Call Center Operations
Call center operations is the set of business rules, business processes, and procedures needed to run a call center.
The reasons why you can’t afford the contact center of tomorrow may not be for the reasons you think. It used to be that anyone who could type and was nice, was perfect to sit in a call center seat. Well, it’s not 1980 anymore and we have contact centers now. The archaic mindset of thinking that these are very simple jobs and therefore do not warrant higher education or provide a greater wage than the minimum is just not the case anymore. If you say it aloud it doesn’t even make sense, “I want to hire a multi-tasking problem solver, who is also empathetic, talented, and committed but I only want to pay them $10/hour.” See? Crazy. The contact centers jobs have become more and more complex with each passing year but the mindset hasn’t changed. Continue reading “Why you can’t afford the contact center of tomorrow.” »
“Do you think it’s a good idea to transfer upset customers from the survey to supervisors?” is a question that was included in the 25 Mistakes to Avoid with Post-call IVR Surveys eBook and self-assessment. The eBook and self-assessment includes diagnostic questions for you to uncover weaknesses in your post-call IVR survey program or implement a new program that is not loaded with mistakes that others have made. Now is the time to take advantage of the compilation of problems I have come across in the 20 years since inventing post-call IVR surveying in contact centers.
Why is this a problem?
I know what you’re thinking; who wouldn’t prefer to have their issue dealt with right away compared to when somebody ‘gets around to’ returning their call, right? In this world of instant information, that would tend to be the common choice, however, let’s think about the big picture and ramifications of executing that from a human and business perspective. Continue reading “Do you think it’s a good idea to transfer upset customers from the survey to supervisors?” »
Contact centers are staffed with nice people who easily become punching bags. These people are ready and willing to answer questions and serve internal (in addition to external) customer needs. If you say jump, these kind contact center agents simply ask, how high? It is becoming more widely accepted that the contact center is the customer hub of any business. The people in contact centers selflessly serve the needs of the customer and report the customer experience data across all business units. But we know that the contact center does not always get the respect it so rightly deserves. Far too often the benefits the contact center delivers to the business as a whole is overlooked. But contact center professionals do not have to take punches. You can hold our heads up high and (in a nice way) battle back. Here is your chance to “get off the ropes”!
If you need to get off the ropes, here is a great opportunity for you to leverage your trusty post-call IVR survey. By collecting a statistically representative sample of customer interactions you have a stronger backbone because of customer experience data. And the more data you have (good, clean data that is), and the more you mine that data for customer insights, the stronger your backbone becomes. In the contact center you have powerful information and the rest of the company’s success relies on the collecting, mining and the distributing of this customer data. You don’t have to actually punch your way out, let the data do it for you. Ding! Round one of this boxing match just went to you in the contact center. Continue reading “Why contact center leaders feel like punching bags and how to fight back” »
When you think of a typical salesperson what comes to mind? Do you immediately conjure up visions of multi-colored flags, ‘zero-money down’ signs, and some sleaze-bag car salesman telling you to buy the over-priced lemon of your dreams? The term, salesperson, quickly makes us imagine this derogatory image, something that we do not want to be associated with as our career label.
Let me challenge your normal reaction to the word ‘salesperson’ with one of my favorite quotes from Robert Louis Stevenson, “Everyone lives by selling something.” Think about that for a moment. When you’re at the hair salon and he or she is discussing the option for highlights or the hair care products, this hairdresser is selling, right? If you are a marketer you’re hoping to ‘sell’ your audience with your subject line and convince them to open your email and look at your message. And even as a parent, you are ‘selling’ your six-year old on those healthy green beans (or at least trying to). But I bet if you asked that hairdresser, marketer or parent if they worked in sales their answers would be a resounding “No”. In fact, only one in nine people in the US are designated as being in sales, but most everyone is. Continue reading “Why selling in service contact centers fails and how to fix it.” »
Have you ever been disappointed going to a restaurant based on a friend’s recommendation but the great food and service they raved about, and you expected, was just the opposite? I don’t know what’s worse, having the bad experience or lying to your friend so their feelings are not hurt.
Unfortunately, the same disappointment happens in contact centers too – customer experience inconsistency is the bane of our existence! In a perfect world the customers call in, reach a knowledgeable agent, and have their issue resolved promptly and professionally. Done. But, there is no worry in that. It’s the not-so-perfect world that we fear – the customers who have the opposite, disappointing and unexpected experience. Continue reading “How to safeguard against customer experience inconsistencies in your call center” »
“Do you have a rule to keep the survey very short?” is a question that was included in the 25 Mistakes to Avoid with Post-call IVR Surveys ebook and self-assessment. The ebook and self-assessment contains numerous diagnostic questions to help you to identify many of the common mistakes companies make when implementing post-call IVR survey programs. Twenty years ago when I invented post-call IVR surveying in contact centers, surveys that were too short was not the common problem like it is today. Continue reading “Do you have a rule to keep your post-call IVR surveys very short?” »
Aside from a knowledgeable, agent-friendly, capable leader at the helm of your call center, what else goes into designing the ideal prototype for a call center manager?
You need someone with savvy business acumen to navigate through the ever-changing business landscape. Think about the best boss you’ve ever had: did s/he have the expertise to confidently handle any and all issues that came their way because of an intimate knowledge of the business and all of its functions? Call center technology is constantly changing and the perfect call center leader stays on top of the trends and is not afraid to be out of their comfort zone. What is the competition doing? What do your customers demand? What social customer service channels would best serve your customers’ needs? Continue reading “Designing the perfect call center manager – The next phase.” »
If you could create the perfect call center manager, what would he or she look like? Specifically, what traits or management styles would s/he have? What attitudes or knowledge would s/he bring to the table? While you find some of your perfect traits during the interview process, it is difficult to find all of the attributes of a winning call center manager in one single candidate. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take the best of all the call center managers we’ve seen over the years and build the perfect prototype? Continue reading “Crafting the perfect Call Center Manager.” »
As you look around the office at your coworkers out there in the cubicle farm, do you ever find yourself wondering how you ended up in your chair? Do you think you have anything in common with them? What brought you all to the call center industry? It has to be some kind of gravitational pull into a career in service because you didn’t wake up one morning when you were 17 and say “I’m going to college so I can be a manager and then an executive in a call center.” Continue reading “Your parents put you in the call center” »
What are your callers thinking about when they spend minute after minute on hold to speak to an agent? Probably among the thoughts would be ‘what’s taking so long’? Studies show that up to half of all customer service calls are unnecessarily placed due to high organizational dysfunction. A communication misstep within the customer service chain inevitably triggers a customer call to figure out what has happened with their order or shipment, for example. These unnecessary calls tie up valuable agent time, run up call center operation costs, increase customer effort and create an overall negative customer experience.
I recently placed an order online but never received an order confirmation. Usually I get a prompt confirmation email that includes the order number and an estimated ship date, but this time I didn’t. Of course, my credit card was charged but without my order number or my confirmation I had to call customer service to ensure my order was actually placed. My not-so-helpful customer service agent said I had two options: wait to see if the order arrives or to reverse my credit card charges with my bank and place the order a second time. Something as simple as a missing order confirmation email had increased my customer effort score through the roof. Continue reading “Are unneccessary calls hiking up customer experience dysfunction?” »
Social Media Customer Service (or Social Media Customer Care) is not customer service that supports how to use Social Media or answers what is Social Media. Social Media Customer Service is about customers being served and supported on social media platforms. To help clear up some of the confusion many will just shorten it to Social Customer Service (or Social Customer Care) when they are addressing this specific area of Social Media.
The recent Social Media Customer Service Report conducted by TNS, surveyed more than 1,000 UK consumers and found that 57% of consumers preferred to search online to solve their customer issues, and then interact with customer service on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, blogs and forums over any other method.
Yet, recent statistics from the Genesys Social Media and Customer Services Summit found that a massive 72% of attendees (attended by companies with customers that use social media platforms) hadn’t yet integrated social media into their business customer service operations.
According to a recent IBM report on social media, the top social media challenge for companies is “establishing an ROI strategy.” This quest to quantify by CFOs is apparently preventing many from making the necessary investment in social media strategies and solutions.
One driving force may be because there are numerous functional groups involved with the social media decision. Who is going to own it is creating a modern-day political warfare opportunity. Social media is big, I mean billions of people and dollars big, and everyone wants to own it (internally) because their power and influence in an organization will skyrocket overnight. Continue reading “What is Social Media Customer Service?” »
We’ve all been there. Frustration after a poor IVR or call center agent experience makes it seem simpler to go online to see if you can solve your product or service questions yourself. Studies show that frustrated customers turn to social media channels to look for help. From swapping unregulated home fix-its or publicly venting about frustrations, more often than not customers are going online – and not to your web site.
Now here you are tracking, monitoring and responding to social media attacks. Where is all of this negative sentiment coming from that is making you chase smoke? Few companies take an inside-out approach about the customer experience and social media so they get the negative social media chatter to chase. Your dial-to-disconnect call analytics should be telling you what is causing the failed IVR experiences or the failed interactions with your agents so you can deal with these internal issues (like being wrongfully disconnected, routed to an agent ill-equipped to answer the questions, unable to trouble shoot, etc.). Social media venting is not a customer-focused service channel.
We talk a lot about dial-to-disconnect call analytics as an effective means to proactively direct an organization and that is even more important now. Pay attention to how you will handle the trend that has emerged – when callers fail to get the answers needed through the IVR or the call center, they go online. And, when using social media as a self-service channel the result is often erroneous information that lands them further down the rabbit hole of customer dissatisfaction.
Where do you think these customers went next? Twitter? Facebook?
“I don’t understand the point of speaking my selections to your automated service if it gets me nowhere but disconnected. Twice I dialed your service line, spoke my selections and was met with, ‘Thank you, good-bye’. What a waste of time.”
“I called my car insurance agent directly to speak to him about my pending claim only to be continually re-routed back to the main customer service line. Not sure what the point of having a ‘dedicated agent’ is, if I can never reach them.”
“You have an apparent problem with your dryers overheating and burning clothing, as stated by many forums on the internet. I will never buy your product again and I will spend more time reading reviews online before I buy anything over $200”.
“I was simply trying to return an item I purchased online but every time I called to get information on where to send it back to, I could never reach a live agent and was continually disconnected by your automated service. I finally went online to do a search for my nearest store location and had to return it in person.”
Last week I told you about my alarm vs. phone company customer experience drama and raised the question of what part of each dollar spent on your products and services is needed to fund your company’s dysfunction. I bet it’s more than you thought.
To last week’s point, I just received my phone bill. I usually skim my bills and just pay what’s required. This time my paranoia of dysfunction got the best of me and I started reading the bill line by line. The bill was littered with this fee and that fee. Hard line fee? Gross receipts surcharge? Fees that I’m now convinced are disguised to cover the phone company’s dysfunction because they cannot just raise the base monthly cost without everyone noticing. Then I study the alarm monitoring company’s invoice and try to calculate what the monthly fee SHOULD be – I think I have to pay the fully loaded dysfunction fee of $39 when it should be more like $29 without the dysfunction subsidy.
Is your company so heavily process-reliant that you’ve squashed common sense? Common sense that’s needed to solve simple customer issues? Is one department setting up another to fail because of lack of communication or information that then leads to bouncing your call-in customers around without a clear path to call resolution? Are your analysts running around creating reports that no one is reading when they should be reviewing the company’s speech analytics to uncover the real customer pain? Continue reading “Just how much customer experience dysfunction am I paying for here?” »
Tis the time of year when we’re all making resolutions both personally and professionally. This year, pledge to halt the risk to your organization by not effectively analyzing customer feedback and conversations. Your path is unclear and even treacherous without this necessary business intelligence. If you are not able to prove how these customer analytics have resulted in changes to your products or service strategy in 2011, then you dropped the ball last year. Don’t do it again in 2012. You just might not have the opportunity again in 2013.
Did you realize you have all of the raw data needed, so make the resolution to transform it correctly to be a better leader in 2012. Categorize and analyze the customer sentiment and proactively push the information through your organization and out to customers via the call center and social media. Be an assertive executive of positive sentiment and not a reactionary slave.
How would you leverage these customer comments? Continue reading “As the ball drops this New Year’s, don’t drop it again with customers in 2012.” »
Customer sentiment and text analytics are all the rage these days, as organizations aim to differentiate themselves from the competition with the only thing they have left: service. These activities can make the difference between an organization that thrives and one that crumbles against the competition. But in order to experience the values and gains, a significant investment in both people and technology is needed. Text and sentiment analysis is not a case of buy it and good stuff will automatically happen. A human—-a highly skilled and intelligent one at that—must “teach” the technology what to look for, and not just once, but on an ongoing basis.
Even text analytics on a smaller scale, involving customer satisfaction and voice of the customer survey comments, can be a time-consuming task. But the risks of not analyzing customer comments are immense, ranging from failure to recognize business/product/service opportunities, to making key decisions based on incomplete information. As I often say in my results review meetings with business partners, the quantitative (numeric) data we capture tells us what happened in the past, and can be used to predict what might happen in the future. Where the numeric data is less precise is in helping us understand that “why” behind the “what.” That’s where the qualitative (comments) data is invaluable! And while I suspect that companies understand this statement, failure to capitalize on customer comments is one of the top three failures in most all customer experience programs.
Below are two of an endless number of examples of the type of intelligence that would have been lost if customer comments were not analyzed and mined.
Quantitative insight: Perceived value of the contact center was below our set target for the fifth month in a row.
Qualitative insights: 20 percent of all negative comments about the call center have nothing to do with the call center! These complaints are being generated by negative experiences customers have with other departments (underwriting, claims, pre-authorization). Another 12.37 percent of negative comments are being generated by a combination of technology issues and poor customer service (customers being immediately hung up on by agents). However, the remainder of all negative comments is directly within the call center’s control to improve (starred items), 33.89 percent of which are agent behavioral issues.
Risk associated with not mining customer comments: The call center has become the most important place where customer sentiment is captured. However, if relevant business insights are not discovered and shared with other departments (underwriting, claims, pre-authorization, technology), the organization is committing competitive suicide by “killing” these departments of an opportunity to improve, and “killing” the organization from elevating its service differentiation and brand strength. That is just dumb. Continue reading “What top three failures in your customer experience program are killing you?” »