call center agents
Like many of you I am frustrated when I make a customer service call and I am asked for my account number (and other information) by the IVR, only to be asked to repeat it when I make it to a live call center agent. We’ve become numb and expect this sort of inefficiency as the norm, so much so that I was shocked when last week I called into my insurance company and found the opposite to be true. When I made it to a live agent she had my account number, my name and the date of the procedure, all there in front of her – just as it should be.
What is the experience for your customers? Do they have to repeat information when they get to one of your call center agents? How much agent time is wasted either a) explaining to the caller why they are asking for the information again, or b) actually taking the information again so the request can be resolved. How big of a deal is this wasted agent time to your call center? Is this wasted step a big deal to your customers?
You probably have a feeling about the answer, but the true impact is difficult to quantify without using Speech Analytics. Most companies we work with have to simply say “I don’t know.” They cannot quantify the impact because they are unable to analyze the whole call – from dial-to-disconnect (not available to all Speech Analytics Software) – to prove where resources are wasted and at what point the customer starts to feel pain.
The truth is, most people don’t care about having a relationship with your company until they’re unhappy with your products and services. Then they can’t wait to tell their friends and followers in social media about it. Negative, public customer complaints put companies and call center agents in the position to be reactive with angry customers instead of proactive and positive. And angry customers force companies to respond and resolve complaints almost immediately putting additional pressure on your already busy call center. When immediate restructuring of call center operations to handle customer complaints in social media can’t be immediately established, how will your call center respond to your disgruntled customers (and their rants in social media channels) quickly and adequately? How will you stop damage to your brand image online if you call center is either understaffed or ill-equipped to handle customer complains in social media?
We explore the 11 Steps to Social Media Success for Contact Centers in a no-charge ebook. It is possible for the social customer experience to be a positive one; is this in your customer experience analytic strategy? Customer comments like these can deliver valuable insights:
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 “Call center agent empowerment leads to customer satisfaction and customer retention.” »
I recently ordered two wall hangings for my child’s room and they showed up damaged. I was undecided about the picture situation, but since I bought them so cheaply on clearance ($5!) I decided against the hassle to return them. The store’s customer service rep told me I would have to the store in person, bring a driver’s license and I couldn’t get my money back, only store credit. So I tossed my damaged pictures in the trash because ultimately I felt my time was more valuable in the end. This experience will not affect future purchases from this store. They had a return policy which they were enforcing which I was aware of (albeit in the fine print on their web site). I chose to forgo the policy. It had little to do with how I was treated on the phone by their customer service agent, she was perfectly nice. My decision had more to do with how I valued the purchase and what I was willing to go through to make it right. Does your company weigh the risk versus reward for your return policy and analyze how the good will extended beyond the policy ultimately affects the bottom line, including the customer experience and satisfaction?
“I had to fill out four forms, come down to your store twice and spent countless hours on the phone with your contact center agents to get my damaged TV replaced. You’re practically doing everything you can to avoid returns and that does not feel right to me.”
“To my surprise you took back my kitchen appliance with zero hassle. It was my fault the lid broke but you took it back without any issue – talk about customer satisfaction. You have me for life!”
“I was so upset when my bookcase arrived with a huge scratch down the side. It took a bit of complaining to your call center agents (and their supervisors) but I got a full refund.”
An ebook titled Eliminating the Worst Call Center Practice: Quality Monitoring Calibration, is an extraordinary and unprecedented look into one of the most utilized processes in a call center. This ebook exposes a level of ignorance in the call center industry that is so wide-spread it will amaze you.When you read this ebook, you will see why the light bulbs go off in the heads of so many as they connect their struggles with quality monitoring call calibration and the flaws into their call calibration processes.This fact-based case study report is full of real-world insights into quality assurance and call monitoring calibration. Here is a question and answer review of what’s inside. Continue reading “Quality Monitoring Calibration the Worst Call Center Common Practice” »
The other day I was talking to one of our long-time clients and she said, “Jodie, we’re running out of people that know stuff here.” I hung up the phone and thought simpler and truer words have never been spoken. The skilled-labor shortage is at an all-time high across many industries, and it means we have unqualified people doing jobs they shouldn’t be, semi-qualified folks that aren’t doing as much as they can and jobs that are just plain left vacant because the right candidate can’t be found. So what suffers? The customer relationship! Customers pay the price in large and small ways, in obvious and subtle ways. When billing software isn’t installed and operating properly, company processes are not customer-friendly, and agents answering calls aren’t astute multitaskers, everyone feels the pain. Here’s what some customers had to say:
“I haven’t received an electric bill in over three months and no one at your company can tell me why. What the heck is going on over there?”
“When I called to get information on my order the agent told me to “hang on” because he “wasn’t a computer person” and couldn’t navigate between the order screens quickly. I can’t believe this is who you have answering the phone.
“I went into your store the other day and I asked one of the associates a simple question and she shrugged her shoulders. I asked if there was a supervisor around I could ask and she told me he probably didn’t know either. I took my business elsewhere – that’s for sure!
Social media is no doubt a viable communication channel in customer relationship management, but how it’s used separates the successes from the failures. How many call centers appropriately evaluate and implement the social channels their customers really want to use, versus what they think their customers want? And beyond the channels themselves, how many call centers are backing the correct channels with the agents best equipped to manage them?
When we look at our clients, time and time again we see a rush to use any and all emerging social media channels without the proper planning and research to use them appropriately for their customers. While attempting to make their brand more approachable they’re negatively impacting it without even realizing it. So while implementing a new social media channel might offer some operational efficiencies from the point of view of the business, it might be the wrong channel from the customer’s point of view, affecting their overall experience with the brand – and they’re going to let people know about it in real time. Continue reading “Socially inept: When the wrong social media channels affect your brand” »
Customers will tell you when they are dissatisfied with their customer service experience and they will tell you when they are pleased. But did you ever think your customers could double as career counselors for your call center agents? Whether out of anger or out of care, customers will share how they feel about the people who are helping them resolve their problems. ‘Knuggets’ like these can indicate when it might be a good idea to offer positive feedback to those agents you will want to forever hold on to and some constructive criticism to those who you may not.
The beauty of the External Quality Monitoring process is the opportunity to find Knuggets of wisdom that deliver true Business Intelligence from the Voice of the Customer. As numerous studies have revealed, unhappy agents = unhappy customers and in many cases, real-time post call surveys reveal negative feedback indicating that call center agents need to be re-engaged. Capturing the voice of the customer in this manner is vital to the calculation of what we call “The Agent Expiration Date”. Action to re-engage is needed prior to that date. Real-time customer comments like these give insights into the progression of expiration. The sooner you address the underlying issues that cause negative customer experiences, the sooner you can avoid the damage that will follow negative feedback such as this… Continue reading “Your customer analytics say: It’s time to re-engage your agents.” »
In the call center we are very good at measuring stuff, especially stuff about agents! I’d be hard-pressed to think of another profession where every minute, every word, decision and action is scrutinized. But we do it all for our customers, right?
I work with a number of business partners who are in the enviable position to have agents performing at such consistently high levels that the only thing I can say when I meet with them to review their monthly results is “good job” and “maintain, maintain, maintain” before switching gears and saying “now let’s talk about what you should be doing for your customers!” These organizations have worked hard, but they’re not perfect. These organizations have mastered one aspect of service, arguably the smaller part of the service “equation.” According to Dr. W. Edwards Deming, 80% of a worker’s effectiveness is determined by the environment (created by you, the management) and only 20% is impacted by a worker’s skills. Continue reading “Stop focusing on the wrong things in your call center.” »
Imagine this scenario: Some time ago you purchased an electronic gizmo and its product protection plan at a national retail chain. Now your gizmo is acting all goofy and you want it fixed and quickly (you’ve become rather attached to your gizmo)! You call the toll-free number, successfully navigate the IVR the first time around, wait a little over two minutes to reach a call center agent … who can’t seem to find your contract in the system. Your call gets escalated to a manager who you waited about 5 more minutes talk to so she can attempt to pull up your contract by your phone number, date of purchase, credit card number and all likely mis-spellings of your name. And nada. Still no contract to be found. You are then ushered off to yet a third human being who puts you on hold while he calls the store where you made your purchase. Contract number in hand, you are then transferred back to the general customer service queue where you started and receive instructions on how to get your gizmo repaired. Hopefully you weren’t planning to eat during your lunch hour. Continue reading “The whole IS greater then the sum of its call center parts” »
When reviewing customer feedback of any kind, it is easy at first glance to take customer comments at face value…the customer IS always right, right? Customers are very skilled at identifying the existence of a problem, but less adept and determining the root cause. It is natural for the customer to place blame on call center agents for making mistakes because these are the employees within the organization they interact with the most. But as we all know, there many other departments that significantly affect the customer experience. In general, customers are likely to not consider these departments because they do not interface with them and do not understand your back office. Any one of these departments could make a mistake on a transaction to cause a customer to contact the call center and be quite angry. While we as call center industry professionals know this, the problem still needs to be identified (and quantified) in order for changes to be made within the entire process. Continue reading “Is the customer really always right?” »
This guest blog post was originally authored by Vice President of Human Development, Cliff Hurst for www.beyondmorale.com/blog. Beyond morale is The World’s First and Only Online Employee Engagement System. For more information, visit: www.beyondmorale.com
What’s wrong with holding call center agents accountable? Accountability is a good thing. Isn’t it?
At the very least, it sure is a popular word in leadership circles. Next time you’re around a gathering of call center leaders, listen to the conversation for a while and you are sure to hear the question…. “What one thing do you wish you could do better?” And the most common answer you’ll hear is: “How can I do a better job at holding call center agents accountable for results?
You want this too, correct? I used to want to do the same thing. Eventually, though, I came to realize that this leadership thing is backwards. I had been thinking that the subject here was accountability. But look at the question again… “How can I do a better job at holding call center agents accountable for results?
The most significant word in that sentence is “holding”. The sentence is a thought-trap. It creates a problem for leaders who buy-into the notion that their job is to “hold” their employees to… _______ whatever … (you fill in the blank). It doesn’t matter if you are holding them accountable, or holding them responsible, or holding them to a standard. You’re still holding!
Neither holding call center agents down, nor holding them up are effective ways of leadership. Holding isn’t leading. Let go of your grip and lead!
Accepting Accountability is NOT the same as Holding Accountable.
If you want call center agents to accept accountability for results or even to seek accountability, that’s different. You can lead them to those outcomes. But you won’t get very far if you try to hold your call center agents to them.
So, if you don’t “hold” agents, what can you do instead? I propose three things:
1. Show that you value your call center agents. That you appreciate their contributions as well as their efforts. And that you value them as people, not just in terms of their role in the company.
2. Appreciate differences (don’t mistake this for Diversity). As leading Psychologist Shay McConnon puts it, “Leadership is about individualizing, not universalizing.” Differences are a source of strength. Don’t picture age here, or gender, or ethnicity–although diversity in those areas may strengthen a team. I’m really talking about diversity in ways of seeing, acting, and responding to the world. Begin to recognize the uniqueness of every employee on your team; help them to see that uniqueness in themselves. Most people don’t know the strengths of their own gifts. Help them tap into their uniqueness in ways that contribute to the company.
3. Set the stage. You don’t get accountability by holding call center agents to it. You gain accountability by setting the right environment where employee engagement can occur, where they want to accept more and more responsibility, where they can see and feel tangible results for their efforts. Done right, accountability is its own reward.
So get your hands off of your call center agents, you just may save yourself from a sexual harassment law suit. Oh sorry, that’s another story. Let’s try again, get your hands off and see employee performance soar.
This call center case study highlights the challenges one organization faced after transitioning from in an house call center to a remote call center agent (work at home agents) model. Hear some best practices to avoiding failures in your call center like voice of the customer, voice of the employee, and call center performance metrics. The applied Business Intelligence Serices at Customer Relationship Metrics helped this organization rapidly process change through actionable insights.
This guest blog post was originally authored by Chief Spokesman, Jim Rembach for www.beyondmorale.com/blog. Beyond morale is The World’s First and Only Online Employee Engagement System. For more information, visit: www.beyondmorale.com
Sodexo Motivation Solutions released the results of its new survey highlighting Generation Y’s (employees aged 16 to 28) perceptions of working. The survey finds that GenY is not loyal to their current positions, with more than half believe they will leave their jobs within a year. The study also reveals they are not likely to select a call center job as their replacement.
The findings identify a negative perception of call centers with a dismal 5% of this generation say that working for a call center is exciting, while 55% consider it in a negative to work in a call center. A discouraging 1 in 3 who are currently seeking work would rather claim unemployment benefits than work in a call center.
Iain McMath, managing director of Sodexo Motivation Solutions said: “What this survey shows is that much more needs to be done to engage these Generation Y employees.” McMath continues, “Although Generation Y presents its own set of challenges and has different priorities in the workplace than older generations, it is undeniable that these employees are vital to the call center industry. They are quick to adapt, hard-working, creative and not afraid of a challenge. They will require careful management and motivation in order to get the best out of them and retain them for any length of time.”
While this study was conducted in the United Kingdom, the U.S. and Canadian call center industries are closely aligned with call center practices in the UK. Therefore, assumptions that these results are meaningful to the U.S. and Canadian call center industry employee engagement and call center candidate sentiment are highly likely.
These findings represent a human capital crisis in a population of call center employees that easily embrace and adapt to the increasing technology complexities in call centers. Alienating and losing this group as potential employees will be devastating for the industry. Call center leadership teams that takes action to change the status quo stand to gain significant competitive advantages over their traditional call center leadership counterparts.
Learning about the nuances of this generational category of the workforce has been maligned in theory-based and anecdotal methods that have not delivered long-term sustainable benefit. This group requires a deep connection and understanding at a personal level.