• Bill Leinweber

  • About Bill Leinweber

    Bill Leinweber's mission is to help businesses and organizations grow by combining efficient processes with great customer and employee experience.

    Bill is the Chief Experience Officer & Owner of Landmark Experience LLC, a consultancy, where he loves to help business leaders walk in their customers' shoes and devise memorable and meaningful experiences for both customers, guests, visitors, employees and business partners. After all, have you ever heard of customer loyalty and business growth without GREAT customer experience?

    Bill's 30 year career spans retail and office products distribution operations in both small, family-owned and global mega-businesses. He has managed customer service operations, sales support, customer on-boarding and business intelligence teams while also serving as an internal consultant and subject matter expert. Bill has helped his past employers improve their customer engagement processes and achieve their goals of customer experience excellence and loyalty.

    Bill loves to talk and speak about customer experience as well, so don't be afraid to ask!

    Bill Leinweber
    Landmark Experience

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Embrace Your Process – Don’t Hide Behind It

Inefficiency with call center service drives me crazy, especially when the tools exist for a smooth and efficient process.  So, I thought you’d appreciate another “real life” story that illustrates how customer experience can be improved.

Lights Out!

On Monday night this week, our electric power went out at about 11:45 PM.  I was asleep and wouldn’t otherwise have noticed except that the dog stirred and the lulling drone of the fan in the bedroom stopped.  Odd, but the silence woke me up.  When I opened my eyes and realized I was in total darkness, I got up out of bed and went downstairs.  I looked out the front windows, then the back, assessing the situation.  Yep, the entire subdivision (at least all of it that I can see) was completely dark.  So I grabbed my cell phone to call the power company.  They have a special phone number for reporting power outages.

I guess I’m more than a little weird because I’ve got it in my head that I MUST call the power company, as if they don’t already know that 8,000 customers have lost power.  There are over 400 homes in my subdivision but I somehow think none of my insomniac neighbors watching late night TV will make the call!  What if we all think someone else is going to call?  So, I call.

Smooth Sailing On Auto Pilot

I reach their automated power outage report line.  It is remarkably efficient.  The Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) asks, “For gas trouble, press 1. Electric, 2.”  Pretty simple.  The IVR recognizes my phone number and says, “To report an electric outage for this phone number, press 1…”  “The street number for this location is ####, if this is correct press 1, if not press 2.”  You get the idea, the IVR recognizes my phone number, correctly connects it to my street address.  Each prompt gives me the option to validate the information, enter a different phone number, report a partial or total outage – the IVR is thorough, concise and very easy.  The system even tells me that this outage was first reported 2 minutes earlier than my call (thank goodness for insomniac neighbors) and that my power is expected to be restored by 3:00 AM.  This call takes 1 minute – literally, 60 seconds.

The power comes back on about an hour later and I start quietly resetting clocks and firing back up our computers to make sure everything is working.  I should know better from past experience because 15 minutes later the power goes back off.  This little on/off power-teaser game is typical when our power goes out so I don’t know what gave me the confidence to think it would stay on.

Shall We Dance Around My Process?

I called the power outage “hotline” once again and may have mis-keyed but this time I reached a live agent.  This second experience was painfully inefficient for reasons that, I believe, were totally avoidable.

Ellen: “Duke Energy, this is Ellen, how may I help you.”

Bill: “Hi Ellen, I’m calling to report a power outage.”

Ellen: “Okay, I am happy to help you with that.  What is your name?”

Bill: “The last name is Leinweber, that’s L-E…”

Ellen: <Interrupting> “…and what is your address?”

Bill: “The address is <I give Ellen our address>”

Ellen: “Hmmm… okay, I’m not finding you in the system.  Is this a business?”

Bill: “No, it’s a residence.”  I spell out the three words in my street address.

Ellen: “I’m not finding it.  Now, Linewebber, I’m spelling that L-I-N-E-W-E-B-B-E-R, is that correct?”

Bill: “No, it’s actually L-E-I-N-W-E-B-E-R.  I tell you what, can you look me up by my phone number?”

Ellen: “Okay, I can try that.”

I give Ellen my phone number and – viola! There I am.  Now, I don’t know anything about Duke Energy’s systems except for my experience with their automated IVR.  That said, I knew that with the automated system, my identity is made quickly by my phone number.  The call with Ellen took 3 minutes, 3 times longer than the automated IVR.  Now granted, we’re talking only 3 minutes of my life here but the Ellen experience could have been much simpler.

A Better Way

If identifying me by phone number was so simple and sure, why did Ellen start with name and address?  Here are my very simple but important suggestions from this experience:

1) Allow your customer the opportunity to actually participate in your process regardless of how great or not-so-great your technology systems may be.  Train your agents to engage the customer in your process appropriately.  The customer will follow the agent’s lead.

2) The customer is smarter than you may think! Any attempt to hide behind your clunky process will likely be unsuccessful and will only serve to frustrate the customer.

3) Both your customer and the agent have the same goal, right? Both want an efficient, pleasant and easy experience with a high degree of resolution.  Remember the movie Jerry Maguire and “Help Me to Help You?”  Well, let the customer help you!  The experience will be more efficient for both the agent and the customer.

Here’s how my second call should have gone:

Ellen: “Duke Energy, this is Ellen, how may I help you.”

Bill: “Hi Ellen, I’m calling to report a power outage.”

Ellen: “Oh, I’m sorry you’ve lost power and I’m happy to ensure your outage is reported.  The first thing I need to do is to pull up your account information.  The quickest way for me to do that is by phone number.  Is there a phone number associated with your account?”

Bill: “Yes, there is.  The number is ###-###-####.”

Ellen: “Great.  That was ###-###-####, is that correct?

Bill: “Yes, that’s correct.”

Ellen: “I have your account information.  Would you confirm your street address and name please.”

Bill: “Sure, my address is…”

Again, you get the idea.  Ellen could have led me through the most efficient way she has of pulling up my account information.  The call would probably have taken less time but more important, I would have been a less frustrated customer – sitting in the dark!

What processes are you hiding behind? How can you better lead your customer efficiently through the experience?

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