From good enough to great CX: Vincent Washington has the fine blueprint
May 9, 202310 min read
In 2022, when cost-cutting initiatives were failing and the Great Resignation was in full swing, CX leaders worldwide were worried about how things might turn out in 2023.
Fast forward to 2023, and the shadow of uncertainty still looms in the industry. With so much going on, it's hard not to wish for a crystal ball or a time machine to tell us what kind of storm we’ll weather this year. While we may not be able to get our hands on either of those things, what we do have is access to the insights of CX experts, such as Vincent Washington. And with this deeper understanding, CX professionals can always do what humans have done best — innovate to spark the promise of a brighter tomorrow.
Vincent is a CX leader who has donned many hats through his years of experience in various roles, like being responsible for social media management at UPS and customer experience management at Sprinklr. And call it luck, but we got the chance to interview him in an episode of the CX WISE podcast, and we couldn’t have been more thrilled!
In this particular episode, he shared his perspective on why it’s important for leaders to be more accountable and how company culture can impact the customer experience.
For Vincent, it's not enough to simply uphold a company's values and objectives. He believes that leaders must fully internalize, embody and showcase them through their everyday conduct. "If, being a leader, I don't exhibit those core values, then it's not gonna trickle down to my team," he emphasized. And that’s just a taste of what he had to say!
From understanding the customer journey to building trust and delivering exceptional experiences, Vincent lays bare the secrets of customer delight and agent success.
So, let’s jump right in and go through all the essential takeaways from the episode so you can up your CX game and become “CX-WISER.”
Agent happiness mirrors customer satisfaction
Picture this: you’re on the phone with someone from customer support, trying to get a simple technical issue resolved. But instead of getting an immediate solution, you’re bouncing from one channel to another, forced to repeat your issue over and over again. At this point, you’d probably feel really frustrated, wondering why it’s so difficult to get the right help you need. Unfortunately, this is a very common experience for many customers.
According to a report shared by Accenture, a whopping 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives. And it's no surprise why — point solutions are one of the biggest challenges that contact centers face, with 80% of support agents needing to access multiple systems to resolve a customer query.
Referring to this stat, Vincent highlighted that support professionals are often overworked, underappreciated and undervalued. From dealing with frustrated customers to addressing tickets with tight service-level agreements (SLAs), they face tremendous pressure every day. It's no wonder that agent burnout and anxiety have become common.
But here’s the thing: Despite the pressure, support teams go above and beyond to provide top-notch customer service. On being asked how brands can care for their agents, he recommended empowering them with the right tools while providing a supportive environment where they feel motivated and appreciated. As he put it, “I think most of the care experiences I've had were unsatisfactory. It wasn't because the person wasn't emotionally engaged in trying to resolve my issue; it was because they were not empowered by either systems or policy or process to actually help.” So, it’s fair to say that when support professionals feel valued and supported, they are better equipped to provide exceptional service and create unforgettable experiences for customers.
How can you ensure your agents are doing okay and motivated to care for your customers?
Collaboration difficulties sabotage support quality
Vincent mentioned that another area where quality customer support gets hampered is when care agents can’t coordinate and collaborate with frontline teams quite right. For example, when frontline teams (like marketing and sales) work in silos, key customer insights can slip through the cracks and get lost. This lack of synergy can lead to a poor customer experience, with customers receiving conflicting information or having to repeat their concerns to different teams.
To make matters worse, agents struggle to gain a 360-degree view of the customer journey due to siloed data, making it hard for them to provide a personalized experience. As Vincent put it, “When you are in the care center, especially on social, you've probably gotten all the baggage and the weight of all these customer frustrations that have come either from a phone call or email. And then it finally hits the social care agent, right? And so, now, agents are not only dealing with a frustrated customer, but they are also bearing the weight of all these friction points within the system, which eventually gets to them.”
Vincent believes that it takes strong and visionary leadership to address this challenge. He explains that it's human nature to become attached to one's own silo, but when teams prioritize what is best for the customer experience, they can find ways to work together. By breaking down silos and unifying workflows, contact centers can have broader visibility on the ticket load and work towards providing a unified or custom dashboard that allows agents to identify customers no matter where they come from.
Without empathy and compassion, support and care are just words
As Vincent asserted before, agent happiness and customer satisfaction go hand in hand. According to him, brands that put empathy and compassion first never fail to foster a sense of trust that transcends transactions and helps build lasting relationships. By infusing these core pillars of customer experience, CX leaders can create a care-centric culture where employees feel heard and customers feel valued.
He also put a spotlight on the importance of providing support agents with the resources they need to take care of themselves, such as mental-health support, stress-management training and access to wellness programs. “Acknowledge and reward them for their hard work and dedication and create opportunities for career growth and development,” Vincent urged all people leaders in the CX space.
On being asked about what empowered customers want from businesses and support teams today, Vincent touched upon three key things that they expect from every brand they interact with.
3 key things customers crave from their brand experiences
What truly makes for a good brand experience? Is it the convenience of interaction, the speed of service or the simple human touch that leaves a lasting impression? Well, it can be difficult to discern what truly matters to customers. But you’re in luck! Vincent has answered these questions by shedding light on the top things a brand can do to truly make their customer’s day.
1. Respond to customers, even if they are not talking
Sometimes customers may not voice their concerns openly, but they certainly expect brands to step in before their problems spiral out of control. As Vincent pointed out, “Customers want businesses to be proactive and understand their issues even before they know they have them.”
This sentiment is supported by many studies that indicate that customers who have their issues resolved quickly and efficiently are more likely to become loyal brand advocates. In fact, research shows that about 66 percent of people are more likely to write a positive online review after a good experience.
To stay in customers’ good graces, Vincent encouraged brands to implement AI-based intelligence so that potential customer issues can be identified in no time. That way, they can reach out to those customers proactively as well. This could mean sending timely notifications, tailoring product recommendations or doing routine follow-ups via email. With this approach, brands can avoid the costly mistakes that come with unhappy customers.
2. Customers go gaga over brands that value their time
Today, self-service options are becoming increasingly popular among people with jam-packed schedules. From convenience and 24/7 availability to speed and cost-effectiveness, self-service options provide an easy and quick way for customers to access the information they’re looking for without relying on agents for help. Stressing the importance of providing self-service options to customers, Vincent said, "It's about engagement, anticipation and giving customers the ability to find themselves. So, you know, a lot of times they don't want to speak to you, but they wanna find the answer.”
However, he also mentioned that self-service options may not be suitable for everyone. Older adults who are unfamiliar with self-service options may prefer to speak to a support agent. According to him, when customers are struggling with complex procedures, brands should act as facilitators and simplify the process while also showing empathy and compassion. By doing so, businesses can ensure that they’re meeting the needs of every customer and not leaving anyone behind.
Why self-serve options matter for your customers
3. Without relevance, personalization is dead
Imagine walking into a store where the sales associate knows your name, greets you with a warm smile and recommends products based on your preferences and recent purchases. That would make all of us feel valued and understood, wouldn’t it? Well, personalization is great and all, but it isn’t enough to boost customer loyalty all by itself.
Relevance and context are critical to keeping customers hooked. Unfortunately, many brands are missing the mark when it comes to relevance. They personalize content and yet fail to deliver relevant content that speaks to customers’ current interests, preferences and behaviors. Vincent noted that customers want to feel that their favorite brand understands them and is paying attention to their changing needs.
But most brands are just focusing on personalization and doing little about bringing relevance into the equation. “You've sent personalized emails to me, so you know my name, but none of the content that you've delivered to me is relevant,” he added candidly. So it goes without saying that without context and relevance, your customers will drift away eventually. To keep them engaged, brands must understand and communicate with them differently every single time.
Vincent himself values and praises brands that connect the dots of his personal customer journey, regardless of how he engages with them. He stressed that loyalty is not just a card, but rather it’s about recognizing different opportunities to engage with customers at every stage of their journey. In his exact words: “Customer loyalty is not just about rewards and points that customers can earn and burn. It should be an overall strategy that focuses on improving the customer experience and making the existing customer relationship stronger.”
"Personalized and not relevant is a thing” - Vincent Washington
Time to plug in your headphones
As we sail deeper into 2023, these truth bombs from Vincent should give you the edge to navigate the choppy waters and win over empowered customers in the CX landscape. So, grab your headphones and tune in to this episode which is a must-hear for anyone looking to up their CX quotient!
Watch the full video here
In our next podcast episode, we have Howard Tiersky, the acclaimed author of the Wall Street Journal bestseller Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, as our special guest. In this chapter, we’ll be diving deeper into the world of customer experience and exploring more of the latest trends, challenges and best practices in CX. And what’s more, you’ll even get to hear how CX plays out all over in our day-to-day lives in a compelling discussion. You can bet your bottom dollar that you’ll walk away with many nuggets of wisdom, so be sure to join us again!