Why quality equals efficiency when times are tough


How many of us have opted for the cheap option, only to regret not spending that little bit extra – whether that be on a washing machine, a car or a holiday? So often in life, the less your initial investment, the more you end up spending in the long term. The challenging economic climate is likely to see more companies look for cost-saving quick fixes for their customer service function.

These are some classic mistakes that companies make when looking to cut costs. If any of these scenarios ring a bell, then think carefully before you proceed.

Losing the human touch

Of course, the computerised operator has long been the cheap replacement for real life agents. The fact that a recorded voice is less expensive than a human being who is trained to empathise, listen and then react is a complete no-brainer, and should come as a surprise to no one. But the truth is that the recorded menu may actually be costing you money. We have all been frustrated customers, desperate to speak to a person at the brand we are buying from. And undoubtedly, we have all felt an innocent enquiry turn into an angry customer complaint as the barriers between us and the brand are put up at every juncture.

How ironic that the technology that was developed to enable people to connect with companies only serves to create a huge disconnect. Think carefully before you replace an agent with a voice recording. At best, it may prolong the journey to customer satisfaction. At worst, you may lose that customer completely.

First-call resolution

Think carefully about how your contact centre agents are incentivised. Are they tasked with getting through a certain amount of phone calls, webchats or SMS chats per hour? Or are they tasked with resolving every customer communication that comes through the door – whatever its nature? It might look cheaper initially to just get people off the phone – but it is a false economy.

Just like the nurse who sees the patient quickly, but who can’t administer the right medicine, a customer who is rushed off the line will only come back, more angry and less in love with your brand. Or even worse, they won’t come back at all. And we all know that the cost of finding a replacement can be up to five times as expensive as just holding onto that one customer. Your objectives should be resolutions and happy customers, not snappy communications.

Cutting back on training

So, as we’ve already established – a piece of technology is no replacement for a human voice when it comes to handling customer communications. But ensuring your customers can speak to a human being is only the first step. You must also ensure that your agents are adequately trained to empathise, understand and then resolve customer service issues. It’s tempting to axe training budgets when looking to cut costs, but essentially, your people are the last line of defence between your brand and your potential and existing customers.

For example, we invest in psychometric listening tests for all our agents. This initial investment up front allows us to understand the type of listeners our agents are, and where they need development and support. Essentially, committing ourselves to quality up front empowers us to deliver efficiency later on.

The war on recession will not be won by cutting back your customer communications or by erecting walls and walls of technology between you and your customers. It will be won by ensuring your customers feel more listened to than ever. Investing in first-class contact centre operations now could be the most prudent financial decision you ever make.


Neville Upton

Neville Upton

Neville Upton is  CEO, The Listening Company

Published On: 13th May 2009 - Last modified: 31st May 2017
Read more about - Customer Service Strategy, , , ,


1 Comment
  1. Good article Neville.
    In tough tiome especially we need to focus on efficiency (costs)and effectiveness (quality + costs).
    Challenge is too few centres effectivley measure FCR (or even measure it at all) and more importanly FCR is a bit of a “half way house”. It is a great start, but we beleive the real key is reducing demand(which in turn delivers improved FCR). Reducing “contacts per X”
    How many centres actually know how many calls are repeats, or how many could be avoided if they undertook a detailed root cause and demand analysis and implemented the findings

    Steve Mitchinson 14 May at 10:38 am
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