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A Tale of Two Agents

This post originally appeared on Melissa Kovacevic's blog.

It was the best of service…it was the worst of service.  My story today is about two such agents.

I had some questions that self-serve didn’t answer so I called the company for answers.  The agent I dealt with (Christine) was the dream agent every call center wants to have in a customer service role.  She answered with a smile, an art that is unfortunately lost on some agents.  That friendly, helpful tone set the stage for my service interaction with her and continued throughout the call.

Christine asked great questions and listened with interest.  When I needed clarification, she asked if I was online and then walked me through some steps via a page with more information.  She also emailed me the link to that information page while we were talking so I would have on file if I needed it later.

How many times have you asked if something could be emailed to you and the agent says, “I don’t have email” or worse yet, “We aren’t allowed to email anything”?

Christine was clearly empowered by management to spend the time needed to create a wonderful service experience.

In contrast, one of my friends had the nightmare service experience we all dread as customers and work hard to prevent as contact center managers.

My friend was having an issue with her new internet service provided by the same company I had contacted for help.  She has a son who lives and breathes for his online games and videos that eat up a lot of bandwidth. The new internet service was cutting in and out and she decided to call the service number provided to talk with someone who could advise her what to do or perhaps arrange for someone to come out and check the connections again.

What she didn’t want to do is spend an hour on the phone with an agent who showed no concern and not even the basic 101 skills we teach our agents when they are first hired for the center.  At times, she had to hand the phone over to her son to make sure she wasn’t hearing things.  The agent either had major sinus issues or had fallen asleep mid-call because he was breathing heavily to the point of sounding like he was snoring.

The agent didn’t ask her to hold, choosing to keep the phone line open instead, but he made no conversation or attempt to establish rapport. Apologize for the wait?  Not this guy.  Perhaps the sinus issues were causing blocked ears too because when the agent did speak on the rare occasion, he asked her the same questions that she had just answered earlier in the call.

This agent was totally disengaged.  He had no interest in providing a great customer experience.  He was just waiting for the end of the call so he could go back to sleep.

How could two agents working for the same company be so different in their motivation, skills and attitude towards the customer?  LEADERSHIP!

After talking with my friend, it’s clear that our calls were received by two different centers operated by the parent company. My agent, Christine, told me she was located in Texas.  The other agent was located outside of the U.S.  There are wonderful offshore centers so this is not to say that the reason for that bad call was due to an offshore issue, but it was due to a lack of consistent customer experience across multiple centers.

The challenge for all of us is to create a consistent excellent experience across channels and centers in order to build trust and loyalty. Consistency in skills, coaching, agent tools, processes and channels is key to our success.

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