The Leading Contact Centre Magazine

Customer experience for agents


If you want to ensure your agents are not only serving your customers with a smile, but also with a real sense of customer experience, you need to follow a few simple steps, says Natalie Calvert.

We’re now getting to the nuts and bolts of ‘how to’ embed the customer experience in your organisation, and in this month’s column I am going to outline some very practical ways in which you can get a strong customer ethos and experience in to your front line teams.

“Change behaviours and maximise both the advisor’s and the customers’ experience”

“T’ain’t What You Do (It’s the Way That You Do It)”

When you boil down the real moment of truth – that moment when advisor speaks to customer – it all comes down to one thing: behaviour.

Behaviour is all about what it is that I am actually doing at this very moment to create a great customer experience. It’s about living that moment, ensuring that all the training, development and experiences I have had provide the right behaviour to ensure I deliver in a really positive way.

So many times we find that, with the best will in the world, advisors and their managers believe they are doing the right thing. But in reality what they are doing is right only 50% of the time, and it’s the other 50% that creates repeat calls, lack of first time resolution or complaints.

Personally, I believe that by tackling behaviours in a very diagnostic, almost clinical manner, we can start to eradicate the inhibitors of great customer service delivery.

I should point out that exactly the same applies to leadership teams, from team leader upwards. By getting our leadership teams behaving and coaching in the right way, we can really galvanise front line teams. For now, though, let’s start with understanding the front line – the advisors.

From an advisor’s point of view, behaviours fall in to four categories:

Customer: How do I engage with and respond to customers? Do I have the required skills?

Knowledge: Is what I know about products, services and procedures sufficient and accurate enough to ensure I can do a good job?

Performance: What is expected from me every day? Do I have the tools to deliver?

Organisation: Is my company supporting me in the right way so I can be the best for them? Does the environment support that ethos?

happy agent

Now you have two options here. You could leave it to fate and hope that what happens in your call centre is ‘ok’, or actually tackle these four areas, change behaviours and maximise both the advisor’s and the customers’ experience. I absolutely recommend tackling things head on and it really isn’t difficult, although I bet you’d be surprised just how many organisations leave these fundamentals to chance.

The start point here is to define exactly what you and your customers want in terms of behaviours. By now, you’ll know (if you’re a regular reader) that I am a fan of involving the front line in making and shaping the decisions that affect them.

So, through a series of well-structured workshops taking in to account the commercial and operational implications of any decisions made, I would articulate the skills, processes and strategies that underpin Customer, Knowledge, Performance and Organisational drivers. Usually you will find this will identify key areas for change. Among these will be quick wins, short, medium and long-term activities.

Taking the next step

Having defined the requirements, which will probably look like a lengthy framework or matrix, the next step is to measure where you are now. This will enable you to:

  • Understand where you are now – your start point
  • Identify across individual, team, product line and even site what the priorities are for getting everyone to a baseline
  • Establish a commercial return on investment to implement any bigger enhancements required, for instance, skills, technology and environment
  • Ensure you stay on track and report as you transform over time

Measurement will need to be at an individual level as well as team level. After all, in contact centres the rule ‘the sum of the parts is greater than the whole’ really does apply and if you just focus on the whole team you’ll never really get in to the detail (and that’s where the devil is!). You’ll also end up sheep-dipping solutions, which is something that rarely works well.

After that, it’s time to create a plan of action, or a roadmap, that will provide you with a total picture of the capability of your teams now and that which you are aiming for.

Some hints and tips for your plan of action:

Induction: This is likely to have to change now that you’ve defined exactly what’s to be included. Ensure it’s totally on-brand and put in place a validation process before the induction delivery teams roll it out.

Coaching:
Ensure you adapt your coaching model and philosophy to ensure the right behaviours are being coached. You will probably need to brief, re-train and develop your team leaders and coaches too to ensure you are coaching best behaviour.

Performance management (PM): ‘You get what you measure’ is so true, so check your PM process and system to make sure it’s fully supporting the customer experience for the front line.

Pilot or test: Remember you don’t have to change everything immediately. I would always recommend setting up a pilot group or test area to ensure the operational implications (and therefore cost) are fully understood.

Customer: Get some clear and measurable customer feedback to check that you really are developing the customer experience. Always ensure you can properly measure and validate your results. Try using a control group to show clear impacts.

Get visual: Think about your environment. How does it support the changes you’re looking for? What can you do to enhance it and make it more ‘on behaviour’?

By the end of the planning process you’ll understand what it will take to transform behaviours to meet (and exceed) customer expectations. And you’ll be able to prioritise your action plans to get everyone to baseline and beyond.

What all this can mean for you

Natalie Calvert

In summary, it all starts with understanding what you are doing right now, and recognising there are few shortcuts. From understanding it you can change it. I would be so bold as to guarantee (and can evidence this) that by taking this approach you can get a 10%+ uplift in performance and results, be they measured in service or sales terms.

Next month we are turning everything upside down: providing a totally different way of looking at instilling a sense of customer experience in agents. Until then, do think about those behaviours.
Natalie Calvert is managing director at the consultancy Calcom Group

Published On: 3rd Jun 2007 - Last modified: 19th Dec 2018
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