An Advice Column for Contact Center Managers
At the heart of most customer service training programs, is a series of steps or strategies to create and ensure an organization’s ideal customer experience. But what happens when your reps are trained in how to use customer service steps and then don’t use them consistently on the job? This is an issue that has been confounding contact center executives for about as long as they’ve been implementing customer service initiatives. For a fascinating take on this mission-critical and pervasive issue, we turn to Dina Vance for her inside view in our current Challenge Solved. Dina serves as Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations at Ulysses Learning. Dina 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.
Have your question answered in an upcoming Challenge Solved advice column! Email your question to: ChallengeSolved@ulysseslearning.com
Q: Last year we invested in training to give reps a customer service strategy to guide all their calls. They started off strong but are now complaining that they don’t want to follow all the steps. Our center’s performance is back sliding and I think it’s because we’re not following the training as it was designed. Any recommendations?
Our featured expert for this month’s question is:
Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
A: First of all, this is one of my most favorite questions to answer as it’s been the focus of my work for over two decades. To help answer your question, let me first share with you a funny (yet profound) story about my recent visit to the ophthalmologist. It is directly related to the issue you describe.
I went to the eye doctor recently to get my prescription checked. My eyes had been getting easily fatigued, especially when I was reading smaller print, so I thought it wise to make an appointment. I wasn’t too surprised when my ophthalmologist told me I needed new glasses. But I was flat out astonished when he told me I needed to wear them all the time. So, I asked him “Do I really have to wear these glasses all the time?” To which he “flipped the script” and replied, “Do you really want to see all the time?”
At first, I had a good laugh at his expertly timed comment. But then it hit me. I had a new, and unwanted, habit to learn if I wanted to achieve a desired result—improved vision and less eye fatigue.
Later in the day, it occurred to me that my experience is the perfect analogy for our contact center reps when they receive new training, especially training that features prescribed steps for reps to follow. A common question asked by reps after training is this: “Do I really need to use all the steps all the time?” And the answer is “Absolutely YES, if you really want deliver the desired customer experience on every call.” It’s like your contact center’s “prescription” for 20/20 vision!
Yet we all know there are reps who still resist using all the steps in your training no matter what you do to build a compelling “what’s in it for them” and business case. While the reasons may vary from rep to rep, the two most common resistance categories are: 1) they perceive the steps in your customer service strategy to be inconvenient; and/or 2) they perceive the steps to be unnecessary.
Let’s explore these two reasons for resistance further.
Your reps may perceive using the steps in your customer service training as inconvenient. How many of your reps came to you before you implemented your customer service training to ask you for specific steps to follow to ensure an excellent customer experience? Probably not many. Imagine how they felt after learning all the new steps, as well as supporting techniques and tools. Overwhelmed? Perhaps. Inconvenienced? Most likely, especially if they didn’t see the need to learn new habits to begin with.
The strategies may be perceived by reps as a hassle—like flossing teeth. And just like flossing teeth, even though we know it’s good for our overall health and a fabulous habit if we want to keep our pearly whites securely in our mouths, some will resist flossing because they view it as an inconvenience. Which brings me to the second common (and closely related) reason reps may resist customer service training…
Your reps may perceive the steps, or some of the steps, in your customer service strategy as unnecessary. Yet, if your organization is like most, you didn’t invest in training that was unneeded! You had specific business objectives that drove your decision.
Plus, many of you may have selected your customer service approach because you know it has been validated to produce the results your center wanted to target. For example, Ulysses Learning’s ServiceMentor customer service training was developed based on empirical research completed by world-renowned behavioral scientists over three phases of exhaustive testing and analysis. The first phase featured focus groups with 4,000 customers of best-in-class contact centers in insurance, telecommunication, financial services, and energy industries to understand what behaviors created an optimal customer experience. In the second phase, our scientists tested 13 call strategies or “steps” in over 70,000 calls. (Fun fact: Our scientists learned that customers found only 8 of the steps to positively impact customer experience, the 8 we now use.) Then, once the 8 steps were selected, Ulysses scientists validated the 8 steps used in The Call Strategy with another 70,000 calls. Each discrete step elicited the predicted responses at least 96% of the time, with two steps eliciting predicted responses 98% of the time. These are necessary steps, indeed!
The moral of the story is this: The key to perfect “20/20 vision” is to overcome rep resistance through communication and education. The next time reps ask you if they really need to follow all the steps in your customer service strategy, do exactly what my doctor did when I asked a similar question, flip the script! To flip the script, ask your reps “Why wouldn’t you use all the strategies on every call?”
Even more importantly, instead of reps thinking about the strategies as a checklist, show them how to think about the intent and impact of the strategies on your desired customer experience and other contact center results. Flip the script!
More on this month’s featured expert…
Dina Vance, Senior Vice President, Managing Director of North American Operations
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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