What a fantastic week as the 2019 ICMI Contact Center Connections conference returned to Chicago, October 28 through 31. This convergence of knowledge-hungry contact center professionals, innovative vendors, and insightful speakers always makes for a great conference — and this year was no exception. To quickly name some of my favorite highlights:

  • Brad Cleveland, former President and CEO and current Senior Advisor at ICMI just released the 4th Edition of Contact Center Management on Fast Forward. I’m pretty sure I had the 2nd or 3rd edition but that quickly disappeared from my bookshelf in the contact center and never returned. I’ve already referenced my new, signed copy of the book a couple of times this week — and I’m sure you will too when you add this important book to your collection.
  • In one of the more entertaining moments of the conference, keynote speaker Collette Carlson draped a couple of dozen items on Kelly (pictured), the stressed out, overburdened contact center leader. A sad but true illustration as Carlson implored us to gain self-awareness, trust and empower our agents to do a good job, and make connections with them. She said, “People don’t connect with who you think you are. They connect with the impact you have on them.”
  • In the second keynote address, Jay Baer, Founder at Convince and Convert, shared his “Hug Your Haters” Model which is also the title of his book. According to Jay, for every 100 dissatisfied customers, only 5 complain. The rest will likely take their business elsewhere. This means that the five customers who choose to give feedback are critical to our business success. He challenged us to embrace complaints, answer complaints everywhere, respond expediently and with empathy.
  • I joined my colleagues Justin Robbins and Patrick Russell for a fast-paced, interactive Contact Center Ask Me Anything session. The house was packed; as attendees sipped their mimosas we talked about hot contact center topics including best practices for measuring first contact resolution, ways to increase agent engagement and reduce attrition, and how to improve the effectiveness of quality management. If you have burning contact center questions, there’s still time to ask us and I’ll tell you how later in this article!

Also during the show, I had the privilege of hosting a series of CX (Customer Experience) Conversations in the 8x8 booth with some amazing thought leaders at the conference. Here are some favorite insights from those conversations.

Clearing the Queue and Other Quests Destined to Fail

In the first conversation, I spoke with Leslie O’Flahavan of E-WRITE who has become the voice inside of my head when it comes to writing for customer service. We discussed three quests that are destined to fail in any contact center.

  • Quest #1: Getting good quality after-call work (ACW) from agents by setting a ridiculously short time limit. Leslie recently learned of a contact center that allotted 6 seconds for work at the end of each call before agents took their next call. This is highly unreasonable in most settings where agents are required to document the interaction and file tickets during that time. It’s essential that expectations are reasonable for agents and that they are empowered with the tools, training, and coaching to work effectively and efficiently.
  • Quest #2: Relying too strictly on copy-and-paste templates all in the name of quickly clearing out a queue. Also referred to as macros, scripts, or canned responses, these have the upside of allowing agents to efficiently send consistent, on-brand messages to customers. Problems occur when these responses are quickly used to respond to customers without adequate personalization and tailoring to their issues.
  • Quest #3: Deploying chatbots without fully considering the customer experience. It’s easy to become enamored with chatbots but don’t forget that if the chatbot doesn’t solve the customer’s issue, a potentially low effort experience can quickly become high effort. This impacts the customer’s continued willingness to do business with you. It’s best not to push a customer to a chatbot without the confidence that the bot can solve their issue.

Navigating the Compliance Minefield with the Customer Experience Intact

I also discovered that Andrew Gilliam, IT Service Desk Consultant at Western Kentucky University, and I share a mutual appreciation for that fine line of sticking to a policy while still taking care of the customer. In any contact center, there are going to be times when customers ask for something that we cannot do, either because it’s not technically feasible or because it’s against the policy. And in regulated environments where HIPAA, PCI, and other policies and procedures make saying “no” all the more likely, it’s important that we handle these situations appropriately. Andrew and I agree that sometimes delivering the message in a friendly manner, with a clear explanation of why something can’t be done, can make a big difference. Any time a viable and creative alternative can be presented to the customer is a plus.

The PEACEful and Inclusive Contact Center

Finally, I spoke with Sheri Kendall, Training Manager at Wayfair and Murphy Fraser, Client Success Manager at Skillshare about boundaries and inclusion in the contact center. Sheri, in her talk of inclusion, encouraged us to get curious. Without prying, the more we can embrace the diversity and unique physical, mental, and emotional challenges of our agents, and create psychologically safe spaces for them, the more engaged they will be.

Murphy challenged us to create and promote healthy boundaries as contact center leaders and I particularly liked her acronym for protecting her P.E.A.C.E. Instead of being a person who says “Yes” to everything, she runs through this model first.

  • Patience - Be careful not to rush into commitment
  • Evaluation - Consider the possibilities and requirements
  • Accountability - Be willing to commit and be accountable
  • Communication - Communicate clearly and consistently with yourself and others.
  • Enthusiasm - Find joy in the things you say yes to.

To conclude, ICMI Contact Center Connections 2019 was a fantastic event and well worth the investment of time and money for any contact center professional. If you missed this one, I hope to see you at the 2020 ICMI Contact Center Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida next May 11-14. If you were in attendance, leave us a comment below with your favorite insights or contact center questions.