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Article : Throw Away the Script

Implementing state-of-the-art automation in the name of efficiency is not necessarily the most effective approach when it comes to delivering service excellence. The human touch, not technology, is what premium brands need to achieve the desired result, says Keir Woolhouse, UK marketing manager for Bosch Communication Center.

A brand reputation is a valuable business asset, so it pays to take good care of it. For premium brands in particular, first impressions are crucial.

Customers who purchase premium brands have made a deliberate decision to invest in superior technology, innovative design or cutting-edge style. When they contact you – either through choice or necessity – they expect confirmation that they have made an excellent purchase, and selected a brand which reflects their own aspirations and outlook. They expect quality.

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For companies which distribute product through a channel of retailers and third parties, direct contact with the consumer is actually quite rare. The simple reason is the products are of such high quality, backed by long-term guarantees, that complaints and queries are few and far between.

In fact, the one occasion when a customer rings customer service for help may be the only occasion a premium brand is able to have a conversation, throughout the entire lifecycle of the product. It is a chance for the brand to connect with the customer on a personal level, to gather intelligence, and express its values by delivering real satisfaction. And the customer may well have an axe to grind to boot. No pressure, then.

The Human Touch
A recent Sunday Mirror survey revealed that call centres keep Britons waiting for 50 million hours a year. Could your high-value customers be among them? There's no denying that call centres have a dire reputation amongst consumers for hiding behind badly implemented Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems, impersonal voice messages and irritating background music.

Used intelligently and appropriately, with intuitive options for customers who wish to opt out of the automation, such systems can deliver excellent service for the majority of mid-market brands. However, such impersonal automation may cause irreparable harm for premium brands, by trading a high-value impression of exclusivity for the reality of a mass market service solution.

Every phone call, every email, into the contact centre is an opportunity, and human interaction is our "product". The passion customers feel for premium products and brands must be reflected and expressed in every conversation they have with the organisation. By its very nature, passion demands a very human approach, to connect with the end customer and initiate a genuine dialogue. It's all about sharing enthusiasm for the brand and welcoming the opportunity to speak freely. It's personal, unpredictable and infinitely variable.

Throw Away The Script
Clearly, automated technology systems have a strong role to play in ensuring companies deliver prompt, cost-effective service to the many thousands of customers across the UK. But use them wisely. Before switching on the IVR, ask what your customers expect when your company answers their call or email. Then, ask yourself the price of getting this wrong.

One survey has discovered that frustrated callers are increasingly using dirty tactics to give companies behind the automated systems a taste of their own medicine, and minimise the time they spend talking to a computer by calling the sales number or head office, for example, to jump the queue and speak to a real person. Such is the proliferation of these systems, that we've all been keep waiting on the end of the line at some point in the past few weeks.

Imagine the response from your premium customers if your business were to pick up the phone personally to each customer within 15 seconds – or in some instances, on the first ring? Then, go on to involve them in a genuine conversation.

At no time should premium brand customers feel they have stepped onto the set of Stepford Wives, full of artificial conversations and facades of optimism. The dialogue should flow naturally, be spontaneous and move at the pace dictated by the customer. Service employees need to be attentive, friendly and engaging. What IVR system can deliver that? For premium brands which value passion and invest in brand loyalty, the human touch is priceless.

To achieve it, you need to throw away the script – literally. There is no template for spontaneous conversation. Every incoming contact must be addressed swiftly and personally by a real person with the freedom to engage in a genuine conversation.

This unscripted approach requires the contact centre team to remove any pressures to limit call duration. Traditionally a measure of efficiency, time is irrelevant in this scenario – it is the content of the conversation which counts, and the conversation only ends when the customer is satisfied. Customers passionate about their brands want to express how much they love the products, when they first bought them, and to whom they have recommended them… and it pays to listen, and learn. Think of it as an investment in one of your most valuable business assets: your brand.

Customers who take the trouble to contact a call centre invariably have something on their minds. Human interaction enables the brand to get to the heart of any problems and identify the real cause. This not only resolves the customer query, but also enables the call centre employee to feed back specific product intelligence. The brand managers can then take action as necessary to solve any underlying problems which may impact other customers.

Where's The Payback?
The human approach is not for the faint hearted. It requires intense forward planning, comprehensive training, discipline and humour – as well as a great deal of trust in the call centre workforce, which is particularly important when the premium brand chooses to outsource its customer service facility to a third party.

If that sounds daunting and expensive, think again. We've proven time and again that a team of well-trained, motivated customer service professionals can compete effectively against the anecdotal benefits of automated technology, in the ways which really matter.

Premium-level service is all about generating long-term loyalty to the brand, and securing future sales. Customers who buy into the brand culture wholeheartedly are far more likely to recommend the brand to others, and purchase new products from the brand in future. Customer service becomes an acquisition marketing tool, and in this respect, it can be significantly more cost effective to spark word-of-mouth recommendations than launch a customer acquisition campaign from scratch. In the words of one delighted customer of Brabantia, which provides quality household products: "We bought your product because of your reputation for quality, but still we did not expect such excellent customer service. The problem was dealt with promptly, with no messing about and all by email. This is such a contrast to most organisations that I deal with. We will definitely be heavily biased towards purchasing your products in future." Another satisfied customer writes: "I just wanted to thank your customer services team for being the best I have ever encountered… I will always recommend Brabantia bins to all my friends and colleagues." These are just two of the many positive emails received by Brabantia every week.

The benefits of increased staff retention are also worth considering. Repetition is a key driver in the high turnover rate of staff in contact centres, and the average churn rate in our industry is a whopping 25-30%. This figure can drop as low as five per cent when you empower employees to encourage dialogues with customers. Giving employees the opportunity to participate, multitask, and make decisions makes their roles infinitely more challenging and interesting. The more rewarding you make the job, the greater chance you have of motivating staff and reducing churn. As a consequence, your employees become more knowledgeable and your workforce more skilled, giving you the opportunity to further increase the quality of the service you provide to customers – not to mention reduce your recruitment costs.

Defining Premium Service
What is an excellent customer experience? Start by asking the people who really matter: your customers. Each brand is unique, and understanding the expectations of niche customer groups will help you to set realistic benchmarks against which to measure your service.

It is also worth experimenting a little. Although your premium brand customers may tell you they wish to speak to someone immediately, in practice it may be the option of speaking to a real person which matters most. In certain circumstances, simple queries may be handled via automation for those customers who are happy to progress down this route. For others, there is an immediate opt out, and the chance to speak to a real person within seconds.

Prompt email responses are equally important. A survey by Transversal found that 44 per cent of companies failed to respond to customer questions escalated by email, and those which did respond took an average of 33 hours to reply. A mere 16 per cent of companies could only answer five or more questions successfully, from a total of 10 questions. Premium brand customers expect far higher levels of responsiveness and feedback.

Be ambitious with your service targets. For premium brand customers, long-term satisfaction is far more relevant that short-sighted measures of time-based efficiency.

  • Welcome The Caller Promptly. It is possible for a real person to answer each incoming call after a single ring, and consistently within the first 15 seconds. It takes forward planning to ensure the team is appropriately resourced, particularly at peak times.
     

  • Answer Each Incoming Email Within One Working Day. Premium brand consumers will not tolerate unreasonable delays with electronic media, and will expect a comprehensive response to their query. Ensure call centre staff are trained to respond equally well in both telephone, email and web queries, to make efficient use of their knowledge and experience.
     

  • Get It Right First Time. Aim to resolve the vast majority (80%) of queries within a single phone call or email exchange. Again, effective forward planning and training will ensure employees have the right information to hand to anticipate any questions and speak knowledgeably and passionately. Empower them to make decisions on the spot – knowledge is only powerful when you have the freedom to put it to good use.
     

  • Deliver Your Promises On Time, Every Time. If you tell a customer to expect a second call, or an item in the post, ensure the processes are in place to make this happen. This is where advanced technology systems can really come into their own in the background, enabling seamless integration of the front-line customer service function with the brand, product and sales managers on a global scale.
     

  • Create Brand Ambassadors. Ultimately, each customer who makes contact with your customer service team – whatever the circumstance – should become an undisputed brand loyalist. If the customer service experience is memorable, they will recommend the premium brand to friends, family and colleagues.

Measuring Success
In this very personal environment of human interaction, only one measure really matters – the customer's opinion.

As the measure of success for premium brand customers is genuine satisfaction, not internal efficiency, traditional time-focused evaluations which focus on call duration become irrelevant.

Instead, the subjective opinions of customers take centre stage. If you really want to know something about your customers' experience, there is no technical substitute for regular and objective customer satisfaction surveys.

When asking customers for their opinions, you can be sure they will be exceptionally frank! If they have any issues, they will express them unreservedly. And if they are satisfied, they will recommend you to their friends, colleagues and family. You also have the benefit of gaining primary information, rather than secondary measures which may be open to interpretation.

In parallel, the objective analysis of the effectiveness of the tasks which contribute to customer satisfaction can provide the insight needed to ensure continuous service improvement. These could include:

  • Number of queries resolved in the first call
     

  • Number of queries relating to a similar product-related issue
     

  • Time taken to answer each incoming call and email
     

  • Speed of response/delivery within the internal team, from the moment the contact centre staff member made a promise to the customer, to when the information/item was dispatched
     

  • Direct customer feedback – spontaneous and requested via feedback surveys – and the percentage of customers who confirm they would purchase products from the brand in future, and recommend the brand to others.
     

  • The degree to which premium brand customers are keen to opt in to the marketing database is also an exceptionally good indicator of their trust in and affinity for the brand, and eagerness to continue the dialogue. Contact centres are well placed to ask at the end of each incoming call whether customers are happy for the brand to retain and use their personal details.

Customer satisfaction surveys provide the honest and candid feedback necessary for the premium brand to retain its full credibility in the eyes of the consumer.

It is fair to say that measuring human interaction can be more time consuming than more automated technologies, which deliver comforting spreadsheets and statistics for analysis. It requires unreserved attention, greater effort, and understanding. You need to listen, not watch the clock.

But the approach is well worth the effort in the longer term. A contact centre can demonstrate to its clients that the service it provides as an outsource partner is delivering tangible value. For the premium brand, genuine human interaction, backed by comprehensive satisfaction surveys, delivers confirmation of the value of the premium brand, and its contribution to the bottom line.


About BOSCH:
Company LogoBosch Communication Center is a customer service specialist, providing tailor-made outsourcing solutions for companies. From telecommunications resellers to manufacturers of household products, Bosch Communication Center offers its specialist support and consultancy services to a wide range of customers, leaving them free to concentrate on their core businesses.
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Today's Tip of the Day - Speech Recognition

Read today's tip or listen to it on podcast.

Published: Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Printer Friendly Version Printer friendly version

2022 Buyers Guide Workforce Management

 
1.) 
Alvaria

Alvaria Workforce
Alvaria Workforce (formerly Aspect Workforce Management) is a high-performance contact center software solution that provides the forecasting, planning, scheduling, employee self-service and real-time agent tracking to ensure that all agents and supervisors are productive, engaged in their work and delivering an exceptional customer experience.

2.) 
Alvaria

Noble ShiftTrack WFM
Maximize the efficiency of your contact center and meet/exceed customer expectations with workforce engagement tools that help you accurately forecast workloads, match the right resources to your needs and keep agents motivated. More than just scheduling agents and tracking shifts, Noble’s ShiftTrack WEM solutions optimize labor costs, manage capacity more effectively and improve service levels.

3.) 
Calabrio

Calabrio ONE
Calabrio ONE offers contact centres the complete toolset to unlock the tremendous value buried within customer interaction data and use it to transform the entire business. One seamless solution combines a fully integrated workforce optimization suite with powerful voice-of-the-customer analytics tools deployed—in the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid environment.

Capture every customer interaction across all channels. Extract predictive and prescriptive insights. Elevate customer experiences, improve employee engagement and increase operational efficiency. Then, extend customer-centric strategies across the business to accelerate sales, drive innovation and move your business forward.

4.) 
eGain Corporation

eGain Solve
Rated #1 by analysts and trusted by some of the biggest brands in the world, eGain Solve helps businesses design and deliver smart, connected customer journeys across social, mobile, web, and contact centers. You can sell smarter, serve better, and know more.

5.) 
Eleveo

Eleveo WFM
Eleveo WFM was designed to simplify scheduling, forecasting and adherence for commercial contact centers with 500 agents or less. The product is easy to use for supervisors who are not WFM experts, but provides value for scheduling, shift changes, schedule adherence and supports multi-channel and multi-skill requirements. Eleveo WFM was built using open source, cloud technologies but can be installed on premise, in a hybrid environment or hosted for you in AWS.

6.) 
ethosIQ, LLC

BPO Optimizer
ethosIQ’s Business Process Outsourcer (BPO) Optimizer allows clients to manage their vendor contact center resources without requiring manual intervention through our manufacture-agnostic data collector processes. ethosIQ collects schedule and exception data, based on your desired parameters. Collection of data is transparent and doesn’t require intervention from either you or your vendor resource. You know your needs, and now you can manage those needs effectively, efficiently and effortlessly, using ethosIQ’s BPO Optimizer!

7.) 
Lieber & Associates

Technology Consulting Services
Lieber & Associates provides consulting services to select, contract for, test, implement, and optimize workforce management systems. It's technology consultants have worked with all major systems and many smaller ones. Counsel is informed by several decades of WFM experience.

8.) 
MFE International

Agyletime Cloud Workforce Management
Agyletime is an enterprise grade true Cloud WFM and t is channel agnostic .
Its ease to Use , easier onboarding, forecasting and better scheduling.
You can integrate to CRMs such as SFDC, Zendesk, ServiceNow and others and to telephony systems such as AVAYA, CISCO, Genesys and other cloud telephony systems ; to independent Chat systems to aggregate data for WFM omnichannel forecasting, scheduling, optimisation and reporting.

9.) 
OpsTel Services

SPEED & PLUS
The SPEED solution solves for service level issues while cost optimizing the environment with automation.

Provides an enhanced way to speed up & optimize invoking temporary agent skills configuration changes into the contact center environment.

Speed allows you to schedule both future changes & temporary changes that auto-revert back to the original state when scheduled time expires.

Speed features:

*Automated / Scheduled Temporary Agent Skills Configuration Management
*Immediate Temporary or Reoccurring Schedule Skills Configuration Changes
*Easy to Use/Operations Administration Focused
*Descriptive Monitoring Activity Dashboard
*Detailed “End to End’ Audit Trail and Perfor...
(read more)

10.) Phonestat

Phonestat
Track staff performance, capture meaningful feedback and deliver quality customer experiences using Phonestat. Our cloud based solution allows you to create simple scorecards to provide instant feedback and training to your staff.

There are powerful integrations to source interactions from anywhere and an open API to allow you to build your own.

11.) 
Vads

VADS Workforce Management
VADS Workforme Magaement is a smart tools that gives connectivity to the workers while working remotely. An intelligent workforce management system that aims to improve operation efficiency with the end goal to provide first.

12.) 
QPC Ltd.

QPC WFM - Calabrio/Teleopti Specialism
QPC has a long and successful history of delivering tried and tested innovative workforce management systems, and the training and consultancy needed to ensure organisations can leverage the customer service and operational efficiency benefits workforce management principles and automated workforce management systems can deliver.

13.) 
Simucall limited

Assessment of Contact centre job applicants
Pay As You Go remote assessment tool for contact centre job applicants.

NO set up or registration fee and NO minimum use contract

Assess your applicants ability to listen to a caller, recognise the important pieces of information and record them into a logging system swiftly and accurately under pressure.

Full management dashboard

Pay per completed assessment (no charge if abandoned or not taken by the deadline you set)

Choice of assessment environments - including Insurance claims, Financial transactions, Emergency service calls, Utility defect report and IT Helpdesk

Variety of UK accents used by callers (of different ages and genders)

You retain control of all communication with the applicants
 

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