Category: Customer Satisfaction

Lessons from the Weeds in TruGreen’s Treatment

My wife and I built a house a couple of years ago. We had to seed an entire yard in late 2015 and, like all new lawns, it has its issues. Early this spring, after one full growing season, I realized that I needed some professional help controlling the weeds and getting the yard healthy. I noticed that several of our neighbors used TruGreen lawn service and TruGreen has made a huge marketing push this spring so I went online to check them out and request a quote. Literally, within a minute of submitting my online quote request I received a phone call from a TruGreen sales person. I was impressed.

One of the things that TruGreen made a big deal about on their website and in their sales pitch was the fact that my “Ph.D certified lawn specialist” would come, do a site analysis, a soil sample, identify the type of grass we have, and discuss with me with a site plan for my lawn. I care about my new lawn and I realize that I have some responsibility in its success. TruGreen even promised they’d visit between treatments, if needed, to ensure my satisfaction. The idea of a lawn specialist who would talk to me, answer my lawn care questions, and partner with me in making my lawn healthy was a big driver in convincing me to sign up.

Within a couple of weeks I received a phone call informing me that I would get my first visit the following day. A TruGreen “specialist” arrived and knocked on my door. When I opened it he quietly said “I’m going to treat your lawn” as he backed away from the door. Fine. I figured I’d let him do his thing and wait for my site analysis, soil sample, and a discussion of the plan when he was done. I never heard back from him, but I did receive a computer generated report on my door knob with what appeared to be stock information and instructions.

A couple of weeks later I received a call, and the Caller ID said it was from TruGreen. I figured maybe this was my call with the results of my site analysis and a chance to discuss the plan.

Tom! This is your local TruGreen office here in Ankeny, Iowa. I understand you’re interested in some lawn care services,” he said.

I was confused. “Actually, I’m already signed up and I already had my first treatment,” I replied.

Okay. Well, I must have gotten an old message. Sorry to bother you. You have a good day.” [click]

At this point, I wasn’t so impressed with TruGreen. However, almost 25 years in Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) research and Quality Assessment (QA) have taught me that the best of corporate service systems have their glitches. I wanted to give TruGreen a chance and see how they would respond to a sincere customer expressing my dissatisfaction. I went to the website and contacted Customer Support using their on-line form. I explained my frustration and what I had both expected and experienced. Later that day, to their credit, I received a phone call from Holly on the TruGreen Customer Support team.

As a Customer Service QA professional, I can testify that Holly was a total pro (much like the Sales associate who initially called me from TruGreen). If I was doing a C Wenger Group Service Quality Assessment (SQA) analysis of Holly’s call she would have received a complete 100. She was personable, conversational, and empathetic. She apologized, articulated a thorough review of the situation, and then assured me that the following morning I would receive a visit from my lawn care specialist from 7:30-9:30 a.m. She also advised me that my specialist was relatively new and a little shy. Nevertheless, she promised he would do the site analysis and soil sample. He would share the results with me, discuss my site plan, and answer my questions. And, she gave me a 50% reduction in my second treatment.

The following morning at 8:30 my door bell rang. As before my specialist quietly said he was going to treat my lawn as he stood fifteen feet from my front door. That was it. This time I stepped out and walked down to him. I told him I was concerned about my lawn and the patches of clover that were growing. I wanted to know what the “plan” was.

Clover’s hard to get rid of,” he said. “I’ll spray it really well today.” He added it might take multiple applications to get rid of clover. There was no mention of my site analysis. There was no mention of my soil sample. There was no mention of a site plan, discussion of my lawn, or mention of the concerns I’d discussed with Holly. I figured I’d see how things played out and returned inside. Thirty minutes later my TruGreen Lawn Specialist pulled away from the curb having left his stock, computer generated printout of what he’d done to my lawn on the door knob.

I contacted Customer Support once again on May 19 (ticket #1698933), referencing my previous ticket number. I repeated what Holly told me I could expect and then described what I had actually experienced. I reiterated that I simply wanted TruGreen to deliver on their promise. I asked that they either provide me with a lawn specialist who will communicate with me as advertised or be honest with me that I was stuck with what I’d received so that I could pay my bill, cancel my services, and search for other alternatives. The auto reply stated TruGreen would respond as quickly as possible.

It has been over two weeks. I have yet to receive a reply from TruGreen Customer Support.

You can learn a lot about a company and the systemic issues that negatively impact their customers’ satisfaction with a relatively small sample of phone calls, emails, chats or other communications. My experience with TruGreen has me pondering several thoughts and assumptions…

  • TruGreen has a top notch technology system with regard to national marketing, sales, support. They are everywhere in the media. They have great ads and a well articulated promise. They are quick to respond to any on-line quote request and a well-trained sales person gave me a great introduction. Likewise, my initial Customer Support experience was both responsive and top notch.
  • TruGreen has local branches across the nation who deliver their lawn services. I’m not sure if they are independently owned franchises or corporately owned subsidiaries, but I quickly learned that the actual customer experience with TruGreen is highly dependent on my local TruGreen branch, their staff, and their abilities. The fact that my local Ankeny office called to sell me services I had already contracted and that they themselves had already delivered tells me that there is at least some disconnect between TruGreen Corporate and the TruGreen branch.
  • TruGreen corporate sales and support is at the mercy of the local branches to deliver a satisfactory experience and resolve actual customer issues. Holly in Grand Rapids could make all the promises and assurances she wanted, but if the local branch in Ankeny was unwilling or unable to deliver, the promise would remain hollow and unmet. The local branches, their communication with national sales and support, and their ability to deliver appears to be a crucial weak link.
  • I assume that TruGeen branches are struggling with an annual seasonal crunch exacerbated by their aggressive national sales efforts. Local branches must quickly hire and train “specialists” and meet increased demands. I have to assume that my specialist was part of an army of newly hired, quickly trained specialists who were rapidly deployed and are struggling to meet demand.
  • I’m sure that most TruGreen customers are happy with a regularly scheduled visit from an anonymous lawn specialist who treats their lawn when they’re not home. I’m also reasonably sure that most customers are satisfied with the stock thermal paper report on their door knob. I accept that I may be among the few customers for whom the site analysis, soil sample, and partnership of a lawn specialist who communicates with me about my lawn is a key driver of my satisfaction.
  • Given that I’ve not received any response from TruGreen’s typically efficient and responsive national support system leads me to suspect that they’ve either accepted that I’m a lost customer or have placed responsibility for resolving my issue on the local branch who has not responded. Pardon the pun, but I’m left feeling like I’m just a pesky weed.

Our experiences as customers, both positive and negative, are opportunities to learn, grow, and continuously improve. That’s what C Wenger Group’s Service Quality Assessments are all about. My experience with TruGreen reminds me that great front end communication with sales and support can only go so far. Customers will ultimately judge us by the actual experience that happens in the moment of truth when we’re interacting. For TruGreen that is at the front door and on then lawn. I am also reminded that almost every customer service problem is rooted in a communication issue.

TruGreen simply needed their lawn specialist to spend 5-10 minutes communicating with me on the initial visit:

“Hi Tom. I’m Joe. If you’ve got a second, let me chat with you about your lawn. Tell me a little bit about your lawn and what your concerns you have? I hear you and I understand. Here’s what I know having analyzed your lawn. Here’s what we’re going to do and what you can expect to see happening with your lawn. Here are a few suggestions I have for your mowing and watering that will make a big difference in us getting this lawn healthy.”

Once I became a dissatisfied caller, TruGreen simply needed someone to “come out as often as needed” to say:

“We’re sorry. We dropped the ball on you. We’re going to do what we promised to do in the first place, and then we’re going to follow-up with you to make sure we get this right.”

As a customer, a company’s silence can be deafening.

 

More great reading from Tom Vander Well:

 

Tom Vander Well serves as Executive Vice-President of C Wenger Group and has led the group’s Quality Assessment, Training, and coaching efforts for over 20 years. A long-time blogger, Tom’s QAQnA and Service Quality Central blogs were awarded for their content in the Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, and contact center industries. Tom was also the contributing Customer Service columnist for the Des Moines Business Record‘s IowaBiz blog. Tom consults with businesses, large and small, in improving customer satisfaction and customer service. tom@cwengergroup.com  @cwengergroup

Executive Reality Check: What We Say vs. What We Measure

A while back I read a fascinating article by Lou Gerstner in the Wall Street Journal. He was examining the response of a financial institution’s CEO to the debacle in which they found themselves. The CEO said that it was the employees who failed to honor the corporate culture of “putting the customer first.” Gerstner goes on argue that what companies say they value in their mission and value statements often flies in the face of the corporate culture dictated from the executive suites:

What is critical to understand here is that people do not do what you expect but what you inspect. Culture is not a prime mover. Rather it is a derivative. It forms as a result of signals employees get from the corporate processes that structure their work priorities.

If the financial-reporting system focuses entirely on short-term operating results, that’s what will get priority from employees. If you want employees to care a lot about customers, then customer-satisfaction data should get as prominent a place in the reporting system as sales and profit.

I have seen the truth of Gerstner’s observations over and over again in our years of providing Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) research and Quality Assessment (QA) for companies large and small.

When I tell people about our group it is quite common to have them respond by telling me that their company has a “quality” program. When I ask them to describe their program, however, they explain that they get regular reports about Average Speed of Answer, Average Call Time, Call Counts, and similar metrics. In other words, they are measuring quantity (of calls and time) and equating it with quality. To Gerstner’s point, you get what you inspect. When our group is given an opportunity to do a true quality assessment for such a company, we find Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) more focused on cranking through as many calls as quickly as they can than they are providing any kind of positive customer experience. Despite their company’s well worded value statements about customer service, the CSRs know that their employer truly values efficiency, productivity and cost containment because that’s what the employer measures.

Alternatively, when our group has enjoyed long term partnerships with clients it is typically because the CEO and executive team truly believe in the long-term value and profitability of providing a superior customer experience. To that end, they understand the value of getting reliable data about what drives their customer’s satisfaction and the importance of objectively measuring the customer experience against those drivers. Front-line CSRs know that their company values providing a truly superior customer experience because that is what their employer measures.

It’s a simple exercise for any corporate executive. First take a look at your company’s stated values and mission with regard to customer service and/or the customer experience. Next, take a look at what’s truly being measured on your front-lines where customers interact with your team. Is there a disconnect?

If you need an experienced partner in finding out what drives your customers’ satisfaction, how to measure quality the right way, and how to effectively communicate these things throughout your organization then give us a call. It’s what we’ve been doing for over a quarter century. We’d love the opportunity to work with you and your team.

 

tom head shotTom Vander Well is partner and Executive Vice-President of C Wenger Group. Tom has written about Customer Satisfaction and Quality Assessment on previous blogs (QAQnA and Service Quality Central) and was a contributing Customer Service blogger for the Des Moines Business Record

A Representative CSAT Sample is Crucial

One of the keys to getting reliable Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) data is to make sure that you have a representative sample of the entire customer population you want to target. E-mail and on-line surveys are relatively cheap and easy to build and implement, but the sample of those who respond may not be representative of all your customers.

We are inundated with survey requests in our modern culture. There’s the annoying pop-up request to rate a website (one second after you’ve arrived on the page), the standardized post-call opt-in surveys when you call almost any major company’s Customer Service line, and the awkward moment the auto dealer asks you to give them all great marks or they might lose their jobs. With the survey overload it’s more common than ever for giant segments of a customer population to ignore the survey altogether. Surveys responses are likely to be biased toward customer segments of those who are very angry, very happy, or who simply like to take surveys. This means there may be entire segments of your customer population who are not represented in your CSAT data.

The risk for you and your business comes when you start making tactical and strategic business decisions based on skewed CSAT data. 

There are ways to ensure representative sampling and proven techniques for getting reliable CSAT data. It requires good customer data to identify an appropriate pool of potential respondents and a well-crafted approach for requesting that your customers take the survey. If doing a personal, interactive survey you need an experienced team who can put respondents at ease and get them talking.

Having reliable customer data can make all the difference in making crucial business decisions that will affect your company’s future. It’s worth the investment to have our group work with you and your team ensure that the sample is representative, the data is real, and the results are reliable.

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C Wenger Group’s Research and Survey Services

Five Reasons to Outsource Your CSAT and QA Initiatives

Training & Coaching

Over the past decade more and more companies have adopted an attitude of “it’s cheaper for us to do it ourselves.” We have experienced an era of increased regulation, executive hesitation, and economic stagnation. Companies have hunkered down, tightened the purse strings, and found ways to play it safe. Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) research and Quality Assessment (QA) have been popular areas for businesses to do this given technology that makes it relatively easy to “do it yourself.”

Just because your team can do these things yourself, doesn’t mean that it’s a wise investment of your time and resources, nor does it guarantee that you’ll do it well. Based on a track record of mediocre (at best) renovations, my wife regularly reminds me that while I technically can do home improvement projects cheaper myself, she’d prefer that we pay an expert to do it well (and free me to invest my time doing more of what I do well so we can pay for it).

So why pay an outside group like ours to survey of your customers, or monitor your team’s calls to provide a Quality Assessment report on how they’re serving your customers?

I’ll give you five reasons.

  1. It gets done. Analyzing phone calls, surveying customers, and crunching data require a certain amount of discipline and attention to detail. When things are changing, fires are raging, and the needs of your own business are demanding a team’s time and attention, then things like crunching data or listening to recorded phone calls become back burner issues. It’s common for people to tell me that they have their own internal QA team. When I ask how that’s going for them, I usually hear excuses for why it’s hard to get it done with all the urgent matters to which team members must attend. When you hire a third party provider, it gets done. It’s what we’re hired do.
  2. It gets done well. Our clients represent diverse areas of the market from manufacturing to retail to financial services. Our clients tend to be leaders in their industries because they are good at what they do. Developing expertise outside of their discipline isn’t a wise investment of resources and (see #1) and who has time for that? Our clients want to invest their time and resources doing what they know and do well. Measuring what is important to their customers, turning those things into behavioral attributes, analyzing communication channels, and coaching their agents how to improve customer interactions in ways that improve customer satisfaction are what we do well.
  3. You get an objective perspective. When providing audits of internal Quality Assessment teams or reviewing internally produced customer survey data, it’s common for us to find evidence of various kinds of bias. Employees at different levels of an organization have motivations for wanting data to look good for their employers, or bad with respect to coworkers with whom there are other workplace conflicts. I’ve observed supervisors who are overly harsh assessing the calls of employees with whom they have conflicts. Internal call analysts, wanting to be kind to their coworkers, will commonly choose to “give them credit [for a missed service skill] and just ‘coach them on it.'” Internal research data can be massaged to provide results that gloss over problems or support presuppositions that are politically correct with the executive team. Our mission, however, is to provide objective, customer-centric data that give our clients a realistic picture of both customer perceptions and the company’s service performance. It is our mission to be accurate and objective in gathering and reporting data.
  4. You get an outside perspective. It has been famously observed that “a prophet is not welcome in his hometown.” Internal data is often discredited and dismissed for any number of reasons from (see #2) “What do they know?” doubts about the expertise of coworkers to (see #3) “They hate me” accusations of bias which we’ve discovered are sometimes accurate and other times not. Front line managers regularly tell me that they appreciate having our group providing assessment and coaching because they can’t be accused of being biased, and as outside experts we have no internal ax to grind. In addition, our years of experience with other companies provide insight and fresh ideas for handling common internal dilemmas.
  5. You can fire us with a phone call. “Do you know why I keep you around?” a client asked me one day. I took the bait and asked him why. “It’s because I take comfort in knowing I can pick up the phone and fire you whenever I want.” He went to explain that he had no desire to hire an internal team to provide the survey data, quality assessment, and call coaching our team provided their company. Not only would he bear the expense and headaches associated with developing an expertise outside of their company’s discipline (see #2), but once employed he couldn’t easily get rid of them should they prove as ineffective as he expected they would be (See #1, #3, and #4). His point was well taken. Our group has labored for years with the understanding that our livelihoods hinge on our ability to continually provide measurable value to our clients.

Yes, you can technically generate your own CSAT survey or call Quality Assessment data. Technology makes it feasible for any virtually any company to do these things internally. The question is whether it is wise for your company to do so. When calculating the ROI of internal vs. external survey and QA initiatives, most companies fail to calculate the expenses associated with ramp up, development, training, nor do they consider the cost associated with employee time and energy expended doing these things poorly and providing questionable data and  results.

White Paper: Why Customer Service Training Isn’t Enough

Companies often desire to provide basic customer service training for their team(s). Our group is often asked to provide a “Customer Service 101” training session that teaches employees some basic customer service phone skills, and we do provide that type of training. We have, however, always believed that training alone, without any kind of assessment or accountability, will have limited impact. A recent experience with one client allowed us to quantify this reality with data. Please click on the link below to download our white paper.

White Paper_Customer Service Training is Not Enough

 

Technology & Addressing the Human Side of Customer Service

I read an interesting article this morning in the Wall Street Journal by Susan Credle. The article was about how storytelling is still very much a necessity in marketing. In the article she laments the impact technology is having on her industry, and the way it hinders the human creativity in marketing:

Data and technology dominate the conversations. And conference rooms and conferences are filled with formulaic approaches. “Make a template and put the creative in this box” approaches. Often, we appear to be more concerned with filling up these boxes than with the actual creative.

Her story resonated with me as it parallels the similar impact technology has had on customer service and QA in contact centers. Technology has allowed many large businesses to “offload” common customer service interactions to IVRs, VRUs, and apps. Actual customer interactions with human agents is diminishing, yet there are two very important distinctions to be made here. First, when customers finally  escalate their issue by navigating the labyrinth of self-serve options the human interaction at the end of the line tends to be even more complex, emotional, and critical to that customer’s satisfaction. Second, not many small to mid-sized businesses have deep corporate pockets to integrate large technology suites which will automate many of their customer interactions. Many businesses are still out there manning the phones and serving customers through good, old-fashioned human interaction.

Like professional athletes who spend hours in the video room breaking down their performance with coaches, Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) still benefit from call analysis, coaching, and accountability of performance. Yet, I find many companies still want to offload this process to formulaic approaches defined by any number of confined boxes created by software developers.

Please don’t hear what I’m not saying. Technology offers wonderful tools to make the Quality Assessment (QA) process more efficient and effective. Nevertheless, I have found that there is no technology that effectively replaces the very human communication that takes place between agent and call coach. Effective QA combines objectivity and motivation. It both encourages and holds accountable. It addresses the often messy reality of human desire, emotions, behaviors, and personalities. Much like Ms. Credle’s observations of marketing, I find that technology often leads more to simply checking boxes and less to actually helping a human CSR improve their communication with human customers.

 

4 Reasons to QA Your Collections Team

Money CashPeople are always surprised to hear that our group regularly provides Quality Assessment (QA) services for our clients’ collections team(s). The mental picture we all seem to have in our head is that of low rent thugs beating up the poor customers of loan sharks on television. We think of collectors as nasty, hard-boiled agents who know how to threaten, hoodwink and cajole customers into paying up. There are, no doubt, collection agencies who operate with such tactics. Our clients, however, have learned over time that collecting from customers with respectful professionalism and a consistently high level of quality is worth the investment. Here are four reasons why:

  1. Better collections. Customers will often write the first check to the creditors who treat them respectfully. If a customer owes your company money, it’s likely they owe money to other companies as well. When the next paycheck or windfall comes in, that customer is going to decide which creditors to pay and which creditors to put off. When a collector treats a customer with empathy, professionalism and respect, we often hear customers state that it factors heavily into their decision to pay that company first.
  2. Customer loyalty. Our research team has quantified in some of our clients’ CSAT surveys that “willingness to work with me in tough times” can drive customer satisfaction and loyalty. Not all customers who owe money are dead beats. Quite often, and especially in a tough economy, good customers fall on hard times. When a company is willing to work with that customer through their difficulties and provide quality service on each call, customers tend to remember it. “What goes around comes around,” they say. When you stick by your customer in tough times, that customer will often stick with you for the rest of their lives.
  3. Employee satisfaction. Even collectors feel the weight of people’s misperceptions and I will never forget speaking with the manager of our client’s collections department a year or so after we’d been working with her team. She was ecstatic. She reported that her team had never felt so empowered and equipped (after long feeling like the company’s “red-headed step-child”). And while there will always be difficult customers to deal with, her collectors were more satisfied with their jobs knowing that the company wanted them to treat customers well. The fact that the company was willing to invest in our Service Quality Assessment to benchmark their service and help them improve was a boost for the team’s morale.
  4. Peace of mind. Even the best of collections departments can run into extreme situations. The collections effort can be some of the more contentious conversations any company has to manage. If you have collectors with short fuses or situations that need management’s attention, our clients tell us that they sleep better at night knowing there’s an objective third-party listening in (and occasionally sending them an e-mail saying, “you better look into this one.”).

It’s a mistake to assume that “collections” and “service quality” don’t go together. In fact, measuring and improving the quality of service your collectors consistently deliver on the phone can be a win-win-win-win for you, your customers, your employees, and your bottom line.

Quality Assessment and Survey Data Efficiently Delivered to your Desktop

SQC Screen Capture 1

One of the many frustrations of corporate Quality Assessment programs is how to efficiently get the results and data to the agents so that they are aware of their performance and can make necessary efforts to improve. For years, c wenger group has been delivering our clients’ QA and research data, both team and individual agent reports, directly through our Service Quality Central web portal. Managers and agents can both access their most recent data 24/7/365 with a provided user name and password. Supervisors and Managers can quickly access all of their agents individual QA data from one easy to use source and agents are able to utilize down time to pull up their QA data right at their desk.

SQC Screen Capture 3

Our Service Quality Central website can be branded for each client and offers the flexibility to provide more than just data. We have are able to provide audio and video content. In some cases we’ve uploaded individual agents calls and coaching notes so that they can hear one of their own calls at their leisure, right at their own desk. Training videos, coaching handouts, training manuals can all be shared with agents.

SQC Screen Capture 2

Our clients are busy doing what they do best and the tasks that make them profitable. They don’t want to be burdened with tasks that may be strategic and valuable, but aren’t in their area of expertise. Surveying customers, analyzing calls for quality and compliance, interpreting data trends, and reporting data to the front lines are activities that drain time, energy and resources; Resources that our clients would rather invest in their core business. That’s where c wenger group comes in.

We have over a quarter century experience surveying customers, analyzing phone calls, and turning data into actionable, effective training and coaching solutions. Our Service Quality Central web portal is one of the ways we take the burden off of our clients and deliver effective, measureable value directly to their desktop on an on-going basis.

For more information, please drop us an e-mail at info@cwengergroup.com.

Three Great Examples from This Week’s Call Coaching

Above view of several business people planning work at round tabWe had a great day call coaching two of our client’s sales teams on Wednesday. We provide integrated services for this client which include a customer survey, on-going call assessment and bi-monthly call coaching.

A few highlights from our coaching sessions:
  • Data from our ongoing Service Quality Assessment revealed that a common courtesy service skill had significantly declined for a team of Regional Account Managers. The objective data pinpointed the real reason for the decline: one agent’s performance has drastically deteriorated since the beginning of the year. We were able to share with this agent, from our survey results, how courtesy is not only a key driver of their customers’ satisfaction but is also a key differentiator between his company and their competitors. We were able to listen to a call together in which the courtesy skill was missed and discussed strategies for implementation. The agent left informed, motivated and equipped. The ongoing call assessment will hold him accountable to make progress.
  • Another agent on the same team was new about 18 months ago. The agent transferred from an operations position and was new to the phones. In the beginning he was the poorest performer, struggling to learn the ropes. In our coaching session yesterday we were able to show that our data now quantifies that he is currently the team’s best performer. From “worst to first” in less than two years. “It’s all because of your coaching and data,” he said. “It’s thanks to you.” He did the hard work, but we’ll gladly take the compliment. It was great to celebrate with him. We love being the bearers of good news!
  • In a different session we coached a member of the Inside Sales team. The Service Quality Assessment revealed the agent’s service performance has declined slightly in recent months. It wasn’t a major problem, but we wanted to address it before it got worse. Digging into the behavioral data, we could identify specifically which service skills had been demonstrated less consistently, listen to examples in actual calls, and discuss strategies for remembering and employing the skills. The agent will receive monthly data via our Service Quality Central web portal to track the progress.
We leave our time with the client feeling good about the measurable value we’ve been able to provide through real data that translates into actionable coaching and training. If you’d like real data to quantify which dimensions of service drive your customer’s satisfaction and real number that reveal how your agents are performing in those daily moments of truth with customer, the give us a call (515.278.1516) or drop us an e-mail. It’s what we love to do!

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?