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Alphabet Soup: CSAT, Customer Loyalty and CSR

Alphabet soup – Sorting through the many "letters" of the contact center.

Let's kick off 2013 by focusing on those that provide us with the opportunity to do what we do best, our customers!

So we will start our Alphabet Soup Series with the letter "C" and explore the following acronyms and terms.

CSAT = Customer Satisfaction. The level of satisfaction customers have with the organization and the organization’s products and services. Related term: Customer Loyalty.

Customer Loyalty. Typically defined in terms of the customer’s repurchase behavior, intent to purchase again or intent to recommend the organization.

CSR = Customer Service Representative (CSR). Related terms: Agent, Representative, Advisor, etc. The person handling incoming or outgoing contacts. Also referred to as Customer Service Representative (CSR), Customer Care Representative, Telephone Sales or Service Representative (TSR), rep, associate, consultant, engineer, operator, technician, account executive, team member, customer service professional, staff member, attendant or specialist.

All definitions in this article are taken from Call Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland.

Another great resource to help you navigate contact center acronyms is ICMI’s Pocket Guide to Call Center Management Terms.

Contact centers have always been - and continue to be - critical in establishing, deepening and maintaining customer relationships. Each and every customer interaction, whether it is by phone, web, mobile, email, chat, IVR, social or even postal mail is an opportunity to "make or break" an existing, new or potential customers’ view of organization and the service we provide. That’s right, each and every interaction! And with self-service customer interactions increasing, this means that the interactions our CSRs are handling are typically more complex and/or are often a customer’s last step after attempting to resolve an issue or complete a transaction themselves. That means these live interactions can be even more critical in terms of their impact on a customer’s satisfaction and loyalty.

Our responsibility as contact center leaders is to ensure that we provide our internal customers - our CSRs - with the tools, processes, coaching, training and so forth that enables and empowers them to deliver consistent and exceptional customer experiences. Given the dynamic, real-time, complex environment that exists within most contact centers, this is often easier said than done.

So where can we start? One of the best ways to establish a solid foundation for success (high CSAT and loyalty!) is to ensure that your center has a strong, customer-focused culture. According to "Customer Experience Matters" by Bruce Temkin:

  • Consumers that are satisfied with customer service interactions are more than 4x as likely to repurchase than those who are dissatisfied.
  • A modest increase in customer experience can result in a gain over three years of up to $382 million for US companies and up to £263 million for UK firms.
  • Making the company’s culture more customer-centric is more than 2x as important for CX (Customer Experience) leaders than for CX (Customer Experience) laggards.

With these points in mind, it is clear there are compelling reasons to take a closer look at our contact center culture. That said, another "C" term - Culture - needs to be defined, first.

Defining Culture

What is this thing we refer to a "culture"? Is it tangible, definable, can we see it – recognize it?

Your organization's culture does not necessarily reflect the espoused list of values developed at an offsite meeting by the executive team and framed on the wall in your lobby. These are ideals. What you strive to be as an organization and what values you hope to endorse, may be different from the values, beliefs, and norms expressed in your actual practices and behavior. We expect alignment between the values and culture, but all too often that is not the case.

The culture we "claim" (i.e., Vision, mission, values,) may not be the true culture of the organization.

In reality, what management pays attention to and rewards is often the strongest indicator of the organization's culture. This is often quite different than the values it verbalizes or the ideals it strives for. Think for a minute about the organization that you work for. Does your management encourage or discourage innovation and risk-taking? Does it reward employees for coming up with new ideas and challenging old ways of doing things, or punish those who challenge established norms and practices? Do mavericks fit in or do they get pushed out? Is rapid change the norm in your organization or does management vigorously protect the status quo? Does the organization truly value excellence or is the mentality simply, "just ship it"? Does management pay attention to the wellbeing of its employees or is it completely focused on task performance and profits? Does a high level of employee participation characterize the culture or does senior management make most decisions?Culture comprises the deeply rooted but often subconscious beliefs, values and norms shared by the members of the organization. In short, our culture is "the way we do things around here."

Culture Self-Inspection

Try this culture self-inspection exercise:

  • What 10 words would you use to describe your company?
  • Are decisions made by "management only" or is there a high level of employee participation?
  • How are promotions determined: seniority or performance?
  • Is the wellbeing of employees a concern, or is the sole focus on productivity and profits?
  • What gets rewarded: quality, productivity, individual or team performance, new ideas or status quo?
  • Are there lots of high walls and doors or low walls and open spaces?
  • How is feedback given: face-to-face, email, only when improvement is needed?

Keep in mind that the culture of your organization as a whole may or may not be the culture of your own call center or even your own team! It is often the case that when a group of individuals work closely together they form their own culture, their own way of doing things around here.

So as you ask yourself the questions about your organization’s culture, ask those same questions about your own call center and/or the team you manage/supervise.

See what your peers said about their center's culture. Below are the results of a "Quick Poll" conducted on ICMI’s website in November 2012:

One Size Does Not Fit All

There are a few characteristics of customer satisfaction that are common to companies who deliver exceptional customer experiences and business results.

Those characteristics include:

  • There is a strong focus on establishing and deepening relationships rather than just on transactions. This means proactively connecting with customers, anticipating current and future needs. Processes, communication and alignment of people, process and technology exist and are communicated to all levels within the organization.
  • Processes to identify, meet and/or exceed evolving customer expectations are in place and followed.
  • Goal and metrics drive the right behaviors and allow us to evaluate current levels of service and identify opportunities to improve.
  • Feedback loops exist at the organization, contact center and individual levels that allows for communication of positive and corrective feedback.

The Harvard Business Review sums it up in this way: "Our research indicates that high-performing cultures are characterized by an ability to align (gain clarity on vision, strategy, and shared employee behaviors), execute (move in the agreed-upon direction with minimal friction), and renew (continuously improve at a pace that exceeds competitors) ╠Čthree factors we also refer to as 'organizational health.' Companies that use this definition of culture to find the specifics that matter to them, and the right tools to measure those specifics, find — much the way ANZ did —that culture is no longer something that is hard to measure and manage just as rigorously as business performance."

Essentially, all of this points to the fact that high performing customer experience leaders recognize the strong relationship between culture, customer and employee satisfaction and business results.

Please let us know what you think, about your culture and/or your tips for others working to create a culture that enables exceptional customer experiences!

Rose Polchin | Senior Consultant, ICMI

Read the complete Alphabet Soup series: Introduction | CSAT, Customer Loyalty and CSR | SM (Social Media)