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Shivani Verma - Blog

voice of the customer – are we really listening?

Today 44% of CEOs feel that customer retention is one of the key performance areas that they would like to invigorate. Since contact centres are the first touch point for many customers, the question to ask here is “Are we really listening to what our customers have to say?” Many organizations confuse high profitability with high customer satisfaction, forgetting that it could be their high-end customers who feel most alienated and angry. Even worse, managers may become so focused on market research data that they start thinking of customers as numbers and stop hearing the real voices of their customers. A recent Bain & Company survey reveals just how commonly organizations misread the market. They surveyed 362 firms and found that 80% believed they delivered a superior experience to their customers. But when customers were surveyed, they rated only 8% of organizations as delivering a truly superior experience. What has this elite group of 8% of companies done to set themselves apart from the pack and transform their customers into supporters? Aim for customer advocacy Most companies are very good at segmenting their market and designing their value proposition based on these segments. It’s Marketing 101. The leaders in customer service do something more. They design their products based not only on customer segmentation but also by taking a broader view of what the customer experience is and should be. These organizations understand that having the right product or service does not ensure customer advocacy. In designing propositions for specific markets, leaders focus on the complete customer experience. This includes all customer touch points such as purchase, service and support, upgrades and billing. These organizations consider all the steps required to deliver their product or service to the right segment. Cross-functional collaboration The best laid plans are rendered useless if they are not properly executed. All teams – from marketing to sales to service to supply chain management – need to be motivated and work as one to deliver the company’s value proposition across the entire customer experience. The best companies find ways to listen to what their customers tell others by tuning in to their customers’ voices everyday. In contact centres, companies must hire the right people, train them well and motivate them if they want to delight customers. Traditional metrics that measure individual performance are not enough to ensure service excellence. Companies must adopt metrics that encourage cross-functional collaboration. To ensure that customers advocate the company to their friends, companies should set targets that require coordinated contribution from all departments – customer support, marketing, operations, network or customer service, manufacturing and distribution, and finance. For example, say TELUS sets a goal of making a welcome call to every TELUS TV customer within a week of installing a new line. Meeting this goal requires cross-functional collaboration – information must flow from the back office to the front office. Continuous improvement Every company must improve on its value proposition quarter after quarter, year over year. Leaders in customer experience have established processes to enable this corporate wide realignment to take place. Their tactics include: - Tools that enable customer focused planning and execution – customers are placed at the top of the organization’s strategic priorities. - All performance incentives are related to customer experience. - Direct immediate customer feedback on how the company is doing and how they can improve. For example, eBay employees known as "pinks" monitor eBay message boards to learn which issues, complaints, and concerns need attention. - Targeted surveys for all churned customers to learn why they left and what would bring them back. Feedback is then looped back to the relevant departments and steps are initiated to address concerns. By following these processes, organizations can begin the journey to convert their indifferent customers to passionate advocates.

Publish Date: September 13, 2010 2:45 AM

Managing Your Team and Becoming a Leader

Managing multiple call centres spread over many provinces and continents one thing hit home with me. The most important message for anyone in a management position is that it is never about achieving the service level or meeting your KPIs. All the statistics, goals and measurements could be met if you do one thing right: manage your people. The key to good management is good leadership. How often have you stopped and asked yourself if you are leading your people or are you too busy putting out fires?

Here are some lessons from the trenches that really work.

 Become a manager

You have gone from only having responsibility for your own work to now being responsible and answerable for a group of people. Some people fail as managers because they don’t know how to make the transition from managing themselves to managing people. So the first thing to learn when you are managing people is to become a manager.

Find the motivational triggers:

 Everyone has their own unique motivational triggers. Things that make them jump out of bed in the morning and get them to work. For some it is the work environment, the people, for some money, responsibility, empowerment, encouragement, a pat on the back, recognition of potential, respect etc. A good manager finds these triggers for his/her people and then manages through them.

 Delegate and develop

Some leaders newly promoted to management have difficulty delegating. They continue trying to do their previous job, rather than developing their agents to do the job well. Good managers recognize that to be successful, they need to develop and delegate. Here are a few tips:

  • You can develop people to look after routine tasks that are not cost-effective for you to carry out
  • Transfer work to people whose skills in a particular area are better than yours therefore saving time.
  • Transferring responsibility develops the agents, and can increase their enjoyment of their jobs

Remember a leader is only a leader if he/she knows how to develop and grow new leaders.

 Set clear goals, expectations and consequences

 To develop high performing teams it is important to clearly define:

  •  goals that need to be achieved and how they align with the corporate goals
  • outline clearly and establish the expectations from your agents
  • assign consequences to the expectations


 Communicating effectively—both understanding and being understood—is much more difficult. That is what managers need to do.

  • Take corporate objectives and breaking them down to agent level so that they may understand the direction of the company and the role they play in it
  • Make sure your team has a two way communication where questions are welcome
  • Ensure that your team understands the reason for change in policies or processes
  • Always keep your team in the loop and encourage upward feedback

Recognise achievement

It is always important not to get bogged down by everyday fires and recognise the efforts and achievement of your team. A pat on the back goes a long way so don’t wait till yearly appraisal to tell your team how good they are. Award the most improved team members as well as the high achievers to motivate the others to emulate them.

Get your team noticed

All call centres directly or indirectly contribute to the company’s revenue and directly contribute to customer satisfaction. Understand how your team links into these and then showcase their accomplishments. Recognize the team's role in the company’s successes and give praise and credit to specific individuals for good work and to your team as a whole. This will help build the visibility of your team and empower and motivate your agents.

 In summary here are a few characteristics of a successful leader:

Leaders have/are

  • Flexibility
  • A sense of urgency
  • Creativity
  • An openness to learning
  • "What can I do for you?" attitude
  • Ability to handle stress and confusion
  • A team mentality
  • Authenticity
  • Ability to have fun

 Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. These tips on being a great leader will help you go a long way.

Publish Date: November 19, 2009 2:43 PM

A very Green Staffing Solution

As a CEO in this time of discretionary spending, how do you increase revenues and reach out to your customers while keeping costs down? There are a lot of options and paths to follow. Let’s explore one scenario where, recently, a TELUS client determined that they needed to get in touch with their customer base.  They didn’t have the infrastructure or human resources for an outbound campaign nor the physical space to temporarily house them. They were looking at options whereby they didn’t have to invest in bricks and mortar and wouldn’t have to manage the work force either to achieve their goals.

The client brought the opportunity to TELUS to see how we would address their issues.  After a few days of brainstorming, the TELUS Advisory Services team came up with an innovative solution for the client.  It was agreed that TELUS would

  • TELUS  would manage this virtual centre for the client,
  • Establish a 100% home-based contract agent centre, and
  • All the workers would be contractors who ran their own businesses.

To achieve the first goal, TELUS employed their hosted call centre platform which allows contact centre staff to manage customer calls, e-mails, voice-mails, web call backs and web chat sessions from any location in Canada.  The only requirements the staff had to comply with were to have a telephone, Internet connection and a PC with a browser.

To hire the right remote workers or “home-based contract-agents”, TELUS ensured they had the right processes in place to meet the customer’s requirements.   Paramount in making this initiative a success, TELUS developed a solid screening process; a sound contract; a remote certification capability; and a subject matter training program.  To conduct the remote recruitment process, TELUS Advisory Services used an online portal to assess all qualified remote agents and to review critical information, specifically each candidate’s e-resume and voice recording for assessment.  Once the candidate passed the screening test, a remote work contract was established to create payment rates, track interaction usage and ensure timely and accurate payment to these remote resources.  This was followed by a skill assessment or remote agent certification - a process that ensured agents had the necessary skills, environment


and equipment to work on-line remotely.  Finally, the successful candidates went through remote training, a process of on-line, multi-media learning to qualify agents on call transactions.

The home-based contract agent gave TELUS a whole new dimension on agent staffing.  It gave our client a new precision for the campaign – agents were hired for very specific transactions and work periods, and paid only for completed transactions.  It gave them a new simplicity – no employees, no unions and no outsourcers.  It offered a new flexibility – inherently more flexible agents and significantly more flexible schedules delivering real time staffing.  It gave the client a new managed relationship with motivated business contractors working under performance based agreements.

TELUS Advisory Services team managed this 10 month contract and worked to create a high performing, 100% home-based Canadian team. This is a new era in home shoring. When trying to create an outbound marketing campaign now-a-days, companies have to leave it on the back burner or take a hit on service excellence.  In many circumstances, there are either not enough human resources to deliver the campaign, and/or no budget available to hire the part-time workers needed to get the job done.  In these situations, creating a “green” home shoring solution allows businesses to move forward with their campaign and creates jobs in the company’s own marketplace – a win-win for all.  This same green staffing solution can work for companies faced with increasing interaction volumes or limitations on hiring or laying-off of seasonal personnel.  If a business experiences a sharp increase in market share without an increase in the size of their contact centre, this productive, cost efficient solution makes financial sense. 

At the end of the term, our client contacted their entire customer base without expanding their operations or creating a brick and mortar contact centre.  The client’s internal resources were productively used on other key projects that needed to be completed in the same time span.  The home-based contract agent centre fully managed by TELUS delivered exceptional call quality and strengthened the client’s image and brand in their market place.  In our client’s words, the campaign was “a phenomenal success”, one that would not have been achieved without TELUS Advisory Services. TELUS and our client are looking forward to partnering again on another campaign.

Publish Date: November 19, 2009 1:21 PM

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