Lori Fraser, Senior Consultant, Strategic Contact, [email protected]
the paper, look at webinar offerings, or talk to anyone in your
industry and it’s obvious that customer experience continues to be a
focus as companies fight for reputation, market share, and revenue
gains. With all that attention, you’d assume we would see some positive
improvements, right? So why are there just as many examples of
frustrated customers jumping ship due to negative experiences or lack
of consideration for the customer’s real needs?
Here’s my list of the top 10 ways to improve the customer experience by
properly leveraging the contact center’s Voice of the Customer (VoC)
program and the insights it can provide.
1. Check alignment with strategy. Each
budget cycle, the contact center needs to ensure that its major
initiatives support the business strategy. Take time to revisit the VoC
program and how it supports your expectations for service excellence.
Don’t simply say: “It was fine last year; no change needed this year.”
2. Get clear on what you want to measure.
There’s not much point in soliciting customer feedback unless it
triggers some kind of action or insight at the agent, center, or
company level. Ask yourself: What information would be truly meaningful
to the front line, support services, and management? What would help
the center – and agents – get better or stay on the top of their game?
3. Ask for specifics.
Include an open ended question to allow customers to share their
insight. There’s no better way to capture what you should keep doing
and what needs to be changed.
4. Make the survey relatively low effort and easy to use. Take
a fresh look at your survey approach, content, and design. Have you
narrowed the field of inquiry to no more than 5-7 questions? Does your
survey methodology honor the recipients’ preferred media? Is it
5. Implement triggers for action.
Establish trigger thresholds so surveys scoring below an acceptable
level get immediate follow-up and experience intervention.
6. Conduct root cause analysis. If
your survey reveals an undercurrent of unhappiness, you need to know
why you’re falling short of the mark. For example, if it took too long
to reach the right person, the cause could be a capacity constraint, a
call routing issue, agent training, or something else. Too often, the
front line takes the “hit” for something beyond their control. If you
don’t surface the root cause, you’ll keep getting the same complaints!
Consider conditional questions tied to specific responses as one way to
gather more detail, and use other reports and analytics to dig into the
root cause of what surveys reveal.
7. Connect VoC with QM and coaching. Best
in class centers make sure that there is a common thread from strategic
and operations planning to training, auditing, and coaching. Make sure
that VoC is part of this continuum and keeps pace with major changes
and course corrections.
8. Refine continually. When
satisfaction scores go flat, make some adjustment to your approach to
allow for a deeper dive. Don’t assume that everything is OK or stop VoC
because scores are high. Take it to the next level!
9. Close the loop. When you
ask for information, be prepared to share the result. You will build
credibility and relationships when you are transparent about your
current state and the actions that you’ll take to improve it. Tie each
survey to specific agent interactions and share customer responses in a
timely manner with your agents.
10. Share the wealth. While your
survey may reflect contact center themes, the insights that you glean
may benefit other departments within your organization. Keep them
apprised of your findings – especially the groups whose work is either
upstream or downstream from your efforts. Addressing the themes
collaboratively allows the center to gain value by providing insightful
customer, process or product information and keeps the entire
organization focused on your customer.
Do you really care about your customers? How does your VoC program
stack up to the ten key components of a well-aligned VoC program? Now
is the time to take action. Address the gaps now, before you lose
another customer or enterprise confidence in your center.
For more on VoC Best Practices, check out the Strategic Contact website at http://www.strategiccontact.com/articles.asp
Kevin Hegebarth, Vice President Marketing, HireIQ Inc., firstname.lastname@example.org
(The following is a reprinted with permission. It is a recently
published blog entry on the Hire IQ website, www.hireiqinc.com, which
the NACC found to be particularly useful. The employment data
cited in the post can be found in the March issue of In Queue.)
Despite dire predictions that self-service will render the call center
agent obsolete, the opposite is true. Call center employment
continues to grow at a healthy clip. According to recent research
published by leading industry thinker Paul Stockford of Saddletree
Research, the U.S. call center industry added nearly 52,000 new jobs.
Some of this growth is attributable to the staffing of health
insurance exchange contact centers as a result of the Affordable Care
Act, but much of it is industry growth.
However, the impact of self-service skills and competencies that
today’s agents must possess is undeniable. Customers are better
informed than ever before with more resources at their disposal to
research alternative products and services or solutions to their
issues. Therefore, successful agents need know more than just how
to talk and work a computer at the same time. Here are four
characteristics of successful call center agents.
Emotional Disposition. This is a trait
that is rarely measured when hiring call center agents. People
with a particular emotional disposition tend to perform better in
certain types of jobs than others. For example, an agent who
exhibits a pleasant and contented demeanor is generally better suited
as a customer service professional. In contrast, someone who
comes across as high-energy and excited will be better suited to a
sales role. These emotions are directly transferred to the
customer interaction and have a direct impact on the customer
Critical Thinking. Scripts are still a
way of life in many call centers, but these have just as often given
way to talking points that the agent can use to carefully craft a more
natural sounding interaction with a customer. Since self-service
drives more complex interactions to the agent, it’s imperative that an
agent be well-skilled in ferreting out root causes and addressing them
Communication and Language Skills. This
one should be a no-brainer, but I’ve personally interacted with agents
who don’t have a good command of the language, who don’t speak clearly
and who don’t communicate well. Each agent has the opportunity to
make upwards of 50 customer impressions each day – that’s 250 per week
or over 12,000 per year. Your customers judge your company based
on how well your agents communicate with them.
Customer Service Orientation. Every
customer interaction has the opportunity for a misunderstanding.
This is more than just exhibiting empathy and saying, “I’m sorry”
at the appropriate time. It’s actively listening to the
customer’s dilemma and offering a reasonable solution that satisfies
the customer’s need for resolution. It’s not giving into each
customer’s every demand – it’s being able to separate the “needs” from
the “wants” and delivering on the needs.
To a certain extent, technical (e.g., computer, internet, etc.),
product and basic sales skills can be taught and reinforced throughout
training and coaching. But agents who arrive on the job lacking
any of the above are likely to jeopardize your customer relationships
in the long term.
organizer of the SCORE 2014 Conference, Omega Management Group, also
happens to be an NACC member so we are happy to be able to pass on to
all NACC members a specially arranged discount on event registration,
which can be found at http://www.omegascoreboard.com/score.php?aff=nacc.
Now in its 12th year, SCORE helps senior customer service executives
learn the latest innovations in customer experience management (CEM)
strategy and these principles improve their contact centers and other
customer operations. Expert speakers lead workshops and panels on these
topics and on the latest technology that helps organizations work more
productively. To take advantage of the NACC member discount on event
registration please visit http://www.omegascoreboard.com/score.php?aff=nacc.
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
of the first things I learned in boot camp lo those many years ago was
to never volunteer for anything. That lesson may have come a bit
late since I had already volunteered to spend four years of my life in
the service of my adopted country, but an aversion to volunteerism was
reinforced many times during the subsequent ten weeks of boot camp when
I was transformed from citizen to sailor.
Today, I find volunteering to be one of the most satisfying things I do
in my life. I wish I had more time so I could volunteer more of
it to organizations I feel are doing worthwhile work. My hope is
that one day I’ll be able to.
If you’ve read this far, I hope it’s because you have found the NACC to
be a worthwhile organization. As most readers know, the NACC is a
503(c)(6) not-for-profit research and membership organization. I
don’t draw a salary from the NACC and the only way we keep the lights
on is through the occasional e-mail blasts we send out to members and
subscribers. I sincerely hope you take the time to open and read
these e-mails from the NACC as they are vital in allowing us to
continue our contact center industry research mission.
Much of the research we conduct is made possible thanks to the support
of our volunteer members. Our volunteer members promise to give
us 30 minutes of their time each year to participate in the surveys
that underlie much of our research. We ask for no more than 30
minutes, often less, and that is over the course of 12 months. In
return, these volunteer members get the same benefits as our paying
The results of our research is published in this newsletter throughout
the year, but much of the detail behind the research is on our website
and available to members only. For example, we are now working on
a report detailing the fairly recent cloud-based contact center
phenomenon. That report will be available to members when it is
published in the next month. Members can also take advantage of
business opportunities that come our way and can tap into the
collective experience and intelligence of the entire membership for
anything from work-related opinions to professional advice. We’ve
got a pretty good community within the NACC.
The point of this article is to hopefully get you, the reader, to
consider becoming a volunteer member. If this is of interest to
you, or if you have any questions about volunteer membership, please
send me an e-mail with the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.
So why bother to volunteer for anything? As far as the NACC is
concerned, the answer is simple. We need your help. As a
not-for-profit organization we have limited resources and, like most
not-for-profit organizations, we rely on volunteers. We are able
to provide the type of research that for-profit organizations can’t,
mostly due to the support of our volunteers. Without our
volunteers, we wouldn’t be able to pursue our research mission.
Volunteering with the NACC won’t cost you a penny and I think you’ll
find it to be a rewarding experience from both a career and a personal
perspective. I hope you’ll consider joining us. Again, if
you’d like to become part of the NACC or if you have any questions,
please send me an e-mail with the word “Volunteer” in the subject line.
Paul Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, [email protected]
Sometimes things in the industry just bug me. Know what I mean?
Rather than gripe around the water cooler, I thought I’d bring my
industry pet peeves to the NACC and see if any of these things bug you
First up – what’s with all this talk about “gamification?” I
understand the concept. It’s been around for a long time.
Back in 2005, I organized the first annual Saddletree Forum
conference at a really nice resort in the high Sonoran desert of
Carefree, AZ. One of the attendees was Brooks Mitchell, PhD.
Brooks was a professor at The University of Wyoming and the
founder of Snowfly in Laramie, WY. Snowfly created games designed
to motivate and reward agents for their performance. This was in
full swing nine years ago.
Today, vendors talk about gamification like it’s some sort of
revolutionary application that they just dreamed up. Did it
really take that long for the industry to figure out the use and
benefits of motivational programs in the form of games for agents, or
was Brooks Mitchell just way ahead of his time? Here’s another
news flash for all you vendors that just woke up to gamification –
there’s this new Internet site called YouTube. Check it out.
Next up – can someone explain to me how you can follow 50,000 people on
Twitter? I follow a couple hundred and I know I miss quite a bit.
Even if looking at Twitter was your full-time job, which I
believe it must be for a few people who seem to do nothing else, you
still can’t read what 50,000 people are posting each day.
I have a feeling that for many people, Twitter has become a game of “If
you follow me, I’ll follow you.” I’ve noticed that most of the
people who follow 50,000 people also have about 50,000 followers.
Several years ago, I used to raise horses here on little ranch in the
desert. Although I never was interested in Arabian horses, there
was a huge culture that sprang up in the southwest around those who
raised and sold Arabians. At one point, someone in the Arabian
horse industry discovered an easy way to establish a reputation for
selling horses for top dollar. One breeder would approach another
breeder and say, “If you buy one of my horses for $100,000, I’ll buy
one of your horses for $100,000.” Once the deal was done, two
breeders gained reputations for selling $100,000 horses even though the
true value of the horses was likely a fraction of that sum.
Twitter isn’t an accurate indicator of anyone’s value to the contact
center industry or to anyone else. It has degenerated to little
more than a sleight-of-hand shell game. Don’t get fooled by the
Finally, has the word “Optimization” run its course in the contact
center industry? It was fine when it was thrown about in
connection with performance optimization or workforce optimization, but
it seems to be attached to everything now. Things can’t just
function, they have to be optimized. As far as I’m concerned,
that’s no longer optimal.
Call Center Comics!
If you like this comic and would like to see more, write Ozzie at [email protected] and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm
or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The NACC
appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics in our newsletter.
To view past issues of In Queue, please click here.
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Copyright 2014 National Association of Call Centers