Call Center Agent Performance

Does your VoC program take a shortcut and skip Survey Calibration?

survey calibration VoC programsIf your data goes directly to the reporting platform from collection without survey calibration then expect your final Voice of the Customer (VoC) program to be riddled with erroneous information. Every post-call IVR survey needs to be evaluated in a survey calibration process because there are always occurrences of the customer not answering the questions correctly or a different agent being evaluated than the one to which the survey is attached. Across the programs we administer, there are hundreds of surveys each month that need to be adjusted to ensure the results are accurate. “I know you want me to review agent A, but I’m actually upset with agent B so I want to tell you about what he said to me when I called last week.” If one inaccurate survey makes it onto an agent’s report card, it’s easy to see how the trust in the feedback program will be undermined. Continue reading

Your parents put you in the call center

are you predestined to end up in the call center?*The article was co-authored by Dr. Jodie Monger and Vicki Nihart

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

Is social customer service spoiling us?

how often do we get fast customer service at the expense of good customer serviceWe live in an age of instant gratification and that most definitely applies to customer service.  We expect good service when and how we want it, 24/7.  An immediate tweet back.  A fellow Facebook fan sending across a helpful link.  We have gotten used to speed and come to expect it, nay demand it, sometimes at the expense of good, complete customer service.  In a nutshell, we in the customer service business have created a monster that is scary (and hiding under our beds!). Continue reading

How is Social CRM impacting your traditional customer service channels?

With Facebook pages and Twitter handles and this, that and the other, is anyone even picking up the phone anymore to be served by one of your agents?  You bet they are and what callers experience has been affected by your Social CRM.

Recently, I had to deal with a return and some customer service issues of my own so I called into the call center.  After nearly 10 minutes on hold I was finally connected with a call center agent that immediately made it clear that he didn’t know what he was talking about and didn’t know how to assist me.  I was given a scripted, mediocre response and directed to the web site, but not before he made an insulting comment that I should have started there in the first place.   Seriously!

Social CRM has its place and certainly is a fast-growing service channel, but that doesn’t mean that we diminish the focus on customer service.  If you have ill-equipped, sassy agents answering calls to quickly direct people to serve themselves online, it’s likely that you are pushing disgruntled customers to voice themselves publicly on your Facebook and Twitter pages.  The result makes them a customer service nightmare for your agents monitoring your Social CRM. Continue reading

Do your call scripts make call center agents better or dumb?

Guidelines and talking points sound different to customers than do call-controlling scripts.  A call center agent who sounds like an advocate or advisor because they naturally converse (what they are told to say), deliver a better customer experience.  With your effort to help agents connect with the caller or to control the content of the call, your scripts easily become a cause of poor customer experiences.

You know that being a call center agent is extremely difficult.  Were you aware that multitasking is close to impossible for human beings to do?  Did you know that with each additional task added to the basic task of listening, efficiency and effectiveness degrade?  Add the need to say specific things during the call to the list of tasks that have already decimated the ability to perform and what do you get?  Well, you get call center agents who sound like idiots (and robots) because they resort to reading the script and not one who is thinking about what the caller is saying.  As far as your customers are concerned, you have engineered intelligence, common sense, and human emotion right out the door.

Your customer experience and/or speech analytics can help to identify agents who are desensitized due to over scripting.  If you are only doing traditional quality monitoring then you are not actually listening what your customers are saying.  Here are some examples of what you could hear: Continue reading

Is your call center short-term focused and long-term blind like Wall Street?

Is your call center short-term focused and long-term blind like Wall StreetI think more than anything where we fail in customer service, both in the call center and out, is the follow-up. We put great importance on the quick fix, to speedily get the caller off the phone to address the next caller in queue. Being long-term blind like Wall Street, we worry about short-term metrics such as call volume and service level and intra-day  metrics. The truth is, some problems aren’t resolved quickly, and require additional research to resolve them completely. That’s where we fall short in customer service; following up with the customer to keep them in the loop.

Blind like Wall Street?

For many companies significant costs are experienced due to poor follow up practices while also damaging the customer experience. To me, it’s like what we see played out on Wall Street today. Most of the effort is placed into meeting my shareholder expectations today (handling the call) while blind to future impacts (profitable, long customer relationships).

We’ve talked recently about the spike in customer product repairs vs. replacements and the resulting call volume to your call center. Have you also thought about the additional agent time required to access and understand how to apply the warranty and repair agreements, the time it takes to follow up about a repair and to communicate the progress (or lack thereof) with a customer? Continue reading

Call center agent empowerment leads to customer satisfaction and customer retention

How many of you remember getting a gold star from your teacher for good work or good behavior?  I remember thinking that the tiny little symbol filled me with a sense of pride for a job well done.  What we find over and over again in our External Quality Monitoring programs is that call center agents want to feel empowered and they thrive on performance recognition.  Just like those gold stars from our younger years, when call center agents are held accountable for resolving customer complaints quickly and efficiently, and they are provided the tools to improve their performance, it’s not hard to see the link between satisfied agents and quality customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. Continue reading

Creative customer service wins every time

We’re told all the time to ‘think outside the box’.  In school it meant looking at a passage in a book to see the symbolism; that the words were more than mere words.  In the call center it means something as simple as creatively solving a customer’s problems.

I recently tried to book a summer vacation house and after tireless research and dead-ends I called the Board of Tourism.  There I spoke with a lovely woman that gave me countless phone numbers to try, web sites to further my research and even offered to call some of her contacts in the area to see if they could assist me.  I was blown away at her resourcefulness and willingness to help.  She called me back the very next day with vacation packages and pricing as well as the personal phone numbers of her contacts.  Too often agents lose that can-do, problem solving spirit.

Here are some recent customer comments from External Quality Monitoring programs:

Continue reading

You vs. your competition, head-to-head, how’d you do?

A few weeks ago I had a mishap with an electronic billpay that brought together – and then set apart -three financial institutions.  Admittedly, I made a mistake in creating the electronic payment request.  My local bank generated a physical check rather than transferring the funds via ACH (Automated Clearing House), and sent it on to institution #2 to process for financial institution #3 located in the United Kingdom.  This error took hours of my time over a number of weeks to resolve.  When it was finally over, I wanted to blast one financial institution on every social media platform I could find, wrote a thank-you letter to another and felt as indifferent about the third institution as they felt about me. 

My local bank, First National Bank of Omaha took an electronic request for the transfer of funds and executed it via paper and then sent it via pony express (kidding, it was US mail), losing the tracking capabilities possible with an ACH.  But the moment I called their customer service department, I had their attention and their commitment of assistance.  My agent, Tania, conferenced me into First National Bank’s billpay department, inquired about next steps and stayed on the phone with me for over two hours as we made our way through the phone-tree-from-hell and more transfers than I could count at GIANT BANK (not their real name).  My local financial institution received a thank-you letter, along with my business for as long as I remain a resident in their coverage area.  Continue reading

4 Practices to Avoid Call Center Santa’s Naughty List

This holiday season I find myself thankful for the many gifts in my life – family, friends (new & old), health, joy, talented co-workers and a slightly wicked sense of humor.  As I sat down to write my holiday gift giving list, I started thinking about who’s been naughty and nice in my life.    Children all across the world know exactly what gets them a pile of coal in their stocking.  

Having visited dozens and dozens of call centers, I often wonder how that simple distinction between a good idea and a bad one can get so lost in the midst of so many good intentions.  In that spirit, I’m revealing my list of naughty and nice call center practices.  We’ll start with the naughty!  These are practices that if employed in your call center should be re-evaluated so that next year you can make Call Center Santa’s other list. Continue reading

Customers say the darnest things….but why? “The Loquacious Customer” Part 4 of a 4-Part Series

In conclusion of our 4-Part series to examine why customers say what they say, we want to leave you with some really off the wall customer comments.  Everyone knows that certain someone in their life that tends to be a bit long-winded with a response or offers way too much information with what they say.  Well, some customers are no different and, yes, there are times when we find ourselves scratching our heads saying, “did he just say that?”

Most times we receive customer feedback from post call surveys, that is relevant to the call and clearly indicates why a customer is happy and gave a high score or not happy and gave a low score for a product or service.   Through such rationales, we note trends on either a product malfunction or a call center agent’s performance.  But during the survey calibration process when we receive a comment that has little to no relevancy to the request for an explanation of a score, we need to remind ourselves that our customers are people too.  People have problems outside of this particular experience with an organization.  When we look at the “why” versus the “what”, sometimes these extraneous influences appear to have no rhyme or reason.  It could be any number of things such as frustrations with a factor in their life, health issues, family problems or just plain loneliness.  What is important in this type of customer feedback is how the call center agent handles the customer while they are on the phone.

Why be concerned with the underlying influences behind a customer explanation for a score given about the experience?  Well, it has to do with an increase in customer satisfaction, loyalty, and creating a positive word of mouth.  If you can better understand your customers, you can create a better environment for the service interaction.  You can also educate your agents about how to deal with the loquacious customer and use this information as a training opportunity.  And most importantly, the use of this information within the survey calibration process assure your agents that a better understanding of why consumers sometimes say the things they do can affect whether or not they are held responsible for the scores.  After all, customers do say the darndest things sometimes which are clues for the ownership of the experience evaluations.

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