Customer experience starts with emotion
Your customer experience does not begin when your call centre agent answers the phone. Processes need to be reviewed a number of steps prior to the call, and a number of steps after the call is complete. Only reviewing and amending your processes within the boundaries of your operation are ‘business centric’ and not ‘customer centric’. Something happened to the customer prior to making the call, and something will happen to the customer after the call. This needs to be identified and included in your processes.
You can read more here about improving your processes with Lean Six Sigma.
The same applies to preparing your agents prior to them speaking to your customers.
At the very heart of customer experience is emotion. Customers contact call centres for many reasons, a lot of the time because they ‘feel’ upset, or the ‘feel’ aggrieved, or they ‘feel’ confused. Sometimes however, they ‘feel’ like discussing your product, or they ‘feel’ they could get a better deal, or they ‘feel’ encouraged by your offerings.
No matter the reason, contact originates from emotion.
Believe it or not, call centre employees do not dream of being call centre agents from a young age. In fact, the selection ‘call centre agent’ is not available in our ‘dream drop-down’ menu. And nor do I believe it will be added anytime soon. The unconscious mind has many alternative options to choose from, and despite how absurd our dreams can be, ‘call centre agent’ just won’t make the cut.
So how do you improve productivity of people who are working in a job that most probably would never have been their first choice? Or perhaps, even their last choice.
Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing the various aspects that can be improved in a call centre, using the underlying heading of Emotion, which can be used to improve call centre performance. These aspects are not restrictive to call centres, and would be applicable to other working environments.
E is for Environment
Environment; “the surroundings or conditions in which a person, animal, or plant lives or operates”Oxford English Dictionary
Imagine being somewhere you don’t wish to be. Think about what would make it better. Wouldn’t a good summer in Ireland each year be a better environment for all living here? Would that make it worth staying? Most Irish people say that they would endure the constant rain, if they were guaranteed a good summer each year.
- Perhaps we would endure the difficult phone calls, if we were trained on how to deal with them?
- Perhaps we would endure the AHT (average handling times – don’t start me off on that metric – why we are still capturing that, I’ll never know), if we were appreciated more and supported?
- Perhaps we would endure doing the same thing every day, if we had more fun?
- Perhaps we would feel more cared for, if the company invested in the office?
Clean & comfortable surroundings
Ensure your agents are working in a clean and comfortable environment. This should not feel like an overhead, but more of an investment into the future of your people. How much does it cost to recruit somebody? Significantly higher than retaining somebody.
The right fit
When recruiting, the right fit is as important as experience. Sometimes, the fit can be more important. An individual ‘genius’ can be more disruptive than a team ‘rookie’, so be careful. Especially in a call centre, the role of the agent can be taught to anyone who knows how to use a telephone. Attitude cannot be taught, and the poor kind is always unwanted baggage.
In my experience, I have often been told by a candidate at interview how great they are, but I have never hired somebody who has been better at the required role than the people currently doing that role. Everyone needs to learn, and nobody knows everything.
Also, take responsibility for the new hires in your team. Don’t allow somebody else to interview and place in your team, although it may sound easier. You will need to deal with the aftermath and the recruiter will not be so eager to help then.
Technology in the call centre
Don’t overthink it, but make sure it works. Phones need to work, and notes need to be recorded from each customer conversation. Systems need to follow your process and not the other way around. Defining your process around the capabilities of your system is a sure fire sign that it’s time to upgrade. Your team need to concentrate on the customer, and not have to worry about the technology they are using. Technology is a tool to be used to make lives easier.
If possible, be flexible. If not, don’t.
I have never been a fan of the ‘tie’, but agree that people should be dressed professionally and respectfully. People should dress according to their environment, so if yours is lacking, so might your dress code.
Have fun in the workplace
Have fun. People are spending one-third of their day with you, so ensure that it’s not an unpleasant experience. These people are about to speak to your customers, and represent your business over a telephone line. Making a good impression over the phone can be difficult at the best of times, so ensure they are happy within their environment before you hand them a telephone.
Listen to the people around you
In call centres all over the world, there is a large emphasis placed on customer retention, but we struggle to retain staff. Average attrition amongst call centre agents is 25%, which means that one quarter of people will need to be replaced.
Listen to your agents when asking for their opinion. And ensure you ask. What does your business look like to them? How do they feel about the customer experience? What can the business do better for the customer, and the agent?
- Staff surveys
- Initiative committees
- Continuous improvement forums
Whatever method you choose, ensure you hear and listen to what is being said. It’s the most valuable information you’ll hear today. And then, do something about it.
And provide some ‘good’ tea or coffee…for free
Next time we will discuss improving morale within the working environment.