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Top 4 Customer Centricity Tips from the World's Best Contact Center: Webinar Recap

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Kindra Cooper

Laurie Simpter, senior manager of customer relations at Pier 1

Awarded by CCW for Best-In-Class Contact Center this year, home decor store Pier 1 Imports can teach us all a thing or two about delivering top-tier CX.

Many companies clamor to provide superior customer service without stopping to consider whether their agents are empowered with the right tools and systems to deliver. But Pier 1 took a different tack by focusing on the agent side before tinkering with outward-facing processes.

In a recent webinar, ‘Training and Coaching Agents the Customer-Centric Way,’ Laurie Simpter, senior manager of customer relations at Pier 1, shared how she and her team overcame pre-existing gaps in technology, leadership and processes to build one of the world’s top contact centers.

“In the end, we’re here as brand ambassadors and we’re empowered to provide a high level of service to our customers.” - Laurie Simpter


1. Make your performance metrics clear

Customer centricity means something different to every organization, so contact center metrics are never one-size-fits-all. In high-end hospitality, “delighting” the customer is of the essence, while a tech support services contact center likely prioritizes first contact resolution. Additionally, managers have to clearly communicate their standards for optimal CS so agents can meet their expectations. For Simpter, this meant curating which data metrics were visible to agents so they could focus on those most applicable to them without feeling overwhelmed or cutting corners to chase quotas.

“We really focused on quality metrics, such as their QA scores and first contact resolution,” Simpter explained. “On the flipside we de-emphasized some of the traditional speed metrics like talktime.”

Pier 1 still monitors these metrics on the backend, because it makes sense to track them from an operations standpoint, but with this framework agents can focus on the quality of the customer interaction and “making sure they are doing everything they possibly can to resolve the issue so the customer doesn’t have to call back.”

2. Focus on the customer’s perspective - and the rest will follow

Simpter found that more authentic customer interactions arose as a byproduct of de-emphasizing speed metrics. “To us, it was most important that we really focus on the customer’s perspective,” she said. “Are they getting a great interaction and is their problem being solved?”

When agents are more engaged in active listening and being present with the customer instead of trying to adhere to a checklist of do’s and don’ts, they are empowered to resolve issues more quickly and effectively.

“We have actually seen talktime decrease a little bit by de-emphasizing the focus on it and providing agents with the tools they need to complete those transactions,” shared Simpter.  


3. Understand modern customer expectations

Today’s customers are conditioned to expect personalized service. When they call, agents should already know their basic personal information, purchase history and previous interactions with the contact center through a system that extrapolates this data from caller ID. As a consumer herself, Simpter drew upon her own expectations to shape those of the contact center.

  • “I want my question or issue resolved in a reasonable amount of time.”
  • “I want the interaction to be polite and respectful regardless of the channel I have chosen to communicate with.”
  • “I want to have the option of various communication channels.”
  • “I want the person who is helping me to personalize my experience but be efficient and thorough in resolving it.”

4. Keep up on the technology side

Pier 1 had to shore up its technology to empower agents to access the data they need to deliver top CS. This meant sunsetting legacy systems and incorporating a master database throughout the organization that shows one version of the customer record - from purchase history to contact center communications history to personal data.

“We replaced the old systems with technology solutions that not only meet our needs today but allow some flexibility to grow and change as our business evolves,” said Simpter. Integrating “formerly siloed” apps was also important for Pier 1 so that agents could find information in fewer clicks.