Roy's Blog: Customer Service

January 7, 2019

7 reasons most call centers are absolutely shameful


Call center

Every organization that is big enough has a call center to handle primarily incoming calls from their customers.

There must be some redeeming value in having one if everyone has one, right? There is: it’s generally viewed as the most efficient operating solution for processing volumes of calls coming into an organization.

The dark side to call centers

But having led large customer service teams in a variety of business environments I have experienced a dark side to call centers.

In many cases I find that call centers represent the antithesis of miraculous service.

When an organization declares they intend to provide amazing service to their customers and then chooses an operating model with a call centre — particularly in a foreign country — as its nucleus, they are not only being disingenuous, they are fooling themselves (and probably driving their customers crazy) and assuming substantial competitive risk.

These are the aspects of call centers, particularly those that are outsourced, I find quite revolting.

They exist to manage cost

They choose to implement a call centre environment not to serve customers better, but to process volumes of calls at the lowest cost possible.

The question is rarely asked “Is this the best way to both serve our customers in an exemplary way while at the same time optimizing our cost position?”

It’s all about cost. That’s why most organizations outsource them around the world where labour costs are low. Current outsourcing destinations include India, Philippines, Thailand, China and Indonesia with many more planning to enter the fray.

Reduce cost

This outsourcing trend has attracted a plethora of experts who define what it takes to have a successful call centre.

They are managed to improve productivity

Effectiveness of a call center is generally based on micro productivity measures such as:

1. average holding time — the elapsed time it takes a call center rep to handle a customer query. Management tries to drive this number down in order to process as many calls as they can with the resources available.

The outcome of each call is rarely measured. Was the customer satisfied with the service they received? Did they enjoy the experience with the rep?

2. average speed of answer — the average length of time it takes to answer an incoming call. When I ran call center operations in the telecom world, my target was to answer 80% of all calls within 6 seconds and our resource levels were set to achieve this result.

This was probably the best internal target we had that represented an attempt to deliver good customer service.
Can you imagine in today’s world reaching a call center rep of any organization within 2 or 3 rings of your phone? Rarely ever happens, with common wait times in the minutes rather than seconds.

Productivity and service miracles don’t easily coexist in most organizations; this measure needs attention if any organization wants to get out of the revolting category.

They don’t drive customer loyalty

Whether a call center serves incoming calls or is used to originate sales-type calls, the heavy traffic volumes involved generally work against the relationship building activity that leads to a loyal customer.

A call comes in > the rep answers (eventually) > the rep deals with the customer’s request > the rep terminates the call > the next call is fed to the rep.
And the cycle is repeated over and over again with a supervisor scrutinizing how long the rep is on each call.

The call center is essentially a production shop with no overt objective of creating an experience for the customer that could lead to brand loyalty.

Customer satisfaction may be measured along with productivity objectives, but a satisfied customer does not make a loyal one.
Satisfaction means that expectations were met; loyalty demands more — minds must be blown, expectations exceeded and marvelous experiences created if the loyalty dial is to be moved.

Wham bam

And this takes time. A WHAM! BAM! THANK YOU MA’M! process does nothing to encourage warm feelings and a desire to do more business with the brand involved.

They take control of your brand

The moment power is given to an outsourced call centre to engage with your customers, control is relinquished and your organization’s brand is put at risk.

Many organizations don’t even put in place a performance management contract with the 3rd party outsourcer to measure how customers perceive the service they receive from call center reps, so changes to brand position are unknown and can’t be responded to.

And with high turnover of employees, consistency in whatever customer treatment is given is almost impossible — at least I don’t experience it.

When your customer connects with the call center you have chosen to empower with your most valued asset, and the experience they have does not go well, it’s on YOU.
The call center rep is YOUR employee. The service outcome is YOUR responsibility.

YOU pay the price in the market.

Their words create the precious moment

Whether a customer has a miraculous service moment or not depends on communications with the call center rep. Miracles happen when the engagement is spirited, entertaining and responsive. When there is an easiness to the conversation that leaves the caller happy and fulfilled.

And for me, very often it is extremely difficult to fight through the accent of a foreign call center rep to have a meaningful and enjoyable conversation.
I simply can’t understand many (not all) of them, and that’s a BIG problem for the outsourcer.
If even the basic communications expectations of the call can be met, there is little chance that a service miracle will ever occur and in fact the opposite is the result with the caller being annoyed or angry with the encounter.

It’s not that the foreign reps are uneducated or don’t have some skills in the English language.
But it’s one thing to pass English 101 and have an understanding of sentence structure and grammar, and quite another to engage with someone else in a way that flows and is productive to the other party.
Are these reps tested by role playing to evaluate their conversational proficiency? Not from where I’m sitting.

Long

Wait times are shameful

Outsources really don’t care about how long we wait on the phone to reach a rep; if they did, they wouldn’t tolerate wait times that often reach ridiculous levels — for me personally, I am blown away if I actually get a rep in 5 minutes and am not surprised to wait 45 minutes or longer. Business mediocrity in action.

It’s ironic that wait times take no priority at all; organizations are content to provide messages they feel assuage their shameful service: “Your call is important to us”; “We are experiencing unusual traffic volumes at the moment” unfortunately greet us more often than not when we call for help.

But wait! There is a silver lining to long wait times. Put your iPhone on speaker, slip it in your back pocket and get on with the job jar your wife has skillfully filled for you.

The reps have an impossible task

I totally get that even a highly competent and caring call center rep has a tough time being on 100% up time.
By the time a customer gets to them, they are often met with frustration, anger and sometimes abuse, with literally zero chance of turning a bad encounter into a pleasant experience.
The reps simply wants to get away from the pain they are engulfed in.

And the rep of course doesn’t own the problem — leadership does.

It’s a pipe dream and shameful leadership behaviour to create an impossible working environment and expect employees to perform impeccably. What planet are they on?

It’s quite simple, really.
If you want low costs, technology can do only so much and you will be saddled with the result. Under-resourcing is typically the result of cost cutting in the face of relentless demand and who pays the price? CUSTOMERS DO!

Call centers generally don’t focus on building intimate customer relationships and outsourcing them makes matters worse.

There are exceptions, however, but these rare organizations make the decision to establish their call center as an integral loyalty building instrument not as an efficient call processing center.

So if you decide to use call center technology to engage with your customers, please don’t preach your intent to deliver amazing service.

It’s intellectually dishonest and it fools no one.

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead book series

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  • Posted 1.7.19 at 04:10 am by Roy Osing
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December 14, 2018

5 ways to make the payment process easy for clients — guest post

Millions of people are doing their shopping online on a daily basis. Making it easy for clients to pay for your products and services is surely a cute way of increasing sales and conversions.

Coins

This is exactly why you really need to have a good checkout page — where they become paying clients. Making it extremely easy for shoppers to pay on your site will motivate them to return and even refer your business.

Here are 5 ways that can actually make payment process easy for your clients:

Provide a variety of payment methods

This is very important because there are some websites that provide only one payment option. Multiple sources say that over 50% of clients expect you to have a variety of payment options on your checkout page.

Try as much as possible to offer any conceivable payment option available at your disposal. Before you do this, take time to research and make sure you get payment options that your target audience would love.

If you are able to do this, then you will captivate the attention of most people visiting your site. Some good ideas are also allowing for payments from multiple credit cards, direct bank transfers etc.

Make errors easy to fix

It is important to know that mistakes are inevitable; so while shopping on your website, there is the high possibility that someone may make mistakes, which could be forgetting the zip codes, or forgetting to add ‘@’ when writing their email address.

Your job at this point is to fix the error. So, you need to be working with a customer friendly team that will correct the error as fast as possible.

Another good way of helping people to pay is to by saving the personal details they submit — people’s personal information should be handled with utmost confidentiality. Many customers get frustrated when they are asked to resubmit all the information again just because they made one mistake.

Keep distractions to a minimum

Your checkout page is the final step. Many people are busy, they just want to click the ‘buy’ button, pay for the item and leave your site.
So, make sure you don’t distract them from completing their checkout process as quickly as possible.

You can avoid distracting them by making sure you don’t put any advertorial beside the “submit” button, because this may likely be going to distract them. Your number one objective here is to encourage them by showing them the easy process that will allow them to make their payments as fast as possible.

Distractions

Be flexible with payment type

There are many payment options that are available to customers such as external card readers, vouchers, coupons, checks, credit cards, etc.

All these can help them to make purchases. We are living in a cashless economy, so paying cash is now a thing of the past. If you are a retailer, it could be difficult for you to maintain varied payment options.

However, you will need to do this, because your customer will like you to provide different tender types. So that the customer can have an option of using any suitable payment method. If these options aren’t available, it may be difficult for your customers to return.

Keep in mind that working with varied tender types will require employee training, huge investment in technological options, as well as regular adjustment of your sales system.

The wish of every customer is to have the option of paying in their preferred method, and as a retailer, this is something you must offer.
If you can provide this, you will make your business very attractive and will surely outsmart your competitors.

Reward and recognize clients

Rewarding and recognizing your clients is the surest way of growing your brand. Celebrate them when they buy from you, virtually every customer likes to be appreciated for their contributions to your business.

Make sure you do this so that you won’t give your competitors the opportunity of taking the business away from you.  Ask for your customers’ feedbacks, invite them to a special function, and give them a referral bonus or discounts.

Your site should have a blog section, where you share interesting things happening around your business and niche. Provide value to them by teaching them awesome tips like how to benefit from the opportunities in debt settlement, business, management, technology etc.

Having a good shopping cart will motivate people to click the purchase button. So, do everything humanly possible to make your checkout page easy to use, and highly convenient for users.

Your checkout page is where you turn window shoppers or visitors to paying clients.

Please try to follow the tips described above, and you will not only boost your sales but will also create a great experience for people that come to your site.

— Focused on providing information for anyone in need of debt relief, Jackson Maven writes a blog on debt settlement, debt consolidation, tax debt relief and student loan debt which helps to find the debt solution that fits their unique needs no matter the amount of debt they are in.

Jackson Maven

  • Posted 12.14.18 at 04:04 am by Roy Osing
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December 3, 2018

What does a service miracle look like?

Most organizations have a customer service strategy.

The following are typical claims they make in terms of what they intend to deliver:
— “we provide the best customer service”
— “we were voted #1 in service”
— “our goal is to exceed our customers’ expectations”
— “we go the extra mile…”
— “we pride ourselves on providing high quality service”
— “we provide memorable experiences”

These are all laudable expressions in terms of the service experience outcome they want to provide.

Words music

Words vs music

The problem, however, isn’t in the words; it’s in the music.

For example, they say “your call is important to us”, yet force us to wait 40 minutes to speak with a call center rep. How is this consistent with delighting anybody? I pity the frontline person every time they answer a call knowing how upset EVERY customer will be for having to wait so long. Pain ensues…

Unfortunately most organizations fail to deliver on their customer service promise.

There are two reasons for this:
— they don’t understand the essential elements that contribute to service miracles;
— they are unable to execute consistently on the service elements they choose to focus on.

The irony is that many organizations fail because they are inept at implementing flawed service elements. Not only do they suck at execution, they are trying to do the wrong thing.

So let’s start at the beginning. What are the things that must be done — the service elements — to deliver miraculous service experiences?

Hire miracle workers

Hire people who want to be in the same room with other humans. Miracles are delivered by people who create moments, not technology that delivers according to an algorithm.

And if you don’t recruit people who “love” humans you’re dead from the beginning. Your current recruitment strategy must be blown up and reinvented. It’s mission must be to identify those people who are innately driven to serve others whatever it takes.

Miracles

Attract servant leaders

The internal world of any organization must be “cleansed” is miracles are to be commonplace.

Barriers to delivering astonishing moments must be expunged. Tools that enable conversation time with customers must be provided to everyone. And bureaucratic CRAP that prevents miracle workers from doing their job must be eliminated.

Leaders who serve ask “How can I help?” are the powerful force to enable this culture. Find ‘em. Grab ‘em. Never let ‘em go.

Morph your executive leadership program reward managers who serve others like an involuntary muscle. Command and control freaks have no place in creating miracles.

Let your people go

Empower people to serve people. It’s the loose vs tight dilemma.

Do you trust that your miracle workers will do the right thing for the company if you empower them to take customers to a heightened service experience?

Many organizations believe that they will go too far left to satisfying the customer and sink company profits. RUBBISH! In my experience, if they are given the trust of leadership, they are amazing at balancing what it takes to dazzle someone while at the same time protecting the come.

Ok, say they go too far for a customer every once in a while. Are you telling me that there are no other occasions in the company’s world where margins may not be optimized?

The real issue is: do you want to dilute your margins for a customer miracle or do you want to do it for a sales conference in Maui?

Phobia

Lose the cost phobia

“But we can’t provide all the resources needed to deliver miracles and still deliver the margins expected of us”. HOGWASH!

Ever see a study that correlates “touch time” with net income? NO! and you never will. But you do see market share statistics explain a drop in revenue accompanied by stories of excommunicated customers who were unable to take crummy service.

The cost guys want cost to drive investment decisions and as a result really stupid service acts are taken like outsourcing call centres to a part of the world that has a difficult time with our language.

Yes these folks are well educated on IP technology but I CAN’T COMMUNICATE WITH THEM BECAUSE I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY’RE SAYING.

I love Tony Heish’s really simple view of call centers. They’re not cost centers, they’re “loyalty centers” and should be managed as such. Invite someone to call. Spend as much time with them as you have to take care of them. Deliver a miracle and they will return.

Kill the stupid

There’s a lot of stupid stuff we do to that piss our customers off.

Rules, policies and procedures intended to maintain efficient operations fly right in the face of customer logic. So they may satisfy some internal perspective of sense, but are destructive — ineffective — in delivering service miracles.

Empty booths

The couple who wants a booth in a Vegas restaurant but is refused because booths are reserved for parties of 4 or more is really annoyed when there are only a few people there and all booths are vacant.

Miracles are simple to deliver when you realize that the customer’s desires supplant the internal world of an organization.

The real question is: do we have the guts to put the customer in control of the rules we operate under? If YES, miracles will come; if NO mediocrity will stay and DEMISE will most likely result.

A simple starting point. Purge “It’s not our policy” from your vocabulary and fire anyone who utters it (and tell the rest of the organization you did it).

Miracles are simple

Miracles are not complicated. In fact as customers ourselves, we find they are often created by simple moments that surprise us because we are not used to special treatment.

We are in a retail store (known for its lack of service) unable to find an open service counter to pay for our purchases. A young man dressing a mannequin spots us meandering; he offers his help and finds an open service position for us.

Complicated? NO!

Caring? YES!

A bloody miracle? ABSOLUTELY!

Cheers,
Roy

Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead book series

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  • Posted 12.3.18 at 03:19 am by Roy Osing
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November 19, 2018

How to AMAZE your customers in 4 easy ways

Blowing the socks off your customers is not a one act play; it’s a synchronized series of continuous actions that repeated throughout an organization day in and day out.

Consistently delivering amazing service requires a carefully thought out service strategy, with two essential elements: core service — what you deliver to people — and the service experience — how they feel when it is delivered.

Core service

Core service is the basic product or service you provide the market.
Without core service you don’t have a business. If you’re in the communicationsl business, for example, your core services are defined by your product portfolio and include television entertainment, internet and mobile services as well as billing and repair services.

If you’re in the hospitality world, your core service includes clean rooms, interesting attractions and good food.

Amazing

Core service is not a source of customer loyalty. Customers expect their internet service to work every time they use it; they are not dazzled when it actually works — I’ve never heard a customer say “WOW! I’ve just sent an email and it was sent through the internet incredibly well — it was delivered just the way I wrote it.”

Likewise I don’t recall anyone saying “OMG! My hotel room was so clean it was a Rembrandt in every way”.

Customers expect your core service to deliver on its promise and work flawlessly every time, and when it does they give you a ‘C’ on your service report card. Meeting expectations earns you and average rating and that’s all.

On the other hand, when the internet service doesn’t work or the hotel room is a mess, the customer is extremely dissatisfied and quickly tell their friends and family how crummy their service provider is.

The bottom line is if you want to earn the right to build a loyal customer base, you must deliver consistent core service as your foundation.

Service experience

The service experience is the critical layer of service that must be “wrapped around” your core service. It’s the FEELINGS layer that answers the question “How do you feel when you receive your provider’s core service?”
— How would you rate the experience of signing up for internet service?
— How do you feel about the cleanliness of your hotel room?
— How’s your patience after waiting 40 minutes in a call center queue for a rep?
— Do you feel honoured and respected by your financial advisor?
— Are your questions met with friendliness and charm by the service people you reach out to?

Experience

On the back of consistent core service, the source of customer loyalty is the service experience; dazzling a customer will get you an ‘A’ — or excellent — on your service report card and they will keep coming back and tell everyone else how wonderful you are.

The how to AMAZE formula

AMAZE = deliver consistent and seamless core service for each and every customer transaction PLUS dazzle them when you do it.

How does an organization create dazzling experiences for their customers?

Hire human being lovers

Can you dazzle a customer if your contact employees really don’t like dealing with customers? No — and yet I bet you’ve had an experience with a person in a business that showed indifference and “contempt” for you; unfortunately it happens all too frequently. To say the lease, these engagements are anything but pleasant.

Creating memorable experiences for customers requires employees who want to serve; they want to take care of people.
These are the people that need to be recruited in an organization that want to dazzle their customers. Do your recruit explicitly for this attribute?

Recover: fix the screw up and do the unexpected

Service mistakes happen in any organization; what’s critical, however, is what you do when they occur.
The amazing thing is that customers are more impressed (and remain loyal) after a successful service recovery than if the mistake never happened at all! Which means developing a recovery strategy is critical — yet few organizations do this because they don’t like to admit that mistakes will be made.

What’s the rule for a successful recovery?
Fix the mistake FAST and then blow the customer away by surprising them with something they DON’T expect.
The recovery process begins with “I’m sorry” even if it isn’t your fault, and it finishes with a small personal token to make amends — the key is token; it doesn’t have to be a big expense rather a thoughtful expression of regret.

Dumb rules

Kill dumb rules

Do you have policies that don’t make sense to customers?
The rules, policies and procedures that piss them off royally? Every organization has them but most like to rationalize them as being necessary to meet some internal requirement.
Seek them out — ask your frontline — and modify or get rid of them so they are not a source of aggravation to your customers who desperately want to deal with organizations that are easy to do business with.

Policies and rules should be driven from the customer’s perspective. Engage them in rule formulation; don’t rely solely on internal staff who will typically shape rules to control the engagement process rather than empower it.

Bend your own rules; empower your frontline to “say yes”

You can’t dazzle customers if your frontline is enforcing rules all the time; telling them what they can and can’t do to comply with the company’s position. Saying “NO!” constantly does nothing to endear someone to you; it’s a de-dazzling event that won’t encourage any sense of loyalty.
Allow your customer contact people — and systems — a certain amount of flexibility to bend the rules when it makes sense to do what the customer wants.

Most organizations limit this type of empowerment; they are unwilling to trust that their people will make sensible decisions that will favour the customer AND the company.
When a rule is bent for a customer, they feel listened to, respected and honoured. And they are dazzled when it occurs.

A dazzled customer is a loyal customer who provides a never ending stream of sales to an organization AND pulls their friends with them.

These 4 practical and proven strategies will get you there. Be like no other and follow them.

Cheers,
Roy
Check out my BE DiFFERENT or be dead book series

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  • Posted 11.19.18 at 04:16 am by Roy Osing
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