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Goldman Sachs: Customer and Agent Loyalty

Do customers and agents leave the call center and the organization for the same reason? Well, at least for some of the same reasons. Here's a lesson from a Goldman Sachs employee.

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If customers and call center agents are jumping ship at your organization, there may be a common reason: They think you don’t care about them. Customers feel it when your agents aren’t empowered to truly help them and aren’t equipped to understand who the customer is and what they’re asking for and why. Agents feel it when they find the organization’s culture lacking in integrity and thoughtful, invested leadership. Greg Smith, who, in March 2012, resigned his position as investment firm Goldman Sachs' executive director and head of the firm’s United States equity derivatives business in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, touched on both these issues in his resignation letter published as an op-ed piece in the March 14, 2012, New York Times.

ICMI Related Training:

Contact Center Culture: Motivation Through Collaboration
An inspiring call center culture doesn't have to mean expensive benefits for employees. It’s much more about the relationships and positive work environment that you are able to promote. Through this virtual classroom course, you’ll gain an understanding of the relationships and dynamics of culture and how it impacts employee commitment and performance. Plus learn a framework for building a supporting culture under various organizational structures and conditions.

"I attend derivatives sales meetings where not one single minute is spent asking questions about how we can help clients," wrote Smith. “I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work."

Customer-Centric Call Centers

Here are six critical tactics employed by the most customer-centric contact centers:

  • Measure quality from both the company's and the customer's perspective. Leading contact centers capture and analyze what the customer experiences through quality monitoring tools and customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Integrate quality assurance into self-service. Quality is important across all customer touchpoints and can cement the relationship by making it consistent for the customer.
  • Use technology to detect — and act on — hints of customer dissatisfaction and dissension. This includes speech analytics and social media monitoring tools that allow the organization to sense signs of customer defection.
  • Capture key customer data that enhances service, sales and product improvement. The call center is the eyes and ears of your organization, collecting customer data that can help the organization build trust with the customer. The center should be encouraged – and enabled – to capture that data and share it with other parts of the organization for improved customer relationships.
  • Focus KPIs on the customer, not just on efficiency. Think first-call resolution, not handle times. The agent’s goal should be to resolve a customer query, not shuffle them off the phone to get to the next call.
  • Ensure high levels of agent engagement. Leading contact centers create a working environment where agents don’t just want to do a good job, but where agents feel driven to do a great one. Your customers know the difference.

Agent Loyalty – A Culture Club

You might think that today’s economic conditions would be keeping call center agents in their seats – but you’d be wrong. The question is, especially if yours is one of the centers experiencing high agent turnover, how do you get good agents to stay? SXC Health Solutions Inc. has answered that question. At Illinois-based pharmacy benefit management firm SXC Health Solutions Inc., agent attrition is down by half compared to 2008. The reason, says Kelli Barabasz, the company's senior manager of customer care, was a carefully implemented change in culture.

In 2009, SXC rolled out the Fish! Philosophy, based on the film FISH! Catch the Energy Release the Potential, about Seattle’s world-famous Pike Place Fish Market, where producer John Christensen — current CEO aka: Playground Director at ChartHouse Learning — uncovered that even in a workplace where fishmongers spent stinky, grueling 12-hour shifts stocking, selling and packing fish, remarkable results were possible. What do you have to do?

  • Be There for their coworkers and customers
  • Play
  • Make someone's day
  • Choose the attitude you bring to work
  • To make the culture shift – and achieve the dramatic reduction in agent attrition – SXC rolled out several changes, including:
    • Leadership became visible, approachable and more interactive with call center agents, or customer care professionals
    • Added spot recognition programs (Everyday Hero, Token of Thanks and more)
    • Employee Satisfaction survey results were published and analyzed by the leadership team for immediate areas of opportunity
    • Long-term strategic planning was developed to create, maintain and track desired outcomes
    • A department newsletter, company intranet and cork boards throughout the call center to include added visibility for attendance, quality scores and customer compliments.
    • Created career-pathing folders for all customer care staff, and implemented delivery of monthly one-on-one's.

    And agents, like all people, respond to a clear, compelling mission, says Brad Cleveland, senior advisor and former president and CEO of ICMI. "A prerequisite to creating a motivating environment is to address the whys: Why does the group, team, call center, and organization exist? What is it trying to achieve? What's in it for customers? For employees? Quite a few people have been through the process of creating "vision statements" that, for one reason or another, have had little impact. Nonetheless, a clear focus that is championed by the leader is key to pulling people in, aligning objectives and motivating action."

    When any organization can create a culture where both customers and agents believe that they are respected and heard, loyalty grows – and so does the bottom line.