Today’s customers are savvy. They have higher expectations and are more knowledgeable, demanding and industrious than yesterday’s customer. They also want good service, and they want it now.
If businesses are to be successful in today’s marketplace, they must meet the demands of today’s customer and deliver a quality product in a fast and efficient manner. For call centers, the product is the response to customer questions, concerns or complaints. And fast and efficient is a relative term that refers to the handling process of customer inquiries.
The majority of call centers have tools in place to measure call-handling objectives. The average number of calls per agent, hold times, number of calls abandoned, and agent available vs. idle times are all tangible evidence of a call center’s quantity customer service.
These quantitative measurements (commonly referred to as stats) determine how fast and efficient the call center is operating. Yet, the average customer isn’t going to remember that their call was answered in less than 45 seconds, or that their call length was less than four minutes. They don’t really care that 20 reps were available or that the rep they spoke with had less than 7% idle/wrap time.
What they do care about and what they remember is how they were treated during a call. How the rep made them feel. How their questions were answered, and how their concerns were addressed–they remember the intangibles. They equate the intangibles to good quality customer service.
The challenge lies in measuring the quality aspect of the telephone call.
Obviously, the tangible component (stats) is much easier to measure than the intangible component (soft skills), yet to the customer the intangible component is of greater significance. Measuring soft skills in an objective manner has always been difficult, and it still is. The software and technology we have available is conducive to capturing real numbers; soft skills are simply more difficult to define and measure — which is exactly the reason they are often avoided or overlooked.
Getting our arms around a way to measure the intangible is difficult at best. One approach for measuring the call quality aspect is creating a mission statement. These statements can either be brief or lengthy and are typically created with the idea of quality in mind. Mission statements focus on customer satisfaction, customer retention, and meeting or exceeding customer expectations.
Once a mission statement is created and distributed throughout a call center, a big leap of faith is made believing that just because it exists and is posted, everyone appreciates, understands and accepts it as the call center gospel. Or worse: that the mission statement on its own will result in changes in attitude and behavior of call center staff.
The reality is, it usually ends up in the “round file” or buried beneath the “I don’t know if I will ever need these, but I am afraid to throw them away” stack of papers on every agent’s desk.
Try this test. Tap any agent on the shoulder and ask them to recite your company’s mission statement. They will look at you with head slightly tilted and a squint of wonderment in their eyes. Next, ask them about their call handling stats (available vs. idle time, adherence to schedule, number of calls taken, average call handle time), and they can rattle those numbers off like an auctioneer at an estate sale. If that happens in your call center, then the culture isn’t promoting quality customer service but rather quantity customer service.
The importance of stats in the environment is a recognized fact. The idea here isn’t to abolish statistics. Numbers are necessary to capture the fast and efficient components of the phone call as well as several other indicators such as staffing levels, scheduled breaks, and vacation time to name a few. Keep in mind, though, numbers are only part of the equation. Do captured monthly or daily numbers really indicate that a company is providing good quality customer service?
The obvious answer is NO!
Now is the time to answer tough questions for yourself and your call center. Does your call center promote quantity customer service over quality customer service? And what are you willing to do to balance both so that your company is more successful with today’s savvy customers?
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