Category: Training & Coaching

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!

In Customer Service, Improvisation is Sometimes Necessary

 

from henriqueiwao via Flickr

My colleague was scheduled to present a training session to one of our client’s teams this morning. I was scheduled to attend and observe. While I was aware of the general topic being presented in the training, this was my colleague’s baby. She had written and produced the training and I’d never seen it presented before. She did, however, ask me to arrive early and set up the lap top, projector and slide show for her. Knowing that she was scheduled in a previous meeting, she realized that she would be pressed to arrive on time and needed to be ready to jump right in to her training presentation.

I was happy to help out. I arrived early, set up the laptop, projector and slide show. I greeted our client guests as they arrived and helped them all get settled. My colleague was clearly running behind. I apologized, explained the she would be there momentarily and attempted to initiate some small talk among the 20 or so team members assembled. A few minutes passed by. My colleague had still not arrived.

The Senior Manager in the room grew visibly anxious by the delay. From the oppostie side of the room he said, “Tom, will you please go ahead and get us started? We need to stay on schedule. You can start the training and she can take over when she gets here.”

The subtext of this was not a question as in “Can you start us?” but a gentle demand: “Tom, you will start this session. Our team’s time is valuable and we don’t have time to wait around.”

Ummmm… Okay. So I got up and approached the laptop praying that my colleague’s slide show was thorough and detailed. Slide one contained the objectives. Sweet. I can go through these. The first point of the training was talking about voice tone.  I quickly pulled some information from my years as a trainer and plowed forward.

A few months ago I wrote a post on my personal blog outlining Ten Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success. The post went viral. Well over 120,000 views to-date and hundreds of comments from around the globe. Number one on that list was “Improvisation.” I chuckled to myself as I thought about that and now found myself improvising my way through the opening slides of a training presentation I didn’t produce and of which I had no knowledge. To my great relief, my teammate entered the room a few minutes later and delivered me from having to improvise any more than I did.

I always tell my Customer Service training classes that training is all about understanding rules and exceptions. There are Customer Service rules that apply remarkably well to most service situations. Yet, for every rule there are exceptional situations to which the rules don’t fit. You don’t want to make rules based on the exceptions. You do, however, want to be prepared for the exceptional situation that requires you to think on your feet and improvise in the moment.

QA is Important: You Get What You Measure (or Don’t)

Portrait of happy female manager with business staff working in a call center

Last night I was preparing a Service Quality Assessment report for one of our clients. For years, the team was led by a strong manager who set the bar high for his team and held them accountable for their service performance. Agents had individual performance goals based on the service quality data we provided and could check their progress monthly through our on-line web portal. The manager even committed a generous monetary bonus to agents who could consistently deliver high levels of service. Then, just two months ago the manager was promoted and moved on to a new position.

Wouldn’t you know it? The team’s sevice performance plummeted after one month.

In recent years I’ve heard a cacophany of industry voices saying that QA is old school and ineffective. Most of the time, it seems to come from the technology sector who have a new widget to sell which promises to measure quality better (without actually involving humans) with the click of a mouse – or who want businesses to direct dollars spent on quality to their latest technology fad.

Last night’s report was a good reminder to me, and to my client, why the old fashioned discipline of setting an expectation, measuring behavior, encouraging, coaching and holding your people accountable works. You can set the expectation, but without the measuring, encouraging, coaching and accountability you’re not going to know if your team is delivering on that expectation (and it’s likely they won’t). It may not be glitzy. I may not be glamorous. Because it involves humans and human interaction it can even get messy at times. But, it works.

Ask my client, who this morning can go into her team meeting with the data to know how her team performed, what they did well, and what specific service behaviors they stopped demonstrating once they thought they weren’t going to be held accountable. She knows specifically what they need to do and can efficiently communicate the game plan and expectation for improvement.

Quality is for Internal Customers, Too!

from andrewscott via Flickr

Our group just completed two pilot Service Quality Assessment projects for a client. We’ve been providing QA services for this company for several years, but our work was confined to the front line Customer Service teams. Earlier this year, the client began to notice a discrepancy between the service expectations of their Customer Service team and those of the teams who service internal customers. We thus began a project to objectively measure and benchmarch service for the client’s IT Service Desk and and internal procedural service team.

As with most internal teams we’ve assessed through the years, the results showed huge opportunities to improve service delivered to internal customers. While service delivered to an internal customer may not be as formal, there is no reason why it should not exemplify adequate levels of courteous, friendly service. In fact, it can be argued that these internal teams, who are deemed as experts in their respective disciplines, should be setting the example to their internal customers of how an end-user customer should be treated.

Along with benchmarking serveral behavioral service skills which had plenty of room for improvement, our assessment also unearthed some procedural issues that could mean significant savings and improvement in efficiency. With one team in particular, a huge percentage of the calls received were found to be simple requests to check on the status of a previous request or to see if correspondence had been received. With a small investment in available technology to auto-reply that correspondence had been received and provide status updates, this internal team stands to substantially reduce calls, reduce costs, improve productivity, and more efficiently process the work which will ultimately affect the end-user customer.

Many companies rightly concern themselves with measuring the quality of their customer interactions, but teams who service internal customers are just as critical in the service chain that ultimately impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The Truth of the Tape

A typical home reel to reel tape recorder, thi...

Image via Wikipedia

Since Prohibition, when recorded phone conversations with a bootlegger were first used in a criminal prosecution, the taped phone call has had a colorful history. Movies and television have made familiar the image of FBI agents hunkered over spinning reels of tape in a van or an empty warehouse loft as they listen in on the calls of shady mobsters. Go to the new Mob Museum in Las Vegas and you’ll get to hear some of the actual calls for yourself.

The recorded conversation is a powerful tool. In our training with clients, our team will often go into a studio and recreate a phone call using voice actors to protects the identify of caller and CSR, but accurately recreate the customer service conversation between the two. These calls are always a fun and effective training tool because they are based on an actual interaction with which CSRs identify. “I took a call just like that,” we hear all the time, “I think that mighta been me!” Because the pertinent identifying information is hidden, the focus can be on what we can learn from the call and how the interaction might have been improved.

Another important way to utilize recordings is as evidence of a particular procedural or systems related issue. Call recording software often includes a video capture of what is happening on the agent’s desktop during the phone call. When trying to make a point about how obtuse or cumbersome a particular system is for agents while they are on the phone call, a recorded example complete with visual can be a powerful piece of evidence for upper management and decision makers. As they sit and uncomfortably witness first hand the CSR struggling through a jungle of screens as they try to maintain conversation and call flow with the customer, it makes a much more persuasive argument than a mere description of the issue.

Of course, the recordings can also be very effective tools to highlight both positive and negative performance. It’s hard for CSRs to defend their poor service behaviors when there is a plethora of recorded evidence with which to coach them. People often think of call recording as merely a tool to catch people doing things wrong, but our team regularly reminds CSRs that the truth of the tape can also catch people doing things right and become hard evidence of an agents exemplary service skills. Many years ago a frustrated manager asked our team to do a special assessment of an agents calls. The manager wanted to fire the agent and was looking for evidence to do so. In this case, the tape revealed that the agent performed well when serving customers on the phone. The truth of the tape helped protect the CSR from being unfairly terminated.

Call recordings are tools. As with all tools, the results lie in the wisdom and abilities of the person or persons wielding them. When misused, call recording can do damage to people and businesses. When used with discernment and expertise, those same recordings can effectively help build a successful business.

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