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Posts from June 2010

Want Better Coaching? Send Your Sups on Vacation

Posted on  29 June 10  by 


I just returned from a vacation at the beach, and even though I had grand plans for my days away from the office (reading a good book, catching a summer action movie with my wife) I found myself doing something that I wish I did more: observing my 5- & 3-year old children.

Too often I find myself involved in activities with my children where I’m just too close to the action, but this past week I was able to just sit back and watch.  And there were some terrific learnings.  For instance, my 5-year old is fearless and she’s a leader.  She has no problem walking up to children and opening the conversation with a zippy statement, like: “I’m 5 years old & I’ve lost 2 teeth.  How many have you lost?”

Also, I learned that my 3-year old is a bit more reserved, but she has an innate sense of humor with a penchant for one-liners & comedic timing that would make the cast of Second City envious.  Like when she told her 13-year old cousin to “Lock it up” because he wouldn’t stop talking.

And I learned these little insights from just sitting back and watching … not interjecting every 2 minutes like I normally do! 

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Customer Service Philosophy in Six Words

By Dan Clay

Legend has it that Ernest Hemingway was once challenged to write a story in six words.  The result was, “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

Some say Hemingway called this his best work.  Others say the entire anecdote is literary folktale.  In either case, it gave birth to the six-word story, a gauntlet that’s been thrown down in literary circles for decades.  SMITH Magazine gave Hemingway’s form a new, personal twist by inventing the six-word memoir – and the submissions have been plentiful enough to fill five books

The memoirs can be tragic (“I still make coffee for two”), profound (“Never really finished anything.  Except cake.”), instructive (“Found great happiness in insignificant details”), funny (“Started off normal.  Things went awry.”), universal (“Not quite what I was planning”), and hopeful (“More than yesterday, less than tomorrow”).  Famous authors’ self-reflections are expectedly self-aware: “The miserable childhood leads to royalties” (Frank McCourt), “The only way out is in” (Junot Diaz).  Comediennes are predictably censor-worthy (You’ll have to buy the book to read the contributions from Joan Rivers and Sarah Silverman).  Celebrities also chime in, like chef Mario Batali (“Brought it to a boil.  Often.”)

So today, we at CCC give birth to a new six-word challenge: What’s your six-word customer service philosophy? Read More »

Solving the Customer Puzzle

Posted on  24 June 10  by 


There is a simple governing fact that occurs during all service interactions: our companies are merely a means to an end for the customer. Customers don’t contact us to troubleshoot a television set – they call us so they can enjoy the latest sports event from home. They don’t log on to transfer funds, they log on to consolidate their down payment for their first home.

While this simple fact is often taken for granted during service interactions, acknowledging and understanding the customer’s situation and their end-goal presents a tremendous opportunity to improve the service experience.

For the past week, I’ve been working from our London office, and this morning I briefly visited with one of our European members. During that time, we discussed creative methods to make frontline reps’ jobs more fulfilling, engaging, and far less transactional. The conversation evolved into a discussion of the “customer puzzle” – the idea of determining the context, the situation, and the end-goal of the customer and tailoring the experience accordingly.

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Are You A Low-Effort Service Organization?

Posted on  22 June 10  by 

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This week marks the official release of the Customer Effort concept into the “wild” with the publication of our article, entitled “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers,” in the July/August issue of Harvard Business ReviewIf you haven’t seen the article, feel free to download a complimentary copy.  You will also find some cool podcasts and our Customer Effort Audit tool available to download.

As you’ll read in the article, our research shows that “delighting” the customer—in other words, going above and beyond—yields only marginal additional loyalty from the customer

We also found that customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction disloyal as compared to loyal, and the primary thing companies can do to mitigate this disloyalty in the service channel is to focus on reducing the effort customers must put forth to get their issues resolved. 

Put succinctly, loyalty in the service environment is a matter of reducing effort, not delighting the customer. Read More »

Sifting Through the Noise in Customer Data

Posted on  22 June 10  by 


As CCC’s resident benchmarking expert, I thoroughly enjoy looking at customer data.  I find it to be one of the most interesting parts of what we do in the service environment.  Of course, the challenge here is how to analyze the data and come up with conclusions that match with true customer needs.

I believe we have a tendency to look at individual data points in relative isolation (for example, tracking higher handle times or lower resolution rates) which can lead to a myopic point of view that doesn’t take into consideration the context of that data point, nor connect with what the customer is actually experiencing.

Instead, I’ve found that every data point has a rich story behind it – a story that better explains what customers actually need to have a positive customer experience (as opposed to what they may say at any singular time).

The key is to recognize the difference here – and to dig a little deeper to get a true understanding of the customer.
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The Art (not Science) of Coaching

Posted on  18 June 10  by 


When I talk to members about frontline rep coaching programs, they often want a set of proven rules and concrete, granular steps every supervisor should take to be a successful coach.  It’s akin to the instructions on the back of an instant cake mix box.  Just add an egg and some water – and voila! – you have a delicious cake every time.

While I’d love to tell you I can give you the five easy steps to coaching success, I’ve come to believe that coaching isn’t a science we can replicated identically among our supervisors. 

In fact, it’s more of an art form.  And in art, we can give folks the tools – brushes, colors, and canvas – to create a great piece of art, but we can’t tell them exactly what to do.  We can’t tell them how to hold their brush or precisely how to create the most eye-catching color.  Sure, we can give suggestions, but it’s up to the artist to figure out what works best.

So – just like in art we can give supervisors the tools they need to coach effectively, but we can’t mandate a set of discrete actions to success.  And, like Pablo Picasso’s innate artistic ability, some supervisors are naturals and coach effectively from almost day one. 

Many though, don’t have the innate skills required to coach effectively right out of the gate.  But, if there’s no five step recipe for success here, short of the time and resource consuming task of hiring a set of super-coaches, what can we do to help these supervisors approximate the behaviors of their highest performing peers?   Read More »

Are Customer Service Commitments Just Nice Words?

Pick up any business publication and you can’t miss the numerous articles on mission statements.  Books on the topic abound, consultants offer services—the economic downturn seems to have left many organizations soul searching, questioning their purpose, focus, and value.

Service and support organizations are not immune from this, and we’ve heard several companies thinking anew about customer bills of rights and service commitments.

CCC members recently debated the value of even creating a service commitment in the CCC Customer Experience Forum, and we see two camps emerge:

1. Those who are in favor of explicitly publishing high standards and expectations for both customers and staff.

2. Those who prefer action to statements—living the right philosophy, not spending time mincing words.

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The Quality Assurance Fairness Debate

Posted on  15 June 10  by 

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The CCC research team is about a month into our upcoming research study on quality assurance (QA).  One of the biggest trends we hear companies talking about is a major shift from a checklist-based approach to a subjective QA scorecard.  In other words, moving away from a “did you do it, check yes or no” audit to a “how WELL did you do it” audit.  The reasons for this shift could become a separate blog posting…but that’s for another day, another time.   

Today I’m focusing a little downstream from this objective–>subjective shift to talk about one of the potential implications of a subjective QA approach. Read More »

3 Keys to Maximize Offshoring Returns

Posted on  8 June 10  by 


By Dan Clay

“What level of cost savings can we expect after offshoring?”  It’s a question I get a lot.  The unsatisfying answer: “It depends.”  AT Kearney recently released a fascinating exploration into why.  In their Offshore Success Study, AT Kearney gathered data from 35 offshoring companies and analyzed what differences explain the drastic variability in performance across the high performers (who averaged 64% savings and often improved service quality) and the low performers (who only had an 18% average savings).

What’s responsible for this difference?  The Offshore Success Study finds that “execution strategy” – how you handle the transition – is more influential in determining success than variables like offshore location or process complexity.  In short, how you offshore matters more than where or what you offshore:

  • Winners don’t focus on savings. The best performers emphasize improving operational performance rather than generating savings (and paradoxically achieve greater savings in the process!).
  • Winners invest more to save more. Companies investing more in managing their offshore programs (bigger management teams, more internal on-site resources, strong cultural integration) achieve better performance and savings results.  The best performers had one onshore manager for 50 to 75 offshore FTEs (a ratio that may improve after the operation has stabilized).

So how do you become one of the ‘winners’ – one of those companies with the right execution strategy?  I would have three pieces of advice for someone transitioning to a new offshore location. Read More »

Are You Managing Within a Fool’s Paradise?

Posted on  8 June 10  by 


Moment of honesty: when was the last time you stopped and considered if you were a good or a bad boss? Not whether your organization was hitting its goals and your MBOs were in good order, but whether you’re truly a great boss.

In a recent HBR blog post, Robert Sutton argues that most bosses believe they are far more effective than their teams perceive. 12 Things Good Bosses Believe is a sobering read, and I’d strongly encourage you to take a look if you manage any staff, period.

Sutton explores many counterintuitive views he believes great bosses embody. Among them, good bosses believe their success – and their team’s success – depends on mastering mundane tasks over breakthrough ideas. Or, bad is stronger than good – eliminating the negative has more impact than emphasizing the positive.

One rule in particular stood out to me given its relevance in service operations where bosses are several layers removed from the action. Sutton claims that many bosses live in a “fool’s paradise” but great bosses accept that they have a flawed, often skewed, sense of what it is like to work for them. They accept staff members having a far more accurate view of reality.

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