This short article provides a humorous and perhaps disturbing look at how Contact Centre Managers ask Agents to do funny things.
Especially in the context of interacting with Customers.
There’s a well understood process
There is a well understood process Organizations use to select which behaviours they want Agents to display during Customer interactions.
Sometimes called KPIs, Performance Standards or CX Standards, management selected behaviors let Agents know what matters most during Customer interactions.
Example behaviours include:
- Tone of Voice
- Branded language
- Product know-how
- Objection handling
The potential list is infinite.
And the final selection of these core behaviours is based solidly on the organization’s CX strategy, Corporate strategy and/or Customer Service strategy.
A lot of work goes into selecting the right behaviours, keeping them up to date and making sure everyone understands the ‘why’ behind each one.
But that work pays off in multiples as relevant quality goes up and good things like experience and advocacy happen.
But some Centre Managers choose to circumvent the process
In what I think represents a misguided attempt to deliver ‘a Customer experience’, management sometimes asks Agents to do funny things.
Let’s start with one of my favorite examples.
At an Asian bank, Contact Centre Agents who logged in for the morning shift, were asked to say a version of the following at the end of their first call that morning.
“Mr/Mrs. XX, thank you so much for helping me start my day off so wonderfully.”
Sometimes it is hard to know where to begin on something as silly as this.
But let’s try.
First point of view – that of the Agent.
How many Agents would you guess supported the use of this behaviour?
Yup – none of them. It felt odd and inauthentic.
That should have been the first clue that something wasn’t quite right.
It’s called Voice of Employee or VOE and is an important source of Customer understanding.
Secondly, let’s get practical.
What if the first Caller was angry? Crabby? Too little coffee intake as of yet? Does the Agent still have to deliver the behaviour?
Another personal favorite
Another Asian bank – different country.
The Service Quality Team had engaged a ‘Customer Service Expert’ who convinced them that there was an industry standard for a smile.
A proper smile must show 12 teeth.
And they bought it.
And then they Mystery Shopped it.
Can you imagine the training session for the Mystery Shoppers?
“Ok guys – when the Banking Officer smiles at you be sure to count if 12 teeth are showing.”
And can you imagine the final Mystery Shopper presentation to the Board?
“And ladies & gentlemen, we’ve got a problem – on average less than 7 teeth are showing and let’s not even talk about the intensive dental work cases that we will report to you separately.”
This story is a little different
This story is a little different as it comes from Mystery Shopper research.
An international mobile handset manufacturer wanted to Mystery Shop their Frontline Agents.
The Mystery Shoppers were to dial in, ask a specific set of questions and record the conversations.
So far so good.
Because to Mystery Shop well you need to select and define the key behaviours to be measured as part of the program.
The Organization had a prepared list of behaviours which they turned over to us.
Behaviour #1 – “Was the Agent prepared and ready to take the call?”
So we asked – “Oh. How would a Mystery Shopper know if the Agent was prepared and ready to take the call?
To which they replied – “The Mystery Shopper should be able to tell if the Agent was prepared and ready to take the call. Score it.”
And what’s up with this Small Talk standard?
Depending on your CX Strategy, your Corporate Strategy and your Customer Service Strategy, it may make perfect sense to implement a ‘Small Talk’ behaviour into your Agent set of quality standards.
Typically I see Small Talk expressed as “Have you had your lunch yet sir?” or “How’s the weather in Singapore today?”
An unrelated question added into the conversation with the intention to build rapport.
I’m not disparaging the standard.
If your organization went through the full and proper process of selecting and defining relevant standards and Small Talk presented itself – then by all means implement it.
But the Agents I meet tell me that the Small Talk standard was literally grafted on to their existing set of standards. They felt they were being asked to do a funny thing.
When done right – appropriate small talk can elevate a conversation.
But when used at the wrong time, or in the wrong way – it sounds at best inauthentic and at worst – irritating.
Making it a compliance behaviour is almost guaranteed to be problematic.
At the end of the day you can’t capture the entirety of the Customer Experience in a single interaction
It’s well understood that the Customer Experience consists of the Customer’s perceptions across their entire experience with an organization.
And that sometimes that experience doesn’t even touch ‘Customer Service’ or the Contact Centre.
Of course, when it does touch Customer Service or the Contact Centre that interaction may have more emotional resonance than other types of interactions.
And that matters.
The management decisions described in this short article were not made by one individual. A group or committee of smart people sat around a table, decided that these were good ideas and implemented them.
But grafting on Agent behaviours in the hope they deliver a positive Customer Experience shouldn’t involve Agents saying funny things.
Thanks for reading!