Published: September 30, 2013 | Comments
Innovation is white hot right now as organizations are realizing incremental improvement is not fast enough to retain competitive advantage. If leaders are asked to increase productivity by 10%, their focus becomes efficiency and automation; but, if asked to increase productivity by 100%, the focus becomes reinvention and transformation.
Service innovation has for years been a central part of my consulting practice, especially those industries with excessive customer contact: hotels, banks, hospitals, retail stores and call centers. If the innovation spotlight was put on a call or contact center, what would be the outcome. On the inside, call center leaders are focusing on the means—IVR, CRM, CTI, AHT, UCD, ACD and ASA. But on the outside, the customer cares about the end and is uninterested in the alphabet soup. As a customer with high expectations for excellence, here is my call center wish list:
Conversation, not checklist . I can spot a script a mile away. Even done with the skill of a master thespian, it reminds me of those boring days of “Thank you for shopping at J Mart, next.” Talk with me like a good friend, not like you are primed to ask me some call center variation of “Would you like fries with that?”
Inconsistency, not robotics . I appreciate the virtues of consistency. It makes operations much easier to manage and measure. But, people communicating with people is by definition inconsistent. Customers hope for untidy and inefficient personalization. Don’t be so methodical you fail to leave room for serendipity, ingenuity and personality.
Focus on my needs, not your handle time . I can always tell when I am disrupting an operator’s AHT. Please take the time that is required to get me what I need. When you force me to call back on the same issue, your stats are already blown. If I was your best friend, would you rush me? I’m not your best friend; I’m your paycheck!
Mentoring, not just manners . Smart operators give me security. I am impressed when they are savvy enough to tutor me on things that improve my experience. It tells me I am dealing with an ambassador concerned with the welfare of his or her company, not a person just filling a seat and waiting to punch out.
Problem solving, not transaction management . Some of my call center calls are for information or purchases; most are related to an issue. My problem is not solved until I believe it is solved. Just taking me through your steps or procedures may feel to like real work to you. But, without closure, it is just noisy hassle that wastes my time.
Easy, not laborious . Wait time tells me either your organization does not care about customers or your call center is so poorly managed. I am unmoved by your excuses and indifferent to your attempts to remind me of my importance as I wait to be served. Making me repeat anything tells me your systems are archaic and perhaps I should steer clear what you are selling.
Customers today only want value for their hard earned dollar and that includes their experiences, not just your products and services. They are far less brand-loyal and will abandon an organization on a single hiccup. Social media makes the voice of the customer louder and with greater reach than ever. It all means expectations are climbing quickly...30% higher in the last year. It requires call centers to choreograph the customer performances they deliver with Disney World attention to detail.
Chip R. Bell is a customer loyalty consultant and the author of several national bestselling books. He will be one of the keynote speakers at Call Center Demo and Conference in Atlanta. His newest book is The 9 ½ Principles of Innovative Service which can be purchased through www.simpletruths.com. He can be reached at www.chipbell.com