Editor's Choice - Featured Article

May 15, 2013

Interactions 13 Keynotes: Lovell, Kranz and Angie Blast Off Event

As previewed in my interview with Interactive Intelligence (News - Alert) CMO Joe Staples, the company is holding its Interactions 13 event in its headquarters city of Indianapolis. This is its annual conclave for customers, partners, analysts, consultants and the press. The tag (News - Alert) line this year is, “Deliver the Experience,” and boy did the event live up to that. The first day literally blasted off with keynote speeches from NASA legends Captain Jim Lovell, who was commander of the famous Apollo 13 flight; Gene Kranz, NASA flight control director and Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient; and Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

Kranz and Lovell kept the attendees enthralled for an hour recounting the legendary mission that started as a failure as a moon landing, had to be aborted because of a malfunction, but ended with an extraordinary series of events that saw the crew guide their crippled craft back to earth in a near perfect landing despite what seemed like insurmountable odds. These two true American heroes received a rousing standing ovation. They also passed along some key wisdom that, as Lovell and Kranz both iterated was “applicable to any company,” and reflected on how the computing power and communications capabilities during the mission were less than that contained in an iPhone (News - Alert).  

The lessons imparted were simple but tried and true and certainly pertinent as companies globally concentrate on improving operations and the customer experience. As Lovell noted, “The decisions you make and actions you take will dictate the outcome.” He and Kranz kept coming back to the precepts that you should always expect the unexpected and be prepared, flexible and creative. People in crises need to be empowered to make decisions, failure should never be an option and that there is nothing that great teams can’t accomplish when people know their responsibilities and apply their knowledge to the problem at hand. They concluded with the old adage, “There are three types of people. People who make things happen, watch what happens, wonder what happened.” Companies need to make sure they are obviously in the first group.

Angie’s tips on why her list has been successful

The popular Angie Hicks warmed to the focus of the event: delivering excellent customer service. She noted that, even in an age of social media that made her an amazing example of how to leverage people networking with each other by magnifying word of mouth for common benefits and financial gain, “Nothing can replace human interactions. There is a competitive advantage to having people available to talk. It is a small portion of what we do, but sometimes the most important. Humans take the tough questions and solve problems.”

Stating that the companies she has worked with over the past 18 years have one thing in common. They appreciate that “Their business is their people, and that differentiated values is based on the quality of their service.” She then gave several tips to the audience about what makes for great customer service that are worth repeating:

Hire the right people

  • Know when you have the wrong people
  • Work should be fun because unhappy people will not be motivated to do great work
  • Enable people to make decisions; empower them. That is what delights customers 
  • Have to have a good culture. It needs to be cultivated since it does not just happen.
    • Be honest, be frugal and be respectful.
    • Take business seriously, but not yourself
    • Learn from your mistakes
  • Expecting the unexpected can make a difference
  • Under-promise and over-deliver
  • It is about managing expectations – if it takes 24 hours to return calls, say so. Misalignment of deliverables and expectations can be extremely damaging.

She concluded by saying that companies need to think about what to do when things go wrong with their customer interactions. First she advised to admit mistakes. Interestingly, she also advised not to respond instantaneously, that understanding what the customer is really saying and having perspective is critical to solving a problem. Finally, she stated that customer service crises are not bad things but rather opportunities to win over the customer. As lists go, the Angie’s list above is a keeper.  

Teamwork, empowerment, fun, listening closely and focus on solving the problem in recognition that failure is not an option. One would have thought that Lovell, Kranz and Hicks would not have has so much in common in the advice they would impart on how to deliver great outcomes. What a great way to start Interactions 13

Edited by Rich Steeves

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