- Agent occupancy (utilization) increased by 14 percent.
- Maximum caller wait time reduced by 48 percent.
- Shorter calls, handled more efficiently.
- Cost savings of 10–15 percent.
1. Build relationships.
Best-in-class companies know that it’s not just about solving problems—it’s about building a lasting relationship with your customers.
At its retail stores, Apple is in the business of making friends. Employees actually will try to “down-sell” you on the thing you came to buy in an effort to get you the lower-priced, least-complicated product that will do what you need.
Contact centers can emulate this approach by using analytics-based cross-sell marketing programs. These involve using historic and real-time data to proactively suggest to agents the products and services that individual customers might be interested in. Complete the loop by rewarding agents for selling the best-fitting solutions, rather than the most expensive.
2. Integrate your support channels.
New consumer technologies make delivering consistent customer support even more important. As you add SMS, text chat, video chat, and mobile platform channels to your quiver, it’s important to keep tabs on them all. Cross-channel integration tools can seem overwhelming—but the alternative is an inconsistent user experience, which can result in significant cost for your business.
Salmat, Australia’s largest provider of outsourced contact centers, is upgrading its 35 contact centers to Avaya technology to become an “omnichannel” customer service provider. Salmat, which manages more than 100 million incoming and outgoing phone calls a year, needed to engage with consumers whether they are on Twitter, Facebook, SMS, email, or phone, says Salmat CEO Grant Harrod.
3. Talk to your customers in real time.
According to a Frost & Sullivan 2012 report, consumers overwhelmingly end up trying to reach a live agent and are most satisfied after live interactions, either on the phone or via chat. Forcing customers into self-service channels may keep your costs down in the short term, but can cost you in retention and lost sales opportunities over the long haul when not used for the right purpose.
Palm Coast Data handles subscriptions and delivery for 500 magazines and 45 million subscribers. Upgrading to Avaya Aura Contact Center has empowered Palm Coast’s 200 on-site contact center agents and growing number of home-based agents with two key new features: the ability to Web chat with magazine subscribers (usually two at a time) and perform scheduled callbacks to customers when they are free.
4. Coach agents for performance.
Agent performance is the foundation of good customer service in a contact center. Coach your coaches, provide specific feedback, and invest in next-generation coaching tools to make sure you get the most from your people. Reward your best-performing agents. Help those that struggle to do better.
A division of HSBC bank in the U.K., first direct does not have a physical branch network. Customers access services online or by fixed or mobile app. It’s been voted number one in customer service in a national service for four years running. Agent training and support is central to the bank’s mission of “pioneering amazing support.”
Knowing that longtime employees provide better support in general, first direct aims to keep employees happy, and ongoing coaching is central to its approach. New recruits spend six weeks in training. 65 percent of that time is spent in a classroom environment designed to work for all learning styles, and 35 percent is spent taking calls in the call center with dedicated coaches.
5. Empower and engage employees.
Create a culture where employees feel comfortable initiating conversations and listening to customers instead of just answering questions as fast as possible. It drives agent attrition down—and customer satisfaction up.
Shoe retailer Zappos.com is a great example. Its mission statement declares that “Customer Service isn’t just a Department! ... We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy.”
6. Focus metrics on your customer.
What’s your measure of success? Don’t just reward your agents for speed. Reward them for resolving customer issues in one contact (first contact resolution) and for high customer satisfaction scores.
Nordstrom department stores have long excelled at service, and customers go on about it. For many years, the Nordstrom Employee Handbook was a 5-by-8-inch gray card that
contained just 75 words spelling out the company’s short-and-sweet philosophy:
Welcome to Nordstrom. We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional
goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.
One goal: Outstanding customer service. One rule: Use your best judgment.
You may not be able to reduce your contact center handbook to 75 words, but is there room for simplification? For focusing key performance indicators on customers? For respecting employees’ judgment?
7. Start at the top.
Customer experience starts with the CEO. A best-in-class customer experience comes from a company focused on delivering one, from senior management all the way to the agents on the front line. Link every metric to company initiatives to help agents understand how they fit into the big picture.
Amazon consistently receives accolades for its best-in-class customer service. Interestingly, it’s often the customer experience—personalized experience, painless purchasing, and fast shipping—that gets mentioned rather than how the company resolves problems.
In fact, like Amazon, Zappos.com also requires all employees to work customer service for a few days every year. Since these two are often in the top three in ratings for best customer service, it seems like there’s something to it.
8. Deliver actionable data to decision-makers.
To ensure that the entire company is on the same page, share contact center and customer satisfaction reports with the entire company. After all, customer satisfaction should be everyone’s number one goal. Yet callcentres.net found in 2011 that while 95 percent of companies collect customer feedback, only 10 percent deploy it to improve service.
At SafeAuto Insurance Company, customer service data spreads far beyond the contact center. The marketing group uses it to map customer demographics. The company’s investigation unit uses it for research. Senior management has its own set of dashboard reports that provide regular updates on enterprise operations at a high level, with the ability to drill down to specific details.
While technology changes, and new generations bring different perspectives to the market, the foundation of customer experience management stays the same. If you want to provide standout service, it must be the top priority at every level of the company. It must be the focus of every initiative. And it must be the goal of every employee.
Laura Bassett is Director of Marketing for Customer Experience and Emerging Technologies at Avaya. She has more than 19 years of experience in applications consulting, development, and delivery.