An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
For this Challenge Solved we posed our own question to our fearless leader, Dina Vance, Senior Vice President for Ulysses Learning, to get her reaction to a new Customer Experience (CX) research study . The study, sponsored by our friends at Verizon and conducted by Longitude—a Financial Times company—features insights from industry experts along with over 6,000 consumers from various age groups (18-65 years) and regions (Asia Pacific, Europe and Canada/U.S.) who shared what they view as important when starting and maintaining a relationship with a business.
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Q: What can we learn from the recent Verizon-sponsored research study on Customer Experience (CX)?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
A: For me, the key takeaway from this study is best summarized by Gordon Littley, Managing Director of Verizon’s Global CX Practice: “Technology innovation can help brands (businesses) stand out, but customer service basics remain vital—the best relationships will be built on mutual trust and simplicity.” That statement packs a punch.
Here’s another survey point I thought you’d appreciate: While 42 percent of the consumers surveyed want the option of using new technologies, 54 percent listed live telephone conversations as a preferred communication channel. This was stressed across all age ranges.
Clearly, creating CX experiences built on mutual trust and simplicity is at the heart of all we do at Ulysses Learning to help our clients achieve their business results. In addition, this research prompted me to look even more critically at what contact centers can do right now to optimize CX in a business environment that is becoming increasingly complex.
Here are some ideas to consider:
Make sure your supervisors support your CX strategies through their actions. I think we can all agree that a key (and longtime) CX strategy in contact centers is First Call Resolution (FCR). While customers may have their issues resolved on the first call, oftentimes, to prevent issues from re-occurring, there is additional post-call work required of your reps. If your supervisors are giving reps the time in their workday to complete post-call work, give yourself a hearty pat on the back. If not, here’s your opportunity to strengthen your CX. Find a way to provide reps time in their workdays to make calls to other departments, forward necessary information to customers and colleagues, follow-up on email instructions, or whatever is most needed, to ensure that what they promise your customers is, in fact, completed with accuracy and in a timely manner. It’s not enough for supervisors to instruct reps to send emails “with a wish and a prayer” that they’ll be acted upon. Allowing for follow-up is a small but mighty act that increases customer and employee satisfaction.
Get your reps involved in CX technology investment decisions. Admittedly, I am enamored by new CX technologies. It’s easy to get swept away with the sexiness of the applications and promises made by vendors to dramatically improve CX. What I have found is that contact center executives who seek involvement from frontline reps early on in the decision-making process make better purchasing choices for all, have more successful implementations with shorter ramp-up times, and experience better CX outcomes. The reason is simple. Your reps are in the perfect position to tell you how the CX technology will impact your customers and what you can do to sidestep potholes. A good example is the new “whisper mode” technology which allows reps to whisper into their headsets while customers are talking (without customers hearing them), to help activate or bring up the data and computer screens needed to handle customers’ inquiries. While this technology can be an effective tool to efficiently resolve customer issue, the challenge often is that reps are multi-tasking during the call and not listening with intent to customers. Reps are put in a position where they have to figure out what is needed in advance of hearing the complete issue, and they have to speak (whisper) over customers. Both these actions seldom result in clear communications, risking reductions in FCR as well as increases in call times because customers may need to repeat describing their issues. Again, by getting reps involved in the process of investigating new CX technology applications, you’ll be in a better position to make the call on whether or not the technology is right for your center and what you can do in advance to minimize implementation hiccups.
Make sure supervisors and reps understand their real impact on CX. Here’s a quick way to strength your CX efforts and raise customer satisfaction. Plus, it’s one of the simplest, lowest-cost fixes around. 1) Ask your reps why they think you survey customers. 2) Listen closely to what they say. Most reps will tell you customers are surveyed because the company wants to make sure reps give the right information and/or provide excellent customer service. 3) Remind reps that you survey customers because, ultimately, you want customers to feel cared for. Once reps wrap their heads around this truth behind the most pressing reason for your surveying, it shifts their attitude about surveying and general approach to calls, and it translates into higher levels of customer and employee sat.
Remind reps to engender trust with their word choice. If you’ve listened in on a call and heard any of these phrases from your reps, I have a quick tweak for you to share with them that, when implemented, will instantly strengthen CX. If after customers describe their issues your reps are saying things such as “It looks like it could… “Maybe it is…” or “If I’m reading this right…” they are not building trust with your customers. On the contrary, your reps unknowingly are choosing words that give the impression that they lack an understanding of their responsibilities or the ability to perform them well. And in most cases that is far from the truth! When reps say “Let me research that for you…” “I’m investigating that for you now…” “Here are the details…” the CX experience shifts. Reps sound more confident and empowered, and customers feel like they made a good choice to do business with your company.
Simplify your CX messaging. The messages or value statements you share with reps to describe your desired CX experience need to be brief and meaningful. If you have a weighty description overloaded with multiple attributes of the perfect customer experience you want your reps to create, force yourself to simplify that further. Get to the very essence of how you want customers to feel. Last week I visited a client who said “we want our customers to feel like it’s easy to do business with us.” This single statement is not only simple and direct, it can easily be acted upon by your reps. Plus, the actions reps can take to create such an experience fall nicely under that main message. For example, to be “easy to do business with” means reps make sure customers aren’t left on hold for long, are provided correct answers without having to jump through hoops, and are treated kindly.
For a full recap of the survey results, here’s a quick link. And if you want to discuss any of the ideas I’ve shared with you, please do! I’d love to hear from you.
More on this month’s featured expert…
Dina Vance, 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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