Real Jobs that exist with CX that make Manager’s lives easier
You catch customer experience managers in two phases of their career: (1) new to leadership, eager and believe they can do it all, or (2) experienced in leadership, happy to get it going, but know they can’t do it all alone. Most companies go for option 1.
Disclaimer: when I say most companies. I’m speaking from my experience, not a benchmark or study, Just the good ole school of Hard Knocks! Okay, back to our regularly scheduled message…
To my Number Oners… Who told you that you had to do it all? They lied! Well, maybe they didn’t lie… Maybe they’re just misinformed. Good thing, I’m here to help!
Let me share something with you: Growing and scaling customer experience operations is a team effort (if you’re trying to really get the job done). This article will fall flat on the 5 person team, with 100 contacts a week… in that case, you pretty much can do it all… This is for the team of 15 or more, or those handling thousands of contacts per month, with more on the horizon (if they can see that far).
I’m going to use a few scenarios based on my experience building customer experience operations for a startup that was growing 100%+ month over month. To me, stories really help to drive home the lesson in a relatable way. I’ll include what happened, what I did and what I should’ve done (maybe not in that exact order).
Managing the day to day
I joined a startup and was asked to grow the customer experience team from seven to thirty agents (customer service reps) within 30 days, with no middle management. I should’ve left then, but I didn’t and now I have a story to tell and a few gray hairs to show for it, and I’m recovering from the cystic acne thanks to the therapy sessions, so we’re good now!
There was a core team already in place. All of them smart. All of them capable. Many of them were working their very first job and were promised growth because the company was moving so fast.
Unsolicited advice: Don’t join a fast growing startup expecting to be promoted quickly. If the company is really moving that fast, there’s no time for you to learn on the job in a new role. They will hire people above you with experience and that will be SUPER frustrating for you.
Back to the story: Each of the team learned different ways to work based on their best judgement. Can anyone define best judgement? I mean, some would say not wearing a mask is a good idea, and well… I digress.
I’m going to let you off the hook and tell you the end of the story: I did get the team to 30 (+100)… but I couldn’t do anything else. Everyone knew me as their direct manager and all escalations came to me. I immediately drowned myself in the day to day and getting out of it was a nightmare. Actually, I don’t think I ever did.
Unsolicited Advice: if you’re building a team and you know you’re going to need many people, and a leader, hire the leader first. There are two reasons for this: (1) they can help with recruiting and getting the team on board and (2) the new hires meet this person and immediately establish the connection that this is their manager, and go-to person.
I should’ve immediately placed leaders to help with interviewing and managing the day to day operations, so that I could focus on my other responsibilities (looking further out to prepare the team, I was at Director level). In this case, you have two options for day to day leadership: Team Lead or Supervisor, and some may even dare to say manager. The level of role you fill has much to do with the expectations of that role and the size of the team.
These roles helped with the following:
Having a leadership in place would have supported the team on a daily basis
Providing attention and career development to the front line
Maintaining coverage by channels to reach our service levels
Teaching people to do the work
Okay, so let me paint the picture. We had about 30 people who were brand new. I had to (out of desperation) promote Leads (four, if I recall correctly), who had no training and most of them had NO IDEA WHAT A LEAD IS SUPPOSED TO DO. I should’ve left then, but I didn’t.
I also hired a manager who was good with people so that I could focus on operations.
Hypergrowth comes with stress. The company will do their best to motivate you, but the workload is cray cray. Volume (inbound contacts) was at an all time high. My boss was doing the staffing calculations (WRONG! I have a background in Workforce Management, but I had NO TIME to predict workload and headcount, epic fail) based on our volume. He didn’t understand terms like occupancy (how busy people are throughout the day) or shrinkage the same way I did. So his estimates were almost always less than what we actually needed.
According to his math, we needed to bring on about twenty people each week. Oh! I forgot to mention, we didn’t have a training space, and I was running to Best Buy to buy computers in real time, and we had no training curriculum developed at this time!
I needed help not only building the training, but actually facilitating the training. Being in hypergrowth mode didn’t allow me to hire from within. I needed expertise right away. So I brought in a Customer Service Training Manager, who also created, and facilitated the training .
The expectations were out of this world:
Train the team on work you haven’t learned to do yet (this is actually true and was really what was required), and it was fairly successful. One day I will tell you why and how this worked.
Develop training while facilitating training.
Help with interviews.
Setup a training space.
Nothing was perfect. But everything was far above what was expected and with the level of crazy we were experiencing, I’m surprised we’re still friends.
Are we performing well?
So here we are rapidly growing, and I’m now thinking about how the team is performing. We hired almost anyone with a pulse. I had never considered how many people don’t actually show up to jobs they’d accepted. We would target 20 hires, make offers to just above that and maybe 12 people would show. After the hires were on for about 30 days, we started to wonder if we had the right people in place (I knew the answer to this), but I needed data to support my gut instincts.
We were using a tool that most companies use to do customer service, but the reports didn’t tell the story I was used to creating.
Side note: Moving from Fortune 500s with tons of money to startups is challenging. It’s like going from being rich to living on a budget. Larger companies have deeper pockets and to be honest the thinking is much more strategic… They don’t look at the cost of a product or service as that: the cost of the product or service… They look at the return on investment. If we pay $5 today and get $6 tomorrow, it’s worth it.
So I hired a Workforce Manager (remind me to tell you about this nightmare of a story some day). Now, this is one role that can be its own universe depending on the size of your contact center, but we were considered fairly small. I always wanted to train Workforce Managers, because in Southern California (where I am), they’re far and few between.
Most of the questions I get are about Workforce Management. Yet, this is the most difficult role to get approved. Well, for one, it’s expensive… but two, it’s the person behind the scenes. No one thinks about this position, or if they do… they think about it as a responsibility for the manager. The poor CX Manager… does the work ever end?
While I’m introducing you to workforce management, the term you may be most familiar with is Scheduler. Everyone can conceptualize schedules… if you’re using an omnichannel support (multiple communication channels) strategy you NEED proper scheduling. To that end, you may think that a Scheduling Manager is all you need, but the Workforce Manager has to get the capacity needs to the scheduler, so I went for the bigger role. It took more than six months to fill the position.
This role helped with the following:
Estimating the number of people to hire and when
Reporting on performance
Scheduling of work throughout the day
Providing plans, so that we could reach our service levels
Are we doing all we can to retain customers?
Now that things were really moving, we had so many people, all at various stages of learning, that we needed to make sure we were actually delivering the experience we thought we were. We ended up asking leads to fill in as Quality Assurance Analysts to review customer contacts for consistency and accuracy.
We started with having leads conduct quality assessments. Well, that proved to be futile as the relationships were too close. The quality assessment results weren’t focused on the brand expectations, but the limitations of the person speaking with the customer.
Eventually, we created a full on Quality Team and still (with at this time 130 people), we couldn’t review enough contacts to determine if we were giving a great experience. With 4 analysts, we were only able to review 10% of the contacts. That really sucked for the team.
Finally, we partnered with a company who was able to review 100% of our contacts, which was a huge relief.
This partnership helped with the following:
Ensuring consistent customer experiences
Uncovering adjustments required for training purposes
True VOC direct from customers
I don’t know that I did everything right, but I did the best I could. If I could do it all over again, things would be different. In fact, each time I build customer experience operations I add to my learnings and do things differently.
I wanted to share this with you to say this: If you’re scaling CX, don’t feel bad for feeling overwhelmed. The work was never intended to be done by one person, it really takes a team.