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.”
The success of any Business Intelligence project is contingent upon people, not technology. Analysts and end users must work in concert to ask a concise question, identify the data available to answer that question and, validate interpretation of analytic outputs in context of the business environment. From there, the subject-matter experts (statisticians, data analysts, data miners, etc.) must be allowed the freedom to draw upon their breadth of knowledge and experience to select the best methodology for the job.
I cannot tell you how many times a business unit manager has come up to me and with all of the confidence of a just-learned-to-stand toddler and declared “I need a model!” “Really?” I respond. What type of model? Logistic? Linear? What kind of data do you have for me to work with?, and a plethora of other rather technical questions. My point is that predictive models have been used quite successfully in marketing for many years. In a business environment where “half of the organizations surveyed do not take advantage of analytics to help them target, service, or interact with customers” according to Accenture’s Customer Analytics survey, predictive models have gained the esteem and notoriety akin to Steve Jobs.
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:
The deployment of smart meters has generated a tidal wave of data for utilities to manage and beyond the initial data storage challenge, there exist real questions about how to use and share this information with consumers. In an article published on smartgridnews.com back in 2009, Jack Danahy estimated that 140 million smart meters installed over a period of 10 years would generate 100 petabytes (1 quadrillion bytes) of information. That’s a lot of data and the effort to store this data is a wasted exercise if the analysis is never used to better project consumer demand and to help consumers better manage their consumption.
One of the utilities that Customer Relationship Metrics supports recently decided to make use of the data they were gathering, and for very good reason. According to OPOWER, an energy efficiency and Smart Grid software company, consumers who receive data about their electricity usage reduced their energy consumption by 1.8% (which, according to the EDF could curb CO2 emissions by 8.9 million metric tons annually). This utility mailed customers a snapshot of their electricity usage compared to the usage of other customers in their immediate area, along with tips on how to decrease energy usage. A company proactively informing customers how to use less of their product!!! What’s not to love? Apparently a lot. Customers who were notified that their electricity usage was comparatively high began contacting the utility’s call center in droves, complaining of over-charging, bad meter-readings and malfunctioning meters. The call center and its agents were unprepared for both the volume of calls and the negative response to the letter. And I was as surprised as everyone for the backlash. Continue reading “How to deliver bad news to ‘smart’ customers.” »
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 “You vs. your competition, head-to-head, how’d you do?” »
For all the bad customer service that we see, feel (and sometimes even deliver), there are companies that consistently delight their customers. Do you also wonder, ‘if they can do it, why do we struggle to achieve that level of service? Why is it so hard to duplicate a successful customer service model?’ Continue reading “If good customer service is so easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?” »
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!
Many of us in call centers chase the holy grail of higher agent tenure, assuming that agents will use the additional knowledge and experience attained through tenure to better serve customers. The unfortunate reality, according to customers, the more tenured agents don’t deliver a better customer experience; they deliver a worse one, despite being armed with all of the knowledge and skills that “rookies” are thought to be acquiring. And, that customer experience continues to diminish the longer your agents languish in your call center.
During our recent Customer Insights to Action meeting (a quarterly meeting open to all of our existing business customers), Customer Relationship Metrics refreshed a 2007 study of this same subject. In 2007, analysis of the customer experience found that agent performance peaked in month 11. At the time, we hypothesized that the peak of this performance bell curve would vary based on industry, management style, new-hire training, company culture and a number of other variables. What we found just recently is that peak service performance is rated by customers when the agents’ tenure is between 9 and 11 months.
As a call center professional, you have come to expect, accept, and perhaps even thrive on the fact that this is an ever-changing business environment. This is a world where getting to the end of your task list is something similar to reaching the end of the rainbow to find the pot-of-gold. For many of us, it is the chase to successful execution and driving of results that keeps us awake at night and gets us up in the morning.
While there are many drivers to this dynamic business, arguably the biggest is that communication technologies continue to change at a very rapid pace. Just when you think you have your business operation right where it needs to be – a new technology surfaces that challenges the infrastructure, the organization, the financials, the consumer experience, and the results delivery of your call center. A recent example of this is the adoption of social media. An extremely powerful, global, and real-time communication reality is upon us.
What are you doing about it? What should you be doing about it? Can you afford not to do anything about it? In this article we’ll explore these questions and discuss how a company can evolve and leverage existing contact center capability to support social media communications to drive brand, consumer experience, and business ROI.
I think the expression I use most frequently is, “cheap can be expensive”. Sometimes when you’re out scouring for a deal you lose sight of that fact that good service is often rolled into the cost of a name brand. What you may save on the initial price of an off-brand item may cost you big in the long run. This philosophy transfers from our individual consumer situation to our business life as well (think build it versus buy, as an example).
An important element of consumer behavior is the level of engagement that a customer has with a product or company. When I’m in the process of making a pricey purchasing decision, I read the consumer reports, I survey my friends and family, and I look at the brand with the best track record for service and support. If I do have a problem with my new T.V. or exercise equipment or whatever it is, I want to know that when I call about it my problem is going to be addressed quickly and efficiently to get me back up and running with the least amount of hassle. I mean, after all, my time is expensive too and I take that into account when I’m making purchasing decisions. I’m willing to forgive any bumps along the way of my name-brand purchases because I know they’ll meet my expectations of service and support. This train of thought defines brand loyalty.
Are your post-call surveys considered to be business intelligence? Let’s be honest, are we always ready for that honesty? Or are you asking in such a way that you only get positive comments? Or to just beat up call center agents?
What we’ve found is that most programs are destructive or met with apathy. The objective you want is to encourage the good, the bad and the ugly – this strategy will help you react to and solve issues with your products and services. For instance, a recent case was the discovery of a supply issue – not enough product to go around – which in turn was causing some negative online conversation surrounding the product. The call center knew about the problem long before consumers started tweeting about it, but did not have a good process to disseminate the information. Given how quickly people can express themselves online these days it becomes even more important to have a proactive process in place to not only deal with issues, but to equip your agents with the tools they need to address the consumers concerns about supply on the phone. Our client certainly does this now. You hear, and you need to share your customer intelligence: Continue reading “Are your post-call surveys used for business intelligence or to beat up call center agents?” »
During the customer experience measurement process, we asked customers to give an explanation as to why they scored an agent or the company the way they did. These open-ended comments provide true insight into the problem or pain the customer has experienced. Some customer comments leave us scratching our heads saying, “did he just say that?” When we look at the “why” versus the “what” in these comments, 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 the customer’s life, health issues, family problems or just plain loneliness. These comments are some of the ones that certainly made us raise an eyebrow or two, a perfect way to start a Monday.
As a mother, wife, business owner, board member and the wearer of many other hats, I am constantly managing expectations. If I do not set the proper expectations with all of the different people in my life, I will certainly disappoint someone somewhere. Once I set expectations, I also must manage them. There are millions of people out there like me that must set and manage what is expected of them. So with all of these people out there setting and managing expectations, why are so many companies struggling to meet their customers’ expectations?
Better yet, I think the real question is, “When did the customer expectation line get moved so far back?” Continue reading “Managing the ever-demanding customer expectations.” »
Prioritizing unhappy customers, one call center’s approach. Part 3 of a 3-Part Series on Virtual Queuing
As the economy has deteriorated over the past three years, we’ve seen a number of our business partners become more aggressive in their collection practices. One of the unintended consequences to this approach has been an increase in overall call volume in response to the collection calls and service termination messages. In part 1 and part 2 of this series, we talked about a few different scenarios where virtual queuing was successfully implemented in call centers. One of our business partners, had an approach that was also a proven success, yet different from how others may have implemented this solution.
We all know, the need for excellent customer service never stops, and 2010 was another great year in the call center history books. As we embark on a new year, let us take a moment and reflect on the good things we learned this past year, document our own lessons and those of others to insure that 2011 is the year we solidify our call centers as strategic weapons.
We bring you the top ten Customer Relationship Metrics Blog Recap List of 2010 and leave you with one to focus on, as we move into the New Year.
The need for Speech Analytics software in call centers is increasingly growing and yet barriers continue to impede the progress. By removing the cost of the software, CRM has lowered the barriers to adoption. Do not enter into 2011 without checking this blog first. Continue reading “2010 Year in Review: Top eleven call center posts” »