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.

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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.


“In God we Trust, all others bring data”

I was an invincible sophomore in College, I had a  terrific girlfriend with a grown up job, life was good. At least until she wanted to discuss our “future”, so we planned a meeting at our favorite spot in the student union. I stayed up late the night before deep in thought contemplating the different scenarios. In the end, I showed up to the student union with a printout of a cost benefit analysis to help us decide the next steps in our relationship. To my chagrin, she stormed off and stopped taking my calls — she didn’t even stay to hear the end of my analysis. I have been known to take this trust in data thing too far, it’s a life mantra of sorts, I have to be reminded data has it’s limits particularly in human relationships.


Years later I will begin a career in a contact center with a group of people who loved data as much as I do, I was home! By the way I would like to start a petition to have statue of the great Dr. Edwards Deming in front of every contact center. If only for his quote – “In God we trust, all others bring data”.


No one measures everything quite like a contact center, and since most of it’s costs is labor, when I say ‘everything’ I actually mean it’s people. I think The NSA can learn a thing or two from the data collection that most contact centers collect on it’s frontline representatives.


I read a review on glassdoor from a current employee about a local contact center and the headline was -“Homeless drug addicts have more freedom than Call Center Reps”. I wanted to disagree or get defensive about everything that followed, but I found myself agreeing that most of the comments on the review were fairly typical. The working conditions accurately describe most call or contact centers, we track and measure our employee’s every move.


The mismatch here is that today the charge for contact center has changed but it is still run with 90s mentality of low trust and looking for data to ring out more and more widgets. There was a time when all anyone looked to the contact center for was to crank out as many widgets as cheaply as possibly and prevent customers from showing up at corporate with pitchforks. The contacts were repetitive and easy, they were routine status checks, payment requests, general information contacts.
In case you haven’t noticed, more and more of the mindless contacts (payments, status checks) are being handled by robots (Automated systems, website, etc). So sure in the past when most customer inquiries were routine, metrics like Average Handle Time and rigid checklist metrics made sense. Now contacts that arrive for employees to handle are increasingly complex, and no longer about handling more and more in cheaper ways but building loyalty. Today more than ever we do not need metrics that signal to employees we do not trust them or are more concerned with cranking out more widgets.


To win you need to only hire employees that you can trust to deliver experiences that are connected and contextual. Then equip them with tools to do their jobs, then trust them to make it happen without looking over their shoulders or handing them a stopwatch. You need engaged Employees on your side!


Stop chasing employee engagement, the lead measure to chase is actually trust, in other words engagement is what happens when you trust your employees. Gallup polling shows that 48% of disengaged employees cite trust. You can’t describe a great place to work or relationship without using the word trust. Making the pivot from a low trust to high trust environment is a shift we have to make now to help us win.


It sounds counterintuitive but you will get more control by giving employees more control. I took average Handle time off my frontline scorecard years ago, and the world didn’t come to end, we got better outcomes. Customer expectations are rising, issues are getting more complex and the most equipped employees are the ones whose judgements are trusted. Companies who give more control to employees to handle customer problems are in more control of their outcomes than those who exhibit low trust.


If you want employees building customer loyalty, you have some spring cleaning to do – lose all the metrics that scream “I don’t trust you at all”.
I would start with Average Handle Time, what other metrics will you do away with?

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