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2015 Will be 'The Year of the Employee,' or 'Year of Hearing instead of Listening'?

January 07, 2015

This is the time of year those of us who follow what the various industry observers are predicting really enjoy if for no other reason than there is a lot of food for thought.  In the customer experience/contact center/customer interactions space this has certainly been true.  In fact, one I am fond of and would like to share are observations from industry thought leader Bruce Temkin, Managing Partner of the Temkin Group. He has released his annual listing of customer experience (CX) trends to watch.

Temkin not only has provided his list of eight CX trends for 2015 but has also named 2015 "The Year of the Employee." I happen to agree with the context for the list and the trends, but disagree with the name for the coming year.

Eight trends to watch

Let’s start with those trends, Temkin notes that: "As companies increasingly focus on customer experience in 2015, they'll recognize the need to make internal changes…In 2015, successful customer experience efforts will realize that the key ingredient to success is their employees."

Here are the highlights from Temkin's list of CX trends for 2015:

  1. Corporate Culture Conversations. Great things can happen when culture is aligned with the objectives of an organization. In 2015, we expect to see even more executives trying to build a customer-centric culture.
  2. CX Training & Engagement. In 2015, as companies look to provide clear CX orientation to their employees, we expect to see a sharp increase in the demand for CX training courses.
  3. Voice of the Customer Renovations. One of the most powerful forces inside an organization is clear feedback from customers. In 2015, we expect a lot of companies to evaluate and revamp their voice of the customer programs.
  4. Mobile Mobile Mobile Formulations. In 2015, we'll see more collaborative economy activity from providers such as Uber and Airbnb, as well as an increase of traditional companies embedding mobile devices into their existing offerings and operational processes.
  5. Brand (R)evaluations. We expect that in 2015, many companies will hit this brand wall and recognize the need to re-evaluate their brands.
  6. Customer Journey Deliberations. In 2015, we expect to see many more companies using customer journey maps, and we expect more mature organizations to adopt the customer journey mindset.
  7. Contact Center Loyalty Aspirations. In 2015, we expect many organizations to extract insights from their contact center interactions using text analytics and speech analytics.
  8. Human Resources Participation. In 2015, as employees become the central focus, we'll see some HR groups stepping up to drive key areas of the CX transformation within their companies, including the critical focus on employee engagement.

As noted, I happen to agree with all of the above in terms of trends. 2015 is going to be a year where organizations invest in tools like Big Data and sophisticated analytics of all types to gain better insights into their customers’ needs. They will also invest in more omni-channel capabilities to make interactions easier and faster, and break down the silos between contact centers and other parts of the organization where information that can provide better visibility about the customer journey such as CRM systems can be tapped to enable agents to be more responsive. 

In addition, for the customer experience to be fast and agents to be able to focus more attention to solving important customer issues, self-service will continue to be more massively adopted. Plus, employing capabilities that assure customers are routed to the right people at the right time who can help them, and those people have the best information available to do so, will also get lots of attention.

It really is all about employees.  It is about getting them, giving them the right tools and an attractive work environment, training them, and keeping them motivated.  A happy workforce translates into happy customers.

As contact centers transform, the skills needed to be a great agent are ramping up exponentially. This means that an investment in people, in an industry now notorious for having high churn rates and a shortfall of available “qualified” candidates has become a major cause for concern.  This is not just a contact center administrator and HR problem. It is a C-level problem because without C-level buy-in investments in both people and the tools they need will not be made.

Finally, as to my observation in the headline about this being “The Year of Hearing instead of Listening”, this is not a matter of semantics.  The reality is there is a huge difference between employing technology as a checklist item to assure all customer interaction touch points are covered vs. hearing, e.g., doing something with the information once the customer raises their voice.  For customer experiences to really be satisfactory and move the needle in the right direction actions need to speak louder than words. 

The market has sharp elbows and customers are becoming ever more fickle since they have access to both better information about you and instant access to competitors.  “I hear you!” needs to become something of a contact center mantra. Agents not only need to have all of the information they need but also need to be empowered to solve problems.  As someone who has spent way too much time saying “Supervisor” to a less than skilled and un-empowered agent, the term “Supervisor” is one I would like to never have to use this year.  Indeed, maybe this really needs to be the year of both the employee and hearing.  We shall see.    


Edited by Maurice Nagle