The alchemy of employee and customer delight with Annette Franz

Vanipriya Moorthi

October 31, 202310 min read

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In the hustle and bustle of today's business world, it's easy to forget that behind every call, chat, email and customer interaction, there's a real, live human being on the other end. 

The role of a contact center agent is far from a walk in the park. It's demanding — often thankless — and it could take a toll on the emotional well-being of these frontline customer service heroes. 

And call center burnout is, without a doubt, an actual issue. A recent report on this matter stated that 74% of call center agents are at risk of burnout due to high emotional labor and 91% of them experience anxiety and other mental health issues. So, yes, it’s a real concern that affects the very real lives of people. 

So, the pressing question is: How can leaders proactively protect and support the mental and emotional health of their customer service agents? 

While chatting with Nathan Bennett for the latest CX-WISE podcast, Annette Franz highlighted a critical point: 

“It's about understanding that contact center agents are not just cogs in the wheel of business success, they are people with emotions, experiences and lives outside of work." 

"So, when you engage in meaningful and regular conversations with your customer service agents, going beyond the surface of "What are you working on today?" and really getting to know them on a personal level, you take the crucial first step: recognizing their needs. The next step, of course, is taking action to provide the support they require.” 

Also Read: How to manage call-center stress and become a happier agent 

If her reputation didn’t already precede her, Annette Franz is the founder and CEO of CX Journey. She’s an accomplished author and renowned CX influencer with a remarkable 30-year track record in mastering the nuances of understanding both customers and employees. Annette is also recognized as a top thought leader in customer experience and was named one of "The 100 Most Influential Tech Women on Twitter" by Business Insider. Talk about accomplished, huh? 

In this episode of CX-WISE, Annette shared her wisdom, stories, insights and expertise on how to create a customer-centric culture that not only benefits employees and customers but also drives value for the entire business. She also dispels the major misconceptions about customer experience and discusses the metrics that truly indicate the success of CX. 

On that note, let’s jump right in and discover the nuggets of wisdom that will level up your CX game, shall we? 

Table of Contents

Humanizing the customer support experience 

Most of us have felt frustration or disappointment with a product or service at some point in our lives. And how a brand responds to our concerns can make or break our perception of that company.  

In our conversation, Annette offered valuable insights on how CX professionals can improve humanity by acting with purpose, creating positive memories and cultivating deep empathy. 

She also provided tips for brands seeking to skillfully handle customer complaints, giving them plenty to chew on.  

1. Not every customer can be satisfied 

She emphasized the importance of understanding that not every customer can be fully satisfied. That's just the way it is.  

However, she made it clear that even when customers aren't always right, it's vital to continue listening to them.  

From Annette’s POV: 

“Don't take customer complaints personally. This is your customer. They have an issue. Just fix it for them.” 

Also Read: 5 Ways of responding to customer complaints [+ Real examples] 

2. Empower your customer support agents 

The conversation took an interesting turn when she spoke about giving agents the freedom to make decisions and resolve issues, rather than being tied down to rigid scripts and policies. 

Here’s what Annette’s had to say:  

“Drop the script and let care agents interact with customers in a way that is appropriate for the conversation that's being had.” 

Being flexible is key to making sure employees and customers feel heard and get their issues fixed properly. To respond quickly and add the human touch in customer support, companies should give their employees the right tools and freedom to help customers and handle different situations. 

Also Read: 7 Customer service scenarios with tips & examples 

3. Cultivate a people-first culture 

She made a fascinating observation: 

“You know, it's funny how we change when we go to work. On one side of the door, we're friendly and happy, but on the other side, dealing with work-related matters, we can become frustrated and even want to make things difficult for others. It's like we start to dislike our jobs, and everything feels gloomy.” 

But what if we could bridge the gap between being kind, happy people outside the office and hating our jobs inside?  

By putting people first and empowering employees to do what's right for both customers and each other, companies can create a culture of care, she insisted. 

As we touched on before, the path to exceptional customer service starts with recognizing the person on the other end of the line, understanding their needs and treating them with respect and empathy. 

In the end, humanizing customer support is not just about being friendly on the phone, it's about recognizing the shared humanity between customer and agent. It's about understanding that kindness and empathy can be powerful tools for resolving issues and leaving customers with a positive brand experience. 

Mapping customer touchpoints for a seamless customer experience 

As Annette Franz aptly put it, the modern customer journey is like a complex web, with countless threads connecting a customer to a brand. In this labyrinth of touchpoints, every interaction holds the power to influence the customer's perception. For businesses aiming to create exceptional customer experiences, understanding and managing these touchpoints is crucial.  To ensure a seamless customer experience, brands must: 

  • Identify hidden customer touchpoints: Today, touchpoints are more than just in-person interactions or phone calls. They encompass a multitude of digital channels, from social media platforms to mobile apps. Even the seemingly mundane, like emails and surveys, play a pivotal role. Make a note of all of them. 

  • Recognize moments of truth: Not all touchpoints have equal weightage in any given customer journey. But some are "moments of truth" — crucial junctures that can make or break a customer's relationship with a brand. For instance, a glitch in the online booking process for an airline could tarnish an otherwise positive experience. Recognizing and prioritizing these moments of truth are essential for businesses. 

Annette’s advice for brands is to create a customer touchpoint map to navigate this intricate landscape. These maps provide a comprehensive view of all the touchpoints a customer might encounter throughout their journey. They reveal the complexities of the customer experience and help businesses understand how each touchpoint contributes to the whole pre- and post-purchase process. 

 Also Read: How to improve customer experience in a contact center   

Debunking common misconceptions about customer experience 

Misconception #1: Customer experience vs. customer service 

It's a classic mix-up that can lead businesses down the wrong path. Annette brought up a recent incident where someone approached her for "customer service training." Annette wisely pointed out that customer service is just a part of the broader customer experience picture.  

Brands can provide excellent customer service, but without a customer-centric culture, leadership support and a holistic understanding of the customer journey, it's like putting a band-aid on a deeper wound. 

Also Read: Customer support vs. customer service: What is the difference? 

Misconception #2: Customer service is just about the call center 

Customer service is not just about the people working on any of your support channels, it involves the whole company working together to serve the customer. 

If your company's leaders only talk about needing better customer service without truly understanding what that entails, it’s a significant problem says Annette. Because if everyone in the organization isn't focused on serving the customer, it causes issues for the call center.  

So, she adviced brands to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. When you consider the customer's needs, expectations and problems, and design the entire experience around them — including the product, the price and more — you relieve a lot of pressure on the call center. 

Misconception #3: Technology fixes customer experience 

Annette reminded us that: 

“Customer experience is very much a people thing, not a technology thing.” 

Technology certainly plays a key role in CX, but it's not the star of the show. It supports and facilitates the customer experience, but it doesn't replace the human touch. Customer experience is fundamentally about people — customers and employees working together to create positive interactions.  

Misconception #4: Employee experience has nothing to do with customer experience 

It's easy to overlook that the people who deliver the customer experience are your employees. A happy, engaged and motivated workforce is more likely to create exceptional customer experiences. So, do not neglect the link between EX and CX. When this connection is made, it can transform an organization's approach to both employee and customer care. 

These major CX misconceptions how that there's more to being customer-centric than people might think. It's not only about changing how people see things but also about fully grasping both customer and employee experiences. It means making sure that both customers and employees are at the heart of your business strategy. 

Built to win: Designing a customer-centric culture that drives value for your business 

Annette Franz addressed the pivotal role of culture in achieving true customer-centricity in her best-selling book. She emphasized that it's not just about tasks, it's about embedding these principles in your organization's DNA.  

Her book offers a holistic view of customer-centricity, redefining it as a core aspect of your business, and she provides ten invaluable principles to guide your business journey.   

Want a chance to win a free copy of this book? Stay tuned for an exciting giveaway at the end of this article! 

Navigating the sea of CX metrics 

To enhance the customer experience, Annette begins her assessment by conducting in-depth interviews to uncover the real pain points beyond what meets the eye. She’s helped businesses in identifying the catalyst for change, recognizing the pain points and aligning them with key performance indicators (KPIs).  

But which KPIs should you consider when you’re aiming to measure CX success? 

As in CX, there are various metrics that can serve as guiding lights. Annette emphasized the significance of customer lifetime value, customer satisfaction, customer effort score and retention. 

While acquisition is important, she encouraged a more balanced focus that encompasses both customer acquisition and retention. In the ever-practical Annette fashion, she also suggested having a heart-to-heart with the CFO to understand which metrics hold value for the financial side of the business.  

The bottom line is to ensure that the work that’s being done aligns seamlessly with the desired outcomes and the cherished metrics of the executive team. By finding that harmony, businesses can navigate the sea of CX and steer toward success. 

So, always remember to choose your metrics wisely to align your efforts with the measures that truly matter. Your path to CX success begins by identifying those pivotal metrics and ensuring they're in harmony with your goals and your customers' needs. 

Cracking the code of customer data for great CX 

Annette definitely knows the value of data in designing a stellar customer experience. But what kind of data is she talking about and what does it really mean? 

According to her, there are three pillars to customer understanding: listening, characterizing and empathizing. 

  • Listening involves all the ways we gather customer feedback, from surveys to social media comments. It's also about the data breadcrumbs customers leave as they interact with a brand, helping create detailed customer personas.  

  • Then there's characterizing — the research, interviews and deep dives into who the customers are and what their needs, pain points and goals are like.  

  • Finally, there's empathizing, which comes to life through journey mapping and understanding the customer's entire experience. 

But here's the kicker: It's not just about data; it's about contextually relevant data. It's about knowing who the customer is, where they are in their journey and what they need at that particular point.  

We live in the age of hyper-personalization and customers expect their data to be used intelligently. They expect you to guide them to their goals, make recommendations and facilitate their journey.  

In the end, the “wow” moment occurs when data becomes a tool for not only understanding your customers but also helping them get where they want to go. 

Now, that's some serious food for thought from Annette Franz on CX-WISE! 

With that covered, who wants some free stuff? Well, there's no "if" when it comes to freebies — you definitely do! So, share your takeaway from the podcast on social media (don't forget to use #CXWISE and tag Sprinklr) and we'll send you "Built to Win: Designing a customer-centric culture that drives value for your business," all on us. 

Feel like you're ready to level up your CX wisdom? Tune in to the full podcast, and as you do, get that much more CX-WISER. Oh, and while you're at it, settle in for an intriguing anecdote about the valuable lessons growing up on a farm can impart about customer experience. 

Hint: Can a stubborn horse offer a valuable lesson about how we react to the unmet needs of a customer or team member? 🤔🐴 

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