Leading expert Peter Massey sets the record straight on customer service, contact centres and customer experience.
"How do we stop doing dumb things to our customers and our people?" - that's the mantra of Peter Massey, one of the leading figures in the world of customer service and experience. For the last 10 years, Massey's work has focused on reducing customer effort, exploring why companies cause customers to contact them at all and how to optimise customer experiences.
A serial entrepreneur, Peter is a co-founder of Limebridge
- a global alliance of customer management experts – and also Budd
(the focus of which is implementing ‘the best service is no service’
processes), and also facilitates a group of leading customer & people experience professionals in the Chief Customer Officer Forum.
Here, Massey speaks with MyCustomer.com about some of the issues facing customer service departments, contact centres and businesses at large when it comes to the customer experience.
1. We can’t keep up with the latest leading-edge ideas
"When you look at the companies that are extremely good in customer experience, they are relentless on their basics. The difficulty sometimes is that people think the whole customer experience movement is going to be changed by some fancy ideas. But it’s not the fancy ideas. It is the basic operational skills, the people engagement, the how-to-run-a-business skills which are really important in the businesses that are good at customer experience. It is about relentless focus on people and customer and leaders who are good at running businesses. It is a journey and it is never ending."
2. Our agents are too busy resolving customer issues to be empowered
"A really good agent doing a really good resolution is not enough anymore.The next wave is about them being inquisitive and being part of the intelligence into the business. People think of call centres as a big queue, then a numpty on the other end of the phone who can’t resolve your problem. Therefore it is assumed that good service must be when the call is answered quickly by someone sensible who can resolve the problem. But actually, what good service is today is that you get through to somebody quickly, they are knowledgeable, they answer the query and then try to find out why the customer had the problem to stop it happening to other customers.
"Employees must be encouraged to be inquisitive, making it part of their job, rather than just providing a quick fix. We spend a lot of time with organisations, putting in a myriad of processes that extract what frontline staff know and what they can find out by being inquisitive that can then be taken into the organisation through a structured process and used to drive opportunities and drive out unnecessary customer effort.
"And you get a double whammy on engagement because the agent feels empowered – they feel they can do something rather than just taking call to call – and the customer can detect the difference in the conversation, which feels different because they are being asked why things happen and what can be done about it. And as a business, managers have got a terrifically rich source of information for driving change in the customers’ interest."
3. New channels have made handling the multichannel experience impossible
"Multichannel is as old as the hills, it’s not a new problem, there are just a few extra channels in there. You just have to think through the commonsense of the conversation with the customer. At the end of the day, good service is about a good conversation - if you have to do it all. I’d rather not have the conversation but if I’m going to have it, it is going to be a good conversation. And that conversation could travel – I’ll go on a website first of all, I’ll do my research, I’ll look at the list of colours or whatever it might be, and then I might place the order through the website, I might have an email query, I might have an email query back and if it has a link I might go back to the site and complete the transaction, if it hasn’t got the link in it I might pick up the phone and ring you up, if you want to keep me on the site I might use web chat or picking the phone up, then I’ll complete the transaction after the web chat rather than going from one channel to another.... so it’s just thinking through the journey that the customer takes and thinking what is the objective.
"Our key focus in ‘best service is no service’ is to remove customer effort, so you optimise the journey crosschannel to minimise customer effort. The second thing is you are probably trying to optimise the customer’s buying journey. So if you optimise customer effort and you optimise leakage then that is going to give you the best results. And those two things nearly always collide – if you make it really easy on the customer then they will buy more."
4. Crowdservice is too complicated an undertaking for our organisation
"A community or forum is the natural place to go to get your answers as a customer and as a provider. And if we can put the right answers into those forums we can help many customers at once rather than one at a time. So it is very close to the call centre industry. But a lot of organisations are blind to it.
"It’s not that hard. Think of it as two different applications. The first one is where you run a forum, and then you have to think about where the contact centre agent gets their answer from in the first place – a knowledgebase of some kind. So you put that knowledgebase online and let customers access it themselves. If they don’t get the answer they go into a community site and they ask questions. They could get the answer directly from another customer or an agent can go in there and help them find the answer or give them the answer. It is not that complicated.
"Where it falls down is that if the knowledge base in the first place was no good for the agent or the website then it is not going to be any better for the community. A lot of this thing comes down to knowledge sharing – the critical skill missing in a lot of organisations is how knowledge sharing works and how knowledge publishing works, observing what information is being used to create solutions for customers, wherever it comes from. For instance, if I observe some conversations going on in the Apple support community I can see the topic streams and how many people are asking questions about certain things so you can pick up a big stream, you can find in there one of the answers and then you can establish that if so many people are having to look in that community for that answer then it must be that the FAQs don’t address it. So then you reposition that in your FAQs and make sure that your answer is much higher up. Then the number of people going into the community because they couldn’t find it in your FAQs should go down. So you watch customers talking to eachother and react to it."
5. We can’t compete with organisations that can afford to invest in the latest IT
"The human agent on the end of the computer is an integrator in themselves, so if they have got a Tweetdeck window open and a knowledgebase window open and a main transactional window open, it doesn’t prevent them from taking information in their head and working with it and using it in another screen. At one level, people can do a lot if you just give them some of the free tools that are out there. At the next level, the workflow could be quite cumbersome if you’re not careful.
"So there are tools out there again, and again some of our clients are just sitting alongside people handling calls, emails, web chats, they are doing that through the same application, the MI (management information) is built, people are doing that. There is kit out there to do it. For a lot of people it is about ensuring they are clear about what they are trying to do with all of this stuff before they start playing with the tools. Because there are plenty of tools on the hosted model which are very affordable and don’t necessarily require the same degree of heartache as they did."
6. We can’t train everybody in the company about social media; it is expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary
"Contact centres have got to deal with social media more, be that communities or voice of the customer, which is the reading of social media in the knowledge sharing sense and feeding that back into the improvement loops. All of that means that the staff and the management have got to get competent at using Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, etc. Many of the staff already are – but not all of the management. And the management doesn’t just mean the contact centre management, but the management in the business more broadly.
"What is interesting is in organisations we have seen start their social media work by making everybody play with it, is that they find uses for it and start to understand it better, and then you see a difference in the culture. It changes things. People start being able to tweet people directly. They see what people are talking about more directly. And that starts to change the relationship between different levels in the hierarchy or people in the management versus the frontline. It changes quite a lot of the culture. So you could be in a very good place and be in a position to do social business well. But what is more likely to occur in the next five years is that more businesses will pick up and genuinely start to use social media tools and as a result the culture of their business will become better."