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Listening and Learning: What's in a Resolution?

Have you ever sat with your contact center’s leadership team and asked yourself this question? What does resolution actually mean? Whether it’s the New Year like it is now, and you’re resolving and reaffirming your commitments to yourself or your loved ones, or it’s during call calibration and you’re having a heated discussion about whether the rep you just listened to actually achieved the desired outcome, I think we all have some sense of it. After all, we’re in the customer service business. Resolution comes from the idea that we have something permanent and actionable to go forward with. Whether it’s the answer to that unanswered question we had, or the fix to the problem we were faced with, when we have a real resolution, we have what we need.

Moreover, when we reach out to get help from our service providers, we do so with the intent of not having to reach out twice, that’s for sure. This is likely true for all of us, and anyone you ask this question of. Yet, as a service provider, how do we know we’ve really provided a resolution, and delivered it the first time the customer called? How can we be confident that we have reduced effort on behalf of our customer and met their needs? I’d like to take some time to share with you how I believe my Member Services team at Alberta Pensions Services Corporation (APS) has achieved this over the past year by first and foremost listening to and learning from others and then translating what we learned from listening into meaningful action.

For us, it all started with learning from the people in our organization that really matter the most – our front-line employees. As an organization, we’ve been focused on employee engagement, but it’s by reallyhearing our employees and giving them what they actually need that has made the difference. Coming out of 2017, some pretty big themes emerged that indicated what was bringing down team morale and engagement. The first came out of how we measured our performance from a First Contact Resolution (FCR) perspective. I’ll give you the abridged version of how we used to do things:

1. Our coaches would listen to a call

2. Coaches would review the file and all of the information that the representative would have had the opportunity to review

3. Coaches would assess the overall success of the call based on behavioral criteria that we determined were essential to a resolution

4. The call was then scored as resolved “Yes” or “No”

Bi-weekly, we would present the results of the call reviews back to our representatives, going over the resolution scores, and providing feedback on the behaviors that either helped or hindered their efforts. The results were always presented first as a percentage reflective of how many were resolved out of the total (either for this period or year-to-date), then discussed from a behavioral perspective. Now you may be asking yourself, what’s wrong with this? Perhaps this is your current practice! For APS however, our team told us loud and clear that from their perspective, the process was flawed. We knew we had to make a change.

Being innovative is one thing, but let’s face it, if you don’t have the time to come up with all of the great ideas yourself (who does?), there’s nothing quite like shamelessly copying or at least adapting the best practices of other industry leaders to your environment. So it was no surprise that when we attended the 2018 Contact Center Expo, we heard from the experts that our representatives not only had a legitimate beef, but there was a potential solution to the issue. The first piece came out of Jeff Toister’s performance management workshop where he said: When you score people with percentages, that’s all they tend to focus on; often missing the best part, which is the valuable behavioral feedback they need and want . Justin Robbins reinforced this when we heard from him that there is simply a better way to approach quality assurance by going scoreless and focusing on behaviors instead of numbers. This was powerful stuff and really started to validate what our representatives were telling us.

The second piece came out of an ICMI session we attended on using customer feedback to improve service. In that session, the presenters told us how they utilized a concept they called “Real FCR” to give voice to their customers as a way to provide their representatives with valuable feedback. That really hit home. Who better to give the final assessment on whether we actually resolved issues or not than the people we serve?

Ultimately though, we had to put this to the test. Not long after returning from Contact Center Expo, we engaged our team in a series of breakout sessions, where we focused on discussing FCR and how we were applying it in our contact center and brought forward the insights we took away from the Expo. After all, not all things fit all people or all teams, and we needed to see if these concepts aligned with what our representatives were thinking. What they told us was simple: Stop focusing on the scores because they are distracting and aren’t helpful to me, and tell me what the plan member thinks of my service. I’d be remiss if I didn’t say how happy we were to hear this, while recognizing how strange that sounds at first - but it really was affirming. Not surprisingly, the team was excited, and our marching orders became clear.

We consolidated all of what we learned into a proposal (which was subsequently approved) including an action plan aimed at making significant changes to our approach around VOC and FCR. This plan included:

a. Engaging our customer experience survey vendor to help us develop a new survey wherein we ask about FCR as part of the overall VOC survey, and solicit open feedback on FCR, driving the data and feedback we receive down to the individual team member.

b. Developing a new method and model for reviewing the feedback that we receive from our surveys, continuing to combine that with actual call reviews and delivering those results from the perspective of our plan members.

c. Watching for trends and gaps as our plan members tell us about them, deriving the most valuable feedback from our plan members as it relates to our corporate values and service strategy.

d. Attaching the surveys to all of our service channels, so we don’t miss out on opportunities to learn through all of our work.

e. Leveraging strategic educational opportunities as a team using web-based training to reset fundamental customer service principles.

f. Reporting back to our team on progress and results.

As of writing this article, I am thrilled to report that we launched our redesigned survey and have been receiving responses back from plan members since November 2018. Since then we have been socializing the results and sharing feedback to our representatives. We also completed the redesign of our coaching model with involvement from the team as a whole and are implementing it this month. The new model will connect our representatives with the feedback from our plan members, and combine that with real or near-time input from our coaches who will continue to monitor them on a daily basis. Overall, we have gone scoreless from the representative perspective, which will enable us to have better and more meaningful conversations about behaviors. Going forward, we will only be reporting an FCR score at the team level. As we anticipated, we have already been reaping the benefits with more to come.

How might attending Contact Center Expo transform your contact center? Join us this May 13-16 on the beach at the beautiful Diplomat Resort in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Register here.