Earlier in the week we highlighted an article in Nottingham Post in which a customer was left disappointed when they could not reach a resolution with the company they contacted; We have also discussed the importance of first contact resolution (FCR) in call centres. The biggest block to FCR may be the strict adherence to out dated business rules, conventions and processes that many contact centres subject their customer service agents (CSRs) to. Examples of these can be strong adherence to average handling time policies and restrictions on items each department can handle, making FCR extremely difficult to achieve.
In this article we explore how your contact centre staff can become a team of super heroes for their customers championing their needs and requirements.
In many contact centres agents act both as a front line customer service staff and carry out tasks completed formerly by back office support staff. This gives them the opportunity to be the first point of contact for customers and potentially have greater flexibility on what they can do to help customers. Such contact centres may access multi department systems. For instance one minute a contact centre agent might deal with a registration query the next they might resolve a complaint. From a technical perspective these department systems should talk to each other and be user friendly, (which is not always the case). However in many contact centres the action that an agent can perform is extremely limited. This may be due to a variety of reasons. Chief amongst these can be the relationship between the processes the contact centre follows and that of the main company; in these relationships the company has delegated specific tasks to the back office contact centre team whilst requesting the contact centre forward jobs to them. Typically these tasks are those that they feel are outside of the skills, experience or specialist know – how of the contact centre staff. At first sight, this seems logical and well intentioned, however a customer can all to easily be passed from department to department. This occurs where the lines between what contact centre staff do and what company staff do is blurred. Monitoring of Average Handling Time (AHT) metric can compound the problem with agents unintentionally passing the customer and their problem on without a solution.
The thinking behind the divide in the distribution of work between contact centre and company staff may be to ensure customers receive best advice and assistance from the right person. However because of the wide variety of problems communicated by customers over the phone such a division becomes problematic unless critically examined from a customer perspective. It should be organised so the front line agent is empowered to help. Unfortunately automatic call distributors, used in the contact centre to distribute incoming calls to contact centre staff, are not always effective. The customer can find their call filtered and connected to the wrong department only to be told that they need to be transferred again or worse still asked to hang up and call in again. This can be avoided by allowing your staff a little more flexibility in how they work, so that wherever possible they can resolve a customer request at first point of call.
Flexibility may also mean relaxing the business rules, which staff must adhere to. For example, the finance sector puts a necessarily strong emphasis on data protection. Whilst it is essential to be compliant, one should keep in mind that with a little training most agents could recognise the difference between a legitimate caller and a fraudulent caller.
There are few things as irritating to a customer as being refused access to their account and informed they have ‘Failed’ security because they cannot remember an item, which the agent has been told they must enforce.
Empowering staff to intelligently screen the caller without being rigid in the application of process can allow for a better delivery of service without endangering personal information.
Some examples from the finance sector are:
- Checking a transaction a customer might reasonably give a legitimate transaction from 12 days ago as opposed to one with the last 10 days.
- Giving the customer an extra question to answer as part of the identification process
- Allowing the customer to name a more recent transaction
These slight variances to process above would still provide adequate checks to meet legislative requirements and convey a sense of concern for the customer.
In customer service and in life in general, it is well to remember the quote:
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
With the perceived quality of customer service as the main differentiator in so many markets now the interaction at the customer touch points cannot be taken for granted.
Unfortunately, in many large organisations there is evidence that the processes set up to manage the business and presumably once designed to provide a good service are collectively the causes of customer frustration. When poorly implemented they can actually be a source of customer dissatisfaction and attrition.
It is easy to argue that the cost of failure is too high to deviate even slightly from the rules and to do so could mean severe reputational damage. However, perhaps what is important to remember is that empowering staff does not mean giving staff free will to do whatever they see fit. Far from it, empowering staff means to give effective training to staff so that not only can they cover a wide base of different problems but are also given the confidence to deal with these problems effectively, and proactively create a positive customer experience.
What any company should remember is that most people want to make a positive contribution in their work. Contact centre staff can provide excellent customer support, if given the right training and environment to work in.