Preventing fraud in the contact center

Ever wonder what’s on your customers’ minds? According to a recent Gallup poll, in the U.S., more people are worried about having their personal information stolen than being victims of crimes, such as burglary/mugging, terrorism, or even sexual assault.

As businesses introduce innovative ways for customers to open accounts and/or transact online, new behavior patterns are being created. As a result, old benchmarks used to detect irregular activity in the call center that might signal fraud are no longer reliable.

Vulnerabilities from outside – and within

The availability of personal information sets up contact centers as a target for fraud. In the financial services industry alone, it’s estimated that one in every 2,500 calls into the contact center are fraudulent. Moreover, incidents can originate from both outside and within an organization. An individual might call in and phish customers’ personal information, for example, or a rogue agent might try to capture information for his/her own use. “Research shows that by 2020, 75 percent of organizations will sustain a targeted, cross-channel fraud attack with the contact center as the primary point of compromise,” says Tricia Phillips, a former cybersecurity analyst with Gartner.

Companies are exploring how technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) can help predict and prevent attacks on customer data across all channels and sources - online, in the call center, and from employees spread across all parts of their organizations. Some tools and strategies that Gartner and other experts recommend to mitigate contact center fraud include:

Phone printing: This works by gathering as much information on each caller – such as type of phone used, location, background noise, and whether a number has been “spoofed” (given a fake caller ID) – and adding the fraudulent phone prints to a data repository. This technique identifies high-risk calls and also helps speed up calls for legitimate customers.

Voice Biometrics: Often used in combination with phone printing, this technology analyzes and records in real time characteristics such as a callers’ tone, choice of words and patterns of speech. This is useful in preventing a fraudster from assuming someone else’s identity and convincing a contact center agent to mistakenly surrender account information.

Central Fraud Analytics: A customer’s journey today to accomplish a single task might involve several channels – say, logging into an account, then a webchat, followed by a call. Feeding contact center behavior into an analytics or even rule-based fraud detection platform can identify anomalies for a given customer or in comparison to a peer group to detect fraud.

As part of our initiative to stem fraud in the contact center, VXI is developing tools that systematically detect and help prevent the instance of fraud in the call center. Through a combination of tracking and analytics our goal is to provide real-time analysis and audit - to not only stem fraud risk, but to actually catch fraud while it’s occurring, so we can help our clients add to their own compliance/risk mitigation strategy.

Data breaches of all sorts will continue to push businesses and the security industry toward practices and technology that provide customers with the secure experiences that they deserve. VXI looks forward to bepart of that evolution.

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How to harness the power of Millennials for better CX

This article was coauthored by Annette Timmins, Vice President Strategy and Solutions, and Sarah Rebueno, Director of Training

You might know that millennials make up almost 20% of the world’s population. Here’s a statistic that matters more for your business:

By 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce.
- Ernst and Young Global Generations: A Global Study on Work-Life Challenges Across Generations

Ignore this impending reality at your own peril – and not just because the balance of workers born between 1981 and 1996 is shifting so dramatically. This generation has unique characteristics that can help you transform the economics of your customer-care operations.

These were among the compelling facts that drew executives to global conferences where VXI was invited to share insights on delivering world-class customer experience (CX). Here’s a look at the opportunities this generational turnover potentially signals for your organization.

Addressing your agent-hire wish list

Millennials, raised on technology, have often been described in terms that … are less than complimentary. Flip that paradigm, as we have at VXI, and you’re looking at a workforce that, according to Nielsen research:

  • Has the ability to switch tasks rapidly
  • Can navigate through distractions/multitask
  • Integrates and acts on data more quickly
  • Is more receptive to more complex messaging

Sounds like a wish list for all your agent hires - right?

Your company might have multiple systems – CRM, knowledge management, payment processing - that agents must navigate to fulfill a customer request. On top of navigating communication channels, whether it’s phone, email or chat service. It’s imperative that these systems provide the tools your agents need to succeed, whether or not they are millennials.

Training that delivers on your KPIs

Let’s take a look at what customer-care employees believe they need to be better performers. In a survey of more than 5,000 agents by one of our largest clients, of the six recommendations that surfaced, one stood out:

Deploy training systems that mirror live accounts and live production tools

This is a key element to VXI’s award-winning track record with customer success. Getting agents up to speed in a client environment is hard, and turnover is rampant. VXI’s unique onboarding training platform, Training Simulator™, provides agents-in-training with what’s similar to a flight simulator for airplane pilots – but with a whole lot more that resonates with the millennial generation.

“With Training Simulator™, our clients have experienced a 20% increase in customer satisfaction and sales, and a 20% in average handling time.”
-   Sarah Rebueno, Director of Training

Online, trainees are presented with real-world scenarios, customized to mirror the client’s customer-care environment - whether it’s helping a customer find the right size for a shirt or resolving a payment issue. It’s a conducive platform for workers raised on YouTube and who, by the age of 18, are likely to have 9,000 hours of videogaming under their belts.

Collaboration and communication are key traits of the millennial generation. Training Simulator™ addresses this by allowing trainees to ask for help from VXI staff during onboarding, and rewarding milestones met with badges.

More than 75% of VXI’s agents are millennials. With Training Simulator™, our clients have experienced a 20% increase in customer satisfaction and sales, and a 20% in average handling time.  There’s a direct correlation between these results and comprehension of training data each time an agent practices a specific Training Simulator scenario. Armed with this knowledge our agents can confidently handle their first live call. The documented improvements in speed to proficiency have led not only to our clients deploying Training Simulator™ in their captive sites; it’s also led to other suppliers being required to deploy the tool in their centers to assure improved results and training consistency across entire programs.

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How to prevent ‘speed dating’ syndrome in procurement

The more requests for proposal (RFPs) I participate in, the more I wonder: has today’s procurement process turned to “speed dating”?

In an attempt to streamline evaluations of suppliers, more and more procurement organizations are relying on the standard mechanism by which organizations typically vet potential outsourcing partners – the request for proposal (RFP). For services that are key to your brand image and vital to your organization’s success, a flat document consisting of boilerplate questions and responses can’t comprehensively capture the nuances of your organization’s needs – or a supplier’s compatibility with your organization.

Procurement professionals have an opportunity to provide real-time, game-changing value to their stakeholders. The first step involves allowing a supplier to go behind the scenes to do due diligence on your organization.

Onsite assessment – what’s in it for you

Consider this statistic: According to Gartner, 80% of customer service outsourcing projects aimed at cutting costs are destined to fail. Gartner says, “Companies are encountering problems because they don't approach this strategically. They usually lack information to make meaningful cost/benefit analysis and often focus on inappropriate or unmeasurable service levels and cost metrics."

Responses to RFP questions typically address questions such as cost, technology stack, quality, operational KPIs, security, etc.. They don’t provide insight into the real-world, day-to-day challenges and opportunities that a client organization might have. They also provide neither party much visibility into the “secret sauce” that defines a successful relationship: compatibility.

When a supplier representative is invited in to see how your current operation runs and ask key stakeholders “how?” and “why?” questions, it’s an opportunity for the individual to identify pain points or process gaps that could be addressed.

For instance, in a recent onsite assessment that I conducted for a call center outsourcing RFP, I noticed that not all agents were consistently making upsell offers. When I asked one agent why, she confessed that she “forgot.” Having an online knowledge base that generates pop-up prompts (based on, say, a customer’s credit rating or purchase history) would ensure that every call is a selling opportunity. You can apply this to most procurement opportunities. We all know that “tribal knowledge” isn’t a myth and the only way you can get to the heart of what makes an organization tick is by face to face due diligence.

Getting out of the ‘speed dating’ rut

Unlike the traditional “speed dating” approach to evaluating a supplier, scheduling onsite assessments with key prospective suppliers is more like a first date. At a minimum, you get insights into compatibility. If you’re lucky, you may even find a long-term partner who not only meets your basic needs for cost savings, quality, and technology but also provides you with innovation to help build your brand and even transform your organization.

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Are seasonal peaks still souring your festive season? More tips to consider for 2019

This article is a continuation of one I posted last week regarding preparing now to better handle spikes in volume during next year’s peak seasons. After thinking about the strategies I mentioned in my first post on combatting seasonal peaks, I may have left the best for last.

The way you respond to call volume fluctuations - and how quickly - can make or break your peak season. That’s because when consumers are unhappy, they react swiftly.

Drivers of disloyalty hinge on the amount of effort customers must use to resolve a service issue”

In a recent article on effortless experience, Rick DeLisi, principle executive advisor at Gartner, explained the result of a survey they conducted: “45% of the people who had something positive to say about a company told fewer than three other people. However, 48% of people who had a negative experience told more than ten people.”

If you want to preserve customer loyalty, forecasting and queue management are two key approaches to tap into as part of your overall strategy for peak period call management.

Forecasting:  Variability should not be confused with unpredictability

Forecasting is the most important tool that businesses can use to anticipate a spike in volume. Collecting a substantial amount of data, which can then be used to put together a predictive model, is essential to developing an accurate forecasting process. But let’s not forget that forecasting is just as much an art as a science - because we are, after all, predicting the future. The accuracy of your forecast will be due in some part to your judgment and experience.

The first thing my team does with clients during the planning process is ask them for historical forecasts by half-hour intervals for the entire year (two years is even better!). We also request a schedule from their marketing departments for upcoming promotions, as well as any other factors that may impact call volume (e.g. social media strategy, billing changes). Variability in call arrival patterns in most cases can be attributed to these events. If you can account for them, you can in fact, predict the calls that will result. You can then decide whether you want to overstaff slightly and fill in the quieter times with other tasks or whether you want to understaff slightly.

Forecasting should be an ongoing activity. The more variable the call volumes are by day/week/month and the faster they are changing, the more frequently you will want to reforecast. You will begin to see trends in both the call volume patterns and the volume increases, which will help you to be more accurate with your forecasts over time.  Accurate forecasting is the foundation of call center scheduling, and without it, over- and understaffing will occur and impact the profitability of a contact center.


Average Revenue per Sales Call x Abandoned Calls = LOST REVENUE!

Lifetime Value of Customer X Abandoned Calls =LOST REVENUE & LOST CUSTOMER!


Queue management: Cut training costs in half

Once you have your forecasting model in place, you can look at additional options for managing your call queue, such as interactive voice response (IVR), recorded messages, voicemail, skills-based call routing, or queue callback.

Queue management - accounting for skill group queue assignments and queue priorities - is just as important as forecasting accuracy. Are your queues structured for maximum efficiency?

 A great way to reduce wait time during peak period is to create specialized queues so calls get forwarded to agents based on their training/competency or driven based on a specific type of request (e.g. billing dispute). Bonus – when you create specialized queues you can cut training costs in half by only sending agents calls you know they are going be able to handle.

A recent survey found that consumers dislike waiting in a queue for the next available agent with 61% of the public disliking not knowing how long they will be on hold.

That’s why one of the most important call queue management tools available today is queue callback. This feature allows customers to leave the call queue without losing their place in line by requesting that an agent call them back as soon as possible.  Studies show that a callback service can reduce abandoned calls by at least 32%, so your customers can connect with live agents without increasing call volumes.

A customer’s time and money should be worth what they get back in terms of services/ products they purchase and the experiences they have - whether it be on an ordinary Tuesday afternoon or Monday morning during peak season. So, utilizing good forecasting techniques and tools like skills-based call routing and queue callback can help improve customer perception and, ultimately, impact customer retention and brand loyalty.

Maybe it’s time for you to take a look at how flexible and proactive your customer care organization is so you can plan now to meet the unexpected demands of next year’s busy season.

I’ll be posting more insights into what I’m seeing work in our journey - but in the meantime, if you want to share your own experiences of delivering your CX over your peak season, feel free to contact me!

About the Author:
Hi, I'm Annette Timmins, a customer interactions professional who writes about insights and strategies that drive customer value and loyalty. For over 20 years I’ve been collaborating with organizations to deliver global outsourced solutions that optimize their customer support operations and help build their brand. I am currently Vice President of Sales Strategy and Solutions at VXI Global Solutions. If you would like to contact me, please hit the link below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow me on Twitter @AnnetteTTweets.

Speak to a CX Expert Today

Contact Annette

Challenges with your seasonal peaks? Tips for better CX next year

Every year organizations invest millions to deliver a high-quality customer experience (CX) during their seasonal periods.

There’s a reason for that: In 2017, holiday retail sales were estimated to account for $680.4 billion – as much as 30% of retailers’ annual sales. One-third of your year, captured within a six-week time frame.

January, June, and July are the times of year when the travel industry experiences an influx of business. If we look at the revenue of the world’s largest travel company, Priceline Group (parent to, KAYAK, and amongst others), we can see there are big spikes in Q1 and Q3 of both 2016 and 2017.

These are just two examples - but with a strong economy putting more money in your customers’ pockets, their propensity to buy, travel, or make other purchases during these peak periods is expected to grow.

Increasingly I’m hearing the question “Do we need to be thinking differently in order to do this better next year?”

Heightened pressure, heightened investment… mediocre results?

During these influxes in business, it’s not uncommon for organizations to more than double their staff to handle volumes, sometimes requiring 5,000+ extra agents to help cover the seasonal bump… at a cost of over $15 million... just in training!

But despite these extra agents and the enormous investment – the crushing truth is that usually there is still a massive amount of friction... and not just for the customer.

Time and time again, organizations are losing customers to the black hole of wait times and inefficient processes during their seasonal bumps.

We all know that today’s consumers often have an overwhelming choice, so even with the best forecasting and planning for your CX, change will inevitably happen. And when today’s customers are unhappy they are much quicker to act, with 50% of customers severing ties with a company immediately after a bad sales/marketing experience (Accenture).

Yet… is this how it has to be? It’s time to do this differently

Whether your peak volume period lasts a few weeks or several months, there is a multitude of ways you can smooth out the workload. And if you consider these changes in your planning for next year, you’ll undoubtedly be in much better shape to handle peak season.

The following are a few approaches that have worked successfully for many of my clients:

Review/revise your IVR

Human nature drives us to select the path of least resistance. If an interactive voice response (IVR) system is difficult to use, customers either hang up or zero out to an agent, raising inbound call volume and prolonging average handle time.

When IVR systems are programmed to communicate business hours, billing information, and even certain types of account information, CX can be significantly improved without sacrificing functionality.  If a customer is calling for something as simple as paying their bill, they can avoid long hold times by selecting the “pay my bill” self-service option.

If you know the reason for the spike in call volumes - e.g., during the tax season - another proactive approach you can take is to add a message during the hold time that will most likely answer their question – such as that tax forms will be mailed on “xx” date.

Bottom line, take a look at your IVR flow, and how it is driving calls into different queues to optimize the user experience.

Proactive notifications

Are you using proactive notifications to head off problems like delivery delays, stock shortages, billing or flight delays? In a recent survey conducted by Wakefield Research, 63% of U.S. consumers felt critical customer service issues could have been avoided if companies had contacted them earlier. Proactive outreach can improve customer satisfaction by anticipating needs specific to the customer, especially if companies can deliver outbound messages via their preferred channels. This is a key aspect of personalizing the experience that makes the customer feel valued, even though the notifications are automated.

Cloud-based APIs

Having inflexible channels driven by legacy systems and tools with scripting and code that must be locked down months in advance is a recipe for the same mediocre results - and a loss of customer loyalty. Cloud based application programming interfaces (APIs– basically software building blocks) are a great way to quickly add new features and channels as you need them. Combining cloud-based APIs with real-time data analysis will help your company make and implement strategic decisions at the moment of awareness. So if you are in the market for a major switch or IVR upgrade, consider a cloud-based solution without CAPEX (with pay as you go, based on demand).

Maybe it’s time for you to take a look at how flexible and proactive your customer care organization is so you can meet the unexpected demands of this year’s busy season.

I’ll be posting more insights into what I’m seeing work in our journey - but in the meantime, if you want to share your own experiences of delivering your CX over your peak season, feel free to comment!

About the Author:
Hi, I'm Annette Timmins, a customer interactions professional who writes about insights and strategies that drive customer value and loyalty. For over 20 years I’ve been collaborating with organizations to deliver global outsourced solutions that optimize their customer support operations and help build their brand. I am currently Vice President of Sales Strategy and Solutions at VXI Global Solutions. If you would like to contact me, please hit the link below and/or connect with me on LinkedIn. You can also follow me on Twitter @AnnetteTTweets.


Speak to a CX Expert Today

Contact Annette

The iceberg that’s killing so many customer conversion rates

An HBR study concluded that customers with whom you strike an emotional connection create double the lifetime value for a brand. So what would raising your net promoter score (NPS) by 30 basis points mean to your business?

The price of conversion – especially as it comes to right-shoring – determining your ideal combination of nearshore/offshore/onshore capabilities, frequently comes up in client conversations.

Inevitably, the focus is on the sales number for the month and the price paid to achieve it. But, just like an iceberg, it’s not what’s above the surface that is the most important.

Instead of focusing on what’s visible, you need to get under the waterline to truly drive value.

The thing about Icebergs

The eye is always drawn to what sits above the surface – and in this case, it’s the amount you are paying, how many customers are converting, and how they combine to achieve your results for that month:

In this world it’s pretty simple – the numbers that matter are those that contribute to your result for the month (or the quarter – or year – depending on your horizon). In this context, it’s entirely normal to ask yourself:

“If I can pay X for a 30% conversion rate in one location, why would I want to pay 2X for the same conversion rate in the elsewhere?”

To which the answer is quite simple – you wouldn’t.

But would you pay 1.5 X for a 50% conversion rate?

Or more importantly – what value do you place on avoiding the opportunity cost that comes from missing the chance to build a lasting relationship or close a sale in this increasingly competitive environment?

Instead of focusing solely on the above-the-line metrics, you need to give time and attention to the value drivers that deliver you the lowest OVERALL COST, and the BEST POSSIBLE outcome.

Which means going below the waterline to find what is really driving value for your customers – and for you. In that world, the picture looks more like this:

Why should you care?

Broadly speaking, two factors sit below the water line which fundamentally alters the trajectory of your top-line metrics:

Hidden Cost and Quality of Experience

Hidden Cost is driven by aspects like agent turnover, poor training, and poor processes and the detrimental impact that this has on the customer experience you deliver.

But fundamentally, it is the opportunity cost of not building a relationship with a customer – and letting someone else do so.

Quality of Experience is driven by emotionally engaged agents, who can connect with your customers – proven to drive repeat business and higher lifetime value.

Think about that HBR study - what if we raised your NPS 30 basis points? Not only would your conversion rate go up, so would the amount of repeat business, customer loyalty, and revenue generated over the years.

Within your industry, think about the compounded customer goodwill and recommendations you could garner with just your vendors & partners alone.

So the next time you find yourself in a conversation about price, make sure you are really thinking about cost – and the hidden value drivers beneath the surface. That’s where you’ll find the right outcome.

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Ramp up your holiday season CX – for half the price

Chances are, when you’re reading this article, it’s peak season somewhere, for some industry.

From the holiday rush in retail to open enrollment periods for health insurers or hot booking times in the travel business – the need to scale to accommodate seasonal spikes is a common feature for many of us in customer care.

In retail, customer experience (CX) professionals spend millions every year preparing to deliver a Holiday Season CX. Despite all this effort, every customer still dreads having to contact you during this period — unbearable wait times for the simplest inquiries, driven by the sheer volume of interactions. Unhappy customers, lost revenue, stress levels through the roof. Sound familiar?

Just think of the possibilities if you could spend HALF that amount, but still provide customers with faster, smarter service.

The training money pit

During my years of managing customer care for one of North America’s biggest retailers, we all knew that things would get A LOT busier during the holiday season. Yet no matter how detailed the planning process, or how many extra staff were trained, the reality on the front line during the holiday season was always different than even our most well-laid plans.

It wasn’t uncommon for us to bring on at least 6,000 extra agents to help us cover the seasonal bump. At roughly $24 million (just in training) that represented the lion’s share of our holiday investment.

Despite this enormous investment – the crushing truth was that the customers still encountered friction.

Come mid-January, and we’d sit down, review the metrics and do our best to apply our learnings to tweak execution for the next holiday season… only to find that we were faced with a different set of issues, resulting in the same expenditure (if not more), and the same customer frustrations.

What if it could be different?

Thanks to inflexible IVRs, complex systems and customer channels that had to be scripted and locked down in advance, we had to design and set BEFORE the season commenced. Agents had to be trained on EVERYTHING as there was no way to predict who was going to get what call or to easily segregate and route specific call types within a skill or queue.

Technology today allows retailers to flexibly change their IVR on the fly – meaning customers have a quicker and more tailored CX, and agents only need to be trained on the queries you know that they are going to take – cutting your training costs in half, at least. Why hasn’t anyone done this before?

We at VXI have asked ourselves that same question.

Real-time data driving on the fly changes

With data analytics that informs customer journey – in real time - your decisions made back in January no longer need to be set in stone. Today, we at VXI can use data to spot potential problems before they are made, and then make changes to the journey across ALL your channels to make an issue a non-issue.

Chat queue clogging up? No problem - we can divert traffic. Interactive voice response (IVR) not streaming people correctly? It’s easy to design and add a new flow based on customer feedback. Need to add SMS or change the scripting? Covered – just use the simple drag and drop interface.

A partner that helps you approach your holiday season differently

We all know retail is going through a fundamental renaissance. What if you could spend your time re-imagining the customer experience of tomorrow - rather than worrying (guessing) about seasonal issues on the ground, months in advance?

Instead of spending your entire year planning for the tactical elements of the holiday season, we can free up your time to let you focus on the big issues – like innovating ways to delight your customers. Sound like another holiday wish list? Trust me – it’s not.

Take it from someone who knows what it’s like to compete in your space – this is the next evolution in the holiday season customer experience.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can ramp up your holiday-season CX, while cutting out the unnecessary effort and money, let’s talk.

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How to get past the CX innovation puzzle

The drive towards innovation can result in a challenging situation for many customer experience (CX) leaders. The clients I’m talking to are increasingly giving voice to a consistent problem:

“I’m under pressure to make a meaningful change – but I’m on the hook for today’s results too. I’m struggling to do both.”

Meanwhile, as most industries are experiencing some satisfying returns, this advice from Forrester nicely summarizes the risks – and the challenges – that CX teams face:

“It will be a year of reckoning for those that have held on too long or tried to bootstrap their way through transforming their business. Simply put, the distance between customer expectations and the reality on the ground is becoming so great that a slow and gradual transition is no longer possible. Incrementalism may feel good, but it masks the quiet deterioration of the business.”

There are some great stories of innovation that have led to sizable improvements in CX – and ultimately, revenue. When TUI Group, Germany’s largest tourism company added video to their booking experience, for example, they found that customers were three to four times more likely to complete the transaction.

Their marketing director described this enhancement as helping people “experience a holiday before they book. You can test drive a car, but you can’t test a holiday before purchasing. We want to change that.” That’s taking a hard look at opportunity gaps in the customer journey.

Where to start?

It’s true that it can be hard to make a significant change while focusing on keeping things running smoothly today. But where to start?

While it’s different for every business, this article from McKinsey is as good an approach as any I have seen regarding how to map, plan and execute on a customer experience plan that will deliver bottom-line value. Here’s one recommendation:

“First, focus innovation resources either on important customer-experience journeys where you have a large gap against competitors or on reasonably important journeys where the gap is narrow or unclear.”

Whether you’re an emerging challenger or an industry leader, you need a supplier-partner that can move at the speed that you need.

If the amount of questions I’m getting on this subject is any guide, CX-focused organizations are awake to what needs to be done. The key, quite simply, is to start.

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Why you can’t afford to ignore this customer-value rule

Sales leader are well versed in how to calculate the lifetime value of a customer and how enormous this number can be. 

A notable example is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which calculated that the lifetime value of a customer was so high that they should be doing everything in their power to please each one of their customers. To the point of empowering every single full-time employee to spend up to $2,000 to solve, on the spot, any customer complaint, challenge, or problem. 

But here’s the challenge today: In a world of ubiquitous connectivity, where everyone has a voice that can reverberate as far as their community and their social network will carry it, you can’t simply focus on customer lifetime value. We need to be focusing on lifetime network value. 

Never before have customers enjoyed such powerful platforms to share and broadcast their opinions. 

If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” – Jeff Bezos.

This is true today for every generation. Gen Xers, Boomers, and even some Silent Generation customers share on Facebook and post reviews on TripAdvisor and Amazon. And of course, there are the Millennials who, thanks to their lifetime of technology use and their growing buying power, are particularly active – socially sharing and promoting their brand preferences. 

A good (or bad) experience transcends the customer and even their immediate circle of friends or family. The ability for them to influence the buying decisions of your future customers has increased 100-fold. In truth, most of those who read a tweet or post on a good or bad experience may not even know the person posting it!! 

Given this, there is an understandable concern in the hospitality industry about brand fickleness. 

The ability of customers to switch providers with a couple of thumb movements has created a highly competitive landscape. 

But it’s not all unwelcome news. Network effect cuts both ways – a great experience has just as much ability to be magnified as a poor one.  Those that get and understand what is required to win the acquisition and retention battle will be able to drive long-term value and profit. 

So, the next time you’re thinking about what a 1% increase in sales would mean, take your current lifetime customer value calculation and multiply it by a factor of 100. This more accurately represents the value to your organization of not only satisfying but delighting your customer. 

This perspective is key. After all, we have yet to meet a sales leader who has been rewarded for a lower cost of sale - but we have seen plenty come under the spotlight for not delivering a higher customer conversion rate. 

How to beat 50% of your competitors in the customer loyalty arena

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Five CX takeaways from the luxury brand experience

The luxury brand experience is not just about the leather being softer, or the shoes being more comfortable. It’s about the sensations, feelings and behavioral responses evoked by the brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments. 

What can we take from the luxury goods in-store experience to apply to any brand’s customer experience (CX) over the phone? 

Think about the interactions you’ve had with a luxury brand or when purchasing high ticket items. How did you feel? 

The people there knew everything about the item you were considering. They helped you with something before you even knew you needed help.  They had all the time in the world. 

So, how can your brand deliver a “white-glove” customer experience without necessarily being a luxury brand? Here are some recommended strategies: 

Be an expert 

Customers like dealing with experts – they feel more comfortable with their decisions and they are less likely to feel buyer’s remorse. Agents need to have deep knowledge of your product lines and how to make recommendations for the customer. This enables the agent to become a trusted advisor, helping the customer through their journey and offering additional products that make sense for their individual needs. 

Don’t let them wait too long 

Luxury goods stores have on average a minimum of a one to one ratio of salesperson to customer. Many even have guards at the door to prevent more than one customer entering at a time. Survey your customers - are they rating you “average” or “poor” because of their wait on the phone? Then adjust it! 

Give them all the time they need 

You don’t have to be a luxury brand to provide white-glove service. Zappos (an Amazon subsidiary) doesn’t pay attention to AHT (average customer handling time) – they once helped a customer on the phone for 10 hours straight! Extra time spent helping customers over the phone, in a chat window, over email, or on social media will be paid back many times over by a lifetime of brand loyalty. 

Have empathy 

Luxury-goods salespeople know how to lend an ear when hearing your complaints. No story is too trivial to elicit a knowing nod. Empathy is the key to establishing customer relationships - which translates into customers choosing you as their travel provider in the future. Have your agents practice it in role play and through training simulations. 

Be proactive 

If you’ve ever shopped at a luxury store, you know the salesperson won’t let you leave without giving you their card and asking for your email and phone to alert you of any sales or special deals. Being proactive helps them rack up sales that may have gone to another associate or store. 

Proactive customer service is essential due to ongoing shifts in customer demographics and preferences among Gen-Xers and millennials (who mostly rely on email, social media, and text messages). You can proactively reach out to customers via automated voice, email or text. Find a good reason to keep in contact, whether it’s tips on items that may be of interest, a welcome call, or just a reminder about bill payment. 

Treat your customers as if you are a luxury brand, and you will increase your brand loyalty and advocacy, as well as reduce call center inbound call volume. 

80% of Americans believe this is what makes a great CX

Why your CX can’t afford to ignore the ‘soft’ skills

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