Answering the challenge of customer expectations in the digital age - part 2

Continued from yesterday's post...

Removing sources of dissatisfaction by addressing extrinsic issues will improve an employee’s experience, but only by targeting intrinsic issues can an employer actively promote true job satisfaction.

Here, therefore, is a true path (for any future-focused industry leaders that want to take it) that leverages the real challenges of the digital environment to lift contact centres out of the limitations of the old paradigm. In other words, the challenge raised by the demanding digital-world customer can be transformed from the straw that broke the camel’s back into the foundations for a vastly more promising and valuable model.

By redesigning the organisation’s customer experience and the coaching framework to support it, agents can be freed from the limitations of KPIs and processes that do not serve the customer. Instead, they can be challenged to use and develop their human skills of creativity and intelligent problem-solving so that every call becomes a unique challenge to delight a new customer. Achieving a KPI like an average handling time (AHT) target provides no sense of ongoing benefit after it is first achieved; instead it contributes to the experience of monotony that agents commonly feel. The challenge of finding a creative and individual way to delight a particular customer (whose needs and characteristics will always be slightly different to the last) transforms every call into a novel and motivating challenge. This feeds into the important intrinsic employee need for challenging and interesting work. Further, by encouraging and coaching the agent to use their individual creativity and intelligence to meet this objective, other intrinsic factors of job satisfaction are served: ie, the needs to be supported to grow and be given increasing responsibility.

As well as embedding a better customer experience design and framework, coaching gives the employee the ‘lived experience’ of being seen, valued and recognised, which has immeasurably more impact on culture than an organisation telling its employees anything. It instils highly valuable principles of responsibility, objectivity and fairness; everyone in the organisation is held up against the same, clearly articulated and understood framework in a manner that helps them grow with practical and empowering input. Responsibility, objectivity and fairness are cultural drivers of higher engagement and productivity.

In a coaching environment, the employee sees that their individual contribution is being noticed, and knows that an investment in their growth is being made. Further, coaching frameworks alter culture by introducing and modelling values of clarity, empowerment and helpfulness. An employee receiving effective coaching feels truly seen and supported with practical ways they can do better. This turns around any ‘us and them’ feelings and instead demonstrates that the organisation is there to help the employee by investing the time and resources needed for them to be the best they can be. Further, the employee witnesses their team leader being similarly coached on the floor, and sees that their team leader is being helped and empowered in the same way by their manager. The sense of teamwork generated by this process can change the dynamics on the floor in an inspiring way.

Like customers, customer service professionals want to be empowered to deliver on the customer’s expectation. In order to do this, a contact centre has to have a culture where people can thrive and are encouraged to deliver exceptional customer experiences in each and every interaction they have with a customer.

Coaching is one of the most effective determinants and change agents of culture, and is more easily evaluated for its return on investment (ROI) than other contributors. Coaching breeds a culture of recognition – and recognition, which itself costs nothing, is a more powerful motivator than extrinsic (eg purely financial) incentives.

The numbers speak for themselves

Personally, one of the most rewarding aspects of my job is being part of the intangible but very real change in culture that occurs when a well-designed and well-implemented coaching program is introduced to an organisation. The difference in the energy, dynamics, the new spring in employees’ steps, the ‘vibe’ – it all contributes to a demonstrable, sometimes seismic, shift in the work environment. The best news for management teams, however, is that these ‘intangible’ benefits translate into very tangible and measurable numbers.

The following are examples from my professional experience.

Redesign and coaching of new Customer Conversation Framework for state transport authorities led to:

  • 110% growth in net promoter score (NPS)

  • low customer effort score of 1.5

  • reduced number of calls by 24,000/month due to first-call resolution

  • 40% improvement in call transfer rates

Redesign and coaching of new Customer Conversation Framework for major ASX-listed Telco led to:

  • 15% increase in employee engagement score across the contact centre to above 80%

  • increase in the contact centre’s total revenue of 95% in one financial year

  • AHT down by 10%

Redesign and coaching of new Customer Conversation Framework for major London-listed UK Telco led to:

  • turnaround from one of the lowest employee engagement scores of any contact centre in the UK to one of the best, with a score of over 90% after 12 months

  • 20% increase in the centre’s leadership group effectiveness

Rather than living up to its reputation as one of the more difficult elements to change in a workplace, culture should be seen as the ‘sweet spot’ targeted by organisations wanting to step up to meet the challenges of today’s digital customer. The returns are not only vast but sustainable: as Herzberg points out, extrinsic incentives can ‘jump-start’ an employee for a period, “[b]ut it is only when one has a generator of one’s own that we can talk about motivation.”[1]

Let’s face it: if you lift an employee’s engagement from 30% to 60%, that’s a 100% increase in productivity!

[1] Herzberg, 2003, p. 3

TCEC specialises in designing customer-centric excellence and coaching programs. We’d be delighted to discuss your organisation’s needs and opportunities with you.

Steve Doyle, Director +61 407 318 148

Castle, A. (2015). 5 Ways to Improve Contact Centre Culture. Retrieved from http:// (2015). Customer Service Trends in 2015. Retrieved from

CSO (2015). What customers want is not what contact centres deliver. Retrieved from DMG Consulting (2010). Contact Center Coaching Best Practices: Outstanding Agents Strengthen Your Brand. Retrieved from whitepapers.asp

Gait, K. 2010. The Importance of Call Centre Culture and How to Improve It. Retrieved from

Herzberg, F. (2003). “One More Time: How do you Motivate Employees?”. Harvard Business Review, January 2003.

Kjellerup, N. (1998). Call Center Productivity: A Sustainable Solution. Retrieved from

Management Mentors (2013). Coaching vs Mentoring: 25 Ways They’re Different. Retrieved from

Silent Edge (2012). Contact Centres and Cultural Change: Overcoming the Challenge. A white paper. Retrieved from Cultural%20Change%20-%20Overcoming%20the%20challenge.pdf

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