At CSE, Speakers Urge Looking Through the Customers' Lens

WASHINGTON — Disney excels at customer service, and the reason is that the company, in crafting every customer experience, looks at everything through the eyes of the customer, Dennis Snow, president of Snow & Associates and a former member of the leadership team at Walt Disney World, told attendees at the CRM Evolution, Customer Service Experience, and SpeechTEK conferences during his opening keynote Monday morning.

"If you operate a contact center, the technology has to be great, but it still is about the experience," Snow told attendees. "Every interaction that you have with the customer, do it with an experience mentality, not a task mentality."

Snow, a consultant and author of the book Lessons From the Mouse: A Guide for Applying Disney World's Secrets of Success to Your Organization, Your Career, and Your Life, cautioned that when companies approach their customer interactions as tasks rather than experiences, customers feel "processed through the system" rather than valued.

While he admitted that it's easy to fall into the task mentality, it's the experience mentality that leads to customer loyalty, according to Snow, who worked his way up to an executive position at Disney after starting with the company in 1979 as an attendant on the "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" ride.

The experience mentality, he added, first requires companies to look at everything through "the lens of the customer."

When you do this, "you begin to understand why customers do what they do," he said, noting that stupid questions from customers might not seem so stupid "when you look at them through the customer lens, when you see what's behind the question."

Snow also detailed a three-step process in place at Disney, that when done correctly and consistently "it is magic."

The first step in that process is service mapping, which looks at the people and processes involved in customer service together.  "Each step in the process should be analyzed through the lens of the customer, not the organization," Snow said. "At each step, ask what you are doing to the customer. Then, for each step, ask yourself what mediocre service looks like and what would excellent service look like."

Next, Snow urged paying attention to every detail. "Everything speaks, from the quality of the technology to the tone of voice of the agent on the phone," he said. "But you need to chart what distracts from and adds to the experience."

The third and final step in the process involves "creating moments of wow," which, when added together, are a competitive differentiator, according to Snow.

Snow maintained that on the customer hierarchy of service experience expectations, the key elements are accuracy, availability, partnership, and advice. The first two are expected, while the latter two present the real opportunities to influence customer perceptions, according to Snow.

"When you do not do well with accuracy or availability, you lose points with the customer, but if you get them right you don't gain points because they're what the customer expects. Partnership and advice are what gives you points because they are not expected. Those are where the real opportunities lie," he said.

Other speakers at the Customer Service Experience conference agreed that looking at customer experiences through the customers' eyes is a worthy goal, but it's not easy in practice.

Contact center agents more often "look through the lens of what they are responsible for, not necessarily even through the lens of the organization or the customer," Jeff Toister, president of Toister Performance Solutions, pointed out

That happens when agents are disengaged, something that affects more than half of all contact center employees. And when agents are disengaged, contact centers see high absenteeism, high turnover, poor customer service, poor work quality, and low performance, according to Toister.

Engagement, he said, is defined as "the extent to which employees directly contribute to the organization's success.

Challenges to engagement, though, occur when agents aren't aware of what is expected of them, when success isn't clearly defined, when success is measured infrequently, and when executives don't commit to making changes to increase success, according to Toister.

Joe Gagnon, general manager of cloud solutions at Aspect Software, also recommended moving from a contact center-centric mind-set to one that is customer-centric.

Customer service, Gagnon said during a lunchtime presentation, "is no longer about what you can do for me, but about what you enable me to do on my own."

Part of that, he explained, involves making it easy for customers to find the answers to their questions and empowering agents for when customers can't find their own answers.

Denise Offutt, manager of market research at Epson America, also suggested using a new metric called customer effort scoring, as the standard for improving customer service. This metric looks at how easy it is for consumers to do business with companies. When taken together with Net Promoter Score, customer effort score gives a more complete picture of the customer experience.

According to a pilot of the customer effort score conducted with Service 800 at Epson, Johnson & Johnson, Mitsubishi, and a few other companies, poor scores in customer effort frequently precede customer cancellations, while a good customer effort score typically resulted in higher revenue, Offutt said.

A key component of lowering customer effort is empowering customers with self-service options, but that has created a greater strain on customer service agents, according to Ian Jacobs, a senior analyst at Forrester Research.

"The more your customers self-serve, the more important your agents become because they are dealing with more complex issues," Jacobs said. "We're asking a lot more of agents, and customers have more demands from them."

For that reason, Jacobs simply recommended "hiring better agents." 

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