Customers will always find it easier to get in touch via email and telephone however for customer satisfaction nothing beats live chat according Econsultany find out more here: http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog/63867-consumers-prefer-live-chat-for-customer-service-stats
Have you been to a restaurant where the first meal was absolutely fantastic, the second meal the food was great but the service was dire and by the third meal the food was dire whilst the service was great? If you have then you know the feeling of trepidation at returning to such an eatery; you never know whether you will be completely satisfied with your meal. Customer service is no different regardless of what service or product you provide. If you cannot provide a consistent service, you will lose customers and valuable business. Providing consistent service means moving away from the the popular notion that customer service ends with the customer transaction and assuming that a satisfactory product or service is enough to retain the customer; It is about taking a holistic look at the purchase cycle ensuring that a consistent and outstanding service is provided at every stage of the customer journey.
Training – the key to giving consistent service:
The key to providing consistent service is to ensure that staff are well trained and understand why they need to abide by procedure. One key benefit of this to the customer is that when they approach your business at any time they will get a consistent response from staff. This is especially true for those working within contact centres. While a customer entering a retail outlet and speaking to branch staff might be able to recognise or request a meeting with the same member of staff ensuring that they get the same result each time, the same cannot be said with contact centres. Customers will often call up a contact centre for support receive one set of information and be told to call back after a period of time only to find that when they call back another agent gives them a different set of information. This can lead to the customer feeling frustrated, and the query not resolved. To make matters worse it can leave the customer feeling more confused then before they first called.
Regular readers of our blog know we have strongly advised that first contact resolution (FCR) wherever possible, is the ideal call centre standard. However in practice this is not always possible. There are occasions where first or second line agents are required to call customers back however this may not be cost effective and can easily eat into agent’s time. Effective training and communication within a call centre (and for departments employing customer facing staff) can reduce these scenarios; Up to date tailored training ensures that your staff understand all the situations that a customer will face, the procedures that should be used and the information that the customer needs to resolve their query.
If customers find themselves having to call back then regardless of whom they talk to the service will be consistent. This is so important for management to know. Inconsistencies in information given by staff are a risk to the business and can lead to some customers playing off one agent against another to secure an advantage.
“Times they are a changin”
When speaking of service consistency we have to recognise that things are constantly changing. Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher, as well as Bob Dylan more recently noticed, “there is nothing permanent except change”.
It is very apparent that technologies are changing, society is changing and even working conditions are changing. While training is invaluable to staff sometimes small changes can affect the way that the business process work. In these cases, it may be the customer who bears the brunt of inconsistent service levels. This may be unavoidable; however we can limit the impact these micro changes can have on our customers by improving the way we communicate within our business. With the use of email, mobile telephone, social networks and intranet keeping employees informed has never been potentially as easy; the same is especially true in the contact centre where agents have access to intranet and a contact centre platform providing them with the latest information on changes to business processes. This type of feature can be useful for call centre agents where it is not possible to resolve a customer’s query in the first instance. With the ability to leave notes one agent can inform another of what was said to the customer and ensure any action on the customer’s account remains consistent with advice given. Communication is all-important and not just within the context of consistent service. By using effective multi-level communication we can pro-actively inform customers of new products or in the worst-case scenario mitigate damage caused by faults within our product or service. A holistic evaluation of the customer experience can significantly differentiate our company with others providing a similar service.
For those that may have missed it, an example of this was given in our blog on the 18th of November. We highlighted a great story about how staff at the Four Seasons hotel are trained to notice small, almost imperceptible details that collectively combine to provide the desired customer experience. We learned that when the guest leaves their room the door lock is set precisely in order to produce a specific click sound. This click is reported to engender a feeling of confidence and security for the guest and is a valued component of the Four Seasons customer experience. House keeping staff noticed the door t was not clicking ‘just right’, reported it and maintenance fixed it. The repair was timed to occur whilst the guest was away. By focusing on the detail, which in this case may have been outside of the customer’s conscious awareness, staff can create an extraordinary customer experience.
In summary, build a culture where exceptional service is truly valued, give staff tailored training that addresses their core competencies, keep your processes updated and maintain service consistency and you will ensure that your customers leave with an experience they will remember, for all the right reasons.
Here is a unique way of keeping traffic down from KLM; by using social networks KLM has managed to inform customers of how busy contact centre are at the present and more importantly advise on alternative methods of contacting KLM customer services as well as the real world response time for these messages. To find out more check out this article on Venture Beat.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand.”
Sun Tzu, The Art of War
In business it is vital to plan and prepare for the future. As a manager within the call centre industry this may seem like a daunting task however due to the ever increasing abundance and sophistication of IT reporting and management systems the act of collecting information has become much easier; the real challenge for the contact centre manager is to understand what is important from the plethora of measurements available, how to interpret that information and then leverage it to increase performance and customer satisfaction.
Within the industry, measures produced by the contact centre are known as contact centre metrics (CCM). Amongst the most well known and arguably most important metric is AHT (Average Handling Time), the average amount of time an agent is on the phone to a customer. As we have said before, there can be no definitive statement as to what is good AHT, as every customer situation, organisation, industry is different. As a rule of thumb, however contact centres generally favour low AHT as on an individual basis and across the contact centre it can be a sign that staff are efficient and provides an indicator of the amount of calls that a contact centre can handle.
However, one should be wary when placing too much emphasis on low AHT as this could be a symptom of low adherence to procedure, (ATP). Agents might choose to break procedure in order to lower AHT thereby lowering the quality of resolution. While contact centre platforms can provide excellent performance metrics they are not enough to provide a complete picture; in order to establish the ATP and gain a better idea of overall service quality you would be well advised to use an external research organisation to track the satisfaction of customers or set up a research department to measure quality within your contact centre. In our experience one of the most effective means to collect such information is through an outbound post service survey asking the customer how they felt about the quality of service received.
We touched on ATP earlier here as an essential metric in understanding the performance of your contact centre; ATP is a measurement of how your agent keep to procedure. It highlights whether your agents utilise scripts and call guides, follow security procedures, uses appropriate greetings and farewells and is a general measurement of whether they adhere to company protocols. As discussed, such adherence to policy can lead to higher AHT however following such protocol can often result in better service quality. Utilising qualitative measurements of performance such as ATP may mean a little more digging to find the answers as the information is usually not so readily available but the extra work is well worthwhile. In research, quantitative measurement will tell you what is happening, qualitative research will help to explain why it is happening.
In addition to the use of customer satisfaction survey another viable research method is to listen to recorded customer calls and review those calls with the agent, as part of a structured coaching session. Utilising recent innovations in technology can provide a more accurate measurement of ATP and help the agent to recognise blind-spots. Some contact centre platforms now come preloaded with software which can differentiate between words in an audio format. Such a platform can be used to trawl through past customer calls identifying trigger words like ‘complaint’, ‘happy’ and ‘dissatisfied’; this information in turn can be used to either identify stretch targets with the agent or by quality management, surveying calls used to compile a matrix for scoring resolution.
Planning for the growth of your contact centre requires accurate information on its operational performance. In addition to measuring agent behaviours to ensure service quality, it is also essential to monitor traffic volumes and average queue times. One important metric to track such figures is ASA (Average Speed to Answer); ASA tracks the average time which it takes for a call to be answered. This can represent everything from the time it takes for a customer to queue and speak to an agent, to the time in which a chat message is responded to. ASA can give a good indication as to how well your call centre is coping with the volume of calls/messages it receives. Low ASA is often an indicator that you will need more staff to cope with peak traffic periods when abnormally high ASA can be an indicator of too many agents working in a relatively quiet period.
As with earlier examples ASA should be understood and used in conjunction with other key metrics in order to better plan for the development of your contact centre; For instance if we find that we have low ATP and high ASA perhaps it is time to consider the procedure within your contact centre in order to help stream line the process for staff and customers.
Metrics are absolutely vital in understanding and ‘calculating’ your next move and as Sun Tzu says:
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.”
Sun Tzu, Art of War
The better we understand ourselves and our customers the better service we can provide for our customers.