Performing a Customer Communications Check-Up, Part II

This is the second in a two-part series. In part one of this two-part series, we discussed the first five steps required for a customer communications checkup. To read part one, click here. We pick up in this edition with the five more strategies.

6) Review or implement agent training and supervisor coaching on customer relationship building and selling skills.

The frontline staff is the primary team responsible for listening to the customer and gathering the input to share with the enterprise. This may be a new focus for a contact center that has been focused primarily on efficiency and minimizing handle time. Agents must be trained on effective techniques for customer relationship building and selling skills where appropriate. Supervisors must know how to monitor and coach the staff on these techniques and skills to ensure long-term effectiveness.

7) Review quality monitoring and coaching process for customer focus.

Much of the typical quality monitoring process focuses on ensuring that the agent follows prescribed processes in the manner that the training suggests. Did the agent use the customer’s name? Was the data entry on the order done correctly? To maximize each customer interaction and establish trust, the quality monitoring needs to also look for opportunities to gather relevant customer data and make it available to the enterprise. Did the agent ask appropriate probing questions about the customer’s comment regarding the new product feature? Was information provided by the customer about a competitor’s offering captured? Since it is true that “you get what you measure,” the process of monitoring and coaching must reinforce the efforts to gather and use customer input as well as the typical efficiency measures.

8) Review knowledge base or reference materials to ensure agents have the information needed for complete and accurate answers to inquiries.

Much of new-hire orientation is typically spent teaching agents all they need to know about the products and services the company offers. But it is often woefully inadequate in training agents how to interact effectively with customers to maximize the revenue, retention, and willingness to recommend the company to others. There typically isn’t enough time in the orientation to teach everything, but if much of the company product and service information is available in reference materials and online knowledge bases, training on how to use these tools can be much shorter than trying to teach the agent everything that needs to be remembered. The time can more effectively be used to train them on effective communications, gathering information, and ensuring customer delight.

9) Review IVR and/or speech recognition strategies and menus.

Many interactive voice response (IVR) and speech recognition systems are designed to minimize calls into the center that require human interaction, thus saving on staffing expense. But many customers complain about being forced through such systems and the complexity and confusion they create. There is actually a subset of the customer base that prefers a self-service option, as long as it’s easy to understand, quick, and functional. For the rest, it is important to determine if the company is being “penny wise and pound foolish” by forcing customers into the self-service mode. After all, it is difficult to get input from a customer to whom nobody ever speaks. A review of these systems to ensure that they are functional from the customer’s perspective will ensure not only maximum utilization by those who prefer them, but also offer alternatives to those customers who might be pushed away by requirements to interact only in this way. Where essential customer input would be lost through self-service, the enterprise needs to evaluate the trade-offs of efficiency vs. effectiveness.

10) Review e-mail management/Web interaction strategies and processes.

More and more contact centers are interacting with customers via e-mail and Web chats. These communications are just as important as the phone calls, and in some ways, even more so since they are conducted in writing. The processes of maximizing these interactions and ensuring that the appropriate data is being mined and shared throughout the enterprise need to be applied to these communications channels just as they are for the phone calls, but the processes will require different techniques and tools.

Conducting a comprehensive review of the many ways that customer information is provided, gathered, analyzed, and shared is critical to success in a world where the customer is king. There’s a wealth of data in everyday customer communications and the smart company will take time to listen and respond.

Maggie Klenke is founding partner of The Call Center School, a Brentwood, TN-based consulting and education company.

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