On a Monday night, if I’m in our local pub at about a quarter to eight, the world slowly goes dark as if the light has been sucked out of the room. It’s not the death-eaters from Harry Potter, but it feels just like that. Then promptly at eight, the light returns as the tall masons, in their black suits, all take their pints next door.
Mentioning cost saving in a business has somewhat the same effect. It sucks the life out of the debate, until the debate moves on. It’s hard to get excited about cost saving. Not only for you, but for your front line contact centre staff and for your board. Legends and reputations are seldom made from saving more cost than the next person. Businesses are not grown by saving costs better than the next business.
True, sometimes a bit of austerity is required when profligate or flabby organisations get out of hand, or customers feel the mickey has been taken. But starving the body corporate, beyond a lean covering of muscle, will not lead to fitness. Yet boards often start the conversation with their contact centre director through the lens of costs and managing problems. And like a politician on sullen ground, you are stuck answering questions on the topic you desperately want to avoid.
So the question which poses itself is in fact ‘How do you bring light into the room, add energy to the boardroom and to the assembled company?’ Even the most positive of leaders, can only add energy to the cost saving debate for so long. So start by stopping. What? Stop answering the questions and move the topic on. Watch and learn from your favourite and least favourite politicians. Be genuine, but answer every question with your frame of reference.
Imagine the scene at your weekly operational meeting. The CEO asks his usual openers and questions.
“Did we answer the phones last week?”
“Where did we screw up this week?”
“Have we got enough people for this season?”
“How are you going to deal with that problem we talked about?”
And you open your mouth and the well researched and defended answers start to come forward as usual. Answers, answers. Did you defend your corner well this week?
You open your mouth and ….
“It was a bad week for customers, but a great week for the contact centre.” Silence.
“What can you possibly mean?”
“Well everyone turned up, the tech all worked and every factor we could control in the contact centre worked. But all those many customers who called in about the ad, they hated the special offer we ran in the Daily Rag because the terms were not explained and when they found out, they felt conned. All the customers loved your idea of donating returns to charity, so we were inundated with questions which we hadn’t been briefed on. But if you like I can show you how each of your positive ideas performed and what revenues and brand experience they generated? Would you like me to show you?”
Now you are talking. To your agenda and in their language. You have magically shouted Harry Potter's famous spell “expelliarmus” without knowing it. But how do you get that information, how do you stop to restart?
Two starting points: why customers contact us and what our customers are saying. Analysis and intelligence.
Let’s start with why customers contact you. Everyone does some analysis of this – yes? Well……. But is it consistent, thorough, through the lens of the customer, about their need and how the need came about and who caused it and what customers had to do. Is it a never ending analysis of both unstructured and structured data i.e. the story of what happens to the customer and the associated effect on revenues and experiences. And what the company is spending which it need not spend. And what the cost of not acting is? And who could act – not you – them – your peer group at the board table.
There’s a simple truth that the customers and the front line staff know what’s happening. And 80% of the time why and what to do about it. All you have to do is listen to them. But doing that with all those moving parts requires rhythm and rigour in how you collect the stories and the data. How it links to why they call. It’s not random. There’s a further simple truth. Regardless of how you find out, or how many surveys and mechanisms you listen through, the customer only has so many problems. And your front line staff know the most about it, more than a survey will say – however expensive the survey. So use their intelligence. Ask them to switch on their radar and use it well. The job is not only to answer the calls and tweets and chats. But to understand and capture and resolve and publish what they know and learn.
I’m struck with the uninspiring nature of the words cost and problems. I love analysis and intelligence and revenue and growth. Talk about the latter not the former. But first put your analysis and intelligence in place.
We’ll talk about that in part 2 next week.[Read] - Managing growth - When spreadsheets no longer cut it.