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Business Case and Implications for Consistency – Part 1: Why We Value Consistency

Humans value consistency – we are hard wired to do so – it’s in our DNA.

It is generally believed that modern humans originated on the Savanna Plain. Life was difficult for our distant forefathers. Sources of water, food, shelter were unreliable. Dangers existed at every turn. Evolving in this unreliable and hostile environment, evolutionary forces selected in modern humans a value for consistency – in effect hard wiring us to value consistency. We seek security in an insecure world.

In this context, it is not surprising we evolved to value consistency. While our modern world is a far more reliable environment, our brains are still hard wired to value consistency.

The implication for managers of the customer experience is obvious – customers want and value consistency in the customer experience. We’ve all felt it. When a car fails to start, when the power goes out, when software crashes we all feel uncomfortable. A lack of reliability and consistency creates confusion and frustration. We want to have confidence that reliable events like starting the car, turning on the lights or using software will work consistently. In the customer experience realm, we want to have confidence that the brands we have relationships with will deliver consistently on their brand promise each time without variation in quality.

Customers expect consistent delivery on the brand promise. They base their expectations on prior experience. Thus customers are in a self-reinforcing cycle where expectations are set based on prior experiences continually reinforcing the importance of consistency. This is the foundation of customer loyalty. We are creates of habit. The foundation of customer loyalty is built on the foundation of dependable, consistent, quality service delivery.

While we evolved in a difficult and unreliable environment, our modern society is much more reliable. Our modern society offers a much more consistent existent. Again, it’s a self-reinforcing cycle. Product quality and consistency of our mass production economy has reinforced our expectations of consistency.

Today’s information technology continues to reinforce our desire for consistency. However, it adds an additional element of customization. Henry Ford, the father of mass production, famously said of the Model-T, “You can have any color you want as long as it’s black.” Those days are gone. Today, we expect both consistency and customization.

In the next post, we will explore the business case for consistency.

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Reprinted from Call Center Magazine

May 6, 2002

Companies must keep tight control of budgets but not spending enough on agent training could cost them more in the long run. Here’s how to balance training dollars…

Click here for complete article

Cross-Channel Training

Imagine: You have call centers, print catalogs, an e-commerce Web site and retail outlets. And you just invested in a mega-million dollar CRM package.

But do agents know what is on your Web site, in your catalogs, and what sales are happening in your stores? Do agents and support reps know the contents and have access to your Web site’s FAQ?

If they don’t, then they should be brought up to speed. So says Peter Gurney, managing partner with Kinesis (Seattle, WA), who recommends that you train agents about your channels, how they interrelate and how they affect the total customer experience.

Too many companies do not train agents on other channels, resulting in a disjointed image of the company, missed sales opportunities and frustrated customers.

Sometimes customers call asking about a Web offer or a store sale, but the agents have no clue what they are talking about. And that will annoy customers and embarrass agents.

If customers go to a store, chances are someone there will know about your company’s Web site, catalog and call center. Web sites will have store locations and telephone numbers.

Gurney’s former firm, Service Intelligence, performed a mystery audit of several leading companies’ support desks in 1997 (as cited in the October 1997 issue of Call Center Magazine, “Keeping Your Support Center Afloat”). The audit found that many reps did not have the right answers and could not answer questions even though the answers were in the employer’s on-line FAQ. Little has improved since then, he notes.

“Call centers are not taking the customer experience across the channels but customers are channel-independent,” Gurney explains.


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