Challenge Solved! - An Advice Column For Contact Center Managers
Submitted by Ulysses Learning
December 1, 2019
An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
As contact center executives, we’re acutely aware of the need to achieve a return on investment (ROI) for every initiative we implement. But what about complex initiatives that aim to improve customer experience and customer satisfaction through first call resolution and conceirge-style best practices, among other multi-faceted strategies. What kind of ROI can you expect? That’s exactly what our reader who submitted this month’s question wants to know. And to help answer this question, we’re lucky to once again feature the insights of longtime contact center thought leader and consultant, Dina Vance, Senior Vice President for Ulysses Learning.
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Q: What can I expect as a return on investment with soft skills training?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Dina Vance, Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
A: Soft skills training is certainly experiencing a resurgence as more companies are seeking to develop their team members’ people skills or “street smarts” as a way to improve the profitability of their business and differentiate themselves from their competition. But assessing soft skills training can be quite vexing because it’s not typically measured in a singular or specifically quantifiable way. Nevertheless, training programs that develop these social abilities are widely recognized by most organizations as a “must have” for the company’s overall success.
Now, back to your question, what kind of ROI can your company expect? Of course, it will depend on the particular set of soft skills your company seeks to develop, as each soft skill training program will vary from the next. Having said that, I can share with you results reported by some of our Ulysses Learning clients as a guide to help you measure the impact in your own organization. In our programs we develop what we refer to as “Judgment@Work” which includes all of these soft skills: attitude; communication (listening and speaking skills); conflict resolution and problem solving; critical thinking; decision making; empathy; leadership; teamwork, time management, among many others. If you’re implementing a similar program, here’s the type of ROI you can expect.
Lift in FCR. Typically, if your FCR scores are trending in the 50s and low 60s, a year after training implementation (as long as your program has a strong and ongoing coaching component) you may see FCR scores that range consistently in the mid and high 70s. For centers that are already performing well with pre-training FCR scores in the mid 70s, expect post-training scores in the low 80s within six months. Most of our clients experience an initial gain in FCR of at least 3% in the first few months. A large health insurance client of ours averaged 76% within their first year after training and coaching implementation (up from an average annual FCR score of 69%); in the second year FCR went up to 79% and they are now consistently over 80% and are among their company’s top contact centers in the nation. Another longtime client started with an FCR target of 74%. After launching their training program in the spring, they ended the year with a score of 81%, earning top billing on their organization’s leader board. Several years later this client continues to achieve its FCR target even though they just came off a year that brought the excitement and challenges of working with over 50 new team members due largely to representative promotions and company growth.
Decrease in call volumes with strong quality scores. Expect call volumes to consistently decrease beginning as soon as the first month after training. The need for repeat calls will noticeably go down and you will begin to see strong quality scores. To illustrate this, another client of ours had a quality goal of 85%. A year after implementing our ServiceMentor and CoachingMentor programs, more than 80% of the company’s customer service agents, across all areas and in multiple centers, achieved quality scores of 93% or higher.
Boosts in customer satisfaction. Again, depending on your baseline measurement of customer satisfaction, you will most likely experience an improvement in customer sat scores by at least 4% within 7 months after training. We’re currently working with a multi-contact center operation that experienced a remarkable lift in customer satisfaction—from a monthly average of 78% in 2018 to 91% at the close of last month. This is a very complex customer service operation and representatives often work with clients who are emotionally charged, so the lift in customer satisfaction has had an incredible impact on employee morale as well. Furthermore, as your agents resolve issues on more first calls, providing accurate information and a level of service that is alignment with your customer experience, you will not only see lifts in customer satisfaction scores, you will most likely begin to hear about it. It’s common for our clients’ customers to be delighted and they are quite vocal about their satisfaction. Customers will make a point to let representatives and managers all the way up to the CEO, know how they feel about their experience. Our clients report that representatives receive cookies, flowers and thank you notes from customers. Reps are recognized on corporate online systems for all employees to see. The positive communications across all levels of the organization is part of the company culture and the excitement it creates is infectious among employees and customers.
Decrease in customer attrition due to “green” reps. With the right soft skills training program, expect to go from a situation where when someone came out of training it was painfully obvious to customers that they were interacting with a new CSR, to a situation where your customers didn’t know the difference between someone who had walked out of training yesterday and somebody who had been doing the job for years. This is a feedback point we receive regularly and given that contact centers can have a higher turnover rate than other businesses, having a consistent level of professionalism has a direct and positive impact on customer retention, as well as satisfaction.
Reduction in representative turnover. Beyond seeing improvements in performance metrics from training and ongoing coaching, expect to see numerous improvements in the behaviors of your representatives and their overall satisfaction with their role in your organization. For example, our clients frequently report that the Ulysses Call Strategy (a major focus of our training) gives their representatives a clear view of how each call should unfold. Reps behave in a more controlled and confident manner, knowing that if a call begins to escalate, they have the insights, techniques and tools to say the right things and bring the call to a successful conclusion no matter what type of call comes their way. Having a call flow representatives’ can rely upon and refer to when needed, is frequently noted in employee satisfaction surveys as being important to representatives, giving them confidence as they raise their professionalism and take their customer service skills to the next level.
Other pleasant surprises. Your situation or environment may bring you additional ROI benefits. For example, over a three-year period we worked with an organization that experienced unusually high growth in its client membership base – upwards of 30%. They told us that the soft-skill training and ongoing coaching provided by Ulysses played a significant part in a cost-avoidance strategy that helped them grow to meet their members’ demand for services, while improving FCR and other efficiency measures. Most notable they accomplished this without large adds to staff. Though they had not anticipated this added benefit, they certainly were thrilled by its discovery!
While I recognize there may be other factors unique to your organization that will impact your soft skills training ROI, I do hope you found my answer helpful. Also, if you’d like to discuss this topic further, I’d be delighted to do so. And thank you for posing this important question.
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 email@example.com; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit www.ulysseslearning.com.
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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.
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