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Now that we’ve talked about the “Naughty List,” let’s move on to the “Nice List” of call center practices I’ve seen this year.  Put simply, these are practices that deliver value to the customer while positively impacting the company’s bottom line.

1.   Putting customers in the driver’s seat – According to our research to date in 2010, 65% of all customers who called the organizations they do business did so because they perceived a problem.  And when they call, they have anxiety – anxiety that you (company) won’t stand behind your product/service, that you’ll charge them exorbitant amounts to do XYZ, that you won’t help them.  World-class agents recognize this anxiety and allow customers an opportunity to voice all of those fears.  And then they offer their customers options – yes options, so the customer can select the outcome that is most pleasing to them.  This may fly in the face of all of the conventional wisdom that says agents should be consultative and make recommendations, but the fact is that agents know very little about the needs of customers they serve.  Rather than assaulting customers with a barrage of generic questions designed to uncover needs the customer may not have even yet identified, let the customer choose.  The fact that as an organization, you were (seemingly) willing to do whatever the customer wanted to reconcile the situation will leave a far more lasting impression than how the issue was ultimately resolved.

2.   Organizations that celebrate the individual – One of the complaints I hear most often from customers served offshore is that agents sound like they’re reading their responses from a script.  The aversion to the experience has nothing to do with the agents’ text-book perfect English or complete lack of filler words in their sentences because English actually does sound better when spoken properly.  Customers are adversely reacting to the absence of a human element on the other end of phone line.  When customers have questions or problems, they just want to interact with a thinking, feeling, intelligent, human being.  Those who are best at building a culture of personality (think Zappos, Ben & Jerry’s) know that valuing employees for what makes them unique exponentially increases employee engagement and is the formula for nearly-fanatical brand loyalty.

3.   Organizations that encourage their agents to use the internet to help customers –  Most customers are very well informed about your products/services, the offerings of your direct competitors, your position in the market-place and much more.  Your own company website, marketing materials and ads are among the least influential to customers as they are making their purchase decision, according to a study conducted by Ventana Research.  Don’t limit your agents’ ability to help your customers by limiting them to your own organization’s limited resources.  There is a wealth of information available on the internet, some of which is quite good.  Organizations who best leverage those resources to the benefit of their customers maintain an ever-growing list of approved websites, videos, blogs and vlogs, encouraging their front-line agents to partake in the submission and process for resources.

4.   Avoiding channel slamming – As a consumer, there is nothing more irritating to me than when I go to a website, click on the box that says ‘send me information’ and get deluged with a series of phone calls instead.  For me, research is a solitary activity and I sincerely resent the intrusion of phone calls into my process.  If a customer asks a question via chat, best-in-class organizations recognize that as a signal that the customer’s preferred method of communication is chat, and do everything in their power to meet the customer’s needs via that channel.  Certainly there are unique, rare or intricate questions that are best addressed via a phone conversation where an agent can quickly and effectively garner the information needed to deliver an accurate response, but those occurrences should be just that, unique and rare.

Now with the Naughty and Nice call center practices outlined, which list would you find your call center and your organization?

~ From all of us at Customer Relationship Metrics, we wish you a wonderful holiday season and a prosperous New Year. ~

About Jim Rembach

Jim Rembach is a panel expert with the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) and an SVP for Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM). Jim spent many years in contact center operations and leverages this to help others. He is a certified Emotional Intelligence (EQ) practitioner and frequently quoted industry expert. Call Jim at 336-288-8226 if you need help with customer-centric enhancements.

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