Executive Interview : 2014 Americas Top Ranking Performer Annie Desautels, Desjardins Card Services Talks Contact Center Customer Service
The good, the bad and the ugly. ContactCenterWorld.com is in search of an update as to where the contact center industry is in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Who better than our members to seek out answers from people who have their thumb on the pulse of the industry and where it is today. Annie Desautels with Desjardins Card Services in Canada provides some insight.
In your opinion, do you believe the customer service you get today from other companies is better or worse than it was say 5 years ago?
Globally it has definitely improved in the last few years. The different channels that most companies have in place ensure that every customer’s communications needs are met. We can now reach companies by traditional phone line but to this method we have seen the emergence of emails, online chats, etc. Also, most companies have now a firmer grasp on what drives repeat business and loyalty and that is the service that the customer receives. Indeed, if you only focus on your product and services you will miss the boat since we are all in a competitive market where at the end of the day a customer can find the appropriate product they are looking for almost with any supplier.
Do you believe there is a correlation between the service you receive as a consumer and your loyalty to the supplier?
I would actually say that it is one of the most important aspects of what will determine my loyalty to a given company. If ever you are in need you expect to be able to reach out to knowledgeable and friendly staff that will take your issue or question seriously. If I feel that if this is the type of service that I’m receiving I’m more likely to keep doing business with the same company. Obviously, my loyalty will also be based on the consistency of the service that I’m receiving. Indeed, one good interaction with a company over several won’t be enough for me to decide to stick around.
In your opinion, which industry sectors provide great service and which ones are poor?
One of the industry sectors that often stand out in my mind is the hospitality sector. The service is usually very customer focused and they want to meet and exceed your needs. I would also mention the food industry and although there can be some bad experiences there is nothing like a perfect evening with a great service in a restaurant. When there is competition for the customer’s time and money we usually see an increase in the offer in terms of customer service interactions.
Hence, in my experience it's industry sectors that have some sort of monopoly and where the marketplace isn’t as competitive as other sectors that offer poor service. Mainly I’ve noticed this with governmental services and utility services.
Can you recall a really good experience recently - where you were WOW'd by the service you received?
Lately I was browsing the Web site of a company I do business with. I was looking at changing one of my packages and a pop-up window appeared and offered me to chat with an agent. I thought that by selecting it I wouldn’t be in touch with someone directly; that there would be some type of delay. Instead, I was directly in contact with someone, I appreciated the customer approach and the timeliness of the answers. We chatted back and forth and I decided in the end to keep the same package but I was given pertinent and additional information that wasn’t readily available on the Web page.
Talking about bad experiences, where do companies go wrong with the service they provide?
In my experience, companies go wrong when they ask their staff to sell at all costs. The customers never feel valued in these environments and feel like the bottom line is more important to the company than the actual customer’s need. Also, I feel that companies that spend too much time with scripted response do not understand how to make the customer feel valued. There is nothing worse than feeling that you are having a discussion with a robot.
Have you noticed any differences in service from people from different cultures?
This has been a subject in the industry with some companies due to some off-shore subcontracting in some cases. However, a lot of companies including ours believe that anybody from any culture is welcome to come and add their distinctiveness to our customer service offer. Let’s not forget that our customers are also from different backgrounds and cultures and its fantastic when a customer service representative can speak another language that is not part of our official offer with a customer who speaks the same language. Personally, I haven’t noticed any clear trends and I feel that it’s the company’s philosophy that drives the experience that will be provided regardless of the agent’s culture or background.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding the use of technology in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
I believe that companies shouldn’t hesitate in embracing social media on their corporate Web site or some dedicated pages. Indeed, the best way to get raw and real feedback is if you open yourself to these platforms. It’s a new way of distributing information and also understanding your customer’s needs or even people that aren’t your customers but that have an opinion regardless if you feel it’s valid or not about the company in itself.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding staff in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
Give your staff more leeway and focus your attention on the quality of the service versus classic call center core metrics. Your staff will feel more empowered to suggest and provide change if they feel less confided in a role that strictly rewards quantitative achievements.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding business processes in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
Active listening is the key. Instead on focusing on what you can sell to your clients, think about what your client would really need in order to keep doing business with you. It’s about being proactive, asking the right questions making sure that the customer is getting everything he or she can from your company without imposing.
In your opinion, how should contact centers measure the level of service they give?
It’s always a good idea to survey your customer’s experience. However, it’s even better if your own management team follows up with the customer’s directly. Find your moment of truth, what defines the core element of doing business with your company? Once you have put your finger on it, survey your customers right after they completed this business process with you. Ask them what they enjoyed, what could have been improved. Then provide the feedback directly and in a timely manner to your staff our internal stakeholders.
Lastly, can you share with us one of the worst customer service experiences you have experienced recently (do not mention company names just industry type).
It was an experience with a scripted customer service offer. Instead of paying attention to what I required, the person kept repeating the same elements as part of a script. This combined with the classic issue of being transferred several times didn’t fill me with a desire to contact them again. In the end these companies make you feel like online self-service is the only way to get any kind of satisfaction.
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