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!”
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!
Grammar and language is changing and evolving due to the impact of social media. Trying to fit thoughts into text messages and 140 characters on Twitter can be mind boggling. As Quality experts, we are asked a lot about if agents can utilize abbreviations and “text talk” in customer interactions via chat, email, social media, etc.
There is a very fine line in regard to what is acceptable and just plain negligent on a company’s part. There are still many consumers that judge grammatical and spelling mistakes harshly. As a rule of thumb, when it comes to the brand, all “t’s” should be crossed and all “i’s” should be dotted. By doing so, agents are protecting the brand’s credibility and representing it appropriately.
Proper grammar and spelling should have been grasped in primary school and with the internet available to almost everyone, there should be no reason interactions with customers should not contain the correct usage of language.
According to 1,003 UK consumers, 42.5% hated poor spelling and grammar when it came to brands on Social Media. That is a significant percentage and warrants attention when ensuring call center agents are representing their company.
Mistakes can be forgiven; however, making them continually can be detrimental to the company and the brand. Ultimately, encourage call center agents to use proper spelling, grammar and speech to demonstrate that the company cares about their credibility and image to the customer … and that says a lot.
2. “Be a yardstick of Quality.” ~ Steve Jobs, Apple
3. “Quality is not an act. It is a habit.” ~ Aristotle
4. “When you’re out of Quality, you’re out of business.” ~ Anon
5. “Our innovation makes us first, our Quality makes us last.” ~ Scott Adams, US Cartoonist
6. “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” ~ Epictetus
7. “Quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten.” ~ Gucci Family Slogan
8. “It is easier to do a job right, then to explain why you didn’t.” ~ Martin Van Buren
9. “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence — only in constant improvement and constant change.” ~ Tom Peters
10. “If you build a great experience, customers tell each other about that. Word of mouth is very powerful.” ~ Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com
11. “Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless.” ~ Jeffrey Gitomer
12. “If you’re not serving the customer, your job is to be serving someone who is.” ~ Jan Carlzon, ex-CEO SAP Group
13. “In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away.” ~ Doug Warner
14. “Why wait to be memorable?” ~ Tony Robbins
It doesn’t always feel like customer helplines offer, well, help. Ellen talked about it with her audience.