A new study reports that the majority of call centre employees don’t feel trained to handle customer problems, making their jobs stressful and demotivating.
Chances are your call centre employees feel the same way—especially if you train like most companies do.
The new report revealed that 56% of the 1,000 respondents in the U.K. and U.S. said complicated customer issues are their most significant challenge.
Not only that, 60% felt that the company didn’t train them to deal with the problems they encounter and that feeling unprepared makes them feel stressed.
Worse yet, they are disengaged as a result and 52% said that their employers aren’t doing enough to turn things around.
In other words, call centre employees are under attack, unprepared, and unhappy—and employers are unresponsive.
Why Am I Not Surprised?
I am not surprised by any of these revelations. We see this sort of thing all the time in our global Customer Experience consultancy. We work with our clients’ Customer Experience team to design a Customer Experience program we want, complete with detailed customer emotion outcome goals but after we roll it out, the customer-facing team carries on as usual, doing what they always do.
After we saw this pattern emerging, we decided that it was not enough to design the deliberate Customer Experience. We must also train the team to deliver the experience deliberately. I’m happy to report that when we changed our strategy for implementation, we did improve our emotional outcomes, but not just for customers. It turns out, when you train your employees HOW to deliver the Customer Experience you designed, you improve the emotional outcome for employees as well.
Design, Then Disseminate
As my regular readers know, the design phase of the Customer Experience requires two essential things. First, it demands a belief that emotions are the most significant influence (over 50%) of the outcome of a Customer Experience. Second, it involves a commitment to a customer focus. Part of this customer-focus necessitates an Outside-In approach, i.e. participating in the experience as if you were a customer, to see what emotions your present experience evokes when, and how these moments affect the emotional outcome. Also, the outside-in approach often reveals areas that need a re-design to deliver a predetermined emotional result.
However, you waste all of this effort if you don’t share what you have learned with the people that deliver the experience. Your customer-facing employees must be able to recognise these moments and the verbal and nonverbal cues that communicate how customers are feeling. They must also have the tools to address those emotions, particularly when they aren’t going in the right direction for your desired outcome. These ‘tools’ include soft skills, like empathetic listening, better communication, and specific actions and phrases to apply to the situations.
In my experience, the soft skills I mentioned are an area too often neglected in employee training. There is often only a short time, if any at all, devoted to these critical bits of customer interaction. Moreover, call centre employees’ specific actions to achieve a desired emotional outcome—meaning phrases, cadence, and tone, to name a couple—are skipped altogether. However, it is precisely these details that can make or break your emotional outcome in the Customer Experience for both the customers and your employees.
Customer Experience Champions Should Champion Call Centre Employees
Call centre employees have a complicated job. They must fix customers’ problems, charm customers while they do it, and encourage customer loyalty, all without the benefit of face-to-face interaction to create a connection. Not surprisingly, many of them feel unprepared to deliver and frustrated. Moreover, the employers appear to do nothing to relieve their employees.
It is vital to ensure the people interacting with customers have what they need to do their job. The new study shows that improving the employee experience for call centre employees is up to the champions of Customer Experience. It starts with understanding customer emotions, planned by deliberate design, and delivered via detailed training. Anything less is, well, probably what you have right now.