After speaking to my peers the past few months, I have come to the conclusion that we are all suffering from the same affliction– it’s the “OMG! How do I keep UP?” disease.
Many of us call center and customer experience professionals are overwhelmed. Aside from trying to manage day-to-day operations, we are consistently being flooded with new processes and communications that we need to support from a technology and human standpoint. Years ago, we worried about whether we should use frame relay or T1s to support our call centers and if skill based routing was effective. Now, we go to sleep wondering, “How are we going to support social media communications? What is SIP trunking? Are we ready for message convergence? How do I staff expertise for all of this?” And…if you really can’t sleep, make sure you think about customer and agent personality mapping just to make sure you give yourself a panic attack.
In addition to being consumers, we are constantly adjusting our own personal communication preferences – whether it is communicating with our bank, or airline, or heath care provider; or communicating with our families on Facebook. We are all bombarded with experiences and communications that we are trying to manage effectively without fatiguing ourselves.
So, yes, as my peer Lori Bocklund would say, “It’s a Mad, Mad World….”
All this said, for those of us who have immersed ourselves in call centers and customer experience strategies within our career, now is an exciting time, as well. The following are my quick tips on how to grab hold of the reigns:
- Surround yourself with expertise. Do so in an automated fashion so it’s easy on you. Subscribe to industry RSS feeds from industry associations such as The International Customer Management Institute and Customer Management IQ.
- Plan, schedule, and take 30 minutes each day to read the knowledge you receive. Alternatively, save it until the weekend and read it by the pool.
- Sign up for and utilize automated communications within your own personal life – in an effort not only to make your life easier, but in an attempt to understand how other companies are managing lifecycle communications. I love receiving emails reminding me that I forgot to check out my Talbots shopping cart, or that my gate has changed for my flight to LAX. Let your service providers help you manage your life to your specifications.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for direction. I am fortunate that I am able to work with a multitude of companies across a multitude of industries. I get to see best practices across many verticals. So, whenever possible I am sharing “knowledge nuggets” via social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter or Focus.com. Experts do exist – and we thrive when sharing our knowledge in this communication chaos.
- Buy some customer experience and communication books and promise yourself you will read them. My personal favorites:
- Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh
- The New Experts: Win Today's Newly Empowered Customers at Their 4 Decisive Moments, by Robert H. Bloom
- Chief Customer Officer : Getting Past Lip Service to Passionate Action, by Jeanne Bliss
- UnMarketing: Stop Marketing. Start Engaging, by Scott Stratten
- Make the Right Choice: Creating a Positive, Innovative and Productive Work Life, by Joel Zeff
Now, more than ever standardized business analysis and project management processes can help you work through customer communication and experience opportunities (be sure to have this on your bookshelf: A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) — Fourth Edition). And as I am looking forward to presenting again about the framework for mapping out multi-channel goals at ACCE in a few weeks in New Orleans , I will be sure to share some more “knowledge nuggets” around this tough topic over the next few months.
On a final note - now is a time where you can and should be creative. Don’t be afraid to make a recommendation that is “out of the box”. Because what is out of the box today, may be THE box tomorrow. Communication innovation is a theme we are all living within right now, and because of this we the call center will continue to evolve…with or without you.
I sometimes describe myself as a “box of crayons” – so feel free to get out your crayons, learn and understand what your customers want and need, and then develop your culture and support services around them. When you do this, the ‘madness’ turns into the ‘norm’, and you lose sleep wondering how you will keep up with all your new customers instead of how to reduce your churn.
And if all else fails, open up a bag of Reeses Pieces, and call me.