Published in General

My Advice to Contact Center Managers

I’m often asked, “What’s the most important thing a contact center manager can do to improve the customer experience on the frontline?”

I suggest they take a step back. It starts with recruiting and hiring! A number of leading firms actually work closely with their respective HR departments and embed screeners, include role playing and provide questionnaires to candidates to assess their “servicing capabilities” against a predetermined set of characteristics they are looking for. Some candidates are just more suited for inbound vs. outbound, or sales vs. service interactions.

And yes, tools without training, reinforcement programs and associated ongoing feedback to the associate on the frontline are simply useless. The associate can be so focused on tools and process she or he can ultimately lose sight of why the customer called.

However, once you hire the right candidate, it is important to coach and train your associates to make the most of the customer information they collect during the call.There is no substitute for teaching and coaching associates to be good listeners. This is in combination with good CRM (and data repository with user interface) to identify appropriate needs, or scripts that provide some flexibility to deviate. It is critical for associates to have the ability to capture post-call results that can be utilized not only for the sale, but to constantly improve the scripting. I have seen many cases where the use of “self-directed teams” within call centers develop far better ‘tools’ then those provided (please forgive me…) by the so-called experts in the Ivory Tower or Marketing Departments, because the associates ARE on the frontline and are in the BEST position to understand and deal with your customers on a routine basis. This process in concert with reward & recognition programs for the frontline associates truly does drive success.

Research can also play a significant role in contact center management. Maritz works with our clients to deploy various tools that provide the capability to glean on key words by asking the respondent to follow up on a response. For example, if during a problem resolution contact the customer mentions the ‘teller’, we can provide a series of follow up questions to ask, “You mentioned ‘teller’ during your recent branch visit – can you explain further? Was the teller knowledgeable? Was the teller rude?” This digs deeper to get more meaningful and ultimately actionable information. In fact, Maritz has recently launched a tool based on this premise called SmartProbe™ that is used in online survey methods.

What do you find drives successful contact center associates? I’d like to hear what works for you.