On Being a Human Being

I was that kid in grade school. I would pick on my classmates – I would even write songs and mock them till they were in tears or were so enraged they wanted to beat me up. I was fast, so I would take off running.  Occasionally I would get caught and get my comeuppance.

The consequences continued once my mom found out, but what stayed with me longest was my father’s disappointing look. He would tell me it’s not complicated, “just act like a human being”. He believed human beings are by default good, and I agree.

A few decades later, my life is about helping leaders in organizations weaponize customer experience to grow their companies.

Believe me, it can get really complicated.  Tomorrow we are facilitating a private workshop where we want to predict what patients are calling about before they call.

Everything we we do on a daily basis at BetterXperience is guided by 4 simple words – Be a human Being.

How do these simple words shape what can be the complicated work of building emotional connections with customers?
Be a Human Being when deploying Technology

Technology sucks! Technology is awesome! I can’t make up my mind.

We just got done working with a medical provider to design pill bottles that remind patients to take their pills.

Technology is awesome! Who knows.

I was on a date a while back and it was going very well until she opened up her phone to answer an “emergency” phone call even though her phone didn’t ring. I never heard from her again. Technology sucks!

Humanity is missing from technological applications because they aren’t built for humans. I am not being hyperbolic. Call your cell phone company… really, call them. I am sure you will be greeted by an automated system designed by people who like clubbing baby seals with the severed paws of polar bears.

Why is technology so bad?

A sales person sells the technology by promising it will save the company money one way or the other – armed with an ROI sheet of how many people the technology will displace. Apparently doing an ROI on emotional connections with customers that lead to customer loyalty is far too complicated.

Then the company implements with the goal of saving money first, and dealing with the customer experience second. What you are left with is technology with so much promise, but in the end gets in the way of a great experience because it is stripped of humanity.

I don’t have all the answers, but we have an approach that is simple. Technology that isn’t nuanced and human isn’t worth deploying.  Even technology must be a human being.

 

I’ll be speaking on CX in healthcare in Chicago on March 17th.  Hope to see you there!

I’d love to connect with you.


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How to get serious about Customer Experience: Separating Signal from Noise

“Water is wet! Customer Experience is good!”

Your feed is probably filled with articles about the customer experience. Many of them are great and you are probably nodding in agreement at most of it. But now what? The next piece of content agrees with the last one you read or watched, the volume is louder, and they are all confirming what you already know. Water is wet! Customer experience is good!

Problem is, if you are customer experience professional you have an important job to do – you need help in achieving your goals of improving customer loyalty, removing unwanted friction (costs) from your respective business and whatever else your boss deems fit. Sure, hearing a presentation or consuming content that you agree with may feel good, but it doesn’t help you in your very specific company with its very specific challenges. It also does nothing to help you make the case to your CFO, or help you influence your peers on the power of customer centricity, nor will it help you decide what exactly to focus on to build loyalty.

Even the best piece of content does nothing to help you make the unique case for CX in your organization.

So we at BetterXperience decided to do something about this problem. We have been perfecting a CX framework we want to share with you at our 2-day live workshop. We want to help working CX pros answer two basic questions: What the heck does CX mean for your very unique organization, and what specifically can you do tomorrow to help your company win?

I would like to invite you and your team to join us at the workshop. We think you will find it practical,  impactful and actionable to you and your business. Please reach out to us directly if you have any questions, or visit BetterCXP.com to signup.

Follow me on twitter: @amastenumah

I am the author of The Curated Experience and Founder of BetterXperience

Call or Text : 405 928 8185


Ep 16: To win, Stop Putting Customers First

I was definitely not my mom’s favorite kid growing up, there were 4 of us and most days I hovered between 3rd and 5th depending on how she felt about the Goldfish at that moment. I am not bitter, I had a good run, 4 consecutive years as an only child is more than most get. Pecking order matters. We all know it.

Like my mom, your organization has stakeholders it loves very much – End consumers, Vendors, Shareholders, Employees – one of them has to be the favorite.

 

On today’s show we take a macro view, and answer the question who comes first? Who do you prioritize? Customers over Employees? Employees over Customers? Is it all about Shareholders. We explore a few examples and come to one clear conclusion.

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Ep 12 – “Your call may be recorded so we can laugh at you later”

Virtually every 1800# you dial has an ominous warning – “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes.”  Half of that statement is true – there are billions of interactions on servers around the world.

These calls are dissected and evaluated but they do little to improve customer outcomes. From what I can tell their best purpose is comic relief for those of us who have worked in contact centers and occasionally they identify extremely bad customer interactions. The problem is the technology has improved but the thinking around Quality assurance hasn’t moved much.

 

This isn’t an innocuous problem, significant resources at contact centers are devoted to QA largely around manually pecking around looking for random calls to listen to. This approach is a loser and most practitioners instinctively know it. To be sure we did a test spanning ~113,000 calls at a call center. For the pilot group we totally stopped any QA, and compared the results with the control group.

On today’s show, my guest Chris and I throw rocks at Quality assurance and present a few viable alternatives.

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Ep 11: The Damn Millennials are ruining the Customer Experience

One of my clients used to brag about his refusal to hire any more young people – his argument was “the damn millennials were too entitled.”

He would constantly hold up his attrition over the last 5 years as proof.  It was personal for him, he was in online retail and his margins couldn’t handle that kind of turnover.

So I was hired to bring back a strategy to change the make up of his workforce that was at the time 80% millennials.

 

The data notwithstanding the millennial hypothesis rang like bullshit to me but we studied it, there was a problem for sure, for starters, his employees (regardless of generation) hated working for the company, the laundry list of reasons were all too common.

Probably more striking were certain descriptors used that were louder with the millennials in the data set, words like  inflexible, “without a higher purpose”, and lack of opportunities. So maybe there’s something to the millennial hype.

Are millennials a completely different breed? Are they all bad news for the customer experience?

For some answers, on today’s podcast we have Darren Ford author of the Millennial Challenge to help answer some of these questions.

Thanks for your continued feedback on ITunes, it helps our show get better.

 

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Episode 9 – Omni-Channel is a Road to Nowhere

There are lots of legitimate complaints about customer service  and the overall experience –  automated systems that seem designed by sadist. To say nothing of getting transferred from one  department to the next, only to have to repeat your problem over and over.

There is plenty to fix, so for heaven’s sake why have practitioners chosen to obsess over omni-Channel.

On today’s episode, I delve into the omni-channel obsession and give you my take on why omni-channel pursuit is dangerous for your CX health.

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Ep 7. Being a Call Center Agent Sucks and how we can fix it

I asked an executive if his son would be considering a job in his own call center from the look on his face, you would think I was suggesting his son take a job with ISIS!

 

He was completely disgusted with the question. I don’t completely blame him, the job sucked when I first did it in the 90s and it hasn’t changed for the better since. It doesn’t have to be this way though.

If it was just because of the low pay and screaming customers it will be one thing, but the bigger issue is the environment we have created for people in these jobs.

For starters, many organizations treat the roles like prostitution with patronizing policies and utter disregard.

You can read my post on that here and feel free to call or text me at 4059288185 if you want to chat some more on that. Today I want to talk about how to improve the day to day experience.

We can not continue talking about the customer experience without devoting the same energy to the Customer-Facing employee experience. 

Executive after executive visits their respective call centers, sit with an agent and walks away with awe, and patronizing remarks like “I can’t do that job, those people are heroes!”

The job doesn’t have to be heroic, it only appears that way because most people in call centers do their job on 25 year old technology, that seemingly moves at the pace of a pregnant whale.

They have to go from screen to screen hunting and pecking around for information, all the while getting yelled at by demanding customers. They buy time by saying “give me a moment, while I look that up.”

I am excited to tell you that there’s a way forward and I plan to lay out what the agent experience should look like over 3 separate podcasts bringing on experts in the field.

On today’s podcast I invited Chris Lawson to talk about what is already happening today with the call center agent desktop technology.

If you are an executive with responsibility for the contact center, heaping encomiums on the call center staff alone is not particularly helpful, so save them and make changes instead.

You can start by listening to today’s show where we talk about 10 year old technology that can be game changing for those heroes.

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Ep 5: What Happened to the Starbucks Experience

My relationship with coffee is non-committal, I’ll drink it if it’s in front of me but my normal wake-up drug of choice is crispy bacon! Starbucks is still my default meeting place to meet a colleague or friend. Not that long ago an old colleague invited me to catch up at a Starbucks of her choosing. We were both shocked to find out the entire place was a drive through and you couldn’t even sit down for coffee – things have changed!

On this week’s episode, I have Jenn Nahrstadt as my guest. She is on the frontline of customer service – she is a  Barista at Starbucks. She is careful about being overly critical but her voice betrays her. She is in the middle of a sea-change, the experience is changing and she doesn’t love it.

Jenn tells a very moving story about the power of relationships with customers involving a customer and his cancer stricken wife. Person to person interactions have legs, they make a difference, I am sold!

Technology is changing this equation dramatically and she’s not sure if it is all good. I press her on this, I basically tell her humans can make mistakes, spell your 4 letter name wrong and occasionally just suck, so maybe more technology is all good…

She articulates the case for the blend of human and technology, after that we solved world hunger.

Please keep the feedback and reviews coming on iTunes, I appreciate it.

 


Ep 3: Customer feedback is NOT a gift

I used to work at a  warehouse many years ago, and let’s just say it was not going well, I was somehow working my hardest and still falling behind. My supervisor pulled me in his office and started his speech with “Amas I want you to know that feedback is a gift” then went on to tell me all the dozen ways I sucked at my job. I remember thinking what contest in hell did I win to receive this crappy gift of Feedback.

 

 

I have since heard that same quote “Feedback is a gift” repeated time and time again throughout my career. So it’s no wonder seemingly every company on earth is collecting customer feedback, and I frankly think it has to stop. On this episode I examine this practice and provide my views on the matter and begin to lay out what the future may look like.

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Episode 2 – The End of Jobs w/ Mike Muson

I was hired as a consultant to come ‘automate parts of the operations’ – which meant eliminate as many jobs as I could, there were even incentives in my contract based on labor savings.  And by God when the project was all over, there were a few hundred less jobs than when I showed up. It was a huge success! We utilized technology to eliminate jobs, and I hope all those people moved on to other jobs created by technology – I don’t know if that’s true but that’s what I need to believe to get my 6 1/2 hours of sleep every night.

 

 

 

What we do for a living is the source of our identity for most of us, so I don’t comment on this topic lightly. We are in the middle of an evolution that includes a lot less jobs and this is not the first ‘robots are taking over’ era but I am a little concerned as you can tell from the article I wrote here a little while back.

For all of us as end consumers this may be mostly great news, things will get faster and cheaper – I feel lucky to be alive in the middle of all the possibilities technology affords us.

The robots are no doubt good for us as consumers but what about the folks who work in the service industry? What about call center employees? I have my theories, but instead of engaging in endless specuation I invited Mike to my Podcast – he is a smart guy whose company is at the forefront of putting all the crappy IVRs you know and hate today out of existence. He wants to replace those IVR Touch Tone torture prisons with smarter, less frustrating technology.

The good news from the podcast is one day I will be able to call my phone company in front of my young son without the risk of using profanity. What I was more interested in are the call center agents this technology will displace… Please listen to the episode and I hope the very lively conversation will leave you a little more enlightened.

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