Tag: Customer Service

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

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.

 

Five Reasons to Consider a Third Party QA Provider

c wenger group is a full service Quality Assessment provider, assisting clients set up their QA programs and providing QA as a 3rd party complete with call analysis, reporting of team and individual agent data, and even data led coaching and training.

c wenger group is a full service Quality Assessment provider, assisting clients set up their QA programs and providing QA as a 3rd party complete with call analysis, reporting of team and individual agent data, and even data led coaching and training.

If your team or company is thinking about getting into call monitoring and Quality Assessment (QA), or for those who are seeking a solution to their internal QA headaches, we would encourage you to at least give consideration to a third party QA solution. Many companies dismiss the idea of a third party provider without really weighing the option. With nearly a quarter century of experience and multiple client relationships of twenty years or more, the team here at c wenger group believes we’ve proven that it can be a sensible alternative.

Here are five reasons to consider a third party QA provider:

  1. Expertise. I’m sure your company is good at what it does. You have expertise in your field and would like to focus your resources and energies on doing what you do well. We feel the same way. It may seem that analyzing a phone call, e-mail, or chat should not be that difficult. The technology company who sold you your suite of software probably made it sound like it would practically run itself and give you all sorts of powerful information with a few clicks of the mouse. The truth is that a successful quality program is more complex than it seems. Many companies go down the road to setting up their own quality program only to find themselves bogged down in a quagmire of questions about methodology, sample sizes, criteria, and calibration. Don’t try to re-invent the wheel building expertise in a business discipline that distracts you from doing what you do well (and what makes you money). Let us do what we do well, and help you with that.
  2. Expediency. We’ve had many companies tell us that they purchased or installed a call recording and QA solution that they thought would deliver an easy, “out of the box” program. Instead, they find themselves feeling like they purchased an expensive plane that sits on the tarmac because no one knows how to fly it. Don’t spending months wrangling and struggling just to figure out how you want your QA program to look and work. How much time will you and your valuable, talented team members waste in meetings and strategy sessions just trying to figure out how you’re going to analyze calls? We’ve been doing QA for companies of all shapes, sizes, and types for many years, and in short period of time we can have a working, effective, successful QA program set up and delivering useful data and information right to your desktop.
  3. Objectivity. One of the most common pitfalls of internal quality programs is analyst bias. Supervisors are tasked with monitoring their own teams’ calls, but they don’t want the team (or themselves) to look bad so when they hear something that goes wrong in a call they give the agents credit on the QA form and (wink, wink) “coach them on it.” A quality team member has personality issues with an agent, so he scores that agent more stringently that the rest of the team. A team leader has an agent who is disruptive to the team. She starts looking for “bad calls” to help make a case to fire the problem team member. These are scenarios we’ve seen and documented in our QA audits. They happen. What’s the cost of an internal QA program that doesn’t deliver reliable data or results? A third-party QA provider is not worried about making people look good or grinding axes. We are concerned with delivering objective data that accurately reflects the customer’s experience.
  4. Results delivered regularly, and on time. One of the biggest problems with internal QA programs is that they chronically bow to the tyranny of the urgent (which is all of the time). When things get busy or stressed, the task of analyzing calls is the first thing pushed to the back burner. Internal analysts procrastinate their call analysis until the deadline looms. Then, they rifle through calls to get them done and the results are not thoughtful, accurate, or objective. Our clients tell us that they appreciate knowing that when we we’re on the job the QA process will get done and it will be done well. Calls will be analyzed and reports will be delivered regularly and on time. Better yet, the results will be effective at helping you make tactical goals for improvement, effectively focus your training, manage agent performance, and successfully move the needle on customer satisfaction, retention, and loyalty.
  5. You can always fire us. A client once told us that he kept us around because he slept better at night knowing that he could always fire us. His comment was, admittedly, a little unnerving but his logic made a lot of sense. “If I do this QA thing myself,” he explained, “I have to hire and pay people to do it. In today’s business environment it’s impossible for me to fire someone without a lot of HR headaches. So, if the people I pay to do it internally don’t do it well then I’m stuck with both them and the poor QA program. I like having you do QA for us. Not only do you do it well, but I know that if anything goes wrong I can just pick up the phone and say, ‘we’re done.'” The good news is that he never made that call before he retired!

If you’re looking at getting started in call monitoring and assessment, or if you have a program that isn’t working, we would welcome you to consider how one of our custom designed solutions could deliver reliable, actionable, and profitable results.

 

CWG logoLR

c wenger group designs and provides fully integrated Customer Experience solutions including Customer Satisfaction research, call/e-mail/chat Quality Assessment, and coaching/training solutions for teams and individual agents. Our clients include companies of all sizes in diverse market sectors.

Please feel free to contact us for a no obligation conversation!

Note: c wenger group will maintain your privacy

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!

c wenger group to Present at Central Iowa NCSA Chapter July 8th

central iowa NCSA logoc wenger group members Tom Vander Well and Scott Wier will be presenting on the topic of “Trends in Customer Satisfaction Research and Contact Center Quality Assessment” at the July 8th meeting of the Central Iowa Chapter of the National Customer Service Association. Tom and Scott will be exploring how technology and cultural trends are affecting the way companies measure customer satisfaction and service quality, and sharing their expertise regarding how members can improve their companies’ efforts and avoid potential blind spots that are sometimes ignored in the marketplace.

Central Iowa NCSA was previously a part of the the ICSA but made the switch to NCSA after 2014. The group meets quarterly over the lunch hour for relevant presentations and networking events. They invite new members, either individuals or corporations. For more information visit their website: http://centraliowancsa.com

The previous two meetings were at Farmer’s Mutual Rain and Hail Insurance in West Des Moines but the location of the July 8th meeting has not been confirmed. Stay tuned! We will announce the location once it is firmed up and available. Please mark your calendars!

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.

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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