Say Goodbye to the Call Center

Earlier this week I attended the Customer Response Summit in Hollywood, Florida. It’s an In The Know event, a company that stays on the forefront of how corporations are dealing with customer care and customer experience in this rapidly evolving digital landscape. We used to call it Web 2.0, but that doesn’t capture what’s happening today. Now it’s mobile, social, video and audio. Consumers adopt new technologies quickly. Certainly not everyone is on the cutting edge, but the numbers  of people grow with each new cycle. They are the ones that demand firms adopt these new channels and they can no longer be ignored.

I was a speaker at the event and my topic was How to Turn Social Chaos into Valuable Brand Engagement. I shared my experiences, successes, and challenges of using Social Media to reach, engage and service customers. We operate using a very simple framework for social. Don’t over complicate it. Align it to your current business objectives, translate the tribal language into something more familiar, and prove it’s value.

I was impressed with the speaker lineup that included executives from FedEx, Time Warner Cable, General Motors, Disney, GoDaddy, ConAgra and others. I gleaned a number of takeaways:

  • Corporations are all working hard on how to improve the customer experience
  • Social Media and Mobile are moving much faster than corporate America
  • New customer care technologies will need to be considered and installed if firms wish to keep up with customers
  • There is no silver bullet; time to focus on weapons not ammunition
  • Everything you know is transferrable, but it will need to be re-interpreted
  • Data is still overwhelming insights
  • New silos have emerged (Great, more silos)
  • People are beginning to get it, proving value and taking steps
  • The call center of tomorrow will look very, very different (Think internal targeting, fewer phones, more direct contact with consumers on the web)
  • Consumers are gaining more and more power (That’s fine, just be gentle guys)
  • Embrace change, or risk being irrelevant some time soon
  • Call center managers are starting to shift their thinking from controlling cost to creating value
  • It’s very, very difficult to move away from “average handle time” (AHT) for hard core call center types
  • One of the most frequently asked questions for Disney is, “When time does the 3:00 parade start?”

What i’m seeing is the way we service customers is rapidly changing. Consumers operate in real time while firms operate in batch. There is a serious need for a centralized customer database that’s agile and can be easily shared by any of the marketing and service channels/departments that exist inside as well as outside a company.

Partnering is becoming even more important. If your company has an “It’s built better here” mentality, you are already falling dangerously behind. No one firm can keep up with what’s going on out there. Truth be told, they never could, but the pace of change was slow enough in the past to not be too damaging. Today that pace can cause fatalities.

The call center will evolve into a contact command center. More consumers will self-service through progressively easier to use interfaces and devices. Agents that answer the phone today will be transformed into agents that use their web browser to connect with consumers. Information will be pushed to their desktops by sophisticated listening devices constantly spidering the ether for immediate response. Proactive not reactive. Pre-service, like pre-crime from Minority Report. The agents of tomorrow will be more aligned with the business and more empowered than ever. This in turn will empower consumers and leave us all more time to focus on what’s really important.

The networking was the most valuable aspect of the event for me. I met some outstanding professionals and had some great conversations that I hope will continue. View some of the event videos here.

TMBG – They Might Be Geniuses

As a parent of a 3 year old I am in constant need of having a wide array of exciting media experiences on hand to entertain him. The trick is to find things that will captivate him, be educational, can hold up over time, and perhaps most important, not drive his parents crazy. If it can be portable, even better. Over the last 3 years I have chosen or been subjected to numerous videos/TV shows and listened to dozens of music CDs. As you would expect (or know) there is no shortage of content, but the production value and approach vary widely.

The musical team of John Flansburgh and John Linnell, who are They Might Be Giants, produce music for adults that is intelligent, quirky, somewhat punkish and always entertaining. They were childhood friends and have amassed an impressive song catalog over the last two decades. You may know some of their more popular songs; Birdhouse in Your Soul, Istanbul (Not Constantinople) and I Palindrome I. If you watch Disney Playhouse you have already been exposed to them through the theme songs for Higgleytown Heros and the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse as well as the closing song Hot Dog.


They have been furthering their foray in the children’s area for some time, releasing Here Come the A,B,C’s in 2005. It’s a two disc set (one audio CD and one DVD) that combines the John’s voices and music with other first rate musicians, sprinkled with children’s voices. All of it is brought to life using “motion graphs,” computer generated cartoons created by small independent shops across the world. This format is a perfect fit to the sensibility and free-wheeling-style of TMBG. Just this week they released the follow-up CD titled, can you guess? Here Come the 1,2,3’s. This one surpasses the first in my opinion. So smart, so interesting, and my son becomes fully engrossed when it’s playing. The audio CD and DVD combination is such a good idea, as the art is as easily accessible whether you are watching or simply listening in the car.

It’s obvious that they put the same effort and orchestration energy into the songs for kids as they do their rock albums. I find myself listening to the kids songs myself, when I need a quick pick-me-up. Killer tracks are Zeros and High Five.

So if you’re looking for great children’s entertainment, and I know you are, choose They Might Be Giants. They also podcast a weekly family program every Friday. To subscribe as well as learn more go to their page on the Disney site here, or the official TMBG site here. Don’t forget to check out the music for adults. Highly recommended.


Disney’s DVD Fast Play Technology Isn’t Fast

If you have kids you know what I’m about to describe. You have wiped the fingerprint smudges from a Disney DVD, loaded it in the player all while your kids are screaming to see it. On comes the FBI warning, then the Interpol warning (sometimes in French, that’s really helpful), then comes Disney’s extra special patent pending technology, Fast Play.


While you are trying to decide whether to be sucked in or not, a friendly voice says the following:

This Disney DVD is enhanced with Disney’s Fast Play. Your movie and a selection of bonus features will begin automatically. To bypass Fast Play, select the Main Menu button at any time. Fast Play will begin in a moment…

Here is where it breaks down for me. Shouldn’t Fast Play actually start the movie fast? But if you make that selection it actually just starts the parade of trailers; one mind-numbing preview after another. All the while your kids are losing it and demanding to see Bambi. But if you select Main Menu instead, you bypass the trailers and can start the film much more quickly. One additional tip here, you can actually speed up getting to the feature by going to Scene Selection after arriving at the Main Menu and selecting a chapter, usually chapter 1. That little trick can reduce screams by as much as 15%.

I know Disney wants to promote their other products, and they have a right to do so, but don’t mislead and frustrate parents and their children with this kind of labeling bait and switch. You can read Disney’s FAQ on Fast Play here. I get a kick out of how they spin it as if they are helping families. One other thing, Don’t you love it when someone gives you one of their old Disney titles and it shows a preview for a film, then proudly announces that it’s coming Fall 2002?

I bought the movie on DVD, and I should be able to use my remote control to start watching it immediately. It’s fine to put promotional material on the disc, but give the customer real choice, not a corporate contrived choice. Just wait till I blog about the experience we are now made to endure when we pay for a first run film in the theater.