Ringside: Insider Interview with Daniel Ord

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Daniel Ord is a certified CXPA Recognised Training Provider with an insightful background. Accumulating years of experience through other companies and his own (OmniTouch International), Daniel is no stranger to globe-trotting. He works in 40 countries and has expertise in the contact centre, customer service and customer experience strategy implementation.

During this interview, discover advice on creating original and authentic customer experiences to align with customer expectations, the renewed focus of quality of customer experience metrics, and the subsequent significant developments in customer service.

Through OmniTouch, what is the greatest thing you enjoy about helping businesses?

What I do and have done for 20 years is to help and inspire people to learn and grow in the domains of customer and employee experience, contact centres and customer service. Whether they’re the CX director, the contact centre VP, a team leader or a frontline agent handling live chats. 

My favourite part is when people say, wow – now I get it. Now I know what to do to improve my customer or employee-related work specifically. All these domains – CX, EX and contact centres – are essential but complex. I help make them clear. I’ve had a chance to work all over the world these past 20 years with many different industries. And what I’ve observed is that the challenges people face are pretty similar. Whether that’s trying to get senior buy-in for CX, coach an employee to improve or design better contact centre metrics. And helping people solve those challenges is rewarding. 

When you have that inspiring, clear and ambitious CX Vision in hand, you can articulate what kind of experience your organisation wants to deliver.

Could you explain what should be a company’s steps for improving CX?

Let’s start with the challenge that most frontline employees face (where frontline employees are defined as those who regularly interact with customers). “It’s hard to deliver a relevant and meaningful customer experience if I don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, how to bring it to life or even how to explain it to someone else.”

Now let’s consider the challenge that most backline employees face (where backline employees are defined as those who work in functions that typically don’t regularly come in contact with customers). “It’s hard to support our frontline colleagues or customers well if we don’t know what kind of customer experience our company is supposed to deliver and how we specifically contribute to that.”

So straight away, we have two important challenges to solve if we want to improve CX. And to solve both, we’ve got to determine what kind of customer experience we want to deliver. The journey to determine what kind of customer experience we want to deliver requires us to deep dive into answering two key questions:

Who are we as an organisation and what do our customers expect from us?

They sound like such simple questions. But to answer them with clarity, insight and confidence and in a way that inspires people takes some work. 

What do we stand for? What do we do differently or better than anyone else? What promises do we make? That’s big-time ‘who are we’ stuff. 

Do we know what customers expect of us? How robust are our listening posts around here? Are we prepared to action the kinds of things we learn?  That’s big-time ‘what do customers expect’ stuff. Or if you prefer, we can call it voice of customer (VOC).  

When we ask and answer questions like these, we’re forced to face up to whether we’ve been splashing around aimlessly in the VOC baby pool – or whether VOC is a fundamental pillar of how we operate. 

When I talk about the work it takes to determine ‘what kind of experience we want to deliver, I always tell participants that I’m envious of the journey they’re on. Because though that journey may take months – and will almost certainly be intense the discussions, learnings and conclusions that arise will be amazing. And if we ourselves, as the CX Team, get wound up by what we learn – it bodes well for getting others excited about it too. 

What’s the outcome of the journey?

The outcome of the journey I describe is the all-important CX Vision. Our elegant summation of the kind of experience we will deliver around here. At this point, I think of that famous painting of Napoleon astride his horse which I saw at the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Now that we have our CX vision in hand, it’s time to mobilise our colleagues, employees, and partners to bring that vision to life. That’s the unifying force. Once we have our CX Vision, we can get ready to work on the other components of our CX strategy, including who we serve (personas), how we’ll serve them (journeys) and how we’ll measure our success along the way (metrics). 

Of course, there are other steps to improve CX. I’ve never been a fan of listicles. You know, those long lists of bullet points. But with that said, it’s clear that CX as an organisation-wide business discipline has many moving parts and many important elements.

As I heard someone say once, it’s like the mortar between the bricks. Here I’d like to share three additional elements involved in improving CX:

The voice of customer audit 

This is where we ask questions like, “Where are VOC efforts happening right now? Which departments ask which customers what things? What do they do with what they ask? What’s useful in all this? What’s useless in all this? What is actually annoying Customers in our VOC efforts?”

There’s typically a patchwork quilt of VOC efforts going on out there in the organisation, run by different people and departments. Efforts that can be streamlined realigned and almost always better managed. 

The metrics audit

Once you set your key CX metrics at the organisational level (things like NPS or CES or variations of CSAT), it’s time to consider the metrics that have been set at the department or functional level. 

We ask questions like, “Do existing departmental metrics support CX success? Or are there departmental metrics that might actually be a barrier to CX success? Which operational metrics absolutely impact customer perception? Which metrics are touchpoint specific – and important to ensure that we’re running the best possible touchpoint?”

By the way, there’s nothing wrong with running a great touchpoint or ‘silo’.  I point this out because I typically see the word silo used in a negative context. But every organisation wants great silos. We all want a great marketing department, a great finance department and so on.  What we probably all need more of are silos that aspire to work together to make the customer’s life better. A metrics audit allows you to specifically review and validate if the individual silo metrics in place help or hurt our overall CX ambitions. As we work with the various departments, we can determine where CX might actually help them improve their business performance too.

That’s one of the ways you build healthy cross-functional relationships. 

When it comes to CX, some cultural beliefs are going to help you achieve your CX ambitions.   

The cultural belief audit 

In any organisation, there are cultural beliefs, assumptions about what it takes to succeed around here. These beliefs can be very deeply held – even though there may be very little or no proof to them. Here’s an example, “Are people who work at home more productive than people who work in an office?”  Some will say absolutely yes. Some will say absolutely no. Others will fall at some point in between. 

All these answers are examples of cultural beliefs, which are almost always a reflection of what senior management believes. Ideally, cultural beliefs have been engineered to the vision, mission and values. But at other times, the choices employees make have more to do with ‘succeeding’ (even surviving) around here. When it comes to CX, some cultural beliefs are going to help you achieve your CX ambitions.  

So work to identify those – and then grow those. Celebrate them. Other cultural beliefs are going to get in your way. Once you remember them, you’ll need to root those out. Light a figurative bonfire and let them go up in smoke. 

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How should companies train their employees to act during the customer experience?

Well, I’d direct the reader back to my thoughts in the earlier question, on the journey to determine what kind of experience we will deliver around here. This is baseline stuff.  When you have that inspiring, clear and ambitious CX Vision in hand, you can articulate what kind of experience your organisation wants to deliver. Now you can begin to talk to your employees with the clarity and confidence they deserve. 

I’ve seen it work over and over, from small government agencies to global pharmaceutical companies. Again, I think it helps to broadly categorise employees into two groups as you set out to mobilise everyone around the CX Vision – the frontline and the backline.

The frontline job role

In this role, the job product is the content of the interaction between the employee and the customer.

So whether that’s face-to-face, email, chat, phone, or whatever channel – it’s important to take that CX Vision down from Mount Olympus and embed it into the design of the interaction with the customer. I do this with clients all the time in our quality work. Just remember when you do this, that what makes a great email isn’t exactly the same as a great live chat. Or what makes a great face-to-face interaction isn’t exactly the same as what makes a great phone interaction. You’ll need some adaptation by channel – even in omnichannel environments. But it’s so worth it. 

The backline job role

For this role, what I often see is embedding CX-related job roles into each job description. Of course, that ‘CX’ job role has to be relevant to the specific job at hand. If you’re in finance it might be ensuring that refund checks are processed quickly and accurately. Of course, a basic level of ‘general CX’ training helps everyone understand what the organisation is doing and their part in it. That kind of training need not be cumbersome or complicated. It should sensitise folks to what CX is, why it’s important and what it looks like.

Recently I’ve had a chance to do this kind of training at scale – online with thousands of employees. I think it helps with the organisation’s communication of what this all means to the individual. 

With a growing number of CCXPs, can you tell us what it is and why leaders should consider undertaking CCXP Certification?

Let me start to answer this one from my personal experience.

In 2003, I got involved with training for an industry certification called ‘Call Centre Industry Advisory Council’ Certification. CIAC Certification was designed and administered by a non-profit association based in the US. For ten years, from about 2003 to 2013, I travelled the world running workshops that prepared people to take their rigorous CIAC Certification examinations (which sadly no longer exist).  That decade long experience taught me first-hand the role a powerful certification can play in the life of an individual who earns it. As well as the impact on the people they manage and their organisation at large. Whether that person was working in San Antonio, San Jose or Singapore.

 I also had a regular ongoing look at the gap between high performing organisations and those that weren’t there yet. Time and time again that gap was due to the competency and capability of the person or people in charge. What they knew, what they prioritised, the strategic choices they made. So I already had a decade of global certification experience and lessons under my belt before I turned my attention to evaluating CCXP Certification. It definitely helped. 

Administered by a non-profit organisation

While I was living in Singapore I came across CCXP Certification – I think via a LinkedIn post by somebody. It wasn’t well known in Asia at that time. I hadn’t heard of it before. So I decided it was worth exploring. The first thing I liked was that CCXP Certification was put together and administered by a non-profit association – in this case, the CXPA.  For me, that’s fundamental.

Made for those with background in CX

The second thing I liked that not everybody is eligible to take the CCXP exam. So it’s not one of those, “oh, I attend a class, and then I can get some kind of rubber stamp certification for attending.” Over the years, I’ve come across a lot of those. And they don’t serve their audience very well. The CXPA determined that you need to have some practical background in CX to even be eligible for the CCXP exam. That made sense to me. 

The certification is intensive

The third thing was that the CCXP Exam is intensive and requires passing a no book, no notes examination. This is just like various CIAC certification exams from my past experience. It should be intensive because there are things people in the industry should just ‘know’. So after confirming to myself that CCXP Certification ticked several important boxes, I sat for the CCXP exam and passed. But I wasn’t done yet. Now I’m a CXPA recognised training provider. 

For 20 years, the tagline for my company OmniTouch has been to help & inspire people to deliver a great customer experience. So after earning my CCXP, I applied and then became a CXPA Recognised Training Provider – there’s just a handful of us around the world.  Essentially, this means that my CX workshop content and personal facilitation background have been evaluated by the CXPA and confirmed to meet their requirements. 

Now I’ve been all over the world helping people learn CX and – if they choose – prepare for their CCXP Certification. Our passing rate has been 100% – which is a testament to the level of participants we work with and the efforts they put in. 

Additional thoughts on CCXP Certification

There is always a lot of to and fro out there on the topic of industry certification. Everyone has an opinion about it.

So I’d like to close out this question by adding a few final thoughts on certification based on delivering industry certifications for nearly 20 years. 

  • Getting certified is not the destination – it’s what you do with a certification that matters – we should never lose sight of that.  
  • Certification validates that you understand the competencies under review – it does not validate your character, charisma or drive to implement what’s been learned – I don’t even know if there is such a certification that would do that.  
  • In an increasingly noisy industry, it’s nice to have an objective’ filter.

While it’s not possible for me to know all the 1,100+ CCXPs out there when I see those letters after someone’s name, I have a sense of what they’ve been through because I went through it myself. Sure, it’s only one possible ‘filter’ when evaluating a job candidate or a business partner or a consultant to support CX efforts, but I think it helps.  

What are the important CX trends you have seen over the last six months?

It’s important to acknowledge the struggle that our frontline employees are having and do something about it over and above just telling them to ‘have empathy’.

I’m going to extend that lens from six months to the last 12 months. The period where most of us were working and learning from home. And I’m going to use two ‘inputs’ to craft my response. 

The first input is considering which of our workshops have been the most popular over the past 12 months. And the second input is parsing out what our many participants over the last 12 months have told me they’re working on, what they’re trying to achieve. So here goes. Our most popular workshop in terms of several runs over the last 12 months was this one – ‘Managing Difficult Customer Situations’. With participants coming in from hospitals, IT support desks, roadside assistance, charities, banks, insurance, city councils and more. 

What does that tell me? Folks who deal directly with customers need some help. Not just help in what to say or how to say it – though that matters. I find that folks are trying to navigate their wellbeing and mental health during a time of intense emotions and fear. On top of which their bosses tell them they’re supposed to ‘Customer Experience’ or ‘Customer-Centric. 

Trend #1

I think it’s important to acknowledge the struggle that our frontline employees are having and do something about it over and above just telling them to ‘have empathy’. More than any other workshop we run, this one feels very much like a group therapy session – and I love that.  

Trend #2

The number of governmental organisations getting into the CX game. I’ve been thrilled that perhaps 40% of our work has been with government agencies and institutions over the past 12 months.

Trend #3

I’m calling back to basics. We’ve got a chance now to reset our organisations for the future. To make life better for Customers and Employees. And in meaningful ways.

One Client told me, “Dan, we’re questioning literally everything. Why do we have these metrics? Why do we use these interview questions? Why do we coach this way? Do our current ways of working work anymore?” I think there’s a big and more human reset taking shape out there for my second trend. Where the needs of all the stakeholders in the ecosystem are being taken seriously. And, of course, I’m thrilled to get to be part of that through the work we do.

Expert advice on how to meet customer expectations, manage remote employees and set agents up for success.

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