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!”
Back from a couple of days at Customer Contact Expo, the self proclaimed “UK’s premier event for Customer contact solutions, workshops and connections”, where thousands of industry professionals gathered to hear about trends, see the latest technology and gain a vision of what the contact centres of the future will look like.
As anticipated there were lots of solution providers and discussions around the usual Contact Centre hot topics of Omni-Channel, process improvement and Customer Engagement with “Cloud Based” appearing to be the buzz phrase at the event.
What was refreshing to hear was the increased focus on two areas that I believe are vital to contact centres and business success; employee engagement and the increasing sphere of influence of quality in organisations.
In a highly interesting talk by David Macleod from the Employee Engagement Taskforce, the understanding, backed up by compelling evidence, that positively engaging your team can have dramatic impact on all of your business metrics was persuasively delivered. I encourage you to look at the Engaging for Success website where there are specific publications showing the weight of evidence of how positively engaging employees impacts profitability and service outcomes.
From personal experience, I have always believed that the engagement and development of team members with the same level of rigor used in measuring and managing customer engagement and experience can deliver exceptional dividends.
We are all aware of the drive towards reducing customer effort, satisfying customers and in encouraging customers to promote our products and services, indeed most businesses have robust processes for measuring these areas; CES, CSAT, NPS. Can the same be said for our employee practices?
Do we spend an equal amount of time tracking and measuring our employee effort, how easy it is to work for us, our employee satisfaction and our employee promotion scores, given the impact our people can have on our business and customers?
From a customer perspective, we measure the customer journey; from promotion to acquisition, utilization, satisfaction and retention, with teams looking at understanding and enhancing all touch points for consistency, simplification, cost optimisation and enhanced experience. We undertake detailed root cause analysis, process improvement, quality measurement and invest heavily in technology to ensure we are meeting business and customer needs.
In my opinion, a compelling case can be made for undertaking the same detailed approach to the employee journey from values, culture, skills, competencies, advertising, recruitment, on-boarding, induction, personal development, communication; in short all employee touch points. By identifying what excellence looks like in each of these areas, there can then be a drive and culture within the organisation for continuous improvement and enhancement.
With technology increasingly providing solutions for less complex interactions, the ability of our teams to handle higher value, more complex interactions across multiple channels will grow. Having a highly skilled and engaged workforce will enable us to better meet the future challenges, and is going to be an increasingly important area of focus in the Customer Service and the Contact Centre industry in the years ahead.
The second area; the increasing sphere of influence of quality in organisations, I will cover in my next article.
Written by: Andrew Mutch, Chief Customer Officer, BPA Quality UK Research Center
- Define goal: Map your QA process to business goals
- Build a QA quality culture and behavior framework: framework centered around improving the customer experience by focusing on the effort the customer makes, minimizing conduct risk and providing the most positive customer outcomes
- Remove the perception of QA evaluation as being a punitive process
- Pay close attention to correlation between QA scores and customer survey scores – note: Only 20-25% of customer satisfaction with a call is determined by the content of their conversation with agents
- Progressive businesses are moving on from tick box, features and benefits format to customer engagement / active listening, matching and outcomes
- The QA team should be regarded as experts in driving the customer experience agenda across the organization and be regarded as an integral part of the company value chain
- Business Intelligence Team uses the data gathered through quality process for providing the business with performance insight & predictive analytics
- QA should inform product and product governance: Undertake product reviews / what do customers like, dislike
- The QA and compliance teams need to work hand-in-glove; ensuring compliant customer interactions for both new and existing customers: regulatory rules are now given
- Red flag process vigorously enforced
- Senior Executives need visibility: Customer experience, product / marketing / managing risk
- Build processes and systems to share information across the business: Share Voice of the Customer feedback with other departments
- Hold regular round tables with Product, Marketing, Sales: highlight trends, risks, feedback
- Influence the organization: don’t operate in a silo
- Include agents and team leads in the calibration process
- Calibrate based on expertise, not deviation from average or arbitrary targets
- Use Calibrations to refine QA forms and remove ambiguity
- Look to your teams to identify and share anecdotal feedback: sometimes it is OK to work in the grey
- Keep your QA forms fresh and relevant
- Deep-dive analysis of the data to identify trends, insight and areas that require greater focus
TRENDS FOR THE FUTURE OF LEARNING AND DEVELOPMENT by Yvette Renda, Director of People Development
As a trainer at BPA Quality, I like to keep on top of current thinking in my area, and so it was with interest that I read a report recently released by the Brandon Hall Group – a think tank specializing in theories of workforce management practice*.
The report highlighted that – in today’s world – organizations that fail to adjust their learning management practices and solutions often struggle with organizational growth as well as productivity.
As a result, forward-thinking companies are abandoning traditional methods of learning in favor of more effective solutions that engage talent and improve performance. And although the report focuses on the use of new technology to improve training outcomes, I found that some of the non-technological aspects were also quite interesting. After all, not every organization can immediately re-purpose all aspects of training strategy, tactics and materials to take advantage of cutting edge technology.
In fact, the aspects of the report that I was most interested in highlighted key trends affecting the future of enterprise learning and recommendations for selecting the right provider.
A number of key findings of the report jumped out at me:
* One-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development
* 41 percent of companies describe their culture as “Controlling”
* 59 percent of companies are leveraging social learning activities
Source: Brandon Hall Group 2014 Learning and Development Benchmarking Study (n=569)
Prioritizing the Individual
It is true that finding and keeping talent is no longer an HR challenge but a strategic business priority. Yet, the authors of the report found that most companies were unable to build lasting relationships with their employees in an effort to overcome these challenges. Instead of giving employees the tools needed to succeed, many companies feel threatened by their workforce and fearful of change. In fact, when asked to define their company culture, 41 percent of employees described it as “controlling”.
I agree with the authors that, with the emergence of a younger generation and the rise of the independent worker, companies must rethink their approach to talent and begin to prioritize the “individual”. I’ve found in my own work at BPA Quality that provision of a ‘peer coach’ to help new trainees apply the skills they’ve acquired in the workplace setting allows for an individualized approach rather than a ‘one size fits all’ ‘controlling’ model.
However, in my own view, for many companies this updated learning and development process is long overdue. Indeed, research shows that more than 50 percent of companies have revisited their learning strategy less than two times over the last five years and learning has remained, for the most part, stagnant. But the good news is that one-third of companies are increasing their budget for learning and development over the next 12 months.
With nearly 50 percent of these companies currently spending $100 per learner per year, it makes sense to conclude that companies need to become more strategic about their training programs and the type of learning experience offered by training enablers.
Although training is one of the most mature areas of talent management, it is also one of the most innovative. Yet making a decision to improve a learning management program and invest in a learning management solution is often a daunting challenge.
Happily, the authors offer some considerations that can help with this which I would recommend from my own training experiences at BPA Quality:
* Considering Adaptive Learning. Adaptive learning is a methodology that allows employees to learn at their own pace. Employees can be monitored individually and in real time to determine what learning approach will best suit their needs.
At BPA Quality we utilize this approach as can be seen in the afore-mentioned example of the provision of a ‘peer coach’ for new trainees to try out their new skills in the actual work setting under the guidance of their personal ‘peer coach’.
Personally, I’ve found that the Adaptive Learning approach allows employees to build confidence and overall expertise at their own individualized pace – and that this has positive benefits for both efficiency and long-term employee engagement, increasing productivity (a key metric of the report).
* Aligning with Business Objectives. It goes without saying that any training program should drive retention, engagement, and performance aligned with the organization’s business objectives. The authors were able to demonstrate that for those companies that did align learning and business priorities (48 percent), more than 70 percent were able to improve company revenue.
I happen to strongly agree with this and apply it in my own work. When I’m conducting training at our client sites every BPA Quality workshop that I conduct is based around the input, and expertise of the participants – from agent to management level training – and therefore keeps my training relevant to the participants, client environment and business objectives.
* Measuring Effectiveness. To determine if the learning strategy in place is driving business outcomes, companies must find a way to consistently measure its effectiveness.
This makes good sense to me, and at BPA Quality all team members participate in regular quality calibrations to ensure accuracy and complete understanding of their objectives and how they align with clients’ business objectives.
MY KEY TAKEAWAYS
Put the individual first. I totally agree that companies must shift the way they view employees and consider focusing on the individual and his or her unique learning needs. For some companies, this strategy may include aspects of adaptive learning; for other companies, it could mean a different communication strategy.
At BPA Quality we have always based our training around an Adaptive Learning approach, and in terms of other communication strategies I always keep an open mind. The changing dynamics of our marketplace demand no less.
*[Brandon Hall Group is an independent HCM research and advisory services firm that provides insights on Learning and Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development, Talent Acquisition, and Human Resources.]
I get to help with quality dilemmas every day. I field questions about how agents can better connect with customers, deliver service excellence, and show they care. Leaders tell me “I want the customer to feel like we are on their side and that we are listening to them.” There is no doubt in today’s highly competitive market that great customer service is king. Why is it so difficult to achieve?
Here are three areas to check to help determine if service excellence is a priority in your quality program:
The Evaluation Form: Generally 90% of evaluation forms measure agent’s adherence to processes, knowledge of systems, and ability to locate resolutions. It’s not uncommon to see one, maybe two questions that measure how well the agent serve the customer. This sends a clear message to agents about what is most important, and of course agents are going to focus on processes and systems. While it is vital your teams provide resolutions and fix problems, it’s how the agent does it that really matters to the customer. How many questions on your evaluation form focus on connecting with and listening to the customer?
Training: When new employees join your organization, what percentage of the training is focused on delivering customer service? We often see the same percentage when we look at the how agents are trained to perform their job, with 90% of the training focused on how to utilize systems, understand the processes, and document accounts. All of these areas are important for an agent to effectively do what the customer needs, but it sends a clear message about the priorities and that service is a nice afterthought. How much of your training, new hire and ongoing, reinforces delivering service and showing customers you care?
Objectivity: Agents and customers both despise scripting. You hire smart people who are more than capable of talking with customers, and customers can tell they are being read a script in the first three words – so don’t do it! Objectively measure behaviors that are service driven. Leave out opinion based words such as ‘friendly,’ ‘nice,’ and ‘pleasant.’ Yes you can objectively measure service skills! Do questions about how the agent connected with the customer objectively measure the behaviors you want demonstrated on every call?
BPA Quality has more than 25 years of experience in human behavior research and we are experts at how to optimize your service delivery, whether in person or over the phone. If you have challenges in these areas, definitely give us a call or Email me for a complimentary, 30 minute review of your evaluation form.
Stephanie Taylor has more than twenty years’ experience helping organizations deliver great service. Formerly a client of BPA Quality, she has worked with this great company for six years and is Director of Client Services for North America. She can be reached at Stephanie.Taylor@BPAQuality.com
Effective coaching is at the heart of what we do here at BPA, it is a key part of our daily life. It is a process that enables our Independent Quality Evaluators (IQEs) to learn and develop, to improve their performance, to simply achieve their full potential. Our unique coaching process also ensures that our Clients’ needs are not only met but also regularly exceeded.
So why is our coaching so effective?
Coaching at BPA is not regarded as a task to be completed but as a way to really enhance performance and development within the team, it really is in our DNA! It is performed on a regular basis, individually with each member of our project team and is regarded as the number one priority for our Team Managers. Under ‘coaching’ in this instance I don’t mean Corporate or Executive Coaching; I refer here to the coaching sessions that are part of our project monitoring and development.
This is the coaching process where the coaches are the direct Team Managers who therefore know very well their team members, their daily job routines and the project challenges they face. The Team Managers have an insight into their team members’ individual needs, strengths and weaknesses, and finally – or most importantly – into their unique personality.
This close relationship ensures that the exploration of team member’s needs, desires, skills and motivations takes a very detailed and personalised approach. We don’t deliver a general programme or group-tailored advice. We explore, on a one-to-one basis, the entire performance process. Through detailed and joint analysis of multiple calibration sessions and quality assurance checks, we identify and discuss the areas of strength, as well as scope for development. Yes, both – not only the aspects in need of further development.
We believe that identifying your strengths is a key part of the success – if you realise how you came to be successful in one area, you already have a great tool in hand to be used to achieve the same success elsewhere. It’s not about telling the team members where they are underachieving or pinpointing their weaknesses – this can only result in an opposite and unsolicited effect. It’s about making the team members aware of how good and successful they already are and encourage them to use the same technique in other areas that can be developed and soon become equally successful. It’s also about sharing this experience, ideas and insight with others. It’s about setting specific and measurable goals, for an agreed period of time. The goal is being closely monitored and revisited by the set up deadline. Upon successful completion another new goal is set up, if more work is required, the goal will be repeated.
The key is analysing, feedback, practice, repeat. To take a sporting context, the more you practise, the easier the activity becomes, you become more skilled, more experienced and you are able to recognise what you are doing that is having a positive and negative impact on your performance. The focus is on repeating the positives and using this experience to overcome the negatives. Success doesn’t occur instantly, it’s achieved through strenuous and systematic repetition and training, as you strive to achieve your goal. As the golfer Ben Hogan said, “The more I practise, the luckier I get”.
Our journey through the coaching process is not that distant from this picture and it is a journey that certainly pays off. In addition to the benefits mentioned above, it also gives our IQEs an overview of their individual ‘status-quo’, the much needed guidance and reassurance of how important and valued their daily jobs are.
To show how much our coaching sessions matter to our evaluators, our success in embedding a coaching culture and their hunger for feedback there is a mantra across the BPA teams:
“When is my next coaching session?”
By Ewa Murphy, June 2015
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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