Driving Consistency in the Call Center

Consistency (n)- steadfast adherence to the same principles, course, form, etc. Uniformity among the parts of a complex thing. (dictionary.com)

It is a bitter reality in business that it only takes one negative experience to drive a customer, or many customers, away. A customer can have a plethora of positive interactions with your call center, but it only takes one negative experience to send the customer packing, and sometimes it’s an honest mistake. While it’s possible for one good experience to make a loyal customer, most often customer loyalty and retention is driven by delivering a string of consistent, positive experiences.

One of the most important goals of a successful QA program is to drive a consistent customer experience. You have a complex organization of many different individuals representing many different personality types. You have many different customers calling you each day with a wide-range of needs. How do you create consistency with your QA program? Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Be steadfast. It’s not uncommon to find that the QA process is placed on the shoulders of front-line supervisors who have a million other responsibilities being demanded of them from management and the front-line. When the tyranny of the urgent hits (and in a call center it hits daily) the QA function is usually the first thing that gets shoved to the back burner. You can’t drive consistency if you’re not disciplined in actually doing QA over the long-haul.
  2. Be consequential. Consistency comes when CSRs modify their behavior to meet or exceed the set standard. Changing behavior is a challenging task for most people. Don’t most of us prefer the path of least resistence? Typically, we need something to motivate us to change. Many QA programs fail because there is no consequence for doing well – or not doing well. If I’m a CSR and I know that there’s no real reward for delivering great service and no real penalty for doing poorly – why change?
  3. Be real. Use behavioral elements that are flexible, yet measurable.
    Making sure you’ve answered the customer’s questions or resolved the
    customer’s issue can be conversationally asked several different ways
    ("Anything else?", "What other questions do you have for me?", "Is that
    going to do it for you today?", "What else can I do for you?", etc.).
    This allows the CSR to engage the individual customer with their own
    style based on the interaction, while adhering to the principle of
    offering to help with other questions or needs. Making every CSR use
    the same
    , "Is there anything else I can help you with today?"
    can become a negative for the customer and the CSR. You’re driving
    adherence to a principle (i.e. make sure you’ve resolved the customer’s
    questions) not a script.

Flickr photo courtesy of Brian Sawyer

  6 comments for “Driving Consistency in the Call Center

  1. November 16, 2006 at 9:15 am

    I’m the individual Tom is referring to regarding the negative experience with a company call center. Please feel free to stop by and read the full details of my interaction with US Airways at: http://www.rinsem.com/us-airways-worst-customer-service-lack-of-respect/
    I completely agree with Tom’s statements regarding call centers. These customer service representatives sometimes do not recognize their importance to the company from both a public relations standpoint as well the impact on the overall vision of the company.
    Due to a few bad experiences with the customer service representatives at US Airways, they have now lost my business. While I’m sure they will not miss my flights alone, I hope to make more of an impact by informing the public of my plight.

  2. November 16, 2006 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for stopping by, Michael. Since I have my own issues with U.S. Airways (it only took ONE experience in 1996 to make me swear never to travel with them again), I’m happy to give you the opportunity to share your story. Best wishes.

  3. Steve Murtagh
    November 16, 2006 at 10:06 am

    … “These customer service representatives sometimes do not recognize their importance to the company from both a public relations standpoint as well the impact on the overall vision of the company.”
    Sadly, many COMPANIES do not realize this either. Its a truism that the call center is treated like the poor cousin in many companies, and people tend to rise to the level of performance that they sense is expected of them. Treat them like a “necessary evil” and you won’t get star quality performance.

  4. November 16, 2006 at 10:11 am

    Amen, Steve! It’s amazing that companies fail to recognize that each day their customers are experiencing thousands of “moments of truth” in that call center. You’d think it would be a top priority – not an afterthought!

  5. November 16, 2006 at 6:40 pm

    I have to agree with Steve’s comment — I think that many companies fail to empower their agents to create a great customer experience… on and off the telephone. I also recently chronicled a poor telephone experience on my blog. (See http://kermitfan.blogspot.com/2006/10/i-shake-my-fist-at-you-sprint.html if you’re interested…)
    It took a lot (six unsolicited phone calls on my cell phone) to make me even post the rant, but I felt that perhaps the company could have (actually, SHOULD have based upon National Do Not Call Standards) empowered their agents to solve my simple problem and request. In the defense of the CSRs, however, they were empowered to give me free items to satiate me. I would rather have them solve my problem than give me free services, though…
    Fear not, there are good companies out there, and great agents. Keep the faith, consumers!

  6. November 17, 2006 at 8:27 am

    You’re right, Jill. It’s sad that companies don’t trust their front-line CSRs with the empowerment to take care of the customer. The result is a lose-lose-lose for the cusotmer, CSR and company!
    Thanks for the comment!

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