offline and online. Her stores mirror the design of Burberry’s online properties.

One of the best places to test the zeitgeist is Linkedin nomenclature. A few years ago there were many plenty proud enough to describe themselves as ‘Customer Service’ Directors. Today they are a diminishing breed. All hail the ‘Customer Experience’ Director instead. Whether cosmetic or catalytic, they way we name ourselves reflect the changing emphasis in what matters to business and personal success.

This buying behaviour and corresponding new style courtship from brands is not a pure retail phenomena. Far from it. B2B is impacted just as radically. Although the purchase process appears more objective and formal with all the RFIs and RFPs flying around, the behavioural economics insight that we are basically irrational in our decision making holds true. People buy from people. That’s why so much golf still gets played in B2B!

But certain buye [...]

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Performance and Quality – Core To Ongoing Customer Service Innovation

March 25, 2014

The P&Q challenge is a global first. It remains a unique experiment in sustained collaboration for the customer service industry. Unlike conferences or training programmes which are typically run over a few days at most, this programme provides a six month window for sustained planning and learning.

The result is that organisations are able to upgrade complex ecosystems such as quality and performance management in an effective transformational context. This compares with the usual tactical tinkering around ecosystem elements such as an evaluation form or a new coaching module. Instead P&Q has nurtured strategic thinking in people whose daily operational pressures seldom allow for reflection and creative debate.

The results have shown just how important this type of event is in order to help the customer service industry rise to the opportunities now engulfing it. While the rhetoric of customer experience infused with digital, social and mobile behaviours paints a brave new world that everyone wants to embrace, in reality the last 30 years of strategic neglect cannot be sidestepped overnight.

Fragmentation abounds. Point solutions still hold sway. For many, investment decisions remain conservative and probably the leadership required to fast track customer service towards a digital future is not always in place. But needs must and ways through are being found by the most enterprising and ambitious in the industry.

Indeed these are the ones who have found themselves on the P&Q challenge. They have been fast to acknowledge that the traditional mindset and practices are outmoded. Equally, they have been quick to get on board as pioneers. And are also keen to get their organisations ahead of the competitive pack. After all, what is more central to the mission of ‘customer service as a differentiator’ than the twin focus of quality and performance?

Who Is Involved?

As someone with 30 years under his belt, I’m always on the lookout for a way to further the customer service industry’s strategic agenda. In a previous lifetime, I’d facilitated 5 years of best practice forums for a contact centre SI. One of the all time favourite topics was Performance and Quality. Always a full house, the discussions covered familiar ground. The frustrations of manual sampling. The relationship between quality coaches and team leaders. The techniques for calibration.

It struck me how poorly those who told their stories were being served by the vendors. Little if any educational support. Same old templates. No leadership to advance the art of the possible. These, plus an unhealthy obedience to regulatory definitions of quality, left everyone working in a low yield, high effort context.

A little later I had a chance to design a complete performance management coaching manual for a work colleague who was delivering some transformational training on attitude and needed some ‘method’ to supplement the pure experiences he was generating. 120 pages later I’d laid out the challenges of supporting ‘underperformance’ and ‘celebrating success’ as best I could.

These were my credentials for facilitating the first three cohorts who have so far gone through the P&Q challenge.

Of course none of this would have happened without funding. For that, the industry has to thank a couple of far sighted executives in the speech analytics industry. Jonathan Wax and Jon Ezrine set themselves the task of associating their brand Nexidia with becoming long term educators around the transformational power of speech analytics. Or to be more accurate in a [...]

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