You are on page 1of 15

Design for Experience Recruit for Talent Story Telling and Role Plays Measure Experience, Celebrate Attitude

Engage, Harvest, Innovate; repeat

By Justin Flitter © 2009 All Rights Reserved

Help Desk: A trusted source of reference for clients, customers or end-users of a product or service

Expert Comment: Why do you need to constantly measure, reevaluate, and tweak your help desk strategy? Change. Everything is changing around you: customers, your industry, best practices, expectations, and competition. If you are not a living and breathing organization, adapting to the changes around you, you may be headed for a stagnant death spiral. Continuous improvement of your current processes will not only save you money with each tweak, but will continually refine and better your customer experience. The first makes you more profitable, the second will drive top line revenue growth. Joe Rawlinson

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


About the Author
Justin Flitter, who is based in Auckland, New Zealand, has 8 years experience managing, leading and innovating customer service teams. He recently Co-Authored the “Essential Customer Service Whitepaper for 2009” with Business Coach and Speaker Laurie Brown. Justin is a Business Developer (APAC) and Customer Advocate for and an active social networker.

Follow and Connect Website: Twitter: LinkedIn: Please help promote this Whitepaper: You are welcome to write your own blog post, send a twitter message or write comments on the blog posts listed below. Blog Blog Blog Blog Blog 1: 2: 3: 4: 5:

Please do not upload the whitepaper to your website. It is available for free download from

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Blog 1: Design for Experience De-constructing your help desk starts and ends with the user experience at the forefront of any decision making. How you design and manage your physical space, technology and culture ultimately effects performance. Blog 2: Recruit for Talent Understanding personality types, reading body language and asking the right questions are key skills required to select the talent from the crowd. Blog 3: Story Telling and Role Plays Enthusiasm is a wonderful thing. Igniting a sense of passion and confidence in each of your team will result in better service delivery with a better attitude. Role plays allow your staff to actively sympathize with the customer’s position while rehearsing. Blog 4: Measure Experience, Celebrate Attitude Through communications monitoring, email voting and feedback you can measure the customer experience in relation to each agent, issue or knowledge base topic. A celebration helps maintain the teams’ positivity and rewards those who have excelled. Blog 5: Engage, Harvest, Innovate; repeat Listen to your product or service’s social buzz and engage those who care. Integrate the feedback and ideas into your product development creating a pattern of change, innovation and improvement.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Design for Experience
The mission is to provide everyone who engages with our product, service, brands or people a unique and rewarding experience. Take your office, look around, and walk around your agents’ desks. How do they look, how do they make you feel? Does it look like the team enjoy themselves? Designing a work space geared for customer service can include physical elements like, • Working environment • Office layout, desks and chairs • Technology, computers, printers, telephony • Agent space – make your self feel at home • Space for Downtime and meetings Agents should feel comfortable in their environment. Allow your agents to create their space, what they want on the walls, what music is playing, where are they seated, is there coffee and water available? Have a desk competition at Easter, 4th of July, Super bowl, or other events where everyone decorates their work stations. “I managed a team of up to 15 full time agents for a job search service. We had a hot desk system where agents were at a different desk each day allocated different tasks. So instead of desk dressing on any occasion like Halloween or St Patrick’s Day they would dress up in appropriately themed costumes.” Remember: Its all about the experience.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


How you manage your team, your behavior, it all impacts and reflects on your staff. The office buzz is vital. Whether its music, chit chat, what ever, it should be encouraged. I think personal music devices like IPods kill the mood and hide people away, just something to watch out for. Next think about what support your agents require when troubleshooting, a wiki, files, fax, printer, network data etc. Make these available to your agents, at their finger tips. Help Desk Software and Telephony systems are a huge topic, which we won’t cover in this whitepaper. When you are evaluating an application ensure you take into consideration possible integrations with other aspects of your business like time tracking or client billing. How intuitive and friendly is the user interface for customers and staff? What happens when you get a new staff member? How do you orientate them into your business and their team? Set up a buddy system, a rookie with a pro. Develop a program the newbie works through, ticking off the boxes as they go. At each milestone let them loose for a few days to build their confidence. If it’s important for your agents to have system or process knowledge from another department like the warehouse or dispatch, set up an exchange day where once a month staff swap with someone from another department. Often when times are tough a certain amount of customer fear develops within agents. Culture, team work and proper agent coaching will dispel any notions of insecurity. Confidence in your own ability and in the product or service you are supporting is essential when engaging and troubleshooting.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


The physical aspects of your help desk are easily overlooked when thinking about the customer experience. Establishing a well resourced office will make the Agents job much easier. Agents who are happy and comfortable create positive customer experiences. Of course, you can have the coolest office and every resource under the sun available to your agents but without the right bums on seats your helpdesk could be doomed for catastrophic failure. In the next blog we look at recruiting the right agents to represent your product or service.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Recruit for Talent
Marcus Buckingham, in his book ‘first break all the rules’ defines Talent as “a recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied”. Think about this when assessing the credentials of potential customer service agents for your team. In the interview you’re looking for evidence of persistence, determination, follow through, good listening, caring and compassion, and the ability to maintain and nurture a conversation. A bubbly, outgoing personality is not necessarily required. Most important is to be interested, to tune in, and focus on the customer your dealing with, over and over again. Hire Thinkers. Customer service requires frequent snap decision making skills. On the phone you have seconds to decide a course of action to resolve a problem so Agents must be able to think on their feet and be confidently decisive. Thinkers also ask questions like “why can’t we do it this way?” which could help you improve your software or refine a process. “I worked at an Online Book Store where the software was built in house. Comments from our agents resulted in many development jobs like adding a lock on opened tickets, even moving a button could eliminate unnecessary scrolling or mouse clicks and make the process easier.” Everyone has their own unique personality profile. Building a productive group that works well together can start by selecting complementary personality types. However it’s more likely that you’ll hire for talent and then get to know each agent and manage them according to their personality
© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009 8

type. Teaching your team about personality types and running informal games or activities can help everyone understand each other. Hire people who care for your product or service. It helps if they are already knowledgeable, and understand the benefits, this enthusiasm will flow through to the customer. “At the job search service we helped students find casual and part time work. So, we hired students who were already studying locally and using the service. Customers supporting customers, corporate stars, roving evangelists, what ever you call them they defined the organizations success with their dedication and hard work” New agents should buddy up with a senior agent to learn the ropes. The Senior Agent shows them through the system, and coaches them through the training manual, ticking off the sections as they go. Between sections the agent should have ‘live time’ where they answer enquiries with the senior agent listening in or checking answers. Talents are things people do often. Great agents are talented at smiling every time they read a new email or take another call.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Story Telling and Role Plays
Story telling is usually something that happens in the staff room to let off steam. Agents sharing tales of difficult customers, system failures or perhaps a thank you call or present a customer sent them. Bring story telling in to your training and coaching program as a way to share coping strategies, conflict resolution or tips n tricks to achieve an outcome from a difficult situation. The CEO or Business Owner should start by telling the company story’s about the product or service, what obstacles have been overcome, what are the success stories, and what positive press coverage has the company received. The help desk manager or senior agents could tell stories about their experiences of different situations, how they handled them and what they would do differently now. Engage other members of the team by asking “how would you handle that sort of issue?” Talk about a time when everything failed big time and your team had to go into overdrive. Maybe the computers crashed, maybe something went to the press that caused uproar, and maybe your website started double charging every order. Talk about what happened in the lead up, how the issue was discovered and how the team managed the issues and the workload. Story telling is a great way to share experiences and set the expectations of what will happen if something goes wrong. It encourages the whole team to be involved and contribute. Building on from story telling, role plays require your agents to act out customer/agent scenarios. If possible use the computers, headsets etc so the agent actually has to follow the screen process as well as talking.
© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009 10

Rehearse a selection of common and unusual situations rotating agents around so they are always working with a different person and switching roles. Role plays and story telling are great activities to build confidence and knowledge. The fun, informal activities are great ways to get your team together, building a culture and environment that’s positive, proactive and supportive.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Measure Experience, Celebrate Attitude
I follow the David Maister school of thought when it comes to performance reviews. Agents should set their own professional goals with their manager every quarter or even each month. Setting the same parameters for success for everyone is certain failure. Then team based non-negotiable targets are set based on the service level agreements (SLA’s). In addition to these more concrete requirements agents should be held accountable for the customer experience they are charged with managing. You could look at using some of all of these. • Random email or call recording/monitoring • ‘Rate this Response’ “Was this answer helpful” yes or no buttons on every FAQ or Knowledge base page and outbound customer support emails. • Complaints and escalations • Positive feedback The ‘Rate this Response’ results are mapped to either the agent who sent the email or the FAQ page it’s on. Reporting on the responses can offer valuable information on your weak spots and or issues that a particular agent needs coaching on. ”As the CSM at the online book store I used this sort of information during weekly 1 on 1 staff catch-ups. This Positive and negative feedback meant we could review issues in a timely relevant way, and coach on the fly” The one thing you can give your agents is your time. Those informal ‘on the fly’ moments when you sit down and talk about the latest calls, or an idea are invaluable.
© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009 12

These moments tend to offer up insight into how tasks are ‘actually’ being done. Talking about recent calls or issues could shed light on a potential issue or identify a moment of brilliance. Whether it’s the end of a busy day or the end of the week it’s always nice to finish up on a good note. Save up the stories you’ve heard and celebrate those moments of success with the whole team. A collective ‘pat on the back’ does wonders for morale.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009


Engage, Harvest, Innovate; repeat
Social media takes many forms, from blogs and forums to Twitter and Facebook. In any case it’s all user generated ideas, thoughts and opinions. When somebody talks about your product or service on the street, chances are you won’t be there to overhear. Online however, you can easily harvest these posts and turn them into discussions. Dell has a customer services team solely focused on helping people through social media sites like Twitter. There are many large companies supporting customers online, however it’s the smaller companies who are set to gain the most. Social media allows you to connect with and engage your customers more than ever before. “A Wedding Photographer uses Facebook, adding all the Wedding guests as friends so they can be notified when the photos are up. The guests then share those photos with their friends, now that’s a powerful marketing tactic.” Use Google Alerts to send you automatic emails listing all the blogs, articles or posts matching your keywords. Then use Google Reader to aggregate the RSS feeds of your favorite or frequently visited sites. Social media is useful for more than just troubleshooting complaints or service failures. Good and bad comments can be discussed, engaging the customer to help create a more permanent solution. provides a web 2.0 Helpdesk application. If we hear customers suggesting we should integrate with a certain company or asking why we don’t have a particular
© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009 14

feature we can direct them to the “Feature Request” forum page. Customers can add a new request or vote up an idea already suggested. Managing all this information can get difficult. Look for new technology in the future but for now consider your recording options, Google docs, a tally sheet somewhere so you can start analyzing the types of messages your hearing, follow ups and outcomes. Getting to know those customers that are more vocal about your product or service can help create evangelists, loyal proponents, spreading the gospel according to you, where ever they go. These people can help answer other customer questions online, be involved in user testing and of course process improvement.

To wrap up;
Times are certainly changing. The old rules are out before the new rules have been written. Customers are more demanding, more vocal and more knowledgeable than ever before. This places new strains on any company unprepared or poorly equipped for the future. This series of blog posts and takeaway whitepaper was designed to offer some insight into the thought processes involved with establishing or managing a helpdesk. De-constructing your helpdesk down to its undies might force a reality check or some re-engineering along the way but I’m sure the process will be highly rewarding to your business, customer service team and customers. Remember: Its all about the experience.

© Copyright Justin Flitter 2009