Front-Line Conversations: Are You Listening?

I was walking down the hallway at a client’s call center a while back. I saw one of the veteran CSRs walking towards me. I smiled and said good morning. The CSR immediately stepped over and pulled me aside.

I’m always so glad to see you here!” he said sincerely, shaking my hand. Of course, that was nice to hear. I thanked him and responded that I always enjoyed being there. Then he finished his thought:

They listen to you. You say the same things we’ve been saying for years, but they don’t listen to us. Keep it up!”

There have been several posts around the blogosphere lately asking people if they are “listening”. Maria Palma had one just the other day. Most of the time, we’re asking blogging lurkers or newbies if they’re getting into the blogging conversation. Mike Sansone is faithfully at his pulpit preaching the message of listening via blogs. Yet, sometimes I’m not talking about blogs. I’m asking people if they’re doing the due diligence of listening to customers through research. Over at Call Center Script, Jam Mayer has been asking call centers to listen to customer calls with ears open for process improvement opportunities.

But what about listening to your front-line associates? Your CSRs?

Just a few months ago I invited a new V.P. of Operations to attend a training session we had produced based on data from the Service Quality Assessment we’d performed in his company’s call center. As the session went on the V.P. began asking more and more questions – but not of me – of his own people. They began sharing with him some of the issues they’d experienced with internal processes that were obstacles to delivering good service. The V.P. began taking notes and asking follow-up questions. I just sat back and smiled. He got it. I knew that this call center was going to see some positive changes.

Your front-line CSRs are in the trenches everyday. They know what’s working and what’s not working. Yes, you will get an earful that must be filtered. You’ll hear whining and complaining. But you’ll also hear thing you need to hear. You’ll hear about opportunities for improvement. You’ll hear your associates desire to serve well and what’s getting in the way of doing it. There’s gold to be mined in those conversations.

Are you listening?


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