We chatted about customer preferences, channels, employee engagement and more!
Listen to the recording here.
We chatted about customer preferences, channels, employee engagement and more!
Listen to the recording here.
This Zendesk Relate article includes a snippet about my career path from customer service to learning & training.
Just like most other things on Relate, it’s a considered and interesting article with a lot of different angles on career pathing in customer service.
Here’s what I contributed, but do click through to check out the entire article, as it’s a great read.
Kaye Chapman entered the world of customer support absolutely unplanned. Fresh out of college, unsure what to do (been there, done that!), Chapman got a job in a call center to pay the bills while she figured out her next move. She never left.
After some time, she could see that there was room for improvement. Quality assurance was patchy, there was no internal knowledge base or help center, and training was subpar at best. Her overworked manager was all too happy for Kaye to step in and provide some help, so she took the bull by the horns and made improving those things her focus.
Chapman built an extensive knowledge base, strengthened quality processes, and provided training for her team, all while holding down the role of senior customer service rep. From there she realized she had a real knack for training and expressed the desire to become a full-time trainer.
The company she worked for at the time agreed to sponsor her to go back to school and she spent her evenings learning how to build effective training programs, work with adult learners, and other skills like coaching, change management, and talent development. She’s since gained plenty of experience in roles at Fortune 500 companies, startups, and nonprofits, even earning a Masters degree based off her professional qualifications, despite not having a Bachelor degree.
All of this led her to her current role as Learning & Development Manager for Comm100. In our chat, she told me, ‘In that very first customer support role, if I had shrugged off all of the things I saw that could have been improved and wrote them off as none of my business, I’d never be where I am today. I definitely see my career growth as fueled by having a real desire to drive improvement and change, even in areas that aren’t within my job description.’
Read the Zendesk article here.
Live chat communications continue to trend upwards in importance. No surprise here. eMarketer predicts that in just one year from now, 80 percent of the world’s smartphone users will use messaging apps. We’re more connected than ever, and that provides challenges for modern sales and service organizations. Today’s online customers want and expect a fast response time to their customer service query, plus a frictionless way to initiate support.
Forrester reports that 55 percent of adults will abandon online purchases if they can’t find a quick answer to a question, with 77 percent stating that good online customer service is the most important thing a company can do for them. It’s clear that in today’s climate of consumer choice, organizations who provide support at point of sale through live chat stand to gain the most in customer loyalty and reduced cart abandonments.
Connecting with website visitors through live chat also takes less time and human resources than phone support to consumers, raising productivity and profitability. As chat agents are expected by their organizations to be valued support partners for customers and prospects, these individuals play a larger role than ever in securing overall customer satisfaction and brand equity.
For new agents, a structured onboarding program is crucial to allow organizations to ensure that they’re getting the satisfaction outcomes they seek. Not only does effective onboarding introduce employees to processes and procedures within their new role, it also builds confidence, trust and engagement at possibly the most crucial stage of their lifecycle in the organization – a stage that largely sets the tone for the rest of their employment and their interactions with customers.
Here are some tips for managers and leaders looking to build an effective live chat agent onboarding process, or refine their existing one.
Chat systems tout their ease of use and turnkey nature. However, any technology tool requires time for operators to get familiar. Optimal use of tech by live chat agents is fluid and tacit, and even with the simplest of tools, it still takes time for agents to get to this level of mastery.
Make training hands-on, incorporate real-life exercises, and use training-ready versions of the platform to allow agents to roleplay and test common scenarios. Give agents time to play around on the platform and engage in practice runs before bringing them live. The last thing your agents need while tangling with customer issues is also battling the tech they use, so don’t assume they’ll just “pick it up”.
If your agents aren’t clear on what they’re supposed to achieve, they won’t be able to secure the outcomes you need. While this might sound common-sense, failing to clearly communicate expectations is a symptom of the “curse of knowledge” – where we can assume that agents know the ropes when that’s simply not the case.
The concept of “going above and beyond” is one area that’s often neglected in agent onboarding, as many see it as a basic tenet of customer service, or something that should be implicit in an agent’s personality. But it’s a hugely important area which should be explicitly covered in onboarding to be sure that your agents really are on the same page as you. For service organizations, not practicing this philosophy can spell CSat disaster– and for sales organizations, this equals leaving money on the table.
Don’t leave this to chance. Promote this concept and empower your new live chat agent to do more than just answer a visitor’s stated questions. Challenge them to always consider what other help they could provide, or what else could be useful if they were in the customer’s position.
In terms of lead generation, this “one step further” approach is especially vital. Teach agents early on how best to seek out potential lead opportunities. That means more than just pointing the customer to a white paper. They should also offer to pass them to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussions, or to a video that requires registration, for example. Giving customer service agents the authority to foster meaningful dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly chats are completed can support lead generation objectives as well.
Research into learning has shown that development of knowledge in onboarding is inseparably bound to learner activity in a number of different contexts – the physical (work space), the material (tools and tech) and the social (other employees).
Because of this, social aspects of learning and working should be accounted for within effective onboarding programs. Your goal should be to help your new agent learn from other seasoned agents, and empower them to build relationships within the whole team.
Before going solo, new agents should serve time as an understudy to one of the team’s top performers to glean proven tips and tactics to successfully perform the job. Document best practices to disseminate valuable “lessons from the front line” to all agents. Establishing weekly meetings to discuss events that went well, those that didn’t and trends in the field that can turn into great teaching moments for the entire live chat team.
As a bonus, creating this kind of supportive team environment will improve the productivity and success of all agents, not just those who recently joined the company.
A live chat agent can solve a majority of the customer service issues that come in, but they can’t act as a mouthpiece for every function within your company. Most likely, they can deal effectively with 80 percent to 90 percent of customer queries, with the extra 10 to 20 percent needing further checking, information or consultation with other teams.
That’s not a bad thing. If you try to force agents to deal with things that require too much improvisation or that the agent does not have authority to do, you will trigger negative customer interactions.
Set procedures for agents to quickly get assistance from a supporting team or team leader when issues are beyond the scope of their power or authority to resolve. Recognize that on paper, this sounds simple, but in practice this can be a lot tougher – even the most seasoned agents encounter situations they haven’t seen before, and deciding where the boundaries are isn’t always easy to define.
Focus on building supports to help your agents in their decision making, for example through a robust agent-facing KB, or through having team leaders and floor walkers readily available. Build a culture of communication which encourages agents to speak up when they’re not sure about something and discourages them from “winging it”.
Finally, make sure that whatever supports you use, they’re easy and quick for agents to access. Few things are more frustrating for a customer than spending 15 minutes on a live chat waiting for an answer because the agent doesn’t have the assistance they need at hand.
Technology is developing rapidly, and for many contact centers, shifting to new tech-focused service models comes with questions and risks. There’s sometimes a view that technology will end up reducing service quality, and some are even concerned that chatbots and AI will end up taking jobs away from humans.
This narrative is shifting as firms begin to recognize the best applications for this technology – and often, that means aiming to complement and enhance the work of human agents, not to replace them.
When used properly chatbots can provide great advantages to a new agent. The ability for bots to take on common customer queries cuts out questions which can be perceived as boring or repetitive, leaving your agents to focus only on the queries that need their help the most. This allows you to effectively upskill your agent pool as your agents develop expertise in longer and more complex queries. Agents enjoy connecting with customers, not answering repetitive questions.
Augmented intelligence is another exciting area through which agents can be provided with data which helps them to make better decisions. Through deep learning, natural language processing and multivariate analysis, companies are able to analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help agents perform better at their jobs. The goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.
At RapportBoost and Comm100, we’ve frequently seen that the very best chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who possess superior emotional intelligence, situational awareness, defer to the algorithm in certain circumstances, plus use their instincts and experience to decide when different situations require different tactics.
The combination of human AND machine once again beats either one alone – and this is certainly an exciting prospect for anyone looking to help agents to do the best job that they can, through onboarding and beyond.
Originally published here.
I’ve been quiet over the last few weeks – life has been busy since I got promoted 😊 I’m now Learning & Development Manager for Comm100.
Our business is growing fast and getting mature enough now that we really needed an L&D lead to drive internal and external training initiatives.
I’m extremely happy to be that person and I’m looking forward to helping Comm100 to grow and learn even better!
I wanted also to post a link to Lucep’s list of their Top 50 Customer Experience Blogs and Influencers, which I’m pleased to be a part of.
Being on the list nestled between the awesome CustomerServiceLife blog and CX & Social media expert Dan Gingiss (as well as so many other CX superstars) is just beyond awesome really, and I’m always humbled and honored when I receive recognition for my writing and ideas.
Read more at Lucep’s Blog
Implementing live chat for your customer service team might seem like a major decision—and it is!—but it is only the first step in modernizing your customer service strategy. Luckily, implementing a live chat system on your website is often pretty simple, but a tool isn’t useful if your teams aren’t trained to use it properly, and aren’t fully on board with its potential to make life easier.
Simply giving technical training on the new system and then letting your agents loose won’t prepare them adequately for the task. The agents might not be prepared enough to adapt their existing customer service knowledge to the live chat system—which could cause negative encounters with customers through misinterpreted comments, slow chats or grammar gaffes.
Because of this, it’s important to back up systems training with training focused on the experience of your live chat customers, helping your agents to understand the service impacts of your new channel. Here are five things to consider when giving effective chat support training to your team.
Implementing live chat may require your existing team to stretch their skills and capabilities to adapt to new ways of communicating with your customers. Given the right tools, the right training and the right perspective, your team will continue to deliver the top-notch service your brand is known for through this rapidly growing and heavily preferred channel.
Originally published here.
It was awesome to have been able to spend some time chatting with Dani, Meredith and the team at RapportBoost.AI – a fantastic company working on AI and augmented intelligence for contact center agents, blending this with a strong focus on emotional intelligence.
In this interview we discuss agent training, call center customer service and AI in the contact center.
Live chat agent training is one of the most innovative spaces in today’s customer experience ecosystem. From canned responses to augmented intelligence, companies are training their live chat agents with technology more than ever before. We sat down with Kaye Chapman, Customer Experience and Training Specialist at Comm100, to talk about leveraging live chat agent training to drive customer experience and success.
RB.AI: You’re a huge advocate for implementing learning and development techniques to drive positive customer experience outcomes. Could you share some of your insights regarding effective live chat agent training?
KC: Absolutely. Effective live chat agent training has to be centered around customer needs and experiences. In the last few years, we’ve seen an incredible pace of change when it comes to the customer experience. Customer expectations are changing, new technology is being integrated into business practices and business models, and our products and offerings at Comm100 are evolving in step with the industry.
In this environment, companies need to stay agile to be able to react to customer needs. Several approaches to learning and development allow companies to do so. When helping people learn a piece of software, a golden rule of training and development that I often suggest is that live chat agents should be getting just 10% of their knowledge from formal learning experiences, 20% from colleagues, and 70% from on the job learning.
What this means for us and other vendors is it’s vital to look at a variety of different ways to help agents develop their knowledge of whatever software they’re using, not just giving initial training and relying on that to be enough. This includes making good use of knowledge bases and having a range of learning materials available for live chat agents to reference that integrate multimedia such as photos and video.
The best customer experiences are invisible – customers shouldn’t have to go out of their way to get the information they need to solve a problem, and should have ample self-serve materials at their fingertips – and the same can be said for the live chat agent’s experience of learning to use our software. We make sure they’re really well supported to be able to develop their knowledge quite organically, without much extra help being needed from us.
RB.AI: We so often think about generating a frictionless experience for the customer, but the same can be said for your customers that use live chat software, such as West Corporation, Whirlpool, and Stanford University. You want their experience of learning to use that software to be frictionless as well.
KC: That’s right.
RB.AI: When you visit a contact center, how do you assess the workspace and create a plan to provide the optimal channel ecosystem for a brand or company? I would imagine this involves a bit of specialization on a case-by-case basis.
KC: We actually don’t encourage our clients to use any particular patterns or funnel for fielding queries from multiple channels. What our platform does is support customer choice with the idea of being present whenever or wherever the visitor wants to start a chat, from any channel. We coach our clients, where possible, to let the visitor decide and not the company, which is an essential aspect of being truly customer-centric. Our platform supports multiple channels that work together with our integration of knowledge bases, social media channels, and ticketing system. We coach our clients to make use of all these resources together for a better experience for the agent and the customer as well as the use of canned messages, which help to achieve consistency and compliance of responses while reducing knowledge load for front-line agents.
RB.AI: It sounds like you’re making great strides to automate customer chat to remove the burden from the front-line agent through various technologies. I understand that Comm100 is also developing a chatbot. Could you expand on how this bot is integrated into your software environment?
KC: Chatbots are developing rapidly, their adoption is spiking, and for good reason. A correctly configured chatbot service can deflect a significant proportion of customer queries from the contact center, allowing agents to upskill and focus on the more complex questions the chatbot can’t answer.
It’s important for clients to be realistic about what exactly chatbots can handle. At the moment I’d say AI tech is capable of handling 80% of the use cases an organization would encounter. If clients are realistic about exactly what sort of queries their chatbot can handle well and the sort of training required for it to do that, chatbots can provide real cost savings for the business.
It’s good to consider that while many of us think of chatbots as being about conversations, many of the successful use cases I’ve seen involve bots undertaking transactions, such as pushing out credit card forms, confirming a customer’s account information, delivery times and the like. They can also help with resourcing, for example, when agents aren’t online chatbots can provide 24/7 coverage. Also, it’s worth considering that chatbots don’t get sick, they won’t be late for shifts, and they don’t get upset when a customer is rude – so there’s real potential there for chatbots to act as a great backup to cushion you from instances where your human agents might suffer from those issues.
One thing that’s often a concern for clients is making sure that the chatbot is well trained and it doesn’t degrade the customer experience before it improves it. A big part of what we do is working very closely with our clients to ensure chatbots are trained effectively for each business and industry, that it can be effective, it does have contextual awareness, and it’s personalized to the client’s business too.
Originally published here.
I don’t usually share shout-outs and smaller mentions of my writing on this blog, but I felt like this article was especially worth sharing as there’s a lot of other good articles linked there too, alongside my Zendesk blog on icebreaker training activities.
I loved the ideas on how to shake up your to-do lists with a new formula to help you get organized.
The article around the links between language and mental health is something I find fascinating and relevant for customer experience, as we all know how much the words we speak and hear contribute to building meaning.
It’s always brilliant to hear of instances where my ideas are changing how other teams think and work, so I was really pleased to see my article drummed up some discussion!
Read Sutherland Labs June 2018 Coolest Things here.
Have you ever experienced that feeling when you encounter a new piece of information that completely shifts your understanding of the world around you? Whether it’s a great book, an enlightening movie or a blog post with a fresh perspective you’d never considered, those moments are at the core of all great learning experiences.
As a manager or trainer of a customer service team, you’ll know that excellent customer service teams aren’t born that way. Learning and training are at the heart of teams who are united in vision, strive for excellence and deliver the best customer experiences. And when training your team to become the best, excellent training materials are essential to help your team experience those paradigm shifts that fuel greater understanding of your customer.
As a seasoned customer service trainer of more than ten years, videos are an essential part of my ‘training toolkit’ that help me to achieve powerful learning outcomes. Why is that?
Firstly, people learn in different ways. The VAK Learning Model says that people typically have a preference for learning in one of three different ways – visual, auditory or kinesthetic. Adding video to your training sessions helps cater to visual learning preferences and creates an approach to learning that blends different types of media to create effective learning experiences. Secondly, Pictorial Superiority Effect means that using pictures and words together promotes greater information recall – helping you to get maximum retention and engagement through your learning content.
We’re all lucky to live in an age where video is accessible and easy to implement in a learning setting. YouTube is a fantastic resource, with so many different videos that can be used to demonstrate customer service concepts. But it can be challenging to find genuinely great videos that give ‘mic drop’ moments in training sessions, and don’t come across as patronizing or irrelevant.
I’ve created this blog post to share some customer service training videos I’ve used to create “wow” learning moments. You’ll notice I’ve steered away from using videos from industry greats and thought leaders, and have stuck to videos that are accessible and relatable to everyone. I’ve also avoided using the same customer service training videos that are shared by a ton of other blogs, and have used just videos from my experience that I have found personally effective.
So without further ado, let’s jump in!
As a Brit, I grew up with the comedy of the Two Ronnies on TV, and this is a classic clip to demonstrate the impact of context on customer service communications. In this video, the customer and shopkeeper grapple with one misunderstanding after another when the shopkeeper assumed he knows what the customer wants. Mistaking “Four candles” for “Fork handles” is just one error in a conversation rife with confusion and misunderstanding.
Successful communication relies on ensuring that you share the same context and understanding as the customer, and checking this where you’re not sure – avoiding assumptions that make communication difficult. This is an especially great video for teams who struggle with translating corporate jargon to customers, and it’s an excellent reminder for all of the importance of checking and questioning in customer service communications.
This video is a great way to demonstrate the results of a well-known study on selective attention. Ask your team to watch the video and count how many times the ball is passed from one participant to the next. At the end of the video, ask the team for their answers. Then, ask if they noticed the gorilla. About 50% of the time, individuals will miss the gorilla entirely. Rewind the video to show them that it was there all along!
Intuition can be a fantastic thing to help us troubleshoot issues and get to the root of problems quickly. But what happens when your intuition is faulty? Customer service agents need to be aware that when they assume they know what the answer to a customer’s problem is, they could be incorrect – and the right answer might have been staring them in the face all along.
This fantastic video features TEDx Talk presenter, Will Stephen, saying absolutely nothing. He uses presentation skills to sound eloquent and persuasive without actually imparting anything useful on any topic.
There’s a lot of different reasons why you might want to show this to your team. It might be that you want to show how Will uses tone, body language, and visual aids to create particular impressions – demonstrating the power of these facets of communication. Or, you might want to warn your team of the dangers of saying an awful lot when that speech doesn’t contain much that’s useful to your customer. Either way, this video gives a great insight into how the way you present your message impacts on its persuasiveness, and should be a required watch for all customer service teams.
I was on the fence about including this video. It’s very emotive – so much so that you might find training participants are moved to tears while watching. Because of this, it’s your call to decide whether it’s appropriate to show your team this video. I’ve used this with teams I know well, with a warning that the video is a tear-jerker, because it’s so useful for demonstrating what empathy is and creating great discussion about how to handle empathy in a professional setting.
This video, created by the Cleveland Clinic in the US, shows different hospital patients grappling with different life events. It’s a powerful reminder that everyone has their issues, whether they’re hidden or visible – and that goes for us, as well as for our customers.
You can shape post-video discussion in a few ways, asking your group questions like: How can we ensure we’re reacting to customers empathetically without reacting emotionally? When is an affective or cognitive empathy response most effective? How can an empathetic mindset improve interactions with customers who are upset or angry?
This video is terrific to demonstrate the differences between sympathy and empathy, and it’s another one that provides a lot of thought-provoking ideas for your group to explore when discussing appropriate empathetic responses to customers.
Brené Brown shows the differences between empathetic responses – which are rooted in true perspective-taking – versus sympathetic responses, which usually don’t put the sympathizer in the other person’s shoes. It’s an excellent video to begin discussing the differences between sympathy, empathy (and apathy), and exploring what responses are appropriate in your business setting. This isn’t such a heavy-hitting video as the last, so I’ve used this before for teams I don’t know so well to provide a more comfortable way to explore the concept of empathy.
Although this video is perfect for teams who deal face to face with customers, it’s also really useful for digital teams. In this video, the cast of “Friends” demonstrate how much of the impact of communication is carried in nonverbal expression, to hilarious effect. Relevant questions to ask your group after viewing include: How can we modulate and control our nonverbal communication to ensure our messages are received clearly and unambiguously? How can teams who rely purely on text strengthen their responses to ensure the right message is communicated?
Plus, it’s a fun video for multigenerational teams to watch – from those who knew and loved Friends when it was originally on TV, to your younger staff who might not know it was ever a ‘thing.’
Happy, engaged employees create better customer experiences. However, many initiatives aimed at encouraging positive attitudes at work can fall flat. Videos featuring attitudinal initiatives such as the Fish! Philosophy sound great, but can come across as arrogant or even lacking in understanding of employees with mental health issues.
As a manager or trainer, though, you can encourage the kind of playfulness that keeps work enjoyable. This video from WGN-TV Anchors Robert Jordan and Jackie Bange shows their ‘commercial break handshake’ in action and is a nice way to promote having fun at work.
Email is a brilliant medium for customer communications, as long as it’s done right. Comedy sketch duo Tripp and Tyler show how actions over email would play out in a face to face context, taking email norms such as auto-responses, CC’ing in the entire office, caps lock and email signatures, and putting them in a real-life context.
This is a great video to start a discussion about proper email etiquette, whether in interactions with customers or with each other. It also brings up questions about the appropriateness of particular communication methods.
Sheldon from Big Bang Theory isn’t the best or most empathetic communicator. Here, you can show your group some of the hallmarks of bad listening and ask some questions to help the group explore what that looks like. What did Sheldon do? What didn’t he do? What caused this? What was the impact? Where in work do we see these behaviors (or lack of them)?
This video is ideally finished off by exploring the Five Levels of Listening. You can then use the model to ask the group to define what levels of listening Sheldon uses, what we tend to use, and how we can ensure we listen at higher levels.
On its own, this video doesn’t seem to have any clear link to customer service principles. But used as part of a fun training activity, it’s a great way to explore how to clearly communicate instructions and troubleshooting steps to customers.
Divide your group into three and give all participants a sheet of origami paper. For the first group, show them this video and ask them to replicate the frog. For the second group, give them a copy of these diagrammatic instructions and ask them to do the same. For the last group, verbally walk them through how to create a frog, giving verbal instructions like “fold the paper down the middle” – however, don’t actually show them what to do.
At the end, ask the group about their experiences with each method. What problems did they encounter? What type of visuals helped the most? What parallels are there in our troubleshooting processes? How can we use what we’ve learned from this experience to ensure customers can clearly understand the steps we guide them through?
Once you’re finished, the group will also have some fun jumping frogs to play with throughout the rest of training!
I hope you enjoy looking at these videos and thinking how they could benefit your team. Do you have any other videos that you’ve used to successfully illustrate particular customer service concepts? I’d love to hear about them – let me know in the comments below!
Originally published here.
“Today is all about getting to know each other, building relationships, and finding out even more about the people you already know. It’s icebreaker time!”
As my colleague announced the aims for the day to our newly hired team, the atmosphere in the room turned suddenly frosty. People shuffled in their seats and looked at their shoes. Our team was made up of mostly younger staff, working in an industry that’s not known for its extraversion. At the word “icebreaker”, they visibly melted.
Several years earlier, I was a member of a team tasked with onboarding around 25 people, brand new to the company, and who would all be working closely together. As a training team, we knew we needed to help everyone get to know each other.