Managing staff—in any form--is hard work and requires a well-stocked repertoire of people skills, business acumen, and the ability to juggle multiple projects and deal with pressure.
For those of you who manage call centers and support centers, you are tasked with watching operational costs in addition to dealing with a team of agents. Your managerial skills can mean the difference between an effective call center or one that’s failing. Good management requires a heavy-dose of both intuition and technique, and each circumstance requires a personalized blend of skills. When practicing call center coaching, there are a mix of methods that we’ve seen work particularly well. Below we outline 5 top call center coaching tips to add to your toolbox. We’ll tackle another 5 in the next post.
- Set specific and measurable goals. The ability to set targets for you and your team to meet will give you focus and motivation. Choose goals that are realistic. A quick test to see if yours pass muster? Ask:
What will be improved?
By how much or how many?
If you can’t specify how you’ll measure your goals, go back to the drawing board.
- Create action plans. Setting goals is one thing; implementing them is another. Allow us to introduce you to the Action Plan.
For example, say you set a goal in Step 1 of completing a coaching course so you can become certified in the Support Staff Excellence program. That’s your goal—completion of the course. Your action plan will define how you reach your goal. Here's how you might write that action plan:
“Set aside two hours every week on Monday and Wednesday to go through the support center coaching curriculum. Next will be to pick three new skills from the course every week and apply it at work. Based on the study schedule, I’ll be ready to take the test by October 15th.”
- Be positive. Your language and tone matter.
Positive thinking has been credited with everything from stress reduction to better health. In a work environment, staying positive is just as powerful. So how do you apply the “power of the positive” to your call center coaching? To start, examine your language. Take these two examples:
“Unless you make those callbacks to the customers right away, there’s no way we’ll be able to give them the information about the promotion.”
“We can still make this happen. If you can make those callbacks to the customers within the next few hours, we’ll be able to get them the promotional information before it’s too late.”
If you were a call center agent, which phrase would you be more apt to respond to: the sentence with the negative slant, or the sentence with the positive? Which would you find more motivating? Think about your language and all of the conversations you have daily with your agents and fellow managers. How often are you communicating using positive language versus negative? Try this: Next time, before you ask an agent to do something, or give feedback, re-phrase your words so they’re positive and see what type of reaction you receive.
- Listen. Really listen. Listening—effective listening—is a powerful skill that’s rarely used. Especially in a high-stress environment, it’s easy to get caught-up in rapid-fire mode and neglect the very fundamental coaching skill of hearing and understanding. However, listening is an art form worth spending some time perfecting. It will help your managerial abilities and productivity, and will help you strengthen relationships with your colleagues (it’s also useful to try at home with your family!).
In call center coaching, try the following tips to improve your listening:
- Focus: When someone’s speaking to you, don’t check e-mail or your phone. Look the person in the eyes and give them your full attention. This communicates respect and you’ll more fully absorb what they’re telling you.
- Don’t interrupt: Do you enjoy being interrupted? Chances are, you find it annoying. The person whom you’re talking to finds it annoying as well.
- Pause before you respond: Oftentimes, when you take a moment to formulate your thoughts before you respond, you wind up saying something different—usually something a bit more appropriate. The few extra seconds it takes to collect your thoughts before you respond will not dramatically impede everything else you need to cram in for the day.
- Paraphrase—show you understand: Finally, to make sure you understand what the other person meant to say, repeat back the key points and ask the person to confirm that’s what he or she really meant.
- Lighten up a bit. You may find it surprising that one of the key tools in effective call center coaching is humor. Why is it so important that it belongs in the “canon” of effective coaching skills? Because humor is closely tied to attitude and your ability to read a situation. Be careful, of course, about when it’s appropriate to crack a joke or lighten the mood, and make sure you don’t offend or insult someone at the expense of a few laughs.
Knowing how and when to use humor will make you more approachable, more likeable, and more human to the people you work with.
Publish Date: June 13, 2012 7:43 PM
You’ve heard of First Contact Resolution, right? Hopefully, you’re taking concrete steps to resolve as many issues on the first contact as possible. Following right on the tail of first contact resolution is proactive service. Also called proactive support or next issue avoidance, it’s a trend worth focusing on.
What is proactive service?
When customer service and support reps offer proactive service, they anticipate and preempt additional contact. Here’s an example:
Mrs. Pedowitz calls her insurance company to get a copy of the contract that explains her health insurance benefits. Knowing that members often call back for help understanding the complex contract, the CSR, Jesse, offers to answer questions about services Mrs. Pedowitz frequently uses. At the end of the call, Jesse offers to e-mail her a link to a summary booklet that is written in easy-to-understand language.
Should you follow the proactive service trend?
According to Enkata, a leader in cloud-based customer experience analytics, proactive customer service has been shown to reduce call volumes by 20–30% in 12 months, cut operating costs by up to 25%, and improve customer retention by 3–5%.
Sound good? Of course! So what’s involved?
How to get started with proactive service:
- Create a map of issues showing their relationship—for example, ordering a contract and answering questions on the phone or sending a follow-up link.
- Determine how often customers call back. If they only call back 1–2% of the time, it’s probably not worth addressing. If customers call back 20–25% of the time, there will be cost-savings that are definitely worth pursuing.
- Train your staff. Provide issues maps as job aids to help your staff determine what to do when a customer has a particular issue. Be sure to include role plays so employees get lots of practice introducing the proactive service measure into the call.
Is it really that easy?
It would be except for the fact that contact centers are often focused on short-term profitability metrics like average handle time (AHT). And first contact resolution or next issue avoidance are diametrically opposed to lower AHT. While customers want calls to be short, imagine how much time they would save (and you too) if they didn’t have to call back for something that could have been proactively handled on the first call.
Just think! If you could prevent 20% of the calls currently coming into your center, your reps would have more time to spend with customers in order to guarantee their satisfaction with the level of service and support provided by your company. Sound like a winning strategy? We think so.
Post #3 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series.
Publish Date: February 15, 2012 7:46 PM
Fess up, now! There some customers you just love to talk to and others that you can’t wait to get off the line, right? Of course there are some customers who are just downright cranky and rude, but barring those grouches, there’s a reason why you relate better to some people than to others. To sum it up, it’s easy for us to do business with people who are like us. For example, if I want to get to get a quick answer and a customer service rep has one for me, I’m happy. However, if I get a CSR who want to chit-chat about unrelated topics, I quickly become quite annoyed.
Carl Jung, one of the fathers of modern psychology, developed a theory of psychological types. The idea is that if we can identify others’ preferences and then modify our behavior, we’ll all get along better, prevent misunderstandings, and accomplish more. In the example above, if the sales or support agent can identify my personality type, then the agent can temper his or her need to build a relationship and get down to business. I’ll then leave the call as a satisfied customer.
Of course, this is overly simplified, but the theory works so well that a number of companies have created proprietary instruments and training programs around it. NASA even got into the game, using The Process Communication Model, to help predict how astronauts would jell in a capsule together.
Salespeople have long known about the power of adjusting their personality to that of their various customers. These concepts are now moving into the customer service and support realm and rapidly becoming a trend.
For example, on the high-tech front, ELoyalty uses speech recognition technology to compile personality profiles of callers and match them with a representative who works best with that personality type. Each time a customer calls back, the system uses the existing profile to deepen and enrich the profile. According to eLoyalty, one banking client saw the attrition rate among customers struggling with the most serious issues drop from 7% to 1%. Another saw their J.D. Power rating improve.
Other systems you may be familiar with are Meyers-Briggs, DiSC™, or Insights. One we particularly like is WorkTraits. It assesses not only personality traits, but core convictions and has some great back-end tools for use on the job. When paired with training, role plays, and job aids to help agents identify caller types and know what to do when selling or providing service, great results can be achieved.
Are your agents treating your customers the way they want to be treated? Look into one of these systems today. And don’t be surprised if you see WorkTraits wrapped into a course here at Impact soon.
Post #4 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series.
Publish Date: February 15, 2012 7:45 PM
As the economy recovers, many companies are looking for opportunities to claw their way back to pre-recession sales levels. And companies that fared well want to be sure to keep their customers as competition in the playing field grows.
Who’s upselling and cross-selling now?
While sales teams have long had goals for upselling and cross-selling, more companies than ever are asking their customer service reps to do the same. And they’re asking their support engineers to recommend product upgrades and contact customers to renew warranty agreements. This growing trend is particularly true in the financial services, telecommunications, high technology, and services industries.
Why is upselling and cross-selling an important trend for service and support departments?
Most industries are dealing with the problem of selling a commodity, since competitors are able to quickly copy what was, originally, an innovative product differentiator. In fact, the Corporate Executive Board in their ECSB Insiderreport 67 percent of business owners feel that more suppliers are now offering competing products than five years ago. This makes new sales more difficult and buyers less loyal since they have multiple places where they can purchase similar products or services. While it's important to increase market share, it's also easier to focus on your existing buyers who already trust your organization and find value in your offering. Plus, the more products and services people buy from an organization, the more likely they are to remain engaged rather than take their business elsewhere.
There’s a benefit for customers, too. Purchasing more at once saves them time and shipping costs, and maybe even money if there’s a quantity discount. Upgrading to a new product version saves on repair costs. Purchasing a maintenance contract reduces risk, helps with budgeting, and smooths cash flow.
What’s required for success?
According to MarketSoft Corporation, a provider of cross-selling technology, nearly three quarters of all businesses say they have cross-selling programs, but as many as 70 percent of such efforts fail to increase revenue in any significant way. Why?
Despite advancements in technology to identify sales opportunities through segmentation and behavior analysis, if the agents speaking with customers don’t want to sell or don’t introduce the sale in a way that benefits the buyer, there will be no sale.
When presented with an upsell and cross-sell initiative, many customer service and support representatives are not happy! They perceive themselves as service professionals, not salespeople. In fact, some companies have lost as much as 25% of their department when embarking on a cross-selling program. Giving representatives a script to read at the end of a call won’t work. I’m sure you’ve been on the other end of those types of calls! What’s needed is a training program to help agents understand how selling—appropriately—is offering service. It truly is! When a customer service or support rep thinks ahead about what products and services might serve customers, then presents the offer in a way that shows it meets a need the customer has, cross-selling is offering the customer “total” service.
Amadeus-Forrester, in their recent report titled “Cross-Sell Your Way to Profits” predicts cross-selling to grow 30 percent by 2015, ten times faster than general sales. Are you ready to be part of this trend?
Post #6 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series.
Publish Date: February 15, 2012 7:44 PM
For years, contact center managers have been measuring operational metrics like average handle time, average hold time, turnover, sales per representative, average time to respond, and so on. But are these the most important metrics to measure?
What’s important to measure depends on who you are
Customer service and support managers want to measure the operational metrics listed above along with others like transfer rates and queue length to help them run an efficient organization.
Executives, on the other hand, want to measure customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, market share, and profitability by product or service line so they can see howeffective the company is at maximizing the shareholder’s return on investment. The two do not always jive.
The disconnect between efficient and effective
A company could go out of business if their only concern is having happy customers at all costs. So while it’s important to be cost-effective, this doesn’t always mean seeking the lowest cost. Take for example, the usual focus on average handle time. Of course, customers want to keep a call as short as possible, too. But they care more about getting their questions answered accurately and getting their problems resolved.
And guess what? Most customers don’t mind taking a little extra time to hear about something that will save them from having to call back in the future. So there’s a disconnect between keeping a call short (efficient) and taking enough time to resolve the caller’s issue and give information to minimize a call back (effective).
To meet the goals of the executive team, there’s a trend among customer service and support managers to re-examine their metrics in light of the larger objectives of the business.
What is the customer’s point of view?
Start examining your metrics from the customer’s point of view. Consider escalations, for example. Managers seek to drive escalations down. Of course! Who wants their supervisors or Tier 2 engineers tied up on simple problems. But what will satisfy the customer? A speedy escalation if that’s what it takes to get the problem resolved.
A customer-focused metric then, would be to track "appropriate" vs. “inappropriate” escalations. Inappropriate escalations are those where the agent should be able to handle the problem, but can’t, and therefore escalates the customer to the next level. Too many inappropriate escalations point out a training issue. Once you identify inappropriate escalations as a problem, you can then provide additional training and give your staff the tools they need to handle their level of calls. The result will be fewer inappropriate escalations, happier customers, and lower costs.
How about call quality scores? Many centers we've worked with tracked behaviors that did not affect customer satisfaction (such as using the customer’s name three times during the call) and left out things that did, (such as providing an accurate answer). Why not conduct a focus group with customers this year to find out what you should add to your form and what you can stop tracking.
What else should you track?
There’s a real business case for first-contact resolution because it’s one of the prime drivers of customer satisfactionand it keeps costs down.
As Richard Snow from Ventana Research puts it:
“First contact resolution can be even more useful when linked with other metrics and actions. Applied to agents, for example, it lets companies identify best practices and adjust process and training so more agents can resolve more issues the first time. Linked to customers, it can tell who are the difficult customers and how they can be handled in the future. It can help identify why issues occur and what can be done to generate fewer calls. It can influence behavior, because agents will strive harder to resolve more calls at the first attempt. It can influence call-routing rules, so that more calls are routed to agents who resolve more issues the first time.”
If you have first contact resolution within benchmark levels, then go for next issue avoidance, also called proactive service. This is another one of the top 10 trends for the upcoming year.
Conferences, webinars, and customer service forums are all a-buzz about customer satisfaction, retention, and net promoter scores—the same issues executives pay attention to. This year, be sure your center metrics are well-aligned to deliver solid business results.
Post #8 in the Top Ten Customer Service and Support Trends for 2012 series.
Publish Date: February 15, 2012 7:44 PM
Customer service games can add spice to a training program. I ought to know, I wrote the book! Unfortunately, I've seen too many games used just because–well, I'm not sure why. The game was fun, but didn't increase learning or help participants perform better on the job.
Customer service games are fun, motivational activities. The key is to use them in conjunction with skill learning and skill use. When relevant to participants and their jobs, the games build confidence, lift morale, spark enthusiasm, stimulate creativity, and ultimately achieve results.
Games can be quick, fun energizers that raise participants' awareness of customer service issues. Games can also be full-scale activities that teach a skill and offer participants the opportunity to practice the skill in an informal, onthreatening environment.
There are a number of ways you can use customer service games: as stand-alone training activities, as warm-ups to a more intensive training session, or in combination with one another to constitute a segments of a comprehensive customer service training event.
Following are some resources for customer service game:
And if you need to plan a more comprehensive training event, check out one of these:
Publish Date: February 15, 2012 7:42 PM
One of the great things about the contact center as a workplace is the ready availability and near-instant access to metrics — measures of quality and productivity. Unfortunately, however, this easy access often results in a short-sighted assessment of what the numbers really mean.
Five Key Metrics to Assess Contact Center Agents
Following is an examination of what might be lurking behind five of the key metrics used to assess contact center agents.
1. Average Handle Time (AHT):
Sometimes known as "Average Call Duration (ACD)
" is one of the most commonly used metrics and a favorite with contact center management. And that makes perfect sense: If calls can be handled quickly and efficiently, everyone wins, right? The problem is that quick does not always mean efficient.
When agents are told (and in some cases incentivized) to keep AHT low, they tend to focus primarily on call length and will take all reasonable shortcuts to keep it short. There are a number of possible pitfalls:
- The agent may be missing (or skipping) opportunities to cross-sell, up-sell, or provide the customer with valuable education/information.
- The agent may do away with small but crucial courtesies — thanking a caller for holding, executing a warm transfer, building rapport-that factor into customer satisfaction.
- The call flow might omit the step of updating a customer’s account data or otherwise capturing valuable information that can only be obtained during a live contact.
The key to success is to maintain a strategic equilibrium between AHT numbers and other metrics such as customer satisfaction, first-contact resolution, and revenue per call.
2. After Call Work (ACW)
, also known as “Wrap Time
“: It’s easy to understand why this metric is so commonly used in centers-a key factor of workforce management is making sure agents are moving briskly from one call to the next. That being said, I’ve repeatedly seen the hazards of overemphasizing this metric. The problem is this: Getting that extra few moments (not even minutes) between calls can make all the difference to an agent’s ability to handle the next call with a positive, professional attitude.
If ACW is a metric that is stressed in your center, make sure you put other measures in place to guard against agent fatigue, low morale, high turnover rate, and a poor relationship between agents and management.
One tip that might prove helpful is to hold agents to a stringent ACW standard during periods of high volume but then ease up on it once or twice per shift, as call volume relaxes.
3. Staff shrinkage
: This metric refers to the amount of time that employees are on the clock but not available to handle calls. Granted, call handling is an agent’s primary job role, but if the expectation related to shrinkage (and the related measure of “utilization”) is too severe, it’s likely to create issues of low morale and high turnover.
When call center agents are given sufficient time for training
and career path projects, not only are they more knowledgeable and productive, but they also tend to feel like well-rounded employees. This in turn can lead to higher performance, increased employee engagement and satisfaction, and lower turnover.
4. Call Volume
: Every Operations manager knows the euphoria of high call volume (unless, of course, the calls are flooding into a customer-complaint line). Typically, high call volume signals sales success, popularity with customers, and job security.
To ensure that your call volume readings aren’t giving you a “false positive,” you need checks and balances in place to confirm that:
5. First-contact Resolution (FCR)
- These calls aren’t callbacks from customers who ideally would have had their needs met the first time.
- Customers are not calling in with needs that you prefer be handled through a different channel (e-mail, self-serve FAQ, etc.).
: It’s difficult to come up with any cautions against using first-contact resolution as a key metric in your call center. This tends to be an essential measure relevant to profitability, efficiency, and customer satisfaction-and it’s one that I consistently espouse for call center performance optimization. So, if you’re not yet measuring this one, start now.
That being said, there is
one pitfall that I’ve occasionally seen in technical support environments: There’s a danger that agents, striving for FCR
, will stay on the phone too long when in fact the customer would be better served by a callback (after the agent has done additional research or consulted with the appropriate peers).
Think of metrics as more a scale than a yardstick. The data yield weights and counterweights that help you to achieve that all-important balance between quality, productivity, customer service, and employee satisfaction.
Other notable contact center metrics include Escalation Rate
, Call Quality
, Customer Service Satisfaction Rate (CSAT)
and Time to Resolution (TTR)
Publish Date: November 15, 2010 8:13 PM
CSAT, VOC, CRM, now SCRM. Who's listening to the customer? These days, who isn't listening? At Impact, our guiding beacon in driving our customers' experience is the HEART Model
™. Many of our customers have also adopted this model because it provides them with five easy-to-remember principles that balance the best interests of the customer with the best interests of the business and its employees.
The first principle is Hear and Understand. Employing this principle directly and positively impacts customer satisfaction, employee morale, and operational costs. How you apply this principle depends on where you are in the organization.
The good news is that customers are back in the picture. We want to know what they think and we want to know how to please them in a way that adds to the bottom line. Technology vendors are jumping on the bandwagon to provide more tools with which to listen to the customer—tools like speech recognition technology to listen for key words and social CRM to monitor the voice of the customer through social media channels.
These tools are invaluable in collecting data, but what do you do with that data? Many companies are aggregating it, hiring consultants to interpret it, holding executive meetings to discuss it, and then continuing with business mostly as usual while they pat themselves on the back that they're a customer-centric organization because they've listened to their customers. Not so fast! There's no point in hearing and understanding your customers if you aren't willing to act on what you hear. Being truly customer-centric requires change, not lip service.
Stepping up and making changes based on hearing and understanding your customers' needs pays off big time, however. A Booz Allen study showed that those companies willing to walk their customer-concentric talk outperformed industry peers 2:1 in revenue growth and generated profit margins 5-10% above their competitors.
Customers want to deal with pleasant, efficient employees who show concern for the customer and his or her issues. So if you want to have happy customers, you need happy employees. Happy employees love their job and it comes through in their dealings with customers-in the quality of their work, in their tone of voice, in their interest in hearing and understanding the customer, and in their willingness to solve customer issues. You all know the research: money motivates, but only to a point. After that, it's whether employees are treated fairly, whether they're listened to, whether their opinions are valued, and whether they're recognized that matters.
The members of your team look to you for encouragement and support. In order to provide this to them, you need to do more than listen; you need to understand what they say and feel. You need to appreciate their perspectives. You do this by asking for their input, by listening with your full attention, and by praising their good ideas. This gives them confidence that they're making valuable contributions to the organization—contributions that are not going unnoticed.
Almost every customer-facing employee at one time or another has made an assumption about what a customer wanted (because the call sounded like 476 other calls) that turned out to be wrong. To truly hear and understand what customers are saying, employees need to listen carefully and then check their comprehension of what they've heard. If employees do this, their calls will be easier to handle and shorter, too. Shorter calls mean improved customer satisfaction and reduced cost of operations.
I spoke with a customer yesterday who said that by embracing the principle of Hear and Understand, taught in one of our training programs, her support reps were better able to identify the customers stated concerns. This directly resulted in decreased escalations and improved first-call resolution, both of which improve customer satisfaction and reduce costs.
Changing the culture of an organization from one that espouses customer-centricity to one that puts it into practice-and reaps the rewards-is not easy. But by adopting the HEART Model™
as one of the building blocks for cultural transformation, you will measurably improve customer satisfaction and employee morale while reducing organizational costs.
(originally posted on http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/agent-motivation-retention/2010/07/hear-and-understand/ )
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:50 PM
The LA Times
called this morning to get my thoughts on how customer service training might have helped Steven Slater, the 38 year-old Jet Blue flight attendant who went berserk yesterday after allegedly being verbally and physically abused by a passenger.
According to the reports
, a woman passenger had some choice words for Slater several times during the flight. Once the flight landed in New York, she got into an altercation with another passenger over some luggage. When Slater tried to intervene, she bashed the her luggage into Slater's head. Slater, having had enough, grabbed the intercom, cursed out the plane, grabbed a couple of beers, popped the emergency exit, and headed down the slide to go home for the day.
Now what was I going to say to the reporter from the LA Times
? I'm sure JetBlue trained Slater trained in appropriate customer service techniques for dealing with angry passengers—techniques like staying calm, not raising your voice, focusing on a solution, etc. We teach all those techniques
and they can be quite effective in situations where customers are angry or upset. But how was that supposed to help in this case? I in no way condone Slater's behavior, but it's hard to stay calm when you've been bashed in the head.
I wonder what was wrong with the woman. Had she just lost her job? Was she ill? Did her medication stop working? Or was she just acting like out like others she's seen in cartoons, sitcoms, video games, and movies and heard on talk radio? Did Slater do something initially to annoy her? Did he aggravate the situation? We don't know.
Apparently, Slater has turned into somewhat of a hero of customer service workers, many of whom are sick and tired of dealing with annoying and abusive customers. I travel a lot and I know it can be tiring, frustrating, and annoying. But nothing can be so bad that it permits one person to act like that toward another. So customer service training? That's not enough to tame this growing trend of disrespect and abuse. It's time to bring back civility. A few stress reduction lessons couldn't hurt either!
(originally posted on http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/customer-service-support/2010/08/a-call-for-civility/ )
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:49 PM
I'm sure by now most of you have seen the article, "Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers
" in the July-August issue of the Harvard Business Review
(pp. 116-122 if you read it the old-fashioned way). In the article, Dixon, et. al., report on their 3-year survey of more than 75,000 B2C and B2B customers about their recent service interactions with live agents and self-service contact center applications.
To provide a quick summary of a very thought-provoking article, their study found little correlation between the customer satisfaction score, which organizations have traditionally used to measure how good a job they're doing, and customer loyalty. They found that exceeding customer expectations by offering a refund, a free product, or a free service makes customers only marginally more loyal than simply meeting their needs. They state, "...loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be."
I don't know about you, but my expectations for service are pretty minimal these days. If I can have an interaction with someone who can understand what my issue is and solve my problem, I'm pretty happy—delighted actually! I don't need a free refund, a free product, or free shipping.
OK...maybe I do need free shipping, particularly if I'm returning a pair of too-tight shoes to Zappos. Turn now to page 41 in the same issue or read online. The title? "Zappos's CEO on Going to Extremes for Customers
." Wait! Should we go to extremes for customers? Should we stop trying to delight them? Is the Harvard Business Review bipolar? There's a lot that Tony Hsieh has to say about achieving exceptional service that I agree with—like making customer service a priority for the whole company, not just a department, and offering free shipping both ways to make transactions risk free and easy. That's what I would expect from a company I wanted to do business with. On the other hand, doing a surprise overnight shipment for loyal repeat customers who chose free ground-shipping would not make me a more loyal customer, nor would finding me five local pizza delivery places in Santa Monica as mentioned was done for a Zappos customer. Nice touch, but those above-and-beyond things will not make me a loyal customer. The strategy does seem to be working for Zappos, though, as they've gone from 1.6 million gross revenue in 2000 to over 1 billion in 2010.
Coming back to the first article, the authors found that delighting customers doesn't build loyalty; reducing their effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—does. As a result, they developed (and trademarked) a new metric: the Customer Effort Score™ measured on a scale of 1-5 by asking, "How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request." The idea is that companies create loyal customers by helping them solve their problems quickly and easily.
As someone who has spent the last 15+ years helping businesses improve their customer service, I must say that I love the thought behind this newly-coined Customer Effort Score
™. Too many companies try to "delight" customers without first tending to the basics. If you really want to delight customers, you need to start with the basics:
- First, define what each of your customer segments expects from you in the way of customer service, then measure the gap between your service offering and their expectations. I'll bet that making it easy for your customer to do business with you (meaning a low Customer Effort Score™) is going to be up there at the top of the list.
- If your company isn't meeting expectations, strive to do so. This involves hiring the right people, training them in product knowledge and customer service skills, supporting them with the proper technology, and making sure your processes are customer-friendly.
- Once you've met your customers' expectations for service, you can work on exceeding them. This is the step where you need to be cognizant of any tradeoffs between exceeding expectations and the cost of doing so.
- Finally, when you're consistently exceeding expectations, then and only then are you in a position to talk about going to extremes to delight customers.
Free shipping and surprise overnight delivery would not be working for Zappos if they had surly reps on the phones, were often out of stock, or frequently shipped the wrong product. They are able to go to extremes—profitably—because they've engineered their whole company around the customer.
Have you defined your customers' expectations from their vantage point, not yours? If not, start today. Strive to meet those expectations, make it easy to business with you, then you and your customer can both soar to the extremes of delight.
(originally posted on http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/industry-issues-news/2010/09/to-delight-or-s-the-questionto-delight-or-not-to-delight-that-is-the-question/ )
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:48 PM
I was speaking with a colleague at work last week about the Harvard Business Review article
on customer effort and its effect on customer loyalty. She had recently written a post
about the article and we were discussing what we thought drove loyalty. Lots of research has been done, but the results are inconclusive. Some research shows that there’s a direct correlation between customer service or customer satisfaction and customer loyalty; others don’t. My guess is that the differences are driven by the way questions are asked in the satisfaction survey.
My colleague, Monica, was musing that perhaps we’re just less loyal than previous generations. Her father drove a Ford…forever. My folks favored Mercury. I was a Volvo girl until the Prius came along. Since I believe that people buy based on emotion and backfill with logic, it makes sense that loyalty may be driven in part by demographics and psychographics in addition to customer satisfaction, customer effort, etc.
I’ve been examining my own loyalty ever since that article came out in the Harvard Business Review. What I can
report is that while I love my FitBit to death
and am currently extremely loyal, I would bail in a heartbeat if better technology came along (read I see myself as an early adopter of technology
). I love my Prius but with my next car purchase could be talked into something even more energy efficient (read save the planet and don’t forget the cool factor
). Yes, customer effort plays a part in keeping me loyal, but only until something that fits my values and emotions better come along. Then I’m willing to travel into uncharted waters and risk poor service. So loyal? Yes, for awhile.
Think about your own loyalty. What companies do you consider yourself loyal to? What would cause you to move to another company? Just how “loyal” are you? Does it have to do with what type of service you receive from the company? The product? Your values and emotions? I’d be interested in your thoughts.
(originally posted at http://www.impactlearning.com/blog/customer-service-support/2010/09/what-drives-customer-loyalty/ )
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:47 PM
In order to be a cross-selling or up-selling superstar, you need to do the following:
- Listen for opportunities in what the customer says. Let's say the customer says, "I need to find a better plan for my cell phone. I get calls from people I I don't want to talk to and my charges are just too high." This might trigger the rep to explain how the customer can save money by using caller ID to accept calls from only certain people.
- Look for opportunities in the customer's record. Here's an example: "Thanks for your order, Marcie. We'll get those invoices shipped out right away. Now before you go, I notice that we're running a special on the multi-part checks that you use. Would you like to hear about the savings that are available?"
- Create an opportunity. If you don't hear or see anything that opens up an opportunity, the rep can create one, like this: "Umberto, before you go, I want to let you know that we can also help you with lead generation, search optimization, link building, and other types of e-marketing assistance. How are you handling your online marketing now?"
The people we find who are the most successful in cross-selling and up-selling are those who have a sincere desire to help customers. They see offering customers products and services that can make their lives better (read sales) as a high form of customer service. These superstars of sales and service listen between the lines so they can provide their customers with the best solutions. I read in the paper this morning about a front-line person who, in my opinion, wins the upselling hall of fame award.
Mark Smith, 59, was arrested at a bank in Watsonville, California in September after he had allegedly threatened a teller with a bomb and demanded $2,000. The teller, tried to convince him, instead, to borrow the money, and she had him wait while she retrieved an application (during which time she called 911). By the time police arrived, Smith was filling out the loan form.
Talk about upselling!
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:46 PM
is a medical term that can be applied to customer service. Every customer is not created equal and your service delivery should not be equal either. To wow your customers (and your shareholders), segment your customer base and deploy your most valuable resources to your most valuable customers.
Big banks do this. So do airlines. Ever wonder why you have to enter your credit card number or your frequent flyer number when you call? The best customers (you with the Platinum credit cards, and you premium flyers) get in the shortest queues and are handled by the best, most experienced agents. The rest of the world waits on hold and when finally connected, speaks with the person who just got out of training an hour ago. These successful companies know they can't afford to service all customers equally so they put their efforts where they'll get the biggest return.
It's easy for big companies to triage their customers...technology handles it all. But if you can't afford the technology or are too small to really need it, there are still steps you can take.
- Review your customer base to determine which customers provide the most revenue or profit. Add to this the customers with the potential to be in this group. These are your "A" customers. Based on the Pareto principle, this will probably be the 20% or so of the customers who provide 80% of your revenue.
- Determine the customers that provide the lowest revenue or profit. They order small amounts less frequently. These are your "C" customers and typically represent 30-40% of your customer base.
- The rest are your "B" customers. They order on a consistent basis but in not the same volume as your "A" customers.
Now assign resources accordingly.
- Direct calls so that your A customers route to your best, most experienced agents. No ACD? Then assign your A customers their own private customer service representative. How nice would it be as a customer to get a personal call or a real, old fashioned letter letting you know that you're such a valued customer, you're getting your very own customer service rep, one of the company's best. Be sure these customers don't have a long wait time for service, and see if you can smooth your policies and procedures to make it easier for them to do business with you.
- Direct your B customers to reps who consistently meet call quality standards but who may not have the same depth of experience as those handling your A accounts. If you don't have an ACD, consider creating small teams to handle groups of B customers. That way customers have 2-3 representatives familiar with their accounts.
- Let the C customer come through the general queue. Even though these may be your lowest value customers, they still deserve top-notch treatment because, well, that's just who you are as a company, right? You value all your customers! So while new hires may work with this group of customers, they need close monitoring to be sure customers receive good service while the new reps learn the ropes. Assign each new trainee a contact from the B group that he or she can call on for help while learning. This will minimize escalations and callbacks—two things that make customer very unhappy.
If you're one of those lucky companies that can afford to provide A quality service to all of your customers, that's fantastic! We wish all our customers could be so lucky. But if you have to watch your call center pennies, there's a better option than offering luck-of-the-draw service to all your customers. Triaging customer service allows you to wrap your very best customers in a blanket of care while still providing great service to the rest of the customer base.
Publish Date: October 29, 2010 6:45 PM