Published: March 18, 2010 | Comments
You can tell how much Singapore-based outsourcer NCS Pte. Ltd. values its National Service Call Center – and its customers – just by the way the company refers to its frontline staff: Customer Service Officers (CSOs). Not agents. Not representatives. Not associates. Officers.
Such an elevated job title could be viewed by skeptics as a ploy to simply make frontline staff feel more important without actually elevating the role itself. But after poking around a little in the National Service (NS) Call Center and talking with managers, supervisors and CSOs, skeptics would quickly see that the job title is much more than just an exercise in semantics.
NCS National Service Call Center at a Glance
HOURS OF OPERATION:
24 x 7
NUMBER of AGENTS:
Single point of contact for Singapore’s National Servicemen (military) and their families – handling all queries, requests and feedback.
Phone, email, Web portal, fax, mail
Strong focus on agent empowerment and engagement. Excellent frontline incentives program featuring rewards and recognition that are tied to customer-centric KPIs. Solid customer satisfaction measurement/management process.
“[CSOs] are truly the voice of the organization for our customers,” says Rosalind Li Siang Lee, senior manager at the NS Call Center. “The team is engaged and empowered to deliver service that delights the customer. The team members look for ways to continuously improve service, and are encouraged to try out new ideas.”
That they do; CSOs serve as mentors to new-hires, plan fun and motivational activities, provide invaluable customer feedback, and, recently, played an instrumental role in optimizing the scheduling process in the call center.
CSOs are not only engaged and empowered; they are a bit pampered, too. To help keep stress levels and turnover down in a demanding work environment, NCS provides several amenities aimed at CSO rejuvenation, including a fitness center, pool tables, game stations and relaxation areas.
“The work in the Call Center can be extremely stressful,” explains Lee. “It is necessary to provide areas that allow staff to de-stress, recover from difficult calls, and to expend energy positively. These are also useful to foster communication and teamwork.”
Strategic Rewards and Recognition
Further fostering positive energy and performance among CSOs are the alluring rewards and recognition they receive for a job well done. Most notable is a strategic pay-for-performance incentive plan featuring monthly monetary awards that are tied to customer-centric performance metrics. The plan appears to be working very well, as CSOs consistently meet or exceed the center’s ambitious objectives for such paramount metrics as first-call resolution, service quality, adherence to schedule, and accuracy.
“We believe that all staff want and can perform well,” says Lee. “We want to maintain a high level of performance and nurture staff to their fullest potential. As such, targets set are specific, measurable, and within the control of the staff to achieve on a daily and monthly basis.”
The pay-for-performance program isn’t the only means of CSO rewards and recognition. CSOs who demonstrate outstanding performance are selected to receive quarterly awards such as “Best Customer Service”, “Best Teamwork”, “Best Commitment to Adherence” and overall “Best CSO”. Certificates for these awards are presented by the Director of the call center, and the details of CSO’s achievements are shared with the team members. In addition, winners receive a free meal as well as shopping or movie vouchers.
CSOs also earn recognition whenever they receive a customer compliment. Not only are they publicly congratulated in front of their peers, they get to spin a wheel to win a small token of appreciation. “It is a wheel with numbers on it that translate to interesting tokens,” Lee explains. “The team took the initiative to creatively make and set up the wheel.”
Harnessing the Power of Customer Feedback
The aforementioned wheel gets a lot of use. With so many engaged CSOs focused on the right things, customers end up giving plenty of compliments. To make sure that such satisfaction continues, the NS center has a comprehensive customer satisfaction measurement and management process in place. The center contracts with a neutral third-party surveying specialist that conducts brief phone surveys with customers who have recently interacted with one of the center’s CSOs. Customers are asked to rate their experience on a scale of one to six for the following three questions:
• How would you rate the customer service representative you spoke with in terms of courtesy and professionalism?
• How would you rate the customer service representative in terms of ability to assist you and in providing accurate information?
• Overall, how satisfied are you with the customer service representative you spoke with when you called the NS Call Center?
NCS also surveys customers who interact with the call center’s IVR system, asks them to rate how easy it was to work through the menu options, understand the instructions/information provided and – if relevant – how easy it was to reach a live customer service rep. The survey then asks customers to rate their overall satisfaction with their automated service experience.
The call center does an excellent job of harnessing the power of the critical customer data and feedback it captures via its surveys. Management is alerted to and investigates all customer complaints and poor satisfaction ratings and, if necessary, contacts the customer to ensure that their problem has been resolved. Managers then conduct root cause analysis to find the source of each problem and implement appropriate preventive measures. In addition, key customer feedback from the surveys is used to enhance CSO coaching and training. In the case of the IVR satisfaction survey, customer feedback is used to make improvements to the automated system’s functionality/usability, thus increasing the number of cost-effective self-service interactions going forward.
It appears that all this effort is paying off. The NS Call Center consistently achieves a customer satisfaction rate of over 90% for both the CSO and the IVR survey.
Lee is proud of such impressive statistics, pointing out that the call center’s customer base – Singapore’s National Servicemen (military) and their families – deserves the highest level of support possible.
“What characterizes our service is that there are high customer expectations for us. We recognize that every interaction is a ‘moment of truth.’"
Greg Levin is Community Services Manager for ICMI.