Your Voice has Changed, Socially Speaking (Part 2) by Robert Lamb, Practice Director, Contact Center Consulting Services, AT&T

December 7, 2012

Best Practices for Interacting with Your Customers via Social Media

Social media provides a unique opportunity to gain insight into and influence public opinion in a changing climate.  Your current and prospective customers are likely talking about your products and services and those of your competitors on social media.

Gaining Insight & Knowledge…

Companies are realizing social media provides an opportunity to develop a competitive differentiator as social media provides insight into your customers’ and prospects’ perception of your company’s products and services.  You get the opportunity to listen into unfiltered opinions that are better than any focus group can provide.  This is due to the broader sample and insight from customers you want to influence at the time you want to influence them.

This gives you a great insight to identify symptoms of dissatisfaction or poor performance.  Then you can perform root cause analysis to improve product offerings and services, product bundling improvement or improve internal processes. Use social network mentions as an opportunity to mine an insight to your customer’s mindset.

Social media can be a rich source of knowledge for troubleshooting your own products and services and for generating new ideas.  Scrub this knowledge into trusted “single source” content before publishing it to your website and customer service organizations.

Companies are using their social networks to provide added services that have significantly improved their market share.   One financial institution has developed an online community to give financial advice not only from its employees but from other community members.  The excellence of this advice has become so noteworthy that it is credited as a key differentiator in the double digit market share growth the company has experienced since this initiative.

Social media also gives insight of the customer perception of your competitors too. This gives you opportunity to find competitive advantages for your products against your competition. It also provides an opportunity to identify weaknesses in your company’s offerings to better improve your competitive strategy.

Companies are also finding there’s a financial advantage to using social media and their customer contact strategy as well.  Companies are using social as a way to reduce expense.  They do this by providing proactive information (e.g., alerts to product or billing changes) or instructions (e.g., how do I begin using my new cell phone) that historically would have generated phone calls into the call center, the most expensive method of interaction, often by 20x.

How to Get Started…

What are the first changes a company should adopt?   The first and strongest is to plan before you execute. While every company has a unique combination of value proposition and customer demographics, there are good, universal best practices to incorporate in your social media strategy.  We’ve seen several companies either fail to address social media challenges to their brand or make a half-baked first step only to turn a small win opportunity into a PR failure.  Protect your brand by not ignoring social media’s impact.

Keep in mind that social media mentions are a window into conversation that is not yours, but that you are allowed to eavesdrop into.  Resist the temptation to engage to change perception or correct details.  Social network members prioritize freedom of thought first.  A strong response to a thread in a poorly received manner can deliver quite an undesired and negative reaction.

Pick the media that make sense for your business and prioritize your investments accordingly.  If your intent is to market your products or answer frequently asked questions before they are asked, the focus on “one to many” media such as YouTube or portals may be a good first step, for example.

Consistent Customer Experience…

Make sure your organization has the policies, technology, knowledge, process, and people in place to provide high-speed, high-quality customer service that is required by social media before jumping in. This is a good best practice in all things customer interaction related, but particularly with the visibility of social media in its “one to many” dynamic.

AT&T Consulting suggests as a good first practice to develop your listening skills first. By doing so, you’re able to gain a sense of the tone of the conversation and gather those valuable insights of what customers are saying about you and your competitors in this most open of focus groups. Once you gain a sense of where opportunities lie, you can then consider when to engage.

Once you’re ready to engage, the speed and quality of customer service responses need to be much higher in social media than in traditional channels. A delay in satisfactory responses to mentions in social media can begin to create a mob mentality. This can create many other mentions piling on to a perceived issue that may have been fostering.

The most effective way to ensure consistent service that breeds the desirable customer experience and to minimize risk of negative reaction is to unify social network support with traditional contact centers.  Unify social network support with traditional contact centers. A lack of this approach has created inconsistent and dissatisfying customer experiences and incomplete evaluation of the customer experience.

Brand-aware, customer-focused enterprises should be planning a unified approach to customer contact that includes social media. This allows contact center agents and online community managers to have a full view of traditional and social customer interactions, and customers don’t have to repeat information and recreate context as they go across social and traditional channels.

Ensure that you provide the right level of service across traditional and social channels—for example, a platinum customer should receive platinum service across traditional and social.  Customer loyalty is as important as ever in social media as it is in individual interactions. Be sure your valued customer feels valued.

To merge the traditional and the social together effectively and efficiently, AT&T recommends developing a holistic plan for customer contact using experienced resources, such as AT&T Consulting. Holistic strategies for customer contact should include social media to maximize opportunity while minimizing risk.

Read Robert’s official blog post at:

Robert Lamb will be speaking at Customer Experience Management in Telecoms Global Summit 2013.

View the Final Agenda for the conference.

If you would like to receive more information about the event, or secure your place, or if you have any questions, please write to us at and we will be happy to help.


Smart Businesses Support Smartphone Customer Contact by Robert Lamb, Practice Director, Contact Center Consulting Services, AT&T

December 7, 2012

Best Practices for Developing a Contact Center Strategy

You’ve picked up one of the hot smartphones and loaded it with all the cool apps.  Now, you’re using one of those apps to book a hotel room.  You’ve authenticated with your preferred guest number, entered your trip destination and dates, and targeted a short list of fun properties. However, you can’t find the amenities list to decide which hotel best suits you.  So, you abandon the app and phone the call center.  Here’s the end result:

  • You’re now less satisfied as a customer because you’ve lost all of the authentication and contextual data as the process for booking the hotel starts over.
  • You taught yourself to use the most expensive method of contact (phone call to live agent) both for this time and in future.
  • Your image of the hotel chain is lessened by the poor experience from the cool smartphone app that you wanted to use but took you longer anyway.

Or worse – you decided to try a competitor hotel’s smartphone app to book your room. A 2011 Harris Interactive study found that 63% of all online adults surveyed said they would be less likely to buy from the same company via other purchase channels if they experienced a problem conducting a mobile transaction.

Soaring Smartphone Use Brings Customer Service Issues to Forefront

As consumers, more of us are using smartphones to handle tasks more efficiently—and the number of users continues to grow. Nielsen estimates that 44% of Americans use smartphones today (and over 50% in some other developed countries).

Business is driving smartphone adoption, especially in the retail space where mobile shopping is soaring. RSR Research found that 92% of B2C winners (retailers who outperform their peers in year-over-year sales growth) have decided that consumers are using mobile as part of their shopping experience and they need to be there.  Projecting that into the future, Tealeaf Technologies suggests that mobile devices will become the No. 1 medium for digital commerce by 2015. That’s why it is disturbing that so many adult smartphone users (84% in the U.S., according to a recent Harris study) reported problems with mobile transactions.

Apps to the Rescue – Customer Service within Smartphone Apps

A proactive and potentially more satisfying solution to this dilemma is to make customer service resources available within the smartphone app.  This function effectively links mobility to customer service in the channel the customer chose, increasing customer satisfaction. Remember, you chose to use that app as your preference for a reason, and making that interaction into a satisfying one honors your choice.

When you, as a customer, feel your desires are valued by the company you want to do business with, you get a stronger impression that your business is valued, which encourages customer loyalty.  And, since the cost-per-contact is lower in the app than for a call to the contact center, keeping the customer in the mobility channel also reduces customer service operating expenses.

Leading contact center technologies have developed and are enhancing capabilities that provide that link of mobility to customer service.  Functionally, ranges from opening a chat window in the app for customers to connect with a live contact center agent to enabling a voice conversation within the app that brings the context and customer data as a screen pop to the agent.

Options for Deployment – Start with Strategy

There are many choices for how businesses can deploy app-based customer service based on cost to procure and deploy, meeting the specific customer contact requirements of the business, and finding interaction with the best-suited contact center resources that are integrated both into the smartphone app and the host environment.

In our experience at AT&T Consulting, we find that the most actionable and accurate way for businesses to sort through these choices and find the solution that works best is with a comprehensive contact center strategy. A contact center strategy provides definitive and custom recommendations and a cost/benefit analysis that aligns with your business objectives and customer preferences.

Read Robert’s official blog post at:

Robert Lamb will be speaking at Customer Experience Management in Telecoms Global Summit 2013.

View the Final Agenda for the conference.

If you would like to receive more information about the event, or secure your place, or if you have any questions, please write to us at and we will be happy to help.

5 Steps to Increasing Your Net Promoter Score by Robert Lamb, Practice Director, Contact Center Consulting Services, AT&T

December 7, 2012
5 Steps to Increasing Your Net Promoter ScoresNow more than ever, businesses are trying to gain strong enough favor with their customers for them to share their positive experience with their friends. As a consumer, you’ve likely noticed the prevalence of offers on the back of your receipt, by a QR code or by a sign in the store asking you to complete a customer satisfaction survey after a transaction — and for good reason.  Today’s customers have a broader knowledge of businesses and their competitors. Turning customers into evangelists by creating brand promoters is a key factor in the acquisition of new customers. In fact, 90 percent of potential customers trust peer advice when making a buying decision; by comparison, only 14 percent of consumers trust media or print ads.The Net Promoter Score (NPS) was developed by Fred Reichheld, Bain & Company and Satmetrix as an engagement metric to quantify customer satisfaction and thereby the inclination to share their opinion. Following a sales or support interaction, surveyed customers are asked whether they would recommend a product or service, using a scale from 1–10. Customer response scores are segmented into three groups:

  • Promoters (score 9–10): considered to be loyal enthusiasts who will keep buying and referring others, fueling growth
  • Passives (score 7–8): satisfied but unenthusiastic customers vulnerable to competitive offerings
  • Detractors (score 0–6): unhappy customers who can damage brand image and impede growth through negative word-of-mouth
5 Steps to nurture Promoters through successful interactions

Step 1 – The first step toward developing a Promoter is to create a positive experience for your customer.  Achieving customer satisfaction is particularly important during interactions with your contact center, since it is the formal point of customer-to-vendor interactions.  Human nature shows that if we are pleasantly satisfied, our desire will increase to repeat the activity. For business, this means two things, both requiring significant planning and careful research before execution:

    1. Understand the expectations of the customer
    2. Prepare to meet or exceed those expectations consistently

Step 2 – A positive experience must be delivered consistently to create predictability. When customers expect a positive experience, by nature, humans want to do it again. When customers predict the positive experience, since human nature leads us to repeat satisfying activities, customers will begin to develop loyalty.

Step 3 – Profitability begins in the third year of the customer and vendor relationship lifecycle, because margin in the first two years of the customer relationship only recoups customer acquisition costs. To mature customer relationships to profitability in these times of peer influence, businesses need to create a loyalty into and beyond the third year of the relationship. When customer relationships become profitable, corporate energy is created to continue down the positive path of customer acquisition and growth for the enterprise.

Step 4 – When businesses establish loyalty with heightened satisfaction in customer-to-vendor relationships to the point of sharing that experience with their friends, Promoters are developed.  Just ask customers of customer centric organizations like Harley-Davidson or Southwest Airlines to try a competing brand, and you’ll often see an enthusiastic response of loyalty. Customers pleased to the point of excitement with having their expectations exceeded want to share their enthusiasm, particularly in the social media enabled world.

Step 5 – A key element in ensuring customer satisfaction is to honor the customer’s choices.  Since first impressions are impactful and lasting, the most notable of choices to honor is to respect the manner in which the customer chose to converse in the first place. In today’s smartphone ubiquitous, time-starved society, customers desire and expect conversations in the manner of their convenience and within increasing expectations of speed the completion.

Practically speaking, if a customer wants assistance within a smartphone application, businesses need to be prepared to deliver a positive experience contained within the smartphone app. To do this, contact centers need to be equipped both operationally and technologically to provide a consistent experience throughout all of the projected channels their customers desire.

Preparing for multi-channel access is a significant task considering the varying expectations and technologies required to deliver a consistent experience across multiple channels. Contact center vendors offer many technology choices, not all of which will achieve the goals intended. Significant cost items such as labor and process development can also make or break the success of developing a positively consistent customer experience.  I have seen careful planning and budgeting with experienced talent go a long way to ensuring that results satisfy the enterprise and its customers — while staying within budget.

Read Robert’s official blog post at:

Robert Lamb will be speaking at Customer Experience Management in Telecoms Global Summit 2013.

View the Final Agenda for the conference.

If you would like to receive more information about the event, or secure your place, or if you have any questions, please write to us at and we will be happy to help.

CEM UK Summit demonstrated “maturity of thinking” but journey not complete yet!

July 25, 2012

Customer Experience Management UK

The first-ever CEM in Telecoms UK summit made an impressive debut last week! It was tipped to be an event that would showcase ‘advanced CEM strategies’ and it certainly lived up to its reputation. Many delegates were struck by the maturity of thinking around key topics such as:

  • Social media – no longer something operators are afraid of but they are proactively embracing it to engage with customers!
  • Employee experience – operators are agreeing on the extent to which a good employee experience can positively impact the customer experience
  • ROI – operators are succeeding in linking CEM with hard financial metric s but there is still work to do around linking NPS with churn rates

Delegates also applauded the attention to detail that many of the case studies demonstrated. CEM is certainly shifting from being a ‘fluffy’ or ‘intangible’ topic to one that is focused on outcomes and measurable improvements that contribute to business goals.



However, the event wasn’t just about finding solutions to shared problems, it also provided an opportunity to raise questions and challenge traditional thinking. Some thought-provoking questions included:

  • Multi-channel consistency – what do we really mean by consistency and is it always appropriate? For example, are some channels better than others at delivering certain information?
  • Exceeding customer expectations – do we really want to strive for this or is it dangerous to do so? Will your customers ever be truly satisfied with your efforts or will they demand more?
  • Social media – is it better to do something or nothing when a complaint is made? Should you wait for it to blow over or even for a customer to intervene, giving you more credibility?



One topic guaranteed to generate controversy is NPS and this event was no different! While opinions seemed to vary dramatically, there was a general agreement that NPS is valuable as a ‘weather vane’ of customer satisfaction but needs to be supported by the voice of the customer to give granular detail as to why your customers feel the way they do.

This was illustrated in the example of ‘positive detractors’ – a phrase coined by Andy Bennett, Customer Experience Manager at Vodafone. He explained that customers would provide a score of 6 yet would claim to be very happy with their experience!

NPS is therefore a valuable tool but needs to be put in context in order to truly understand the customer experience. Markus Hohl from O2 suggested that we need to ask customers better, more specific questions, for example: ‘how far from ideal is O2?’

One final takeaway that delegates seemed to be reassured by was the agreement that the customer experience is a long-term journey. A ‘quick wins’ approach will not work when real culture change is needed and this can take years, but when done properly it can bring lasting benefits to both your customers and your company.

We are currently uploading more information on the CEM UK website.Come and visit us soon!

If you are interested in these topics, we would like to suggest you two conferences this year:

Customer Experience Management In Telecoms: Eastern European Summit: 24-27 September 2012, Prague, CZ. View the Full Programme.

Customer Segmentation and Churn Management: 15-18 October 2012, London, UK. View the Full Programme.

Customer Insight in Telecoms: 03 – 05 December 2012, London, UK. View the Draft Agenda.

How important is loyalty versus acquisition to mobile operators in Europe?

May 3, 2012

It is no secret that as we reach market saturation, operators are moving from the focus of customer acquisition to the retention of customers. At a time of declining revenues and ever-rising customer expectations, the customer experience remains the key opportunity for all operators to differentiate themselves and retain subscribers in the face of aggressive competition.

This is also the opportunity for smaller operators to keep up with their competitors – what they can’t compete with in terms of pricing and offers, they can make up for with customer experience and the personal touch.

Mobile Europe have put together a guide for the 7 characteristics of successful customer experience, which I thought that it would be beneficial to share:

  1. Innovation needs to be outside-in not inside-out: We need to make sure that we are truly listening to what customers want rather than concentrating on what we want!
  2. CSP’s need to make better use of data to help their understanding of their customers: There is such a large amount of data and information available, but the key is to ensure we are using this to dig deeper into what the customer wants.
  3. The experience needs to be consistent and controllable: It needs to appear seamless to the customer, just because there are changes in expectations, does not mean that this should affect the customer experience or quality of service.
  4. The experience needs to be tunable: The customer experience needs to be personal and therefore adaptable to different wants and needs.
  5. Improving customer interactions is key: As it says on the tin – we must interact with customers for all the reasons listed above!
  6. Using the right measures: Measuring in real-time with avoid complaints and ultimately improve the customer experience.
  7. Addressing business needs as well as consumer needs: Not all customers are simply consumers, they are businesses also, so think big!

Well, I think that is good food for thought, but do you agree with these points? And what would you say the trends coming through in the future of CEM are likely to be?

f you are interested in customer experience, Telecoms IQ have produced the following upcoming CEM events:

CEM in Telecoms: UK Summit, 16th-19th July 2012, London
CEM in Telecoms: Eastern European Summit, 24th-27th September 2012, Prague
CEM in Telecoms: North America Summit, 23rd-25th October 2012, Atlanta

If you are interested in hearing more about these events, please email



Customer Experience Management in Telecoms – Jan 2012 – in pictures

February 6, 2012

If you couldn’t make it to January’s Customer Experience Management in Telecoms conference in London, this is what you missed…CEM Welcome

CEM roundtable

CEM roundtable

CEM sponsors

If you would like to attend upcoming CEM conferences, then visit the Customer Experience Management in Telecoms website at

Making BlackBerry crumble: what could RIM learn from their recent blackout?

October 13, 2011

Hear that? That’s a huge sigh of relief from BlackBerry users and service is restored to all handsets across the world today. After three days of going back to the 90s with just calls and texts to rely on, users are now able to access their apps, browser and BBM service.

So, what was the problem at RIM HQ in Slough? Well, nobody’s all that sure. Today Research in Motion (RIM) released a statement to say that ‘the problem was the result of backup systems failing to perform as expected.’

As users started to vent their anger on Twitter and Facebook RIM remained pretty silent coming out with occasional updates stating that their service was experiencing problems. Even the appearance of Stephen Bates, the UK managing director of Research in Motion in the news caused users to hit back in frustration as they were just directed back to the company’s Twitter page or corporate website – services users could not access.

There are around 70 million BlackBerry users in the world and although RIM remained silent on how many were actually affected, the number is thought to be well into the millions. This could not have come at a worse time for RIM especially with the launch of the iPhone 4S which will be officially released on Friday.

But what could RIM have done differently? Could the widespread backlash from customers be handled differently? Well, they certainly could have gained some tips from Customer Experience in Telecoms.

Visit the website now to download your complimentary resources on customer experience and get some great tips on how to successfully manage your CEM strategy.