Call quality in today’s Contact Centres hasn’t improved enough to keep up with today’s Customer expectations.
Recently we released a new training course – “How to have Great Conversations with your Guests & Customers”.
Within days, we received a number of inquiries from banks, hotels and even two shopping centres.
While the industries were different, the inquiry was the same.
“Dan – we’ve got the Team to a level of standardization and compliance.
But despite that fact that we are an amazing company in our industry, we still have to urge (push, pull, scream) to get our Frontline staff to engage in conversation with our Guests & Customers.”
That got us to thinking – why isn’t call quality getting better?
Why do Team Members in hotels & retail environments sound so robotic?
The call mix has changed
What Customers called about 10, 5 or even 2 years ago has changed.
In a North American study, 41% of voice-calls received in Contact Centres were driven by failures in other channels.
So voice-based Centres are transitioning into channel-resolution Centres. Working to solve more complex and challenging inquiries than ever before.
When you’re dealing with more complex inquiries, the stakes are higher.
A nice tone of voice and saying the Customer name two times isn’t going to cut it anymore.
Proportionally calls related to difficult situations have gone up
Ask any mid to long time Contact Centre Agent about the behavior of Customers today.
They will tell you that their Customers are more demanding.
Your longer-serving Agents might feel that organizational performance has declined over time. A direct result given the increase in the volume and intensity of difficult situations.
That’s an important leadership challenge that needs to be addressed before the Centre shifts into ‘all Customers are jerks’ mode which is an experience killer.
If you’re an Agent who thinks Customers are jerks, your call quality is bound to suffer.
Contact Centres as an industry remain siloed
Unlike industries such as health-care, law, accounting and the like, Contact Centres are deeply tied to their vertical organization with rew ties to the ‘horizontal industry’ at large.
This means that the folks running the Centres might not have the necessary knowledge, skills and exposure to run multi-channel or omni-channel environments.
Once a Contact Centre has managed to achieve a ‘base-level’ of performance around Operations & Quality, a Business As Usual inertia sets in.
A sense that ‘we’ve done it, we’re there – so for heaven’s sake don’t rock the boat by changing anything now’.
So what is this mysterious Wow Factor everyone talks about?
You still hear the terms, Wow Factor, Go the Extra Mile, Customer delight – but it’s very seldom that Contact Centre leadership can define it well.
How can an Agent deliver this mysterious Customer Delight factor if their bosses can’t even define it?
No – this is not an Agent attitude problem.
This is a management failure.
And the lessons of Customer Experience teach us that consistent (good) performance beats isolated Wow Factors every time.
That doesn’t mean ignore Wow. It simply means that you have to get the consistency right before you design the Wow.
You can’t build a house with Legos
Of course behaviors like tone of voice, etiquette and courtesies matter – but they are expected and don’t really provide differentiation.
When you listen to calls across organizations in the same locale or region, it all sounds pretty much the same.
Colin Shaw of Beyond Philosophy calls it the ‘blight of the bland’.
I love that term, despite its inherent negativity.
What you get these days when you call a Contact Centre is truly bland – not great, not bad – serviceable.
I’ve yet to meet a Contact Centre Manager who promotes the mantra of ‘Let’s be Serviceable!’
So why is this so common?
Primarily because most Centre leadership and Quality Assurance Teams focus heavily on the compliance standards like ‘fillers’ and ‘use the Customer’s name 3 times in a conversation’.
Agents become compliance driven – because that is what their bosses tell them they want.
And it’s what they hear their bosses talk about every day.
It’s unreasonable and illogical to expect Agents to suddenly dig deeper into their souls and find a way to ‘wow’ Customers when their ‘Quality life’ revolves around tick-marks on compliance-based behaviors.
Recently a senior executive said to me – “We are the most famous hotel in a famous country – surely my Staff can find something to chat about with the Customer!”
While on paper that sounds reasonable, at the Agent level we can’t operate on wish fulfillment.
It’s like expecting flowers to bloom in the desert.
So what can differentiate?
In today’s CX environment, the standard bundle of KPIs that exist in many Centres continues the blight of the bland.
To be differentiate, we find that there are 3 common things – across industries – that Agents can bring to life in their conversations.
The ability to deliver any of these involves a variety of other competencies including listening, empathy, confidence, product knowledge and the like.
Imagine you call for a dining reservation in the restaurant of your hotel and after a brief but valuable conversation, the Agent provides their informed ‘opinion’. “In my opinion sir, you’d be happier in the La Sala restaurant as it carries a wider selection of dishes as compared to our La Marina restaurant which is exclusively fine dining and for which options are more limited…”
Recommendations are linked to opinions but stronger in depth & intensity.
“Sir, thanks for answering all my questions. Based on your situation I’d recommend that you take the XX version of our product – while it’s a bit lower than our higher end solution – it will serve you well based on the parameters we spoke about. It’s always superb to hear a Contact Centre Agent use the phrase “I recommend” appropriately (i.e. after careful listening and weighing of options – not simply pushing a product or service).
Conveyance of Emotion
There are so many definitions and descriptions of this important topic and it’s a topic we never tire of studying. One of the best and simplest definitions I’ve seen is this – “The Guest or Customer leaves the interaction feeling better than they did entering it.”
When it comes to creating a positive emotional experience with a Customer (or at the very least mitigating a negative experience), it’s important to understand that it’s not achieved by tacking on a new KPI such as “Small Talk”.
It’s a matter of rethinking the entire conversation and learning how to identify solid opportunities to express opinions, recommendations and trigger emotions.
Some time back we did a Mystery Shopper which involved asking Agents about the various attractions to be found in a resort.
The question was this – “Can you tell me about the Aquarium?” .
The answer was, “It has fish”.
You can’t build a house using Legos.
Thank you for reading!