Challenge Solved! An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
Thank you to our reader who submitted our question this month, reminding us how a small behavior can have a big effect on contact center performance, and how sometimes the effect can be disastrous. In this Challenge Solved column you’ll better understand how your reps can unknowingly destroy customer satisfaction and how you can easily prevent it. Here’s some more good advice from Dina Vance, Senior Vice President for Ulysses Learning.
Have your question answered in an upcoming Challenge Solved advice column! Email your question to: ChallengeSolved@ulysseslearning.com
Q: I audited one call in particular the other day and wanted to get some advice on how to handle the associate’s behavior. (I’ve heard other customer service associates behave similarly from time to time and it drives me up the wall!) Here’s what happened: A customer just shared an issue with our associate regarding her displeasure with a communication she received from our billing department. The associate replied “Sorry to hear it” in a manner that sounded anything but sorry. To the contrary, the associate sounded really aggravated that she had to hear the customer issue in the first place. How would you address (and remedy) this behavior?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
A: I think you are very wise to raise the red flag here. This subtle but destructive behavior could be keeping your contact center from earning top customer reviews. Let me share a few recommendations with you, including a fairly simple way to nip the behavior in the bud and turn it around.
Think about it. We provide our contact center associates with exceptional training. We give them the words to say to create stellar customer experiences. But saying the words isn’t enough, associates have to demonstrate the emotional intelligence, the good judgment to say those words in a way that will produce a positive result.
Here are three tips to consider:
1) Help your associates become more self-aware. Facilitate a group discussion around this topic and have your team members come up with a catch phrase that they can use with each other and you can use with them when they hear someone saying something in a way that doesn’t sound believable. For years, my family would say to one another “Say it like you mean it and make me feel it.” It’s a simple phrase, but really works to help someone understand the impact of their words. I’ve used it when my son and daughter were squabbling and I would ask one of them to apologize to their sibling. If the apology sounded insincere, I’d say “Say it like you mean it and make me feel it.” And I asked them to apologize again. This technique can help people raise their own self-awareness and put a little distance between the emotion they’re feeling and their response, which is another benefit.
2) Help associates better internalize customer issues. You can also help associates boost their self-awareness by encouraging them to internalize what the customer was trying to share with them in the first place. Ask your associates to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. Ask them to reflect back on a time when they may have experienced something similar. Let them tell you their experiences. Then, share with your associates that an easy way to connect with the customer is to be an active listener and acknowledge what the customer is saying by using their words AND voice tone to convey understanding.
3) Help associates put some “spice” into their conversations. At Ulysses, we provide our clients with plenty of training around the components of voice tone to ensure the words that associates use have the greatest and most positive impact on customers. One acronym we share in our training is SPICES. For example, the “S” stands for Smile. And, specifically, it reminds associates to put a smile into their voice which customers can hear. “P” is for pace and is an excellent reminder for associates to speak so that customers can comprehend what they’re saying. Speaking too quickly can convey to customers that associates don’t care or think that customers (and their issues) matter to your company. “I” is for Inflection. Voice inflection can drastically change the meaning of words. When you use a different voice pitch or tone, a message can have either a positive or negative effect. (Ulysses clients are encouraged to visit the Client Zone for additional examples and a refresher on all the SPICES.)
Next time you hear an associate say something in a way that doesn’t support the desired customer experience outcome tell them to: Say it like you mean it AND make me (and the customer) feel it!
More on this month’s featured expert…
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
Dina Vance, is a widely-respected thought leader on developing and leading contact center customer service, sales and coaching staff, and a pioneer in optimizing contact center performance through a focus on results, people and process.
In her current capacity with Ulysses Learning, Dina is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company and also serves as the chief client relationship executive, working with Fortune 100 clients and other progressive organizations to redefine the way customers are cared for. Under her leadership, Ulysses has become well known for its work in transforming customer service, sales and coaching cultures through the development of emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently and expertly applied on every call. The company has special expertise in serving the insurance, utilities and financial services industries.
Before joining Ulysses in 1999, Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers which led to her accepting a role as call center lead consultant and division manager for an international bank training organization.
Dina can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit www.ulysseslearning.com.
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Challenge Solved! is sponsored by:
UlyssesLearning was founded in 1995 as a joint venture with Northwestern University’s Learning Sciences department and continues to bring clients new, innovative enhancements to its industry-leading training. Contact centers achieve profound business results, ahead of schedule, with Ulysses Learnings’ artful blend of patented simulation-based e-learning, facilitated exercises, coaching, and tools, that redefine the way customers are cared for and transform customer service, sales, and coaching cultures. Ulysses has the only training proven to build emotional intelligence or “EQ” so that Judgment@WorkTM can be confidently, consistently, and expertly applied on every call.
Ulysses Learning is a multi-year recipient of the Gold Stevie© Award for best contact center customer service training.
Begin your contact center transformation now. Phone 800-662-4066 or visit www.ulysseslearning.com to get started.