In Part 2 of our one-on-one with a 20-year contact center vet, we delve into the personal side of managing agent resources and keeping your people motivated to provide superior customer service.
To read Part 1, click here
Question – It sounds like your people were your biggest strength. Is there anything that you wished you could have done better?
Answer – Yes, no organization is perfect. We were great at having strong training and recognition programs in the US. Unfortunately, that was only one of many global markets we served. I wish we had more standardization with training and reward programs outside of the US. This would have required pulling all markets under one global leader, with local empowered local leaders under one single budget that could be allocated as needed. There were times when we had local leaders using their own money to reward employees. That just shouldn’t have to be the way to show your employees that they’re valued. The problem really came down to our small teams in the middle of nowhere that didn’t feel part of the larger team. We really needed to figure out how to reward and help them feel connected.
Question – Did you have a favorite saying?
Answer – Oh that’s simple. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. This needs to be genuine, not coming from a book. They really need to “feel” that you care, not just hear it.
Question – What would be one of the tricks to the trade?
Answer – Be genuine in trying to help people and everyone’s experience will be better.
Question – How did you incentivize your agents to fulfill the desired services?
Answer – I just wanted everyone to feel important and know that their efforts were appreciated. That could be as simple as saying thank you all the way to giving them some sort of award or prize. No matter what, the key was always to recognize our agent’s efforts. When we saw the right activity or outcomes, we would do things like give gift certificates or tickets to plays, music and sporting events. We would also do things like compliment recognition and give out awards. One thing I liked doing was when the company won some sort of global customer service award, I would make small trophies to hand out to the team who made that happen.
Question – One thing that has really become popular is “gamification”. Did you every incorporate this in your organization?
Answer – Yes, we really wanted to help make people’s jobs more fun so we would create things like contests driving specific behaviors. The agents really liked it and honestly, it made it more fun to come to work for everyone.
Question – Did you ever have to fire an agent?
Answer – Rarely. We knew if we built them up they would improve and like their job. If not, they would self-select and leave on their own.
Question – Being an agent can be a tough job. How did you keep moral up?
Answer – Honestly, if your team is trained correctly and really seeks to drive customer satisfaction, the job is easy. It’s really all about how you focus on the calls you take. There were two keys to staying happy in the job. First, don’t take angry customers personally. They’re not mad at you. Second, measure yourself against solving problems and ending calls on a high. If you like solving problems and working with people, this is definitely the job for you.
Question – How did compensation work within the team?
Answer – Compensation is always a tricky subject. We would get a 3% budget across the board for raises and then we would adjust as needed.
Question – You talked about having employees that have been around for 20+ years. Did they ever max out on their compensation?
Answer – Yes and this was tough. The reality is you can only compensate an agent so much to do their job. When they maxed out on that number, we would look for other ways to reward them. Giving them opportunities to be mentors, trainers, etc. would typically do the trick. We would also look for any excuse to reward them.
Question – Your contact center is in a really great location in the building. It has windows and is in the open. Was it always this way?
Answer – No. We used to be in the basement and it was not good for morale. When we made that change it really showed through to our customer experience because our agents were much happier.
Question – One big point in “The Effortless Experience” is that you should focus on less on speed and more on reducing effort. How did you look at this?
Answer – Yeah, everyone wants to speed up calls but that’s not necessarily the right way to work. You also shouldn’t just keep the door wide open and have really long calls to keep customers happy. Our vision was to handle customer issues efficiently. Speed was important but not as a deterrent to quality.
Question – Were there any best practices from a technology perspective that you would share?
Answer - We really needed to quantify the good and bad so we had a chance to improve. You know the saying, “what gets measured gets improved”. We also tried to get good monitoring systems in place so we had quick feedback. As always, resolving issues was tough even though we knew where they were.
Question – Was there ever something you tried to do that would have been unique for your industry?
Answer – One thing that re wanted to create was based on something that Southwest Airlines did. They created an award that wasn’t “paid for” called the Triple Crown. It was for on time performance, baggage handling, and Customer Service. We were trying to figure out what that might look like for us. We felt like that would help us stand out.
After this conversation, it was very clear that my friend was born for customer service. He truly cared about his people and his customers. When you are genuine like this it shows and profits follow. Feel free to reach out if you would like to dive deeper into any part of this conversation. We’re here to help.
How can we help?
Today, everyone has a website. The question is what types of next generation solutions do you have in place to help your customers solve their own problems. Here are some next-generation ideas that can help push your customer experience into the future:
- Bots/AI – The first channel most companies go to help people solve their basic problems is through bots within their chat or SMS platforms. This can drive large percentages of issues out of their processes but all dependent on their level of issues to start. We have both built our own chatbots using Amazon Connect and sold standalone products. Both can work, it just depends on how much you want to “manage” the solution or code.
- Thinking Machine / Intelligent IVR – When you use the word IVR most think they have already been there done that. This is where the next generation thinking machines are coming into play. Voice recognition has hit a level of quality that you can truly solve problems speaking to the IVR vs. just be routed to the best agent. Similar to bots, this can drive significant levels of call volume out of the system.
- Expert System - The concept of “Expert Systems” was created back in the 70’s by the CIA. The idea is using processes that facilitate cognitive reasoning. Many contact centers have tree structure thinking so in those instances you can use something simple like Google’s AI tool. For more complex instances, you will need something that can “think like a human”. There aren’t many options on the market today but we would suggest looking into solutions that help their agents make complex decisions and give all of their agents the ability to be as good as their best agent on day one. These solutions also tend to help accelerate training.
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