Driving customer satisfaction
A recent study in the US states that one out of every 25 jobs in the US is tied to a call center. That’s a staggering number. What is even more surprising is how many call centers do not adequately prepare and train their people for success. This is particularly true for customer support call centers.
Why it matters
While support personnel are typically not the highest paid people in a given company, they are often the most important in terms of keeping a company successful. No matter what your product or service, your goals are the same: find customers, keep customers, repeat. It’s that simple. It costs five to fifteen times as much to find a new customer as it does to keep one that you already have, depending on the industry. Given that fact, support centers should be geared toward those goals. Still, many companies measure things like calls closed per hour or length of time per call. We tend to measure what is easy to measure, not what drives the results we should be looking for. While we don’t want support people spending hours per call, the measure of success should be how satisfied a customer is, NOT how fast we get them off the phone or even how fast we resolve their issue. Human nature is that people do what you inspect, not what you expect. If you want to satisfy customers, make sure that is what support people are measured on and what their pay is based on. You will see greatly improved results when metrics are aligned with the results you desire.
So what are skills needed for success?
Most companies are efficient and making sure their support people get the product knowledge training they need and that is an important first step. Truly satisfying a customer goes way beyond product knowledge. There are two main areas where training is always needed, yet often undertrained.
Customer Satisfaction Skills
Many support technicians feel that their job is to fix problems, rather than satisfy customers. There is a great difference between the two. Customers can have their technical problem solved and not be happy campers. In fact, our research with customers show that people that have their issue resolved quickly and the call is closed quickly rate themselves as being satisfied customers only 18% of the time. Customers that get NONE of their problems resolved on the first call, but had great customer service skills used with them rate themselves as satisfied customer’s 90% of the time! The results are starkly different from each other. People want to be part of the solution, not treated like an issue that needs to go away quickly. The want respect, understanding, kindness, and possibly even a little education where appropriate. The goal when a customer calls in is NOT fixing the technical problem, it is making sure your customer is satisfied.
Problem Solving Skills
Even the best customer handling skills will not keep the wolves at bay forever. Eventually, the issue for which they called must be resolved as part of their customer experience. Problem solving is not just being bright and having strong technical skills. Good problem solvers are great at asking questions. Not just a lot of questions - the right questions. Most of the information gathered from a customer will not do anything to find the root cause of their problem. What’s more, the right questions often never get asked and support engineers are left with trial and error scenarios to solve the problem. Sometimes that can work, but often it can even make matters worse. Knowing how solve problems, especially tough ones, is a skill that can be learned. It is rooted in a process not just in content knowledge.
A winning combination
We have had great success with helping call centers become better at achieving their goal of satisfying customers by ensuring the right metrics are being measured and the right skills are being used with customers. And here’s the fun part - when a customer’s needs are met the right way, it does not take more time than other ways of handling calls. It often takes less. The difference is creating a supportive environment in the call center that encourages the right behaviors done at the right time. While a bit of discipline is necessary to get people up to speed with the proper skills, the results are well worth the effort.
About the Author
Barry Phillips is co-founder and partner in Tracy Learning, LLC. Tracy Learning is a leader in professional development training and consulting in areas including problem solving, leadership, customer service, creating an online marketing presence and much more. With over 25 years’ experience as an entrepreneur and business leader, Barry has expertise in business development, marketing, presentation skills and leadership. He is also a published author and corporate trainer and facilitator.
For more information on Barry go to: http://tracylearning.com/about-us-2/. For more information on Tracy Learning and its training and consulting offerings go to: http://tracylearning.com/.