We’ve Improved! Why Isn’t the Customer Satisfied?

I’m working with a client’s contact center this week and the data from our Customer Satisfaction and Quality Assessment (QA) reveal an interesting story. The Customer Service team has been working on improving their service delivery, and the behavioral data from our on-going QA work reveal clear improvement in specific areas of the call. The improvement in call quality, however, has not translated into corresponding improvement in Customer Satisfaction.

So, in my presentations this week, I dug into the data with the Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and Call Center management team. Because our Customer Satisfaction surveys have helped identify key drivers of the client’s customer satisfaction, specifically when the customers call the contact center, we could compare the improved CSR service behaviors to the key drivers of customer satisfaction.

The bottom line is that the improvements were great and will have a  positive impact  operationally, but the improvements weren’t necessarily in areas that their customers would immediately notice or reward. Some of the key service soft skills that will move the needle on customer satisfaction have been stagnant. If the contact center wants customers to reward them with increased satisfaction, they’ll have to keep doing a great job in their improved hard skills, but add to it the key soft skills for which their customers will reward them.

This week’s presentations have reminded me, once again, that focusing on industry standards, industry benchmarks, and best practices will only improve your customer’s satisfaction if those standards, benchmarks, and best practices are what your customers care about. Until you find out what matters to your customers and link them to your QA program, you might just be moving the needle on all the wrong things.

A CEO in the Call Center CSR’s Shoes


DirecTV’s CEO went on Undercover Boss and learned how difficult a CSR’s job can really be. Sometimes it’s good to walk a mile in your CSR’s shoes!

If you can’t see the video above, you may view it here.

We Can Record Calls. Now What Do We Do?

One of the common frustrations I’ve witnessed in the past 16 years of working with clients and their Quality Assessment (QA) programs happens shortly after a company invests in new phone technology or call recording and QA software. The technology is installed and the switch is flipped. They have this great new software tool with bells and whistles and… no idea how to get started.

Here are a three things you’ll need to do:

  • Decide how you are going to report the data and information you generate, and how you want to utilize them. Do you simply want data to show the VP that you’re doing something to measure and improve service? Are you going to use the results for individual performance management and incentives at the agent level? Do you simply want to provide call coaching to your front line agents? Do you want to leverage what you’re learning to impact training, marketing and sales? What you want out of your QA program is the first thing you need to determine because it affects how methodical and critical you need to be in subsequent steps of setting up your program.
  • Decide on and list the specific list behaviors you want to listen for. What is most important to your customers when they call (a small post-call survey could help you here)? What specific behaviorsare important to representing your brand? What are the important touch-points at different stages of a common customer interaction? It’s easy to get caught up on the myriad of exceptional situations, but when setting up your scale/scorecard/checklist/form you need to focus on your most routine type(s) of call(s).
  • Decide who is going to monitor and analyze the calls. Many companies use the front-line supervisor to monitor the calls. Others go with a dedicated QA analyst. Some companies hire a third party (that’s one of the service our group provides). There are pros and cons to each approach, and many companies settle on a hybrid approach. It’s important to think through which approach will work best for you and your team.

These are only a few broad bullet points to help focus your thinking, but they provide a rough outline of critical first steps. All the best to you as you set out on your QA journey.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to contact me. It’s what we do.

“In case we get disconnected…”

We often hear Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) providing the phone number of the associate or department to whom they are transferring a caller. In providing the phone number, CSRs will often say “in case we get disconnected, the number you need is…”

The act of providing the phone number is a good one. It provides the caller with the contact information they need and may eliminate unnecessary future calls to the wrong person or department. However, when the reason you give for providing the number is “in case we get disconnected” you plant the subtle suggestion that disconnection is probably, necessitating the provision of the number. It’s a small thing, but it plants a seed in the customer’s mind that could quickly grow into an inappropriate lack of confidence.

Keep up the practice, but choose a better phrase:

  • “For your future reference…”
  • “Should you need to contact them directly in the future…”
  • “Let me make sure you have their number for your records…”
  • “I can give you the direct number so you have it…”
Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and sharynmorrow

Coffee Time Links 09-22-10

SQC’s Coffee Time Links mantra:

15 minutes.
1 cup of coffee.
5 great links.

Top Tips To Improve Your Customer Surveys

Top Tips for Internet Chat in the Call Centre

Growing Business the Old-Fashioned Way

Getting Past Task-Oriented Behavior

Is Customer Effort the Next Customer Experience Metric

Don’t Let Your Communication Skills Sink Your Ship

It’s Friday and we could all use a little chuckle. Thanks to Matthew and Conversations with Life for sending this my way. It’s a great reminder for all of us in the contact center industry. When you serve others over the phone you don’t have body language, facial expressions, or other non-verbal cues to help you communicate. On the phone, what you say and how you say it is critical. Having capable langauge and communication skills can mean the difference between swimming or sinking in the mind of your customer (pun intended).

Improvement Priorities: Don’t Major on the Minors

First, get across the pool. I grew up as a competitive swimmer. When I first started as a child, I literally could not swim across the width of the pool. I began by learning how to swim. As I progressed to racing, it was amazing how a few fundamental changes could result in several seconds improvement in my times. Years went by. I got better. By the time I was in high school there were no longer any quick and easy improvements. I was trying to shave tenths of a second off my time and looking for tiny improvements I could make in every aspect of the race. I even shaved my head for the conference finals so that my hair (which was then much longer and thicker) would not create unnecessary drag through the water.

I think about this quite often as I work daily in Call Center Quality Assessment. When our group begins doing a third-party assessment for clients, I can almost guarantee that the client performs poorly in some of the nit-picky details of the call like hold etiquette and transferring callers. Transfer and Hold behaviors are usually the lowest bars on the bar chart.

It's a common reaction for clients to overreact to the results in these areas. At first glance, it appears that these behaviors are the most critical behaviors on which to improve (because they are being performed so poorly). The truth is that these are relatively minor issues in the larger picture of the customer's experience. It would be like me, as an eight-year-old novice swimmer, shaving my head to improve my time when the most important issue was that I could barely swim across the pool. There were far more important and fundamental improvements I needed to make before focusing on those little details made any sense.

For most contact centers, Holds and Transfers occur on a small fraction of phone calls and have relatively small impact on customer's satisfaction. If you've got issues in basic courtesies and resolution related behaviors (which occur on every call), you're better off investing your resources in improving performance in those behaviors. When you get to the point that you're doing the major things well, then you should turn your focus on the "minor details" that make the difference between "very good" and "excellent."

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and evoo73

Do You React to Bad News or Respond to It?

See no evil. As a third-party provider of Customer Satisfaction surveys and Quality Assessment, our group has delivered a tremendous number of reports to a wide array of companies over the past 25 years. We've delivered a lot of good news (which is always fun). More often than not we make presentations that start with a variation on the theme: "there's some good news, and some bad news." Once in a while, we're stuck presenting information that we know the client doesn't want to hear.

When the data paints a bleak picture you discover the true character of your client. Ultimately, I've witnessed one of two responses:

  1. Deny, Dispute, Deflect, & Ditch. It usually begins with disputing the data and the methodology, progresses to pointing blame elsewhere, and ends with the data getting buried in "the circular file." It's always fascinating to me to watch it. I beleive, in most cases, it's hard for people to get past the initial fearful reaction to the information. Experience tells me that this course rarely ends well, and never ends as well as it could.
  2. Accept, Aim, Arrange, & Act. Good data, whether it's from a customer survey or a Quality Assessment, is priceless information. It gives you a clear picture of where you stand and the course you need to take. I beleive, in most cases, people who take this course are able to get past their initial fearful reaction and consciously respond to the information. I'm always excited to watch someone take the data, even the bad news, and realize that it's a road map for their success. Watching people use the data to improve their service, their customer's satisfaction and their own future helps to keep me motivated each day.

The next time the data doesn't look good, catch yourself reacting and choose to respond.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and billyrowlinson

Coffee Time Links

Cwg coffee cup lr 15 minutes.
1 cup of coffee.
5 great links.

Top Tips for Increasing Telesales Conversions
12 Lessons from the Best Customer Service Companies

Keeping Pace with Customers

Can We Prove Customer-Centered is Better?

Tweet, Tweet, a Little Birdie Told Me You’d Better Pay Attention to Customer Service

Would You Make Your Customer Experience Public?

This commercial from Zappos! was picked up in our group's internal weekly Items of Interest (IOI) email  [thanks, Wendy!] which she picked up from Service Untitled and AdGabber. It's a method originally used successfully by On-Star in which actual customer service calls are utilized to showcase the power of the customer's experience.

Is your company delivering a customer experience that you'd be willing to make public? Is your company delivering a customer experience you're praying your customer's won't make public?