Innovation, If You Don’t Someone Else Will
Change is happening, and sometimes in surprising ways. Customer behaviors and expectations, marketplace variables, competitive landscape, advances in technology, how you do your job - the waves of change are constantly hitting us.
In order to not just catch up with change, but to get ahead and harness change, innovation must be more than a point-in-time exercise or something siloed to the select few. Innovation must be a part of the fabric of your organization.
And, as the accelerated rate of change isn’t enough, here are a few other key points that make the case for dialing up your culture of innovation.
Success Yesterday Versus Today Out of the the 500 companies that made up the Fortune 500 in 1955, only 61 still
existed in 2014 and it’s dropped from there. That’s only a 12.2% survival rate. What led to success yesterday is not what leads to success tomorrow. Even the most successful, those that were considered icons of industry are on that list. They had all the resources, people and knowledge to innovate, but instead, they rested on their success and the marketplace left them behind. You must continually apply innovation to your work to stay ahead of the curve. Blackberry helped create the computer in the palm of your hand category and sadly are nowhere to be found today.
If You Don’t Someone Else Will
Sears vs. Amazon. Blockbuster vs. Netflix. Crossfit vs. The Rest Of The Fitness World. The beauty of today’s world is that the playing field is more even than ever. That means anyone can start a business. That also means that the competition is fierce and continually nipping at your heels. All too often I’ve seen companies not even see their competition as a threat until it was too late and the competition had already taken big chunks of their market share. Our biggest competition are the ideas and competitors that you don’t even know about yet, but they are coming. Simply put, if you don’t innovate, someone else will.
Marketplace Expects It
Your customers, whether that’s in a business-to-business or a business-to-consumer world, expect and value innovation. They want you to solve their biggest needs in new and innovative ways, and create products and services that rock their world. We are humans and it’s our nature to want to be associated with people and businesses on the leading edge, not the ones being left behind. The marketplace demands innovation and they’ll either open up their wallets to pay for it or go find someone else that will serve their needs.
Armed with this understanding of the importance of innovation, here are 5 ways to dial up the innovation so you can add that innovative spark to all of your biggest challenges and greatest opportunities.
Get Past Information
There’s a big difference between information and insights. Information is the data, the research, the content. Insights are the patterns, trends and ideas that emerge from that information. The two are often confused because we are trapped in information overwhelm and never get to real insights. Many of our clients share with me how they are so inundated with daily tasks and overwhelmed with the flood of data they receive that they don’t have the time or the energy to innovate. We’ve got to find ways to get rid of unnecessary work on our desks and strip away the data that is just creating noise and get to the thinking and analyzing phase faster. The magic happens in uncovering those nuggets of insight that lead to smart decisions.
Every industry, business, and even department has them. They are the “rules” of the business, the assumed ways of doing things. Perhaps they are how it’s done in your industry or the way the business has always worked. Often times they are unstated rules that have been in place longer than most of us can remember.
There is a story about a research study that was done with monkeys. In this story, the monkeys are in a large cage. At the top of the cage the researchers put a banana. When the first group of monkeys try to go for the banana they squirt them with water, hence, punishing them for going for the banana. They learn to not go for the banana and to in fact pull each other down should another monkey try. Over time, new monkeys are added to the cage and when those monkeys go for the bananas the older monkeys pull them down so they can’t go for the banana. Over time, new monkeys are continually introduced until none of the original monkeys are in the cage. Yet, the learned behavior of not going for the banana remains and the monkeys continue to stop each other from going for the banana. Think of this research story in the context of your business. How many of your ways of doing business are rules that have been passed down from one person or team to the next, yet are of no value in today’s landscape?
How many assumptions of how things have to be done are actually legacy thinking that is now hindering innovation and progress? To leverage innovation you’ve got to do some serious assumption and rule busting.
I have found the easiest way to break away from those assumptions and rules is to ask what I call, Inciting Questions. These aren’t the usual questions or the questions you’ve always asked. No, these are the questions that stir and prompt totally new thinking. They challenge and break through those assumptions.
In this video I explain how to use this easy innovation tool to challenge the assumptions holding you back.
Remove “ER” From Your Vocabulary
Simply put, better isn’t enough in today’s crazy competitive marketplace. To be successful today, you need to be different. When we settle for a customer experience, product or service that is bettER, fastER, smoothER, etc. all we are doing is adding to the noise in the eye’s of our customers. And, we are opening ourselves up to being out “ER”ed by our competition. It’s easy to be a little faster or a little nicer, but, it’s hard to compete with meaningful differentiation. Challenge yourself by exploring completely different solutions. Ask yourself, “if we couldn’t do this anymore what would we do?” or ideate with the premise that business as you do it today has completely gone away and you must come up with new paths and solutions.
Capable & Responsible
In my 20 plus years of work in the innovation field, I discovered that everyone is capable of and should be responsible for innovation. When innovation is siloed to a specific team or project, it tends to fail. Companies that harness innovation as their competitive advantage recognize that innovation comes from all rungs of the organizational ladder. Everyone from their customer representatives and administrative staff to r&d and the c-suite are accountable for bringing innovation to their work. In my definition of innovation - people each thinking differently about what’s right in front of them to create differentiated value - everyone can and should participate.
Avoid Launch & Abandon
Think of innovation like a rocket in space. If you fire up the engines to get the rocket off the ground to only turn them off or not engage new engines, that rocket is hurling back to earth for a fiery crash. This is the same in business and we see it all the time. In fact, it’s why we created our On Demand Innovation Platform so that our clients could have access to the tools they needed to continually keep the innovation fires burning strong. Otherwise, the Launch and Abandon strategy is actually making them work twice as hard in the long run and hindering their results. Avoid it at all costs.
As I mentioned above, everyone is capable of and responsible for innovation. At my organization, LaunchStreet, we are dedicated to providing easy to implement innovation tools and resources that can be used to elevate a culture of innovation that leads to bottom line results. For specific tools and resources you can use with your teams, visit gotoLaunchStreet.com. And for those of you joining me at Moving at the Speed of Innovation: SOCAP's 2017 Annual Conference in October, we’ll cover a few of our top tools and more.
Tamara Kleinberg is an innovation thought leader, seasoned entrepreneur and keynote speaker. She is the founder of LaunchStreet, an organization that provides innovation inspiration and tools and the creator of the Innovation Quotient Edge (IQE), the only assessment that helps you discover your unique Innovator Archetype so you can innovate on demand. Tamara is a CrossFit addict, Netflix binger and owns a 90-lb Mastiff named Zoey.
June SOCAP Scoop
What does innovation mean to you? - Video Contest
SOCAP invites you to:
- Submit a video (60 seconds or less)
- Tell us what innovation in customer care means to you or your organization
- Be creative and have fun with your responses!
Enter for a chance to win a free hotel suite upgrade at the Hotel del Coronado for the Annual Conference. Join hundreds of the brightest minds in customer care for Moving at the Speed of Innovation, SOCAP's 2017 Annual Conference, October 22-25 in San Diego, California.
Deadline to submit a video: July 31, 2017. See full video contest details here.
Save Your Seat Now!
SOCAP's Quality Monitoring Workshop, September 13 in Detroit, Michigan, is:
- An interactive one-day event focused on common quality issues within the contact center
- Tailored to meet the needs of supervisors, managers and specialists responsible for quality and performance improvement from ALL industries
SOCAP is currently seeking panelists and sponsors for this event. Contact Twanisha@socap.org for more information
- SOCAP Member: $425
- Non-Member: $525
Let's Grow Our Community! Become a Member Magnet.
Help SOCAP identify other passionate customer care professionals to grow our community! Learn how you can become a Member Magnet to earn points and win some great prizes.
SOCAP Member Magnets in the lead:
- Pat Nicholson, Alta Resources: 15 points
- Lynn Diegel, The Clorox Company: 15 points
- Tim Ross, Genesys: 15 points
- Chip Rohde, Wilke Global: 15 points
Online Course: Create a Customer-Centric Organization
June 27 & July 11, 2017 (2-3pm ET)
Mark your calendar for this two-part SOCAP Online Course. In this course you will learn:
- How you can inspire individuals, teams and the entire brand to become more focused on what it takes to win customers
- Practical steps for ensuring the customer has a "seat at the table"
- How to infuse customer-focused thinking as a natural and routine practice
Please note: To receive a certificate of completion, you must attend both live sessions, complete a course evaluation and pass a short assessment.
Free Webinar for Members - ChatHelper: Using AI Technology to Enhance the Customer Experience July 18, 2017 (2-3pm ET)
As companies explore the use of chatbots to offer effective forms of self-service for customers, there has been growing concern over the challenges associated with this approach and the lack of smooth transition from bot to human agent in instances in which a human might have to step in to meet the needs of a customer. Join this session to learn more about a different approach to chat bot technology where bot and agent work in unison and instead create a more effective customer experience that promotes efficiency, consistency and accuracy.
SOCAP's KPI Benchmark Results Executive Summary (Free Member Resource)
Click here to access SOCAP's Benchmark Study on KPIs.
SOCAP's Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) Benchmark Survey was conducted this year to help customer care managers become more aware of the value of KPIs at their disposal.
Indicators and scorecards are key tools used by customer contact managers to assess their performance. It validates productivity and quality of customer contacts. The major challenge faced by managers is the overwhelming amount of indicators available. The key of success is to choose KPIs on which managers can take immediate action to optimize customer contact center operations and customer experience.
For a more in-depth look at the benchmark study results, check out the webinar recording in the SOCAP Learning Portal.
And the Winner is.....
Thank you to all those who completed the Member Engagement Survey to help improve your SOCAP membership experience!
- Elizabeth Meunier, Beech-Nut - $75 Visa Gift Card
- Nakeia Morris, Coty Inc. - $75 Visa Gift Card
- Linda Perkins, Wiley Publishing - $75 Visa Gift Card
- Lori Koors, Nature's One, Inc. - $75 Visa Gift Card
- Paul Osborne, Levi Strauss & Co. - $75 Visa Gift Card
- Sally Carlson, Roche Diabetes Care, Inc. – Complimentary registration to the 2017 Annual Conference
- Michael Davito, VDS - Great Lakes Chapter
- Shannon Withem, Pegasystems, Inc. - Indiana Chapter
- Ann Stott, Yokohama Tire Corporation - Southwest Regional Chapter
- Giovanna Downey, Johson Health Tech - Wisconsin Chapter
- Daniel Ductor - Southwest Regional Chapter
Let's Talk: 5 Tips for Handling Crucial Conversations
Let’s face it – no one likes conflict. But it is important for professionals to know how to have difficult conversations. This is especially important for customer care executives who constantly face rising accountability and myriad challenges in today’s accelerated business world. Many are expected to do more with less while managing staff teams, difficult personalities, fluctuating budgets and meeting ambitious performance goals. Not to mention those of us who experience a restructure, merger or acquisition.
Try these tips to help you manage and stress less about crucial conversations so that you can focus your precious energy on developing your staff and growing your company.
1. Take Notice
Recognize when it is time to have a crucial conversation. Perhaps you’re having trouble achieving organizational goals or dealing with a difficult team member. Taking notice and having difficult conversations when needed can help you and your team get unstuck, refocus on strategic goals and propel your company to new heights.
2. Don't Delay
According to VitalSmarts, employees waste about $1,500 and an eight-hour workday for every accountability discussion they avoid. Managers often hesitate to engage in these types of conversations because they aren’t quite sure how to approach their employees. The reality is that conflict is a natural part of human interaction and an inevitable part of leadership. Choose a safe environment to have the conversation and move to action. Prolonging the process may cause more damage and create unnecessary, avoidable tension.
3. Manage Your Emotions
Emotions can run high during difficult conversations. It is essential to remain unbiased, stick to the facts and keep your own feelings in check. If you notice that emotional levels rise for either party, take a break and schedule a time to revisit the conversation in the near future.
4. End Well
Ending on a positive note will ensure that employees feel respected, empowered and committed to personal and professional growth. Remain supportive, come up with feasible solutions or alternatives to challenges and end with clear expectations. This will ensure that you are giving your employees the tools needed to meet future goals and truly create behavior change.
5. Practice Makes Perfect
It is important to do your research, educate yourself, attend workshops and conferences, engage in learning with peers and practice these essential skills. Managing change and holding people accountable are two major discussion topics at SOCAP’s 2017 Executive Summit next month. Both topics are critical to helping senior customer care leaders be more effective in their roles. Join other CEO’s and Executives from across the country at this year’s Symposium and Executive Summit to practice and master the art of crucial conversations. Mastering these steps can help you build high performing teams, increase company success, realize greater bottom-line results and help you foster meaningful relationships in the workplace and beyond.
Don’t Forget to Connect Customer Service Week with Strategy
This week, thousands of organizations around the world are recognizing Customer Service Week. It’s encouraging to see companies across all types of industries make an effort to celebrate their commitment to customer satisfaction. However, many leaders are doing their organizations a disservice by not using Customer Service Week to its fullest potential as a platform for employee engagement that fosters a deeper culture of service.
There’s not a single customer service professional I know who wouldn’t agree that employee engagement is critically important to the service a company ultimately delivers to its customers. As reaffirmed in Gartner’s 2015 report, ‘How to Get Your Customer Service Employees to Care About the Customer,’ research shows “high levels of employee engagement contribute to higher levels of customer satisfaction.” Yet, Customer Service Week – a time so clearly and publicly dedicated to recognizing customer care – is far too often overlooked as a critical opportunity to strengthen an organization’s relationship with and among its employees. It’s often swept aside as a ‘check-the-box’ activity fulfilled by simply giving staff members branded chotskies. Or it might be five days riddled with a host of activities that have been carefully planned but focus more on the fun than the functional. In many cases, Customer Service Week falls flat on strategy.
As you celebrate Customer Service Week at your organization, ask yourself these three questions to help ensure your initiatives are connected with a larger strategy. Use these considerations as a guide … and you may discover enhancements you can make on the fly to make this important week even more meaningful
- Are your planned activities fun and functional?
Of course, Customer Service Week calls for celebration. But the festivities should go beyond being simply fun and simultaneously serve a purpose that benefits the business. This doesn’t mean you have to cut your creativity short or make what should be lighter, enjoyable activities feel like they’re work. It does, however, require dedicated thought about how to make surface-level initiatives more impactful.
For example, consider a ‘Superhero Showcase’ dress-up day – a nod to the heroic feats customer service representatives are known for pulling off. Beyond building camaraderie by having staff members sport their favorite costumes or t-shirts on a designated day, use the opportunity to have each person share how the traits of their assumed characters relate to providing extraordinary service. This sharing will open up a meaningful discussion about what it means to embody service in its various forms and challenge professionals to think beyond traditional notions of customer service.
- Do the activities engage other parts of the company?
The importance of service is hardly limited to the customer service department –and Customer Service Week activities shouldn’t be either. There’s no better time to educate others within the organization about how customer service impacts the business, so use this week (and the weeks that follow) to connect with colleagues in other departments.
One way to do this is by providing employees with a “passport” and including an insert with different missions – such as spending time with peers across the organization – that need to be completed. During those visits, employees can learn about each other’s job functions and how they deliver service to their customers, then report back to their respective teams for broader knowledge sharing. Not only does this exposure enhance employees’ perspectives and further their professional development, it also helps to fortify a consistent company-wide culture of service.
- What’s next?
The spotlight on customer service recognition during these five days shouldn’t just be a moment in time. Rather, look at it as a jump-start for longer-term or ongoing initiatives for engaging employees and strengthening the service culture. Use this week as a learning opportunity to determine which approaches and tactics were most successful as well as those that weren’t as well-received … and plan for the future from there.
Did the team have a blast with the superheroes? Keep their enthusiasm going by creating a ‘Superhero Shout-out’ bulletin board in a high-traffic area where they can publicly post and share kudos for their colleagues. Were the passports a hit? That’s your cue to organize more frequent peer-to-peer exchanges among different departments.
Regardless of your approach, keep strategy central to your Customer Service Week celebrations to make them count. For more ideas or to learn more about how you can deliver outstanding care to your customers, visit www.staffcom.com or click here for SOCAP's top ten ideas to celebrate Customer Service Week.
CJ Stafford is president of Stafford Communications Group Inc., a boutique company with three distinct, yet complementary, lines of business: outsourced call center services, customer care consulting and marketing services. Stafford works with pharmaceutical, healthcare, food, consumer packaged goods and beauty care companies – ensuring their customer service initiatives are aligned to their marketing programs so they intrinsically support each other.
3 ways to get more value out of customer feedback
For SOCAP members, the top priority is putting the customer first. We know our customers’ voices drive improvements, and we understand the power of brand advocates. But how can brands ensure authentic feedback with the content needed to provide rich insights that benefit the whole organization?
The ConsumerAffairs research team conducted several consumer studies focused on the ways consumers perceive, engage with, and share feedback with brands. The core focuses of our research centered around incentivized reviews, review timing, and the best rating scales for accurate ratings. Each study gave us a key takeaway to help brands get even more value out of customer feedback to turn customer engagement into a major revenue driver.
Rethink incentivization of reviews
If you’ve purchased a product recently, you may have received a request to share your experience. But what was the call to action? Did that feedback give you a chance to win a trip? Were you offered a small gift or discount? If so, those offers may be coloring the story you share. The result? Less authenticity in customer feedback, which can prevent brands from spotting trends in customer issues to prevent systemic problems.
Our surveyed consumers were asked to select any incentives they believed would make a review less trustworthy. The least trustworthy? Cash incentives over $100. Here’s the full breakdown:
- Cash over $100 - 47%
- Cash between $5 and $100 - 42%
- A chance to win over $100 - 39%
- An item valued at over $100 - 39%
- An item valued between $5 and $100 - 34%
- A chance to win between $5 and $100 - 31%
- Cash under $5 - 29%
- An item valued under $5 - 20%
- A chance to win under $5 - 20%
A study we conducted internally exploring the conversion rates from review request to review across all of our partnered brands indicated incentives didn’t impact review conversion rates. The bottom line? Your brand could stand to collect even more authentic feedback and maintain review conversion rates without incentives. An added benefit is the ability to reduce spend on incentives offered.
Capture feedback at the right time in the buying cycle
Timing is everything, and optimized timing gives your team the best chance to collect richer insights from customers by allowing them to complete the buying cycle and rate more facets of their experience. One interesting data point revealed the impact of an overall rating versus rating several factors of customer experience. For negative ratings, the rating was even lower when a customer was asked for an overall rating. For positive ratings, the rating was higher when a customer was asked for an overall rating.
This may sound great if your company is only seeing positive reviews, but no brand has a perfect score, and an overall rating without looking deeper into various areas of the customer experience means your team won’t be as capable of pinpointing opportunities for improvement using customer feedback. Knowing the best insights come from asking questions covering various areas of the customer experience from ordering to use of the product over time, one of the best ways to capture quality feedback is to consider incorporating additional review collection paths into your reviews management strategy.
A third-party phone review collection service helps collect unbiased, authentic feedback from customers, focusing the questions on what matters most to your team. Within email review requests, consider providing guidance on areas you’d like to have rated and mentioned in a review. Consumers indicate they rely more on review content than ratings to make informed purchasing decisions and solve their own customer service issues, so considering this as you request customer feedback will play a large role in improved quality of feedback.
Rating scales matter, and a shorter rating scale offering a neutral value improves accuracy
Our study on rating scales looked at ratings of reviews as they related to a text analysis of the review’s content. We evaluated the correlation of both against rating scales from 1-3, 1-5, 1-10, and even the Wong-Baker Faces Scale. What we discovered is the five-point rating scale was least biased in driving a rating toward a particular valence, and has the strongest correlation between rating and review content.
These results indicate an increased likelihood for brands to see more accuracy both in ratings and review content when positioned on review sites using this 1-5 rating scale, improving the value of customer feedback for brands and the consumers reading customer stories online. While there’s nothing wrong with being positioned across all review sites where your customers are already engaging, this data is a helpful guide as your teams identify additional channels to incorporate into your growing customer engagement strategy.
Feedback gives customer service teams the information needed to resolve issues and keep customers coming back, but a smart reviews management strategy will help customer service teams deliver optimized consumer insights to product and marketing teams. We already know customer service teams are the heroes of the company, and continuing to highlight the value of customer feedback will only add to the vitality of customer service as a driver for meaningful improvements in customer experience.
*All data from internal consumer studies conducted from December 2015 - August 2016 by Dr. Sean Guillory, Ph.D. - Data Scientist at ConsumerAffairs Learn more on how to develop a proactive customer engagement strategy for organic search on SOCAP's webinar, October 4 at 2pm ET.
Zac Carman is CEO of ConsumerAffairs, an online platform for purchasing advice delivered through consumer reviews, news, and expert resources. The site offers a partnership, ConsumerAffairs for Brands, centered around a customer engagement SaaS platform and includes participating in the organization's accreditation program.