BLOG: In the second of a series of blogs from Colin Hay, an ex-military man and newly appointed VP Sales, UK at Intelecom, we look at what contact centres can learn from the Army when it comes to delivering excellent customer service and increasing satisfaction levels using a four-step plan.
Towards the end of last year, Intelecom asked 400 contact centre professionals for their feedback to establish what really matters in the contact centre today. 61.5% of respondents revealed that ‘customer satisfaction’ followed by ‘service level’ (56.98%) are the top two metrics for measuring the performance of their contact centre. Fortunately, it appears that contact centre managers are taking customer satisfaction seriously with 81.9% using their own customer satisfaction surveys followed by email surveys (37.07%) and post-call IVR surveys (23.28%) to acquire ‘the voice of the customer’ and listen to what they really think about their products and services.
Agents – and the supervisors who manage them – are on the front-line with heavy responsibility for determining the overall customer experience and ultimately improving those all-important satisfaction levels. Get it wrong and you’ll lose brand loyalty, even customers and definitely sales. So, how do you get it right?
When it comes to improving customer service, contact centres have a lot to learn from the military. Here’s a four-point plan designed to ensure you are well-armed to better engage with and win over the hearts and minds of your customers.
1. Keep a cool head using process – Military operations and contact centres both deal with volatile, emotionally-charged situations in real-time where it is often difficult to control the time, place and attitude of those around you. Agents, just like soldiers, need to think on their feet, react and keep a cool head. Process – following a consistent way of doing things – means being armed with the right tools and information before the phones start ringing. In short, process is required to minimising chaos.
Processes are about automation, speed, effectiveness. In reality, they are also about taking away from the person on the front line the mental overload of having to work out the answer to every situation. Developing a set of consistent processes and then automating them removes the subjective, human element and enables agents to react quickly and efficiently however unhappy or deliberately tricky a customer may be.
2. The art of effective communication – Contact centres deal with people from different cultures, speaking different languages and making clarity critical to overcoming misunderstandings. Add to this a highly emotional environment where people and customers are often angry, aggressive, unpredictable, easily provoked and it is obvious that the results of poor communication are potentially catastrophic, resulting in lost customers.
Calm, collective communication combined with processes allow for objective mind space, helping everyone be clear and to listen, understand the real situation, take effective decisions and the right action.
3. Instill quality and discipline – Quality people will determine the outcome of every engagement. Just as the Army is forced to counteract the threat of traditional and guerilla warfare, the contact centre faces new challenges with the advent of social media. Consumers no longer have time to chat over the shop counter; they want immediate attention, 24/7 satisfaction and remote communication allows them to be even more aggressive. Agents are often on the back foot, no longer having the advantage of facial expressions to guide them towards a meaningful customer interaction.
Intelligent, quality people supported by a firm but empowering disciplined work environment and backed up with good training that reflects the status quo are critical to contact centre and customer satisfaction success.
4. Technology – finally, don’t just do it all yourself. Tap into the latest cloud contact centre solutions to truly listen to and understand your customers, tailor interactions to suit them and improve the overall customer experience.
Listen with IVR and Silent Monitoring: – Around for a long, long time, Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology is the foundation of an effective routing system that reduces wait times for customers and enables them to self-service quickly and efficiently. Crucially, it’s also the front door to the whole contact centre experience and, as such, has to be perfect. Get it wrong and risk losing both customers and your hard-earned reputation.
Fortunately, we’ve learnt a lot about how to get it right. Organisations should think ‘outside-in’ and really listen to their customers. For instance, if 80% of callers are requesting password resets, make that the first menu option.
The latest real-time monitoring of agent/caller conversations enables supervisors to support contact centre staff, take prompt action where necessary and improve customer service.
Tailor interactions to suit your customers – With the latest cloud-based solutions agents can detect the exact source of the enquiry meaning they can confidently respond to telephone, email, Chat, Social Media and SMS enquiries all within the same application.
Improve the overall customer experience – Skills based routing ensures enquiries are dealt with by the best qualified agent. Social media interactions can be stored in a media archive enabling organisations to retrieve, listen to, save and share enquiries, exchange ideas and learning in a consistent way that promotes best-practice and continually builds a quality culture.
Let automation do the hard work leaving agents to focus on delivering excellent customer service then blend with processes and add good communications to the mix. You’ll then be correctly armed to deal with the most volatile situations, grab real-time control over the contact centre environment, gain insight into your customers and attain next generation customer service.