What does it mean to be authentic and how can businesses empower employees to provide those experiences? These were some of the questions that executives tackled at Customer Contact 2014 West: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange this week in San Diego, Calif. "Authenticity is honesty minus self-righteousness plus vulnerability," said keynote speaker and former MLB pitcher Mike Robbins. Robbins described his experience admitting to a senior publishing executive that he was unprepared for a meeting in which he was pitching an idea for a motivational book (the company published the book).
"People respond better to an honest answer instead of a scripted one but it means allowing yourself to take a risk," Robbins said.
Authenticity is also a branding strategy. For example, customer service agents at online retailer zulily do not use a script or IVR platform and are encouraged to maintain a casual tone when speaking with customers. And although the company measures numerous data points, such as the duration and number of calls taken, zulily does not have an attendance policy nor does it use CSAT measurements.
"We allow our agents to make their own decisions which helps them provide our customers with what we call a 'magical' experience," commented Maureen Shea, vice president of service operations. "That means the customer rarely needs to call about a problem, but has a pleasant experience resolving the issue and maybe even feels like she is speaking with a friend."
Working towards a comprehensive understanding of the data companies are collecting and using it to identify areas that need to be improved is also important, noted Jim Rees, head of global business administration for customer experience at insurance firm AIG.
It is easy for businesses to focus on a narrow segment of the customer experience, such as a CSAT or NPS score while missing the full picture and opportunities to make improvements, he explained. When analyzing data, leaders should ask themselves, "Are you asking the right questions and are you using the data to find what needs to be fixed?" said Rees.
As an example, Rees described a customer satisfaction survey from a local hardware store with poor customer service. Rees answered every question negatively except whether he would recommend others to the store. "I would recommend the hardware store because it's the only one in our neighborhood, but the company should look at those results and realize something is wrong," Rees said. "If you're stopping at your NPS score, you are stopping way too soon."