Looking Forward: Quality Meets the 21st Century
by: Jason Levesque, Argo Marketing Group
As we move into the 21st century, quality practices should be revisited and revised to meet the nature of the dynamic digital beast.
At Argo Marketing Group, business has evolved from a call center to a multi-channel customer engagement center. Multi-channel engagement should be the norm as customers take to the Internet with questions, demands, and needs. For example, roughly 30% of Argo's customers prefer to communicate via web chat, email, or social media outlets, like Facebook and Twitter. With an established quality program centered solely on monitoring phone calls, Argo has identified a need to re-invent quality in order to properly engage customers on the digital front.
Social media for example, has enormous potential for companies to get closer to customers, which may lead to increased revenue, cost reduction, and efficiencies. Using these digital touch-points as a channel for customer engagement will fail if the traditional customer relationship management approaches are not reinvented to grow with, and stay a step ahead of the digital age.
Redefining Quality in the Digital Age
Monitoring social media conversations, web chats, and email correspondence is but a tip of the quality iceberg Digital engagement tactics allow a brand or company to effectively monitor customer reviews, and affords companies the ability to offer real time customer interaction management. The goal? Deliver consistent and personalized customer exchanges at every touch point to maximize engagement and grow a following of brand ambassadors.
By implementing cutting edge technology to track virtually every tweet, email correspondence, Facebook post, and web chat, companies and brands can gain insight to better their brand offerings, reputation, and engagement. Social media growth like an increase in followers, type and quantity of posts, positive/negative feedback trends, and mentions can help brands edit their engagement on a real-time and personal basis. From a business perspective, companies can gain invaluable insights into the profile of their customer: demographics, gender, buying patterns, and needs. Companies can now identify real-time spikes in engagement and plan internally to appropriately handle the volume. This allows a Quality Engagement team to take the same rigorous process of monitoring calls and apply it to other touch points. Think of it as a brand refresh in terms of customer engagement; it is simply a matter of taking what is currently working and applying those tactics to the digital front.
This reapplication process has proven to cultivate stronger customer retention by creating customer loyalty. Companies can now effectively ensure a consistent customer experience that will promote brand loyalty and increased sales for clients by connecting with them on a real-time basis. This is essential in today's market, as customer loyalty is at an all-time low. An Ernst & Young survey of nearly 25,000 people across 34 different markets around the world summarized their findings, "On the whole across all 34 markets brand loyalty checked in just under 40% as a determining factor in making a buying decision, but, that number dropped to just 25% in the United States, a highly significant decrease in the number of American consumers who say brand loyalty is something that impacts their buying behavior."
To keep brand loyalty thriving, companies should effectively communicate with their clients and deliver on a promise of creating a strong Customer Experience. Customer experience is no longer just updating consumers about a brand, or talking at consumers, it's about personifying a brand and connecting with brand ambassadors.
Call Center Customer Engagement
The call center industry has changed significantly over the last five years. Multi-channel customer engagement centers must continue to embrace new channels as technology moves forward. Success is reliant on the ability to ensure that Quality Engagement such as real-time engagement, and quick response times are constantly adapting with digital advances. By properly leveraging each touch point, companies can earn customer loyalty, enhance their Customer Experience and help increase a clients Return On Investment. This customer-centric Quality Engagement allows companies the opportunity to win business, and more importantly, maintain it.
CEO Jason Levesque founded Argo Marketing in 2003, and has become a widely respected Maine business owner. As of 2014 Argo Marketing employees 450 professionals at three boutique locations, making Argo Marketing one of the largest privately held third party contact center operations in North America.
Jason was elected to be the Republican nominee for Maine's second Congressional District in 2010, although he came up a few points shy of a victory in the November election, he still remains active in local and national politics and spends considerable time working on topics related to customer service on Capitol Hill.
Building a Voice of the Customer Strategy for Contact Centres
by Rory Florence
Although progress has been made by South African companies to recognise that the voice of the customer (VoC) and employee (VoE) is critical to its success and sustainability, it is still challenged by feedback silos, technologically impaired processes and a lack of holistic VoC programmes. Customers are left feeling frustrated, either because they have not been asked for any feedback, or when asked feedback was given, with no follow up response.
All businesses are challenged - in one way or another – with the demands of increasingly knowledgeable customers; customer expectations changing continuously and attracting and retaining talent in a global competitive business environment where multichannel stakeholder communication resonates. With traditional feedback channels evolving, companies are forced to either adapt or stay behind.
In South Africa, customer feedback efforts suffer from a fundamental flaw. Although businesses have taken measures to listen to their customers, they fall short on acting on that feedback. Collecting customer feedback and not acting upon it is a wasteful activity - a high satisfaction score might make businesses feel good, but at the same time an opportunity is lost to drive constructive business and or product change.
Multichannel, multi-disciplined – the modern contact centre is a platform of staggering complexity. Characterised by cross-department integration, multi-channel communication support, and underpinned with 21st century IT, several operational, cultural en technical obstacles are evident and needs to be addressed with key focus on cost, resource and time constraints.
It is therefore not surprising that from a strategic perspective the incorporation of an end-to-end VoC programme with the contact centre is becoming a business necessity.
Step 1: Laying the foundation – Changing the core focus from product-centered to customer-centered
Companies use Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs to collect and analyse customer feedback, make customer experience improvements, and track the results of those improvements. The VoC programme team is seldomly responsible for implementing the changes required - they are not the people who own the website, customer care contact centre or product design, for instance. There is a limit to what they can do – which is trying to convince others that the feedback data collected is important and should be listened and acted on.
To address this, your VoC programme strategy should start with proactive management and leadership. Top management need to focus on the outcomes of feedback and the activities that should take place to address it - actionable insights. It is futile to collate VoC data if no-one believes in it with no cross-silo control and dissemination.
A product-centered approach is, by default, the conventional choice. Many companies ?nd it challenging to restructure their businesses around the customer, having been organised traditionally around products, price or geographies. In a customer-centered approach, the business' objective is fundamentally about providing value to the customer. Customers perceive value when they get what they want, conveniently, at an acceptable price.
However, the total value of a customer cannot be determined from a single transaction. The real measure of customer value is discernible over time. Therefore, it is imperative to listen to the customer throughout their buying journey to determine their lifetime value.
If top management doesn’t comprehend that listening to the customers' needs and wants is the key to lasting success, and if the company is doing "OK" nonetheless, it may be difficult to move forward.
This is still the biggest fundamental obstacle for successful VoC programmes realisation.
Step 2: Setting goals and metrics
A proper VoC programme will require investment whether it is financial, resources or time. In order to capture and maintain the attention of top management, your goals must be tied to corporate financials. Top management does not really care about an "excellent customer satisfaction" rating. Therefor goals must be quantifiable and comply with the SMART principle (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) for example using metrics such as Net Promotor Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSI) scores.
In addition, businesses should seek financial targets. VoC programmes can generate new revenue, increase the success rate of new product to market, reduce cost of sales, decrease costs of poor processes and increase customer retention, so it's important to find a way to set goals around these areas.
The VoC strategy must be aligned to supporting the business goals. It must reflect the requirements of the respective stakeholders so that they can clearly see how the program will directly contribute to their unit and equally how they will play their own part in the programme.
Step 3A: Map the customer journey
How does your customer really experience your business? What decisions do they make during their purchasing journey? Companies must take some time to really understand how customers experience their business, and put the processes and channels in place to monitor, measure and report on those experiences at the key touch points.
Not every fragmented touch point is critical to customers – some does not take priority at all – customers are still content without those interactions being great. Every organisation has limited resources; therefore proposed improvements to your customer experience must be prioritised so that the actions you take have impactful results.
Step 3B: Building the VoC strategy - going back to basics
All too often, much effort are placed on the technical aspects of implementing a VoC programme across different channels and touch points, but fails to embrace a coherent change plan for front-line staff which enables and empowers them to respond directly to customer feedback. Front-line staff need to be engaged and supported through cohesive training and coaching in order to take ownership of the customer enquiries.
Technology alone will not fix anything. The old adage 'garbage in = garbage out' still applies - consumers react well to honesty and genuine customer care.
A VoC programme is not a once a year market insight survey. It needs to capture customer feedback in real-time. Its insights should be challenging and viscous. It must demand that the company changes to incorporate its findings into the management heartbeat of the business.
While customer feedback can appear to be a scary, unsettling and disruptive influence in your business, it is essential you have a robust strategy to guide your VoC journey. Without one, your programme will stall.
Step 4: Act, review and enhance
Acting is the analyses of the data you gathered throughout the listening process and using it in your decision-making process – at this stage, the return on investment should be realised.
Lost customers can be won back, customers can be kept longer, more referrals can be generated, product improvements can be prioritised correctly and investments can be directed in the right business areas.
Change in business is hampered with a tendency to over-analyse results and a prolonged discussion of proposed actions. Rather than a green field-approach, implement a priority mechanism to focus on critical areas that have a positive impact on customers - closing the loop with individual customers as well as building a foundation for longer-term profitable opportunities.
It is imperative that you review your goals and revise them regularly. Examine all aspects of the programme with a cross-functional team of experts, to seek continuous improvements, to re-focus on new issues as they arise and to adjust your priorities along the way.
Sharing the results widely across your company will increase visibility to what customers are saying.
Here are a few ideas in order to ensure that your integrated customer feedback initiative delivers what is intended to - i.e. meaningful business change:
- Act quickly: Responding quickly to a customer's concern as it has a significant impact on the probability that the customer will return and buy again.
- Focus on the overall experience: Do not only seek feedback limited to a product, service or department. Ask the right questions to gauge the overall experience including communication, user interface, and pricing.
- Acknowledge customer feedback. Do not forget to thank customers for the feedback given.
- Loyalty: A loyalty programme is a good way to reward customers for sharing their feedback.
- Action taken on feedback: Always give feedback to your customers on how, when and what you are doing about feedback received.
- VoC Program is a project: Creating action logs as part of a project helps maintain momentum and focus on improvement actions.
- Realisation: Share with your customers how their feedback helped the business realise positive results in processes and service offerings.
- Post-action follow-up feedback: Initiate a follow-up feedback to ensure that they acknowledge your focused efforts and share their comments.
Customer feedback is a two-way street - involving your customers in the process improvement journey.
A Success Story - Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd and Touchwork partnership
A. Business Requirement
Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer, South Africa stepped up to the challenge to improve their Voice of the customer strategy. Enabled with top management support, the business set its goals to measure the customer service provided by their consumer care team. Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd SA wanted to ensure that any negative feedback was followed up immediately and that this was used as an opportunity to train team members.
B. Solution Integration
Using the Touchwork Voice of the customer solution, Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd was able to send customers that have recently interacted with the consumer contact centre a Text message (SMS), requesting them to give feedback on their experience with their interaction. Mobile numbers and opt-in permissions were obtained during the call centre interaction. The main reasons Text messaging (SMS) was chosen were:
- High open rate of Text messaging (SMS) (98% – Frost and Sullivan)
- High penetration of cell phones in the South African market (>100% – Cellular News)
- Immediate real time response from customers
- Easy for the customer to respond
Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd also addressed customer grievances regarding high call costs when phoning the call centre from a mobile phone by providing the call centre number as well as a Text message (SMS) number on their product packaging.
C. Results - Benefits realised
Since the start of the VoC relationship, Touchwork have worked as an integral part of Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer Care centre team – achieving operational excellence across and beyond the customer touch points and striking the appropriate balance between efficiency and effectiveness.
With the Touchwork VoC Solution integrated, the Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd Consumer Care Centre can provide an efficient way to deliver excellent service at reasonable costs - without sacrificing the human touch - and drive future revenue, thus turning customer experience into profits. By responding to customer complaints timeously, consistently and keeping customers involved throughout the process, Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd were able to manage and close the feedback process effectively and consequently increase their competitive advantage.
With a positive response consistently over 91% and an average response rate over 60%, the method of asking for feedback from customers via text messages (SMS) highlighted that customers wanted to engage even when they had a positive experience.
"TxtandTell has brought us into the "real time" space with focus and efficiency. Not sure how we managed before!" - Laura Nel (Head: Corporate Affairs - Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd, South Africa)
Tough economies, global markets, and on-the-fence loyalties have made it harder than ever to get and keep people committed to your business. But building a comprehensive VoC program isn’t easy. It involves complex challenges, such as collecting customer and employee feedback in real time across multiple channels and tailoring reports for diverse internal audiences. Nothing can erase these challenges completely, but the right strategy can help overcome them.
Rory Florence as COO of Touchwork has been involved in customer service solutions across multiple channels and markets for the last ten years. Rory started his career as a design engineer and project manager at Plessey in 1990 and has extensive experience in developing innovative solutions for a range of industries. He was instrumental in taking advantage of the opportunities being created by the take up in mobile communications as a co-founder of Touchwork in 2003. He has a passion for trying to ensure a great customer experience.
About Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd
Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Limited has been in South Africa since 1930, manufacturing and distributing a full range of consumer and over-the-counter products from their factories in East London and Cape Town. Their Head Office is based in Cape Town.
The fundamental objective of Johnson & Johnson (Pty) Ltd is to provide scientifically sound, high quality products and services to help heal, cure disease and improve the quality of life. This is a goal that began with the Company’s founding in 1886.
Touchwork is a global leader in Mobile Actionable Intelligence solutions and value-added services that help organisations worldwide capture, analyse, and act on information in real-time - anytime, anywhere. Touchwork's enterprise solution puts the right information in the right hands at the right time. In doing so, organisations can achieve first class physical asset performance, enhance products, customer experience, processes, and workforce performance; reduce costs and liability; and generate revenue and gain a competitive advantage.
A "Seat at the Table" for Insights; No Reservations Required
by Denise R. Venneri
Sitting at the "Kid's Table" was always fun growing up, but I often looked out beyond the kitchen at the adults sitting in the dining room knowing that eventually I would earn a seat at that table.
Throughout my experience leading the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team for a CPG company, I've often felt similarly — knowing our team was valued, but always looking to consistently earn a "seat at the table". Eventually, that "seat at the table" was earned, but it required careful strategic planning, creative process re-engineering and most importantly — the sheer tenacity and persistence of the team.
Looking ahead, the Insights function of the Contact Center of the Future will have a permanent "seat at the proverbial table" sitting right next to other consumer research type functions such as Market Research, Digital Analysis and Sensory & Product Guidance. Ideas to bring this vision into fruition in the future might include the following:
- Metrics Matter: The Quality/Supply Chain and Marketing organizations from top to bottom will have relevant annual Consumer Affairs' metrics to be achieved so all are vested in the same end goal (i.e. reduction of consumer negative sentiment by x%; improvement of CSAT or Net Promoter Scores by x %). These will be presented in easy to understand dashboard type reporting to easily continuously track and course correct as needed.
- Holistic Integration: Consumer Affairs Insights Team will lead the conversation to integrate data points across a variety of sources — from traditional call center and social media space, to in-market metrics such as sales/consumption, trial and repeat metrics and pre-launch research insights. No longer will Consumer Affairs' data be viewed in a silo, but rather as piece of the entire puzzle to understand consumer reaction across the organization.
- Higher Analytical Tools: Higher analytical tools will be employed by the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team to increase the speed, breadth and depth of consumer insights provided. These could run the gamut from macro development and advanced Excel add-on statistical tools to higher end, complex systems that integrate all channels into a single dashboard at the touch of a button.
- Qualitative Methodology Toolkit: Various qualitative methods will be piloted and included as part of the Consumer Affairs' Insights Team "tool box". These include developing brief "Consumer Surveys" across all channels (i.e. phone, email, social media and chat) both in-bound and outbound including both closed end and open ended probing. Seasoned customer service reps will be tapped to channel the voice of the consumer via "Rep Focus Groups" to provide early reads on prototypes and concepts in the early development phase. Targeted local consumers who contacted the company across multi-channels will be invited to participate in "Consumer Focus Groups" either in person, virtually or via on-line methods to provide consumer reaction on specific topics/issues.
- Career Pathing & Cross Training: Consumer Affairs Insights Team will be considered a "rotational opportunity" for high performance employees looking to gain more direct brand/consumer experience such as those in plant/manufacturing roles or scientific/laboratory type roles. Additionally, Consumer Affairs' Insights Team career pathing would include opportunities in other consumer research functions within the organization to develop breadth and depth of consumer behavior knowledge.
The future is bright for the Consumer Affairs' Insights role, so grab a "seat at the table" and enjoy making a difference to your company AND your consumers.
Denise Venneri has 15 years of customer relationship experience with a focus on creating the analytics strategic plan to provide actionable consumer insights to drive business results. Most recently she was Manager, Analysis & Services at Campbell Soup Company leading a team of analysts. Her team recently won recognition from both Marketing partners as well as Consumer Affairs' leadership for the creation and rollout of several initiatives. Always forward looking, Denise is poised to contribute her vision to that next opportunity. Denise has been active in SOCAP at both the national & local levels and currently participates on SOCAP's CPG Planning Community. She lives in Philadelphia and can be reached at email@example.com.