In this short article I discuss the question – what kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?
It ties together two of my favourite topics – Customer Experience & Contact Centers. And it’s the title of one of my best Keynote talks for various conferences around the world.
The Contact Center in the context of Customer Experience
The Contact Center is a touchpoint that only some Customers will use across some subset of all possible Customer journeys.
And for some organizations it can be less than 1% of Customers who utilize the Contact Center touchpoint at all.
For example, imagine that on the spur of the moment you decide to stay in a hotel this upcoming weekend.
You ask a friend to suggest a place, you do some research online and finish by booking a reservation on your mobile phone. No Contact Center involved.
But with that said, when a Customer needs the Contact Center, it can be a real moment of truth.
An experience that has significant ‘weight’ in their overall perception of the organization.
So not every Customer interacts with the Contact Center. But every interaction with the Contact Center is really important.
The Contact Center is the formal living room in a house
Formal living rooms may sound old fashioned – but they’re still around.
When I was growing up we had a formal living room to receive and entertain special guests or to use for special occasions.
It’s a room that’s always perfect. It’s got the best furniture, the best art and it’s always spotless. Because even though it’s not used everyday, it must always be ready.
And I think of the Contact Center within an organization in the same way. It’s the formal living room in the house of your organization.
Not every Customer will need to use it. Nor will every Customer journey involve it. But for those Customers who do come into our Center, it’s our job to always be ready for them with our very best resources.
So what kind of Customer experience does your Contact Center deliver?
Much of the subject matter for our keynote talk – and for this post – is based on nearly 20 years of conducting Mystery Shopper research – especially for Contact Centers.
And most Centers have a list of ‘Quality standards’ they use to train Agents and measure their quality performance – and which they hope or believe will deliver a great Customer interaction.
Simple examples of Quality standards include:
- Clarity in presenting the product or service
- The level of Human Touch on display
- The use of branded language
- The conciseness of the email
- The sales or upselling skill
The possible list of Quality standards is endless because there is no industry standard set of standards that work for every Center. If that were the case, all Customers of all organizations would be happy all the time. And obviously that’s not the case.
And what we’ve found in our research work with Clients is that there is a positive correlation between the sophistication behind selecting and defining Quality directives and the resulting Customer experience.
Or put more simply – when there’s more thought, effort and rigour put into selecting Quality standards – the resulting Customer interactions are better. And Agents benefit from being treated like adults – and not compliance machines who have to do things like say the Customer’s name three times.
Let’s look at some example Quality standards now.
So what’s an example of a Quality standard that was impressive?
One of our most interesting engagements was as the Official Mystery Shopper Evaluator for the Singapore Government. Which basically meant mystery shopping the quality of different government agencies for phone, face to face and email interactions.
And one of the standards set by the Singapore Government was amazing. They practiced what they called ‘No Wrong Door’. Let’s say the Customer had a personal taxation question but accidentally contacted the housing authority.
In most countries, the Contact Center Agent would tell the Customer that they reacehd the wrong place and perhaps give the number for the correct place to call – if that much.
But with No Wrong Door in Singapore, the Contact Center Agent will either arrange a connection to the right Agency or arrange for the right Agency to get back to the Customer directly.
And in a public sector setting that’s amazing.
Having lived in multiple countries, I sometimes joke that trying to get public service assistance through a Contact Center could be branded as ‘Every Door is the Wrong Door’.
That is unless you’re fortunate enough to live in Singapore.
What’s an example that wasn’t so great?
Isn’t it funny that we can sometimes come up with the not so great examples more easily than the great examples?
Here are three.
The ‘Ready to Serve’ Quality standard
The Client, a major mobile phone manufacturer, wanted our Mystery Shoppers to evaluate if the Contact Center Agent we reached was ‘ready to serve’.
Did you just read that twice? So did we.
The question we had was this. How is it possible for us to tell if someone was ready to serve? In our opinion, that sounded like something a Team Leader should be doing internally.
We went back and forth with the Client to get some clarification. But eventually our Client contact wrote us and said – “Look Dan, just ask the Mystery Shopper to do it”. Which was shorthand for ‘we’re done talking about this.’
So we sat down and came up with our own logic for this Quality standard and moved on.
But here’s the thing. If senior management selects a Quality standard that even they can’t explain clearly – how can we expect an Agent to bring that to life in their Customer interactions?
The ‘Tai Chi’ standard
For a University Contact Center, the Agents were instructed to immediately redirect the Caller to the university website if it turned out that the information was available there.
Don’t answer the Caller question. If it was on the website then send the Customer straight to the website.
I decided to call it the ‘Tai Chi’ standard because they really just tai chi’d Customers to the website! And avoid answering the question.
And their rationale for this standard?
They had attended a seminar where the speaker told the audience they should focus on efficiency. And to get people to use the website you have to force them to go to the website.
And you can just imagine the Customer Experience here.
After dialling, listening to the recorded announcements, punching through the IVR options, finally reaching a live Agent and asking their question – the Customer gets tai chi’d to the website.
The every Quality standard is measured as a Yes or No
For a few Centers we’ve worked with, management had decided that all or most of the Quality standards should be measured on a binary scale. Yes / No. 1 / 0. It happened or it did not happen.
Because they felt it was less complicated and easier to implement for them internally. That’s classic inside-out thinking. Do what is easy for the Center – not necessarily for the Customer.
I bet you can imagine what those Agents sounded like when we listened to the calls. Yup that’s right.
They sounded like robots. There was no style, no articulation, no effort.
When every Quality standard is measured on a binary scale, that doesn’t just set a low bar for Quality.
There’s almost no bar for Quality.
There’s an art & science to selecting Quality Standards
There’s an art & science to selecting the right Quality Standards for your Contact Center.
If you’re lucky enough to have a well-defined Customer Experience Strategy in place that can help a great deal. Because a Customer Experience Strategy describes the kind of experience you aim to deliver.
It provides a high level guide to coming up with the right Agent standards.
If you don’t have a Customer Experience Strategy, then a Service Delivery Vision can help.
A Service Delivery Vision is very much like a Customer Experience Strategy, but it tends to be focused only on the Customer Service function. Whereas the Customer Experience Strategy is meant for the entire organization.
Now – if you don’t have a robust Service Delivery Vision then the next question is this.
How did your Contact Center choose its Quality standards? What guided the decisions?
Here are some of the answers I’ve heard:
- I think our Managers came up with these.
- I think our Quality Assurance people came up with these.
- The last Mystery Shopper provider we used came up with these.
- Our Agents know how to talk to Customers – we don’t really use any standards.
- I’m not sure but we don’t want to change them because everyone knows them already.
- I’m new here and I don’t know – I was just asked to find a Mystery Shopper company.
- We’ve used these for years and they’re ‘industry standard’ for our X industry
Answers like these aren’t indicative of any level of sophistication in Quality standard selection & design.
And as I shared earlier, we’ve found a positive correlation between the sophistication of the Quality program and the Customer’s interaction experience. And that makes complete sense.
Because when there’s more thought, effort and rigour put into selecting Quality standards – the resulting Customer interactions are better.
I may write a book sharing nothing but Mystery Shopper stories and the ins and outs of how to get Quality right. There are just so many stories and learnings.
Because your Contact Center does deliver some type of Customer Experience. The question is whether its the experience you wanted or planned for.
Thank you for reading,