National Customer service week – Day 2

Capability & Skills: Identifying and nurturing customer service skills in your organisation

The landscape of customer feedback has changed dramatically over the last five years. New technologies have revolutionised the way we gather customer comment, making the process more immediate and insight more intelligent. Companies increasingly place customer feedback at the heart of their operational improvement programmes, using it to streamline process, reduce complaints, re-engage with customers and become the basis for identifying skills gaps in individual agents.

Questions in feedback surveys can be tailored to measure individual agent performance against the required brand skillset. For example, customers can be asked how knowledgeable or how helpful the agent was or whether the agent took responsibility for the customer’s query. Scores will highlight individual strengths and weaknesses.

Voice of the Customer is a powerful tool but, like any measurement framework, it can prompt suspicion and mistrust on the part of those being measured. To be successful a ‘Voice of the Customer’ programme must be introduced in a way that encourages the engagement and support of the whole contact centre. And once launched it must continue to garner the support of those at the sharp end.

Here are four ways to make sure that VoC can improve agent performance and motivate your team.

Bring your people with you

Without the engagement of your teams a measurement programme based on VoC is unlikely to succeed. From the outset, you need to be open and honest about your objectives, how you plan to use the data gathered from customer feedback and what it means for each agent. You need to demonstrate that the process is universal and fair. Constant communication is essential. And we would always recommend that you use more carrot than stick - in the early stages of a feedback programme agents will respond more positively if you celebrate their successes rather than focus on failures. You should also ensure that customer feedback is readily accessible by team leaders and even individual agents. Making the feedback freely available removes some of the suspicion. It also means that continuous action plans can be developed for each individual without waiting for a cascade of information.

Identify and clone best practice

As well as highlighting development needs for individual agents a VoC programme will identify your high performers. By studying their approach and the way they deal with customers you can rapidly identify best practice. This can then be cloned across the teams (although care should be taken not to impose a ‘one-size fits all’ service model).

Coaching in the moment

Real-time feedback has revolutionised performance management in the contact centre. Alerts triggered by negative or positive feedback can be sent to team leaders. This immediate insight can then be used to coach an agent in the moment. The ability to replay a customer’s feedback within seconds of a transaction taking place means success can be celebrated or failures rectified while the experience is still fresh in the memory. This opportunity to coach in the moment creates an unrivalled learning experience for both agent and team leader.

The aggregation of marginal gains

Business leaders have traditionally pursued the ‘paradigm shift’, the one great leap forward that will transform their business. But in 2012, at the London Olympics, we were exposed to a new approach to performance improvement. Led by Sir David Brailsford, the Team GB cycling team returned a record haul of 12 Olympic medals (including 8 golds). Brailsford attributed the success to a philosophy of ‘marginal gains’, summarised in his own words: "The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of that goes into riding a bike and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together".

This is an approach that we believe is particularly relevant to improving agent performance. A field where significant gains in performance are hard to come by lends itself to 'marginal gains'. Improving by 1% each agent’s ability to listen, understand, be helpful, be friendly and resolve a customer’s query will, over time, bring about a significant increase in customer satisfaction.

Above all treat your employees with respect. Richard Branson said: "The way you treat your employees is the way they will treat your customers". Your staff should be the primary focus of your customer experience strategy because they will be the ones responsible for delivering world-class customer experience.

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