Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Toyota Just Doesn’t Understand: Poor Design Creates Poor Experience

Toyota Just Doesn’t Understand: Poor Design Creates Poor Experience
I like to think of myself as a patient person, though it has been said that I don't always suffer fools well. I was having a happy retail experience, well at least as happy as one can have when you leave $1200 with the dealer. I did need new front brakes, so all in all I was quite happy and content, when the service advisor choose to make me even happier. "Here" he said as he handed me a post card, "register on this site and you could win a thousand dollars". I joke that would only leave me $200 in the hole and he laughed as well.

Back at the office I went to the '' web site and attempted to register. I input my VIN # and all other requested information and hot enter. The first try is returned an incorrect postal code. I had added a space where none was required/accepted. It would have been nice if they told me this, but no biggie, I corrected and continued. Still got the 'correct your postal code' message two more times, before the website displayed the 'please phone our call centre' message. While I was getting frustrated, I thought a $1,000 is still a $1,000, so I dialled the phone.

After negotiating the auto attendant menu and holding for 35 seconds I was connected to an agent. After explaining my challenges on the site, she explained that I may have been entering the wrong address and it had to match my home address. I thought of my retweet yesterday of Seth Godin's post regarding frustration with poorly designed websites - HERE. If the site had mentioned that the address had to match my home address and not the one registered with the dealer, I could have navigated it. The agent then told me that if I had moved since I bought the vehicle, then my home address wouldn't have worked either and it had to be my home address when I bought the vehicle.

Now I know why Toyota is promoting this web site and giving away thousands of $$. They want to ensure that their database is accurate and current. Who knows Toyota may have a recall (sorry a low blow, but I couldn't resist). They also understand the concept of relationship management and want to be able to connect with me through as many touch-points as possible.

Of course by the end of the 4 minute call with my address corrected and verified by the agent, I said good-bye and attempted to login to the site. Once again an incorrect postal code message and after I verified that what I was entering was what the agent had said it should be i was once again asked to call the Toyota call centre.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the generosity and goodwill of the dealer by offering me a chance to win $1,000 had evaporated. I was out 30 minutes of my time, had seen my satisfaction with Toyota fall from a reasonable 8 out of 10 when first handed the card by the dealer to now a 2 out of 10 now. I wondered to myself was the company (Toyota) just dim when they created a site to register, reward and recognise customers or was their intention to demonstrate how to tick off customers who were relatively happy before receiving such a gift?

I suspect that their intentions were and are honourable. I suspect that no one paid attention to the website or web design. A few well placed instructions could have eliminated my call and frustration.
At the end of this process, my opinion of Toyota has taken a beating (and I now own my third consecutive Toyota vehicle), my respect for them as an organization has diminished (how many blindfolded monkeys does it take to make a website) and to make matters worse, it cost me time, but also cost Toyota money; 6 failed web interactions, one 4 minute call and the downstream damage done by one unhappy customer tweeting to the world.

I suspect that a better effort in building the website would have cost a whole lot less. This is the case with so many organizations that fail to extend their customer experience vision to all touch-points or fail to align all contact points to the vision.

10 Relatively Serious Predictions for 2011

10 Relatively Serious Predictions for 2011
Guest Blogger John Cockerill
1. There will be a future however bleak or rosy, it will still be. Take off the rose colored glasses and stop forecasting historical plus 5%. That is what a demand forecast is for. Get one now.
2. Politicians will still get elected; and we all will complain regardless of who is elected and their policies. Now is a great time to examine your own policies, are they complete, are they up to date are they relevant to the way your center operates today?
3. Calls will still likely be the large percentage of contact traffic types in your centers. People like to talk with people. It is organizations that generally push for self-service and non voice channel (chat and email) and all of these can add value to you center. But don’t forget to pay attention to voice it is likely to be you largest channel for the near future.
4. Mondays will continue to be the busiest day of the week for most centers, so don’t schedule the same number of staff on Monday as on Friday or even on Tuesday for that matter.
5. Finding and keeping good staff will remain the secret to contact center success. Oops, didn’t mean to let that one out.
6. Friday and Monday will account for 40% of all absences and illness on in centers working standard business hours and days. For most centers this does far more damage to your service levels on Mondays, so try asking your staff to be ill and absent on Friday…or at least to start their weekend one day earlier, so they are recovered by Monday.
7. Agent training in contact center will for the next year in many centers to remain thought of as a ‘nice to do’ not a ‘must do’. Here’s a thought…what if we hire good people and ensure that they have the training and knowledge to assist our customer over the phone. Would that improve our CSAT and perhaps our ESAT as well?
8. Fault calls will remain the largest segment of calls for most centers. Who’s fault? It’s your fault…well maybe not you personally, but your organization. What are you doing in your center to reduce fault calls?
9. Marketing may talk to the center regularly and let them know what campaigns, and programs will be run and associated volume expected and likely to impact the center. I don’t believe that is all that likely; but it could happen. I have faith that it should have one of these years. Let me know when it does.
10. Predictions for the future like demand forecasts are prone to have a margin of error (50%) regardless of the authority and foresight. Pick a point and go for the future with belief that you can and will figure it out and it will be rosy. If you can conceive it, believe it, you can achieve it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Talking Call Center Videos

Call Center experts from New York City 311, Philly311, Unity Health, Scotiabank, Preferred Health Partners, speak on industry trends, how the trends are impacting their contact centers, the role and impact of social media on their centres and customers.
These videos are available on the Taylor Reach Group YouTube video channel and is available via this link

Is A Strategy For The Contact Center Necessary?

By Colin Taylor
In our call center and contact center consulting practice, we are often asked this question.

Johnson and Scholes (Exploring Corporate Strategy) define strategy as follows:

"Strategy is the direction and scope of an organization over the long-term: which achieves advantage for the organization through its configuration of resources within a challenging environment, to meet the needs of markets and to fulfill stakeholder expectations".

All businesses have a strategy, many by definition and constructed to reflect their own business realities, customers and markets. Some strategies are undocumented and driven by entrepreneurial zeal, but every bit as much of a strategy as those defined. In short a strategy provides the organization with a goal and direction towards that goal that it aspires to realize through the conscious and determined efforts of its staff and stakeholders.

So is a strategy required for elements within the organization such as customer service or contact centers? I would suggest that yes. A strategy or strategic plan is essential for the contact center to support the organization as it works to realize the corporate goal.

Companies in developing their strategic plans define who their customers are; and their primary audience focus on how to create value that underpins the strategy: The Customers come first or the Employees come first or their shareholders come first. If the focus is on the customer then the contact center will be critical to interacting and serving customers needs and requirements. If the focus is on employees, it is often extrapolated to explain that happy employees will work harder and deliver superior service to customers. Even in the cost conscious shareholder value creation model customers must be serviced. The reality is the contact centers are the most common communications channel between customers/consumers and the organization. The contact center plays a critical role in supporting the corporate strategy and influencing customer satisfaction.

So how to develop a strategy or strategic plan for the contact center? First acknowledge that as contact center leaders we do not have a ‘blank canvas’ to work with. The corporate strategy has already been defined and is evident in the Mission Statement, Vision and Values documents. In reviewing these documents we can gain an insight into the strategy, the customers served, the manner in which value is created, the goal and objectives of the strategy and the values which are the touchstone for making difficult decisions. So the development of contact center strategy is completed in the context of the corporate direction.

Second we know that our role is to interact with the customers in a manner that supports the corporate strategy. Lastly we know what the Vision for the future is. We know where the company is going. Our challenge as contact center operators is develop a roadmap and plan to support the evolution of the contact center in lock-step with the evolution of the company towards its Vision.

The key of an effective call or contact center strategic plan is to support and align with the overall strategy for the business. Implementing this sounds fairly straightforward but can be fraught with challenges and problems. For example what is the appropriate service level target for the defined primary customer group versus a secondary customer group, who, while not primary is still a significant source of revenue? How can you reduce the costs to serve one customer segment while increasing resource allocation and delivering superior value to another? How does your agent or representative model map to these distinct groups? Can everyone serve both customer segments? Can they do it well? How do you embrace new Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) goals to support the strategy? Are you even sure that your current metrics, such as internal quality are providing accurate customer satisfaction data?

The first undertaking that the center operator must complete is to ensure that they understand fully and in detail the corporate strategy. Too often contact centers launch initiatives to improve customer satisfaction, or reduce costs only to discover later that the corporate goal wasn’t an across the board CSAT improvement; or that the cost reduction initiatives undermine revenues and repurchase from the primary customer segment. Sit down with the management and review the mission, vision, values statements and any additional detail and specifics that the manager can provide.

In the context of the two examples cited above what is meant by customer satisfaction? In which segments of the customer base should satisfaction be improved, why and how? What is the intention for the remaining customer segments? How will the segmentation of customers to allow a focus on the primary customer group? What is the impact for example on the queuing structure and methodology? Is the CSAT of the remaining segments to remain unchanged, decline or increase? What is the budgetary impact anticipated with these changes?

Regarding cost reduction what are the boundaries associated with this change? Is this change really desired to improve the profitability of customer transaction? If profitability is the real goal then the actions taken to reduce costs cannot at the same time reduce sales conversion (the percentage of the customers who buy), nor reduce average order size or frequency. The establishment of boundaries limits the range of options open to the operator and also supports alignment between the two strategic plans.

Alignment is critical. Without both strategic plans being in synch, they can be working in opposite directions, and the attainment of both of the plans objectives and goals can be compromised. As the primary communication channel between customers and the organization the call or contact center can have a disproportional impact on the overall performance of the company in attaining its stated goals and objectives.

Alignment goes beyond the Vision statement and the future state end goals of the organization. The center must be aligned with the core Values established as well. If the company has determined that its value creation model focuses on an Employee First strategy then the contact center must ‘walk the talk’. In an Employee First strategy, the premise is that happy employees will create happy customers who will continue to patronize the company and buy its products and services.

How can an operator embrace an Employee First strategy in an ‘always on’, high change and structured contact center environment? What do we do with our existing metrics? Is Average Handle Time (AHT) an effective or even an appropriate metric in this environment; or does it simply encourage representatives to feel conflicted. For example “Does the company want me to satisfy the customer or get off the phone quickly?” Such conflicts are not aligned to employee satisfaction (ESAT). Where there is conflict there will also be confusion and frustration. This hardly sounds like a successful Employee First strategy. So examine the metrics and KPI’s to ensure that what is measured is what you want to attain.

The steps outlined so far focus on immediate operations in the center: how the center has to change on a call by call basis. But what about a long range view. How do these changes impact on the incoming demand in terms of volumes of calls, emails, chats and self service? The operator needs to make and challenge assumptions regarding how these changes affect and impact demand. This is important. It is the forecasted demand, along with service level and AHT that determine the labor costs and budgets.

In concert with reviewing the demand the operator also needs to revisit other key aspects of the center operational model: people, process, technology and methodology. Aligning to the corporate strategy impact requires changes in how the center operates. The wise operator looks at how the operations of the center can be changed to improve overall alignment. How can we change the processes to align better with the strategic goals? Is there a technology available that better manages demand or facilitates better segmentation and cost management? These could be structural changes in terms of how the contact center operates today, who it serves and how it serves those customers.

Structural change is almost certainly required to align and support the attainment of the results set out in the corporate strategic plan. Albert Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If what the contact center was doing today delivered the results sought by the strategic plan then the strategic plan would not have been created.

To review, there are 7 steps that must be completed before a contact center strategic plan can be developed. Complete each step fully before articulating the contact center strategic plan
7 Steps to a Contact Center Strategic Plan
1- Understand fully the corporate Strategy,
2- Understand customer segmentation and priorities,
3- Identify the impact of customer segments and priorities on queuing management,
4- Understand applicable boundaries,
5- Examine your metrics and KPI’s
6- Review and revise your demand forecast
7- Examine you operational methodology for structural changes
With the 7 steps created you can articulate a contact center strategy with the knowledge that it will support the business goals; and move the organization one step closer to the realization of the corporate strategic plan.
For more information on developing a contact center strategic plan visit our website at or contact the author.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How Good is your Call Center Training: Take the Quiz

How good is your Training: Take the Quiz
By: John Cockerill
Understatement of the day -Training is important. Just about everyone says so. But like the weather everyone talks about but few do anything about it.
Here is a quick test to gauge the health and effectiveness of the training in your center.
1. Is there a formal and documented training plan (a curriculum)? If yes, does it cover or contain:
a. Induction and take-on of new agents?
b. Ongoing training and upgrade path for agents after induction training?
c. A list of quizzes and tests?
d. Training tied to processes and employing process maps?
e. Employ actual call recordings and screen shots?
f. Criteria for graduating from training or becoming qualified to complete assignments with new skills?
g. Is there a list of all systems used by agents and associated practice or transactions to prove proficiency?
2. Are all training materials up-to-date?
Here’s a quick method for checking. Is there an electronic copy of all materials used? Does the last date review, version number, and by whom appear on all documents in the binder or given to the agents? If no, then they are likely out of date or at best need to be review by someone knowledgeable. Call centers are a high change environment. If there is no date on the material assume it is out of date and get it verified.
3. Are frequently asked questions (FAQ’s) used in the center?
If so, check how many have been added or updated in the last 3 months. Can the existing agents answer 20% accurately without referencing the material? Are these posted on the organizations website for callers to self serve?
4. Is the training designed for adult learners?
Adults need to have practice close to the subject delivery. Quick and accurate feedback to adjust performance is critical so errors don’t accumulate. Design sessions into 40 minute delivery blocks with 20 to 30 minutes of immediate practice, role play and feedback. Provide summary sheets for review of key points to aid memory.
5. Are all the subjects reviewed with and by the agents in an optimum cycle?
Best practices suggest a simple review cycle of: immediate, 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days will increase retention of material by over 80%. Repetition of practice is important, just like mommy said. Practice does make perfect.
6. Do all systems have a training module or sandbox?
If not, the agents will have to work with live data. Not a good idea if quality of data is valued in the organization. If they are working with live data, is that done in a manner that enables each transaction to be held for review and approval by someone who is expert in the work?
7. What is the drop out rate during training and how does that compare to the center turnover rate?
A turnover rate that is high and where there is no drop out rate the training simply passing out problems to the floor where dealing with them is more expensive and troublesome to the organization. This is also an indicator that the training is not really equipping the agents to meet minimum position expectations. Where you experience drop outs in the training is also important. Watch the number that drop out just before or after tests. This is fear of failure, for those who drop out to avoid the test and fear of reality for those who fail the test and then drop out.
8. How many sample calls and transactions are in the training library? Do they cover all transactions, most transactions or only some? Are there both good and bad examples? Can you see screen shots as well as the audio? How many practice responses are expected during the training?

Using samples in class sessions means less time on the floor when doing side by side training. It also means being able to show good and bad calls of similar transactions to demonstrate the behaviours and practices wanted in the organization.
9. Is there an analysis of recruiting and training quality done recently?
Turnover and agent quality scores from monitoring by date provides insight to any center as to the effectiveness of the recruiting and how well training is doing by cohort of new agents.
10. How much time is allocated for training of existing agents?
QA/QM coaching doesn’t count. Real training in one on one session, groups or classes of new material, tests etc. Is it accounted for in the annual budget? Is there any provisioning for training in the forecast and scheduling?
11. What linkages exist between the training, new learning and compensation?
As agents move along the continuum of learning, gaining experience in the work and center there needs to be recognition for the effort and acquisition of expertise. Changes to compensation is one method along with public credit of that expertise.
12. Finally and this is the litmus test. Do other departments want the call center staff?
If yes, something is right. If not, there is likely a lot of work to do. Many organizations today require staff to spend their initial time in their center(s). Other departments often find that they don’t have to spend as much on training money and time when they steal staff from the call center. This ‘poaching’ is a compliment to the expertise and systematic approach to grooming new and existing people for roles in any organization. Don’t fight it. Rejoice. And consider charging the departments back for that training and lost productivity. Some firms do with good success.
This list of a dozen questions won’t give a complete audit of the training process but will provide a quick insight into whether or not it needs your attention.
Remember it is difficult to hold an agent, supervisor or manager accountable for success if the measures of success and how to achieve them are not presented in a clear and simple manner. That is what a good training program provides.
Yes training is important. An effective training program is imperative.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fast Facts- Help or Helpless Desk

Fast Facts- Help or Helpless Desk
By Colin Taylor
A new study, “Help Desk Efficiency Report 2010,” from 1E, a software/services company found a remarkable number dysfunctions in the Help Desk of the 1,000 plus IT professionals who participated in the study.
Amongst the challenges:
* 44% of users feel that ordering software from their Help Desk is inefficient and time consuming,
* 2/3rds of users will wait a week or more for the software requested,
* Half will follow up to see the status of their request,
* 15% of software requests are never fulfilled,
* 37% still must contact their Help Desk by Phone,
* The call to a Help Desk can cost $75.00,
* 33% say they have 5 or more applications on their system that they never use,
* 69% of users do not know what the software they request costs,

While the results of the study are interesting in and of themselves, and it is not surprising that 1E provides services and solutions to improve the operational efficiency of Help Desks. Yet the statistics are concerning… more than a third of users must phone the help desk. While I am all in favor of call centers, haven’t they heard of email? I would think that an email would create a superior audit trial. That audit trail could be employed to see what happened to the 15% of software requests that are never fulfilled. What happened to these requests?...” Thank you for calling the help desk, we are busy right now please call us back at another time”. Or perhaps it is not the request that didn’t get fulfilled; perhaps the individuals were no longer around and could not be fulfilled. Of course if the email request was mapped to the ERP application then perhaps the one week delay cited by more than 66% of participants could be reduced and the half of respondents who can’t work without their software would have other options besides staring at the walls or calling the help desk to follow up on their request. It’s no wonder that a call to the help desk can cost $75 given all of the efficiency actions identified above, well that and the 5 applications that are never used…IT has to recover those software license costs from somewhere.
Of course as with most studies the results are designed to shock, surprise and garner attention. That is certainly what the sponsors are hoping for. But there are many of highly effective and efficient help desks out there.
These effective help desks have developed or embraced solutions that make the environment more productive and more enjoyable to all involved.

The following three examples of low hanging fruit can all contribute to reducing the cost of a help desk request;
• Establishing a web form on the intranet directly linked to the asset management application that submits the equipment request and matches it with the appropriate approvals. This can knock days off the delivery time.
• By standardizing desktop images based upon class of employee the set up and configuration can be completed quickly and efficiently.
• By ensuring that each discrete user class is matched to its functional requirements the surplus applications can be eliminated and costs saved.