Category: Customer Satisfaction

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?

 

Buyer Beware! QA Software Considerations

It has become vogue for call centers to have the latest, greatest software for monitoring and scoring phone calls. For most companies, the decision to purchase one of these products is no small consideration. These software options can be a major investment running well into six figures on just the initial capital outlay. I’ve had the experience of working with various call centers who have utilized the products of different software vendors. My suggestion is that you take your time and give plenty of consideration before making an investment in software. A couple of thoughts:

  • Software is only a tool, you still have to know how to use it. You wouldn’t purchase bookkeeping software and expect it to make you financially solvent. In the same way, you can’t expect that having one of these software products is going to make you an expert in call quality assessment. Unfortunately, I’ve watched companies spend a lot of money on software with the expectation that they’ll simply turn it on and have instant, successful QA. Most of the time, there is a large hidden cost in man power, time and resources just to figure out how you’re going to use it and program the software with your own QA metrics.
  • Slide Shows and slick sales presentations are no substitute for a real-life demonstration. Just last week a client told me how angry they were with their QA software vendor. The client had asked the vendor for a “hands-on” demonstration of the software update on which they were spending a considerable sum of money. The vendor flew in (at the client’s expense!) with nothing but a handful of slides and screen shots. The client was angry and the vendor maintained a “you’ll get what we give you and like it” mentality.
  • Get good references. I asked one of our clients what she thought of the QA software her company had purchased a few years ago. “How do I like it?” she repeated, incredulously looking around the room. “Do you see anyone from the software vendor around here helping me? They’re not here helping me, you’re the one here helping me! How do you think I feel about them?” I wish her experience was isolated, but it’s not. It is not uncommon for contact centers to feel that they were courted by a vendor who disappeared after they said, “I do.” They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on software that you can’t just return with a receipt, only to find themselves in an unhappy marriage to the vendor.
  • Software experts are not necessarily QA experts. One of our clients was told by their software vendor that, if they wanted to purchase a certain add-on module, they must also pay for the vendor’s experts to help them with their QA scale. They were not given a choice and the resulting QA scale, in our opinion, was a muddled, statistically invalid mess. Programming software to capture audio and data isn’t the same as measuring and analyzing it the data that’s captured.
  • Beware of the money-pit. I remember a Looney Tunes animated short where Daffy Duck is a salesman demonstrating all these great home-improvement technologies to Porky Pig. He keeps warning Porky not to push the red button on the control panel. When Porky gives in to temptation and pushes the forbidden red button, his house is lifted thousands of feet in the air on a hydraulic lift. Daffy comes by in a helicopter and says, “For small fee, you can buy the blue button to get you down!” This is a similar experience to clients who have purchased QA software. You spend a ton of money on this product, you get it installed and integrated with your phone system – now you’re stuck with it. When it doesn’t quite do what you want it to, the software company will tell you they’ll be happy to turn on that feature – for a not-so-small fee.

Don’t get me wrong, I do believe these powerful software tools can be invaluable in helping you efficiently manage your QA program. In most cases, they actually make my job easier, so I don’t generally have a problem with them. It’s just that I’ve just witnessed a lot of frustration from my clients. I would encourage anyone to do their homework, check references, and count the cost (not just the initial cost of the software, but the cost of developing internal QA expertise, additional licenses, frequent updates, and program downtime waiting for the vendor to provide after-the-sale service).

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flickr photo courtesy of stephenm