Here at BPA Quality, one of the services we offer under the umbrella of managed quality services is to unde
rtake large-scale quality monitoring of text and voice interactions in multiple languages.
On some global, multi-lingual projects, the client expectation is that agent tone should remain consistent, regardless of the customer’s language or chosen contact channel.
It goes without saying that agents’ tone should also sound genuine in any language – so for global campaigns, it is important to accommodate for cultural differences. Avoiding the use of language-specific figures of speech as fillers rather than making meaningful statements, and having a sound understanding of culture-specific etiquette are both key elements for success in soft skills. A prime example: whereas US and European customers might expect agents to express empathy for their situation at the opening of the conversation, in some Asian cultures, displaying unsolicited empathy is not appropriate, and monitoring should take account of these differences.
When considering text-based contact, aside from an inherent difficulty in establishing tone in written communications, there can be further cultural implications to consider. For example, in many European languages, using the formal register has historically been the common way to address clients in customer service interactions; some companies are now making a conscious choice to use the informal register (e.g. ‘tu‘ rather than ‘vous‘ in French) which may not always be well-received by more traditionally-minded customers.
This informality in written communication may sometimes occur in contrast to the voice channel for the same company, leading to situations where agents may be required to address customers using the formal register in calls but not in chat.
This can potentially have implications for overall tone, which may be drawn into particular focus if customers make use of multi-channel contact and are left with different perceptions of the brand depending on the channel (which form of address is the one which is most ‘on-brand’ for any particular company…?)
It is reasonable to expect that customers will increasingly equate web chat with other more informal modes of text-based messaging, like IM and SMS, and so may expect their web chat dealings with companies to be conducted in a similar vein.
Even though web chat may generally be viewed as a more informal medium, best practice is still for the spelling / grammar and typography to be held to stringent standards – not least due to the ease with which these interactions can be copied by customers and find their way onto the wider internet, on blogs and message boards, when compared with calls. Indeed, some companies now routinely forward web chat transcripts to customers, so accuracy, tone and being ‘on-brand’ is paramount.
Ultimately, establishing appropriate tone for agents regardless of language and method of contact is best achieved by frequent calibration sessions, taking all of the above considerations into account. Calibrations should take place on a regular basis with key project stakeholders, ideally using sample interactions across all languages and channels in which the project is delivered.
With over 25 years’ experience in quality monitoring and with global clients, our multi-lingual team have the skills, expertise and experience to add this level of detail and insight to your customer service or sales programmes.
To explore more about the subject of this article or to discuss any element of quality monitoring please feel free to contact me or BPA Quality via our website: www.bpaquality.co.uk or www.bpaquality.com.
By: Helen Beaumont Manahan, Project Implementation Manager at BPA Quality UK
For over 25 years, BPA Quality has been working with some of the world’s biggest organisations with one aim: to improve customer experience and, through this, deliver increased sales, retention, loyalty, cost optimisation, compliance and profitability.
Our many valued clients have a common passion and commitment to create outstanding organisations and work in partnership with BPA Quality to achieve competitive advantage and deliver exceptional results. They understand the strategic importance of having a highly effective quality programme within their organisation.
As the sphere of influence and recognition of the importance of the Contact Centre and quality functions grow, covering all aspects of the business from Sales, Marketing, Product Design, Legal and Compliance to the Customer-Facing Operations, so the need to capitalise on this key resource becomes imperative.
Our many years of specialism in Contact Centre Quality Assurance places us in a highly informed position; we have listened to millions of “human” customer contact situations, covering almost every customer type, having every conceivable difficulty or requirement. We have also undertaken this activity internationally, covering 45 languages, so we understand the differences between customer service expectations across multiple cultures.
All of this activity has enabled us to gain a detailed knowledge and view of the behaviours and processes that drive positive customer experience and engagement in Contact Centres and the development of effective quality and coaching programmes that enhance performance.
One of the key areas is a detailed understanding of the value and importance every customer interaction has in either positively or negatively impacting customer engagement with the organisation.
A great deal of focus in the Contact Centre quality programmes we encounter remains centred on scripting, process adherence, AHT reduction, risk avoidance, contact deflection and compliance, and not always on maximising the real opportunities presented in the Human Element of interactions.
Every conversation with a Customer is a lot more than just saying words and phrases – it’s an opportunity to make a real connection, to build the human element. As humans, unlike machines (chatbots), we have the ability to be creative, intuitive, show genuine empathy, feeling and understanding; to connect on a human level.
The human element in interactions provides great opportunities to:
- Build and reinforce your brand
- Build trust, credibility, and highlight competence
- Personalise the interaction and foster mirrored relationships
- Understand the reason for the interaction
- Identify all elements of the contact
- Build a relationship, show empathy, ownership and understanding; ensure the Customer feels like an individual, not a number
- Paint a picture to show the Customer you are engaged
- Offer flexible solutions
- Negotiate suitable solutions, creating win/win situations
- Build loyalty, retention, sales opportunities, advocacy, and increase first call resolution.
Every interaction, whatever the duration, represents an opportunity to discover valuable information about your Customers, identifying their challenges, wants and needs. This knowledge, once identified, can provide you with actionable insight and intelligence that can be used to guide the conversation and help build more effective human connections.
So in our rush to automate everything, push Customers online and reduce expensive human contact, we must not forget the value these interactions bring to our business. Significant focus should be placed on developing the effective skills, behaviours and coaching programmes designed to maximise this great benefit to our people and Customers.
Travel is part of my job as a trainer with BPA Quality, and I’ve journeyed all over the place for many years. But don’t worry, I’m not going to bore you with the clichés of the business traveller: upgrades, airline miles, hotel points, jet lag, ‘red eye’ flights, the psycho ADHD kid kicking the back of the seat….blah, blah, blah and yawn.
The truth is – at the end of a long assignment spent mostly on my feet – all I need from an airline is a flight that guarantees to get me where I most want to be (home!) in the quickest way possible. Luckily I’m quite small, so even the most meager economy seats can usually accommodate me without too much discomfort. That, and my ability to fall asleep the moment I hear a jet-engine start up, usually ensures a palliative experience.
Given all that, I’m sure you’ve realized that I’m not particularly tolerant of fellow travellers in adjacent seats who seem hell-bent on preventing me from gently snoring. And, my goodness, I’ve had experience of all of them on one flight or another: religious fanatics, power-salesmen, fantasists, hypochondriacs, phobic flyers, as well as common garden crazies…….you name it.
However, there are exceptions, and my companion on a flight back from Phoenix a few weeks ago was one of them. For a start he was reading a book. A real one…….without moving his lips. When was the last time anyone read a real book on a flight? Secondly, he was eating a bit of cake with frosting in a dainty napkin. “From my wife and daughter” he explained, showing me a little card that had ‘Daddy’ written on it in childish crayon, “It’s my birthday”.
Well, having demonstrated both his intelligence and humanity it was kind of easy to have a conversation, and naturally it turned to what we did for a living. It turns out that he’s a quality control scientist with a plastics engineering firm (I think that’s correct), so we weren’t able to get much further with that. But when he found out that I trained customer service agents, he was anxious to share some of his own experiences of ‘customer service’ with me.
Apparently he’d just tried to book an air miles flight with his preferred airline, and after a good start with (let’s call her) ‘Stacey’ he’d had a less than impressive follow-up call with (let’s call her) ‘Donna’. I’m not going to tell you how Stacey and Donna got the dates mixed up, and the consequences in terms of costs of upgrades/hotels/car hire and general inconvenience, because occasionally such things happen. And, as you know, it’s not always possible to get to the bottom of these matters and allocate blame like a teacher giving bad marks for wrong spellings.
Anyway, like most situations like this, the matter was resolved after a manager’s intervention and some intensity on the part of my new friend. No doubt, there were also a few ruffled feathers on the part of Stacey and Donna and the manager too.
No. What was interesting here was that this was a perfect example of how telephone language and tone – two things I teach as a trainer for BPA Quality – can immediately influence customer behavior.
So after listening to his long tale of woe I asked “At what point did you lose it? What was the final straw?”, and he told me it was when Donna had bluntly told him that “Stacey wouldn’t have told you that” as a firm rebuttal to something he said. To him it was tantamount to calling him a liar, and he had exploded with anger. Seeing my expressionless face he proceeded to add other crimes to Donna’s inadequacies up to that point: “She was dismissive”, “She didn’t give a XXXX” etc, etc.
Now, this situation was always likely to need a higher power to solve it (in this case Donna’s manager). But a great deal of unpleasantness and bad feeling could have been avoided if Donna had simply:
- Used less confrontational language
- Adopted a more personable ‘tonal’ demeanor
Donna probably didn’t even know what had caused the sudden outburst from the customer, and as a BPA Quality trainer I see this time and again.
Even when the language issue is staring training groups in the face they don’t always get it. For instance, I used Donna as an example recently, and found some quite sensible members of the group defending her choice of words as ‘not offensive’!
My approach here is to put the group in a hypothetical similar situation and ask them to rate the interaction using a scale from 1-10, negative to positive, and this usually works well in gaining consensus with a training group.
“So what would you have done?” asked my new friend. “Possibly the same as you” I reassured him. “My job is to prevent such scenes before they occur. I really can’t do much when they’ve already been provoked!”
Did you know that 76% of consumers that partook in the Aspect Consumer Experience Survey view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them? How about, according to the 2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report by Parature, 65% of the 1000 consumers surveyed said they would sever their relationship with a brand over a single poor customer experience? So … how do you make sure that your agents are providing a fantastic customer experience every time they interact with customers? One word … QUALITY!
A potent Quality program that provides objective and customer-concentric evaluations can make the difference in agents’ abilities to understand the optimum way to provide first-class customer service. There are 3 main platforms of Quality: Internal Quality Team, Outsourced (offshored) Quality Team and Pro-sourced Quality Team. Choosing the right one depends on the business needs and goals.
If you are looking to have total control over the quality program and to have analysts available to answer calls during high call volume, then an internal team may be your choice. From my many conversations with call center leaders, they have complained that quality wasn’t being done because the analysts were pulled to help manage call queues. Since evaluations were not being done, then the agents were not being provided proper coaching. Also, from the same conversations, there is also a high probability of nepotism because quality teams were co-workers/friends with the agents. Since the evaluations are more subjective then objective, opportunities are lost to assist agents to be best-in-class.
Outsource (offshoring) quality monitoring will definitely get audits completed, in a check box mentality. Since this work is outsourced to different countries because of lower wages, cultural issues arise. Customers from the USA are quite a contrast from those in India, South America and the Philippines. The cultural difference can be one word or tone away from losing a customer. A quality program should contribute insight to all your customers’ expectations and benefit call center managers with appropriate information to properly coach agents.
The last main platform, far from the least, is Pro-sourcing Quality. Just like FedEx is an expert on getting packages from Point A to Point B on time, a Pro-sourced quality company are experts in quality. Listening to calls for quality is not a skill that everyone possesses. It takes expertise in listening and analyzing calls for hours. Uncovering business intelligence to help a company reach their goals and needs are all part of a pro-sourcing relationship. Since most pro-sourcing quality companies are located where your customers live, it is capable of understanding the culture and even regionalism of your customers. In a pro-sourcing quality partnership, they work with you (the expert in your business) and couples it with unbiased, customer-centric analysis of how to increase customer experience and loyalty.
As mentioned before, choosing the correct quality platform that works for your call center needs and goals can be a daunting process. According to a whitepaper by Craig Antonucci at BPA Quality, there are 4 factors that make a quality program successful:
- Make it clear and to the point
- Integrate supervisors and managers into the process
- Clearly define the program for the agents
- Make it consistent, fair, objective and accurate
I would add one more factor …
Be sure your quality analysts and program are experts in quality, and they can provide insightful knowledge on what is excellent customer service to YOUR customers.
As in all team sports, players either all win or all lose. The same goes for any call center …
While watching the 2015 Women’s Soccer World Cup, USA and Australia were battling to edge ahead in the dreaded D group. Most people believe that having a superior offense wins championships in soccer. Although the USA team put goals on the board, there were countless saves by the defense, especially by goalie, Hope Solo.
How does this relate to a call center, you may ask? Well, in a call center there are many departments that handle every aspect of the customer experience. If the sales department did a fantastic job taking care of the customer, but then punts the customer to the mediocre service department, then the company may just lose the “game.”
Every touch a call center has on the customer reflects the overall customer experience. So, how can a contact center calibrate across all channels of service? Well, let’s talk a bit more about soccer, or as my team in the BPA Quality UK Research Center would refer to as FOOTBALL!
Field of Play
By understanding the entire process from first touch to goal, call center agents can provide the customer with a play-by-play report. The customer is never left wondering what happens next. If you know the game and the role you play within the team, then it will be effortless to win.
A team is only as good as the sum of its parts. Call center agents need great leaders that provide them with meaningful coaching and knowledge, so they can achieve the goal (providing memorable customer service). Also considering outside experts to evaluate agents with a customer-centric point-of-view can up the playing advantage.
In some circumstances, a customer may need a bit of “dribbling” or “hand holding,” and the call center must embrace that average handle time or other KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) will be affected. Understanding of those changes in agents’ quality scores can be circumstantial and provide leadership with a “shot on goal” in grasping the customer journey, effort and/or experience.
The dreaded offside
Working in and around call centers for the past nine years, I have actually witnessed leadership stepping over the line of defense to try and make that “easy” goal. When that has happened, the customer, the agent and ultimately the company loses. Play fair with customers and they will return and recommend the company to their friends and with agents because they are the first and only touch to the customer. To win a customer does not mean they will be one for life, it could only be for the moment. Once they are lost, no telling how many more will be lost.
Shots on goal & GOAL!
Once the call center is working together to provide incredible customer service, then the “shots on goal” will increase and eventually the customer becomes not only loyal, but an advocate too. GOAL!
When evaluating the call center, make sure to step back or have a third party understand the “field of play” as the customer. For example, as a fan of the USA women’s soccer team, it is much simpler for me to recognize why Abby Wambach missed last night’s header into the goal. If she had my outside vantage point, she may have put a goal on the board. Luckily for the USA Team, she is a part of a capable, successful team to get the win for USA.
I’m willing to bet that #20 (Abby Wambach) and her team will review the recording of that missed header to evaluate how do to it better the next time.
As a call center team, are you ready for the customer experience “World Cup?” If not, the competition is …
Go #USWNT & #USA!
The lesson we learn in business is that sometimes you need to think differently, take some risks and look at things from a different angle…and in this case, when you can’t even look. When listening is most important skill in your business, the best people who can do that are the ones that can only do that. What we will learn in this article is the process of adding to your staff with very capable visual impaired team members…the concept, the how to, the resources and the benefits.
BPA first started recruiting visually impaired staff members in 2006 after an internal brainstorming session on how to recruit candidates with greater listening skills. The initial conjecture was that a person who had lost one of their senses would heighten their remaining ones in order to help them during their daily lives. With this perspective in mind, it was our hope that…
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For the 6th Year, BPA International ranks on Inc. 5000
09/11/2014 (press release: KarynDupree) // Carle Place, New York, United States // Karyn Dupree
The 2014 Inc. 5000, unveiled online at Inc.com and with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc. (available on newsstands August 20 to November 30), is the most competitive crop in the list’s history. The average company on the list achieved a mind-boggling three-year growth of 516%. The Inc. 5000′ s aggregate revenue is $211 billion, generating 505,000 jobs over the past three years. Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.
More about Inc. and the Inc. 500|5000
The 2014 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2010 to 2013. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2010. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent–not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies–as of December 31, 2013. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2010 is $100,000; the minimum for 2013 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/5000.
About Inc. and the Inc. 5000
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Total monthly audience reach for the brand has grown significantly from 2,000,000 in 2010 to over 6,000,000 today. For more information, visit http://www.inc.com/ .
The Inc. 500|5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list of the nation’s most successful private companies has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates their remarkable achievements. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.
For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://www.inc.com.
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