Hi Lance, tell us about yourself and your background.
I’ve been working in the BPO business for 20 years, with 15 of those spent at SYKES in roles across sales, client management, and general management. Prior to BPO, I was in the telco business and spent 17 years with AT&T. Upon joining SYKES, I moved from Denver, CO, to Tampa and have been enjoying the sunshine state ever since.
What is the biggest misunderstanding about customer experience, in your opinion?
Historically, there wasn’t a major focus on the support side of many businesses in terms of its relevance to top-line growth. But as additional support and comms channels have been added, the overall complexity has increased significantly, and most companies have really come to embrace the importance of customer support.
It also seems that many early-stage companies and emerging brands are placing great emphasis on customer support and see the true value of great CX. I think it’s a sign of the times — 20 years ago, a toll-free number and a friendly face were the primary ways to help customers solve their issues. Websites might have shared some helpful product info, but they were not meant to serve customers post-sale. Today we leverage so many tools and channels for customer interactions, giving brands numerous opportunities to inspire brand loyalty. This is where automation, self-help, and social media solutions become very valuable – but also quite complex. Therefore, most companies are now prioritizing customer experience across all touchpoints of the customer journey.
What are some of the newer CX companies/solutions you’re keeping your eyes on right now?
It’s hard to look past Work at Home solutions, given everything we’ve been through over the past year. But at SYKES, we’ve long understood the value this type of structure provides to our clients and employees alike. We began investing in platforms and capabilities that enable this model nearly 20 years ago. Now, most businesses can’t afford to focus on how virtual, gig, and hybrid fit into their long-term plans. Recent generations expect increased mobility and flexibility, and so those companies that acknowledge and embrace these trends are ensuring they’ll attract top talent today and into the future as the nature of the workforce continues to evolve. So, it’s the companies that are investing in those areas that I’m keeping an eye on.
What can companies do to improve customer loyalty and retention?
Essentially — make themselves easy to do business with. Of course, this is an old adage that goes back decades, but saying you are easy to do business with and actually having the capabilities to deliver on that promise are two very different things.
Companies are offering increasingly complex products and services that will inevitably require post-sale interaction between consumer and company, and that’s when it’s most critical that they are easy to work with. Understanding and personalizing the customer journey to meet the customer with the right information, in their preferred channels, when they need it most is the surest way to be easy to work with. (No one said it was simple to be easy!)
What do you think is most relevant and why: CSAT (customer satisfaction score), NPS (net promoter score), or CES (customer effort score)?
That’s really tough – they’re all relevant. But I do believe customer effort is very important and revealing. Most surveys only ask about that last interaction, not all the steps it took to get to that point. Very few companies are measuring effort – but it tells a far more comprehensive story to help understand a customer’s true experience. I’d say that emerging brands are probably more likely to use this metric, so it will be interesting to see how and if this metric is adopted across more mature brands in the coming years.
How can companies better use social media in the era of customer-centricity and personalization?
We are big believers in the power of social media in the era of customer-centricity — our SYKES Brand Love program focuses on managing and measuring a company’s external perception. When you help someone on social media – there’s almost a double payoff because it’s amplified to a large audience that can also be helped and/or influenced by that interaction. But since every interaction is magnified, the pressure to get it right is more pronounced. Since the stakes are higher and management can be complex, it’s wise for companies to invest accordingly.
What is your opinion on AI-based chatbots to handle customer support?
If Chatbots work well and they are sophisticated enough, they are clearly of value. It’s a question of whether they are piloted and tested thoroughly to ensure they are reliable. Every possible scenario needs to be examined through the lens that everything that could go wrong will go wrong. But I believe it’s a technology that will be used more and more as a viable method of customer interaction.
What was the best movie you saw that has come out during this past year?
I enjoyed the Sound of Metal, which revealed something I never thought of previously.
Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric?
Well, let’s see… tough to pick a favorite – I suppose I could say whichever is most important to our client and makes SYKES the most effective in their eyes… Truthfully I don’t necessarily have a favorite, but as I outlined above, I think CES tells a really valuable story about customer experience.