Do you want parrots or people in your contact center?

Last October, after I delivered a wonderfully-received keynote in Orlando, I grabbed my camera bag, slipped out of the conference center and visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom. I’d never been to Animal Kingdom without my family and I was looking forward to just being able to walk around and take photos without the stress of searching for attractions or snacks. The very first photo I took upon arriving at the park was of two parrots.

The parrots were vibrantly colored to the point of taking my breath away. Parrots are not only stunningly beautiful, but they are among the most intelligent of birds. Their ability to mimic human speech surprises and delights children and adults alike. My keynote that morning focused on giving contact center agents the training, support, freedom and empowerment to make “emotional connections” with customers. As I shot photos of the parrots in Animal Kingdom, I thought about how often contact center agents are groomed to be parrots, instead of being intelligent human beings.

Contact Center Agents are often carefully trained with scripts that sedulously echo the company’s pre-planned words. They end up sounding robotic, cold, and not always intelligent. Making emotional connections with customers is nearly impossible when agents use scripts.

As beautiful as parrots are, we don’t want our employees to be parrots. Give your employees the freedom, support, and incentive to veer away from scripts. Encourage them to use their own intelligence, creativity, and energy to connect with customers. Encourage them to comment on things they hear. Hearing a barking dog in the background could spark a few seconds of small talk for the dog-loving agent.

Maybe they could talk about plans the customer has for the 4th of July. Making emotional connections puts customers at ease and it makes the service experience unique and memorable.

Don’t make your employees sedulously echo the words of a script. They aren’t parrots. They are people with energy, creativity, and intelligence. Set them free and I’ll bet your customer experience will burst forth like the vibrant color of tropical parrots.

Imagine sitting in a local coffee shop that’s nestled in a bookstore, and talking over a latte with Myra about ways to help your employees deliver the best possible customer experience, and ways to help reduce stress on your employees as they deal with difficult customers.

Every week, often literally from a coffee shop, Myra gives you ideas that in one way or another are actionable towards improving your customer experience.

Sign up and join Myra over coffee every week.


Fiercely Focus on Someone Today. What You See Might Surprise You.

After a wonderful dinner at my parents’ house on Easter Sunday, I went for a solo walk in my mother’s garden. When I spotted my mother’s patch of white tulips, I ran to my car and grabbed my camera. The chorus of white tulips was beautiful. But I decided I could get a more dramatic shot by focusing on a single tulip and blurring everything else out. I loved the way the shot turned out. The white tulip, while beginning to wilt, looks stately and royal and it truly stands out. In the patch with the other white tulips, it just blended in. My fierce focus on that one white tulip magnified its beauty and makes it look almost majestic.

When we have the vision and discipline to fiercely focus on a single thing, everything else fades into the background. Fierce focus allows us to see the beauty in a thing and to magnify the best of the thing. It’s funny how it works, but intense focus on a single thing seems to make flaws and imperfections fade away. All our eyes seem to see is beauty and perfection. When I focused on the single white tulip, the weeds and wilting petals of other tulips disappeared. You simply see beauty in the white tulip that I zeroed in on.

Today I challenge you to take someone out of the crowded “patch.” Fiercely focus on that one person. See the beauty, gifts and magnificence of your child, spouse, employee, co-worker or boss. Blur out past conflicts, imperfections and personal differences. You focus by being fully present in the moment, withholding judgment and by believing the very best of the person. Focus solely on the person and I promise you, you will see their beauty in an entirely new and enchanting way.

How to Get Buy-in and Create Ownership

When I was overseeing consumer affairs for an international car rental company, I struggled with getting my team to deliver the level of customer service our customers expected and deserved. One day I sat down and typed an email to my staff that read: “We urgently need to fix our hold times, talk times and case turnaround times. I need your help. What is stopping us from meeting our service goals? How do we turn this around?”

 Though I didn’t realize it at the time, emailing my employees for solutions gave my people ownership of the problem and automatically built buy-in for the solutions and changes.

That email started a thread of responses, reasons, excuses and ideas from my team. The email discussions led to the development of a task force made up of 7 of my employees who worked as a team to find ways to improve our service experience by tackling our biggest problems. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, emailing my employees for solutions gave my people ownership of the problem and automatically built buy-in for the solutions and changes.

My employees identified the root causes of our problems and they developed the strategies to attack the problems. I didn’t have to sell them on ideas or work to enforce change. Within 11 weeks of my initial email, my employees had figured out how to fix our blazing problems of long hold times, excessive talk times and delinquent case processing

The point. Go to your employees when you have customer-impacting problems to resolve. Your employees are in the trenches and they have the creativity and strategy to turn your service experience around…if they are trusted and empowered to do so. Letting your employees tackle service problems gives them ownership and creates buy-in.

If you liked this article, you might want to check out my new web event “Delivering WOW” where I help you create a culture where your employees consistently make emotional connections with customers and surprise and delight customers.