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Experience Points featuring author, keynote speaker and the "godmother" of CX, Jeanne Bliss

Avtex Chief Experience Officer, Kurt Schroeder sat down with VP of Marketing, John Seeds to discuss key takeaways from this episode of Experience Points with Jeanne Bliss. In this episode, Kurt and John discuss emotional decision-making, how technology impacts experiences and reconsidering how to handle customer interactions.

Fake or Fact

[John] I was excited to hear from Jeanne because I've known her for a long time and have done business with her. She's been customer-obsessed for longer than this CX thing has hit the top of the Gartner hype cycle. And one of the things that she touched on that I thought was really fascinating is this concept of emotional decision-making.

She didn't say it in so many words, but when we were talking about this feeling and what you want to be known for and walking away from things, it really hearkens back to what element we're talking about when we're talking about customers and customer experiences, the human element.

And humans are emotional decision-making machines. We've all heard the term and we've all talked about just go with your gut, right? Well, that's an emotionally based decision.

[Kurt] We make emotional decisions all day long. And quite frankly, that's why some of the most popular brands can charge such a premium. It's not because their product is so much better, but it's because when I'm affiliated with that brand, I get good feelings. I feel good about myself. And it's all about the feelings, especially when it comes to the various consumer brands. We see that all the time where customers are making decisions based on how they feel.

Because they know that the function of whatever they're buying is going to be pretty core and common to any brand they choose. So then why choose one brand over the other? Well, it comes down to emotion.

[John] Yeah. And I think she has something fascinating here which is this idea of operationalizing on that, right? She talked about the upfront work needed to understand the feelings that you want your customers to have and that three-block concept was just a great visual for that being a real live tangible output of you don't even know the business or how he interacted with customers to know what that feels like as a consumer.

[Kurt] I think that's why organizations who really do a good job of consumer and customer research can help understand that. And so I think the key to operationalizing it is number one, figure out what that three-block-long is. We call it your north star. What is your experiential north star? What do you want to be known for?

We encourage clients to say if you look at unsolicited social media feedback or unsolicited comments on social media that you're getting, what are they saying? And are they saying the kinds of things and are they expressing the kinds of sentiment that you want them to? And if it's not, then it's important for us to go through the research and understand what that customer journey looks like and what is triggering their positive emotions and negative emotions? And then we can deploy experience design techniques such as human-centered design to innovate new experiences to improve that journey.

Too many times and we've lived in a world where you do your process mapping for efficiency's sake and then you force the customer to fit into that. We're not ignoring the importance of efficiency, we're just saying start from the customer experience. Start with how we want them to feel and work backward to your process and then optimize your process.

So it's not a radical change, it's just a quarter twist on what many organizations are already doing. But it all starts with defining the north star.

[John] And I think that the key here is that I know we're all moving at 200 miles an hour, right? It feels like we've got 17 meetings a day on Zoom and then we've got our personal lives. And it's moving that fast. But I can't emphasize enough the importance of that, Kurt. Because if you take that extra half-second, as my dad always talked about in basketball, just take an extra second to familiarize yourself with where you are in relation to what's around you and you can move with purpose, right?

And that move with purpose is going to get you further than just reacting and trying to move in a different direction because you may be going in the wrong one.

What Happened?

[Kurt] I love the service roulette phrase. I thought that was awesome because that's what happens all the time. You call in and say, "Oh, let me transfer you to the next level of help," whatever it might be. Boy, is that frustrating, right? You get bounced around until finally, you might run into somebody that has the answer, and it just becomes a total abuse of your time. It certainly doesn't need to be like that.

[John] When we're hearing Jeanne talk, which is one of my favorite things about her, she has a way of capturing shared experiences that we all have as being customers with these phrases that just make you go, "Yeah. I know exactly what you're talking about." Right? You see that in the titles of her books as well with I Love You More Than My Dog. That creates an emotional feeling that everybody gets, right? Same thing with the service roulette where like, yeah, I have an experience that comes to mind right when she says that.

[Kurt] What we do know today is experiences are either directly or indirectly enabled through technology. That's point one. Point two is we also know that a great experience is directly correlated to a great employee experience. When we equip our employees with the right technologies, it really shifts their role in a pretty demonstrable way. I mean we have the technology portfolios at our disposal today where in real-time, through active voice recognition, the call can be listened to, artificial intelligence can interpret that call, and then through the knowledge base and through robotic process automation, it can actually start spinning up the forms, the data entry, whatever might be needed in order to satisfy the customer's request.

That shifts the role of the contact center agent from being a transaction processor to really being a relationship manager or being kind of an experience guy. It really shifts the atmosphere of the call because even if they're not doing service roulette, sometimes agents are doing another favorite phrase of mine, which is they're doing screen kung fu. They're having to look at so many different screens that they're just not able to listen empathetically and really understand what's going on with the customer.

[John] It's almost like there's a time bomb. They're kind of racing against the clock before an explosion happens because they're just trying to get the answer, right? Whereas if the answer is served up and it's not buried, like you said, don't bury the lead, don't bury the answer to the problem, you can focus on brand building as a transactional part of any interaction with the customer.

I think there's a continued shift. It's interesting that you talk about automation for the employee, but I think there's also this customer empowerment way that technology can deploy and support where there's no reason to have the employees or the agents be the only super user, right? Especially in the example here where it's my money, it's my accounts, even though it's across a different thing, why can't I see all that together? Why can't I answer my own questions? You know?

I think that as that continues to shift, those interactions become more and more critical opportunities to change the dynamic of the conversation with customers. She mentioned that a little bit with reframing what the agent is or does in their job and thinking differently about who I am when I come to work as a support rep or a customer agent. I know that kind of resonates with you, for sure.

[Kurt] Well, I think it does because I was just reading not too long ago about the meaning of life, not to be too profound, but they were talking about the difference between being busy and having your day full of activities, but yet not having meaning. The article really talked about that meaning is always something outside yourself. I think that's what she was talking about is really reframing that contact center agent's role to be something bigger than themselves, to be something outside themselves and something that's important when it comes to that customer.

We have a client of ours today who refers to themselves as a financial experience company. They've taken their whole branding and everyone from contact center agents to tellers, et cetera, to really be thinking about we're providing a financial experience, not just a transaction, not just a checking account, not just a savings account, not just a loan, we're really providing a financial experience. We want that experience to be the best. I love that kind of thinking and that twist on what could be a pretty mundane commoditized offering.

[John] Well, I think that it can make a huge impact if you not only shift the perception, but you ground your onboarding and your training and your compensation and your goals around that reframing. It's not just a name twist, but it's a full rethinking of what's entailed. I think that that can be really powerful for customers.

Think Fast

[Kurt] I really like the concept of Jeanne’s strategy where you need high tech and high touch. I think we've lulled ourselves into conventional wisdom or conventional belief that says, people always want to self-serve. I would argue that you have to ask the question, well, why? I would submit that the reason for why is because the high-touch experience was so poor. So, if I'm going to have a poor experience, I might as well go do it myself.

I would think if the high-touch experience was good, you would see a balancing out of that. So, I would encourage our viewers to really think hard about racing to 100%, self-service and investing all that money, when in actuality, you should really find out, do your customers really want to self-serve, or if you forced them into that because of the experience was so poor, so they would prefer to self-serve.

[John] I've been talking about self-service for, well over a decade, with a number of companies in customer service, with the rise of that thinking. There was a lot of conversation with our clients around cost savings and better experiences because that's what they want. But, I think you just hit on such a fascinating point in that. There’s a little bit of panic inducement when you have to think about calling in that you just go online.

Even if it's not a satisfying experience, even if it's not fulfilling it, it'll get the job done. I think that it's that strategy of thinking about coming together, about how these different channels and these different engagement points play a role at each different part in a journey and what transactions with the business and what engagements with the business are best suited for those channels, is really important.

It's really the transition from multi-channel thinking to omnichannel thinking. I like to call it more agile channel thinking because it is that aggregate thought process. And, she hit on something that seems really fascinating about all of these digital channels and what's going to happen. What's going to happen to the contact centers, are we going to become obsolete? But no, it's actually, it's gone the other way. And, it's fascinating to watch them become... these contact centers, go from this other building as an annex to, no, you're a part of this organization, you're actually the central hub of engagement with customers. You're going to deal with all different types of issues.

[Kurt] There was a couple of other things she talked about that I think we cannot stress enough. One is this idea of, let's get rid of average handle time. Let's get rid of some of those measures that talk about speed. You have an opportunity to talk to a customer. Actually, talk to one of your customers, how valuable is that? And, yet we want to get them off the phone as quickly as possible. The customer is not an intrusion into our business, it's the reason that we exist. This is maybe going overboard, but you get my point. We should celebrate every time a customer calls us because we have a chance to interact with a customer, regardless of the kind of industry you're in.

Then, the second point, and we've talked about this on previous episodes, she talked about being herself. To me, that means authenticity. So, I'm one of those weird geeks that when I get a telemarketing call, I'll always pick it up. And, one of the things that I will do is, I'll say, I don't want you to read the script to me, I just want you to tell me what this is about, right? I don't want to be read to, right, because that's not authentic.

So, think of this idea of being yourself, dump the scripts. Organize people, equip them to what they know and let them be themselves. And, if we tie it back to the previous game, let them be themselves with a focus on the meaning that they have in their role, and I think amazing things will happen. I think you'll see the experience go away up.

[John] Well, and it comes full circle. We hit on the authenticity point a lot, but the other point to your beginning is, the best ability is availability. So, have to be available for your customers whenever and wherever they reach you in order to facilitate that conversation, right? So, I think that taking all that into context and thinking about how you can be available, in a Jeanne strategy, in terms of how you're communicating and engaging, is going to set you on the right path for thinking.