Around the World in 80 Ways

Feb 01, 2001 10:30 PM  By

Your reps may not be like Phileas Fogg, but they can still explore new customer service territory with maps that guide them through every step of the journey

Graham Greene may have enjoyed journeys without maps, but more typical travelers prefer to plot routes – ideally the most direct ones – to their destinations. Of the many ways to circumnavigate the globe, the beaten path is often the best when it comes to speed and efficiency.

If a customer service rep doesn’t have meaningful signs and landmarks that lead to a fixed point, he or she may arrive at the goal set for each customer interaction, but only after many mishaps along the way. You must, therefore, focus not just on the result but on the entire CSR-customer exchange, providing your reps with valuable direction. One of the best ways to do this is to prepare visual scripts that guide reps through each transaction until the desired contact objective is reached. These scripts, termed CallMaps[TM] or MailMaps[TM], are high-level interaction strategies that outline the most straightforward route to achieve the goal. Maps allow the rep to focus on his or her performance during the interaction, with the security of a clearly defined process as a framework that drives results.

Properly used, a call/mail map increases interaction quality, enables one-to-one relationships, strengthens your company’s image and brand, and enhances call consistency and control. Reps gain a logical path to follow to capture consistent data and ask the right questions for effective customer relationship management. If you don’t provide guides to help keep your CSRs on track, they may lack call control skills and the vision to create a positive, lasting relationship between your company and the customer. Without a clear picture of the logical progression of the call, reps may feel ill at ease with its progression and may in turn cause your customers unease. This behavior substantially diminishes the opportunity for relationship-building and creating a positive customer experience.

Creating visual maps targeted toward strategic interactions with customers requires careful thought and preparation, with an eye toward furthering your total corporate strategy. The following five steps to creating effective CallMaps and MailMaps for your contact center will guide your contact center representatives to consistently achieve focused, positive customer interactions.

Just as you do when planning a cross-country journey, you must begin the CallMap and MailMap creation process by learning the geography of the areas you wish to traverse. Don’t begin your odyssey without a complete identification of your organizational identity and customers’ needs.

1. Survey your terrain. Before you start charting your route, you’ll need to decide what type of vehicle to take: minivan, sports car, or camper? Your company’s brand identity – what your firm stands for and the personality you want to present to your customers – is an integral part of defining how you want your employees to represent you to the public. Do you want to project comfort and security? Trustworthiness? Warmth and friendliness? Elegance? Is your style contemporary? Traditional? Marketing may create advertising campaigns that center on the brand of your company, but if the promise of that brand is not fulfilled at the point of customer contact with your interaction center, the exchange will not strengthen that customer’s loyalty to your company. If anything, it may diminish the effect of your marketing strategy. Your corporate brand must be infused into your interaction center and into each customer contact to increase customer loyalty and comfort.

What are some ways to integrate your corporate essence into the scripted interactions you have established for your reps? Make sure that your visual aids include such items as:

* sample words and expressions that strengthen your brand;

* standard greetings or conclusions that reflect your corporate personality;

* probing questions and value statements that present the company’s image; and

* processes that derive from and match customer expectations.

All of these can be positioned within your CallMaps and MailMaps to drive the desired behavior and provide reps with the tools to remind them to embody your corporate brand each time they interact with a customer.

2. Learn about the people. Examine the interaction center setting to define the audience that is in contact with your reps. This is a proven method to ensure that your transaction maps are designed to create an interaction that will appeal to your targeted customers. Are they business callers or consumers? College students? Soccer moms? Senior citizens? Entrepreneurs? An accurate portrait of your customer base will assist you in creating a a CallMap or MailMap that will speak to the needs of those customers while reinforcing brand identity.

Next, make a list of all the reasons a customer might contact your center. You can glean this information from the queues or transactions your facility handles. Do customers call to ask questions about your products? Reschedule deliveries? Place orders? Enroll in a maintenance agreement? In the beginning, hold brainstorming sessions with your reps and their managers to make this list as complete as possible. Then, once the list is complete, analyze the processes that support each of these interaction center applications and begin to categorize them to determine which call types require navigational aids. This doesn’t mean that you should develop a visual guide for each incident or reason for a call, which would be a harrowing task. For example, if your contact center takes orders and provides customer service and technical support, one CallMap or MailMap for each of these basic applications may be sufficient. Each map may contain supporting signposts that embellish the individual call type but reside outside the interaction. Your goal should be to design enough maps to cover each basic interaction center application, creating standardized guides that could be applied to a variety of situations. The example below categorizes a particular type of call, but can be navigated easily with the help of a “generic” CallMap:

* Define customer: Computer hardware dealers

* Why they call:

1. Order parts/documentation

2. Receive installation assistance

3. Purchase service agreements

* Call type: Dealer service and support

3. Follow the directions. When you’re a tourist in a strange city, you always carry your traveler’s handbook with you so you can find the sights you’ve trekked halfway around the world to see. Similarly, interactions need directions, otherwise they tend to meander. You need to set a customer-focused goal for each interaction type that includes a concrete measurement, which lets the rep know right away when he or she achieves the objective for each interaction.

The interaction goal includes a concisely written description of what you expect to achieve and a quantitative standard by which the rep will be assessed at the end of the exchange with the customer. Take care to ascertain that the goal pertains to a specific interaction that can be measured during a single customer exchange. Your objective should not be one that can be achieved only through a large campaign or initiative that encompasses the entire contact center. For instance, “to enroll 60% of customers in the maintenance agreement program,” is a reasonable campaign measurement over a period of time, but not a valid goal for a specific interaction because it can’t be applied to a particular touch point. Here’s how you can downsize a large corporate objectivel to suit your contact center:

* Set your interaction goal.

Objective: To enroll customers in the maintenance agreement program while conveying the company’s essence and building loyalty.

Measurement: We will achieve this goal by offering maintenance agreements during every interaction and including approved value statements that reflect the interaction goal: our promise to our customers.

Setting an objective is more easily achieved in telephone interactions than in the e-mail channel because of the immediacy of the phone response. A rep can quickly determine at the conclusion of a phone call whether he influenced a sale or resolved an issue, but may need to wait hours or days for an indication of the outcome through e-mail.

`The success of your CallMap or MailMap rests on having a goal that provides reps with a clear message of your expectation for each interaction and includes a measurement to assess their performance.

4. Draw a detailed map. Armed with your customer information, interaction types, company brand identity, and interaction goals, you’re ready to play cartographer. Remember that each contact promotes a one-to-one relationship between the rep and the customer, so your reps should respond authentically to customer inquiries without the restrictions of scripted answers. Your call dialogue is not intended to be a formal script but a list of recommended terms and phrases that provide the rep with examples of the positive components of a desirable interaction.

The CallMap that you draw (see page 26) should include an easy-to-follow, strategic flow chart for the interaction that will expedite your desired results. Choosing one of your call types, begin to contruct a flow chart with brief directions that logically outline each step of the interaction from the greeting to the conclusion of the transaction. Pinpoint call milestones such as qualifying questions, data collection requirements, statements signaling acknowledgment and empathy, when to provide a solution, time to gain customer acceptance, recap, and conclusion. The CallMap should be simple, yet should address critical junctures in the call that will influence the results.

Include any decisions that affect the outcome of the interaction, using decision diamonds and logical mapping. When your charting is complete, add the skills you expect the rep to exhibit during each step of the call (this should be in sync with your observation forms), as well as suggested dialogue that models the desired interaction skills for each step of the CallMap.

It’s important to note that the CallMap is a high-level strategy and is not meant to limit a representative’s freedom and creativity in addressing customer problems. Each issue is unique and requires different questions, different acknowledging statements, and solutions that work in tandem with your company’s overarching values.

When dealing with e-mail, your purpose, as with phone calls, is to design templates that assist CSRs in traveling toward the interaction goal. But e-mail demands some special considerations, mainly because it requires that reps be adept at writing (often extremely fast) as well as talking. Take into account such factors as integrating the use of standard response templates, categorizing e-mail correspondence, monitoring observable criteria established as performance measurements, and quality guidelines. Your MailMap also addresses e-mail waves – the number of exchanges between the customer and the representative after the customer’s initial inquiry. The MailMap encourages positive waves by steering the representative toward investigating customer needs for possible upsell or cross-sell opportunities, while discouraging negative waves by providing a clear route to efficient one-wave problem resolution.

5. Offer guided tours. When you have completed CallMaps and MailMaps that accurately reflect your interaction center processes and your company’s brand identity, it’s time to integrate them into your facility’s operation across all units. Your maps should be ever-present during training and in the interaction center’s observation and coaching sessions. They must be incorporated into the technology that representatives use and embedded in the reporting structure of the contact center.

Set up formal training sessions to introduce reps to the purpose and use of the interaction navigation guides you have designed. Employ games, simulations, and examples to ensure that reps fully understand the value and relevance of the exercise. Using CallMaps and MailMaps won’t come naturally to your representatives, any more than driving in an unfamiliar city during rush hour while trying to read a map feels easy or comfortable. The more time you spend on training your reps, the more quickly they will feel as comfortable navigating a new interaction as they do driving on the streets of their hometown.

Keep watch When your contact center begins using interaction guides, you need to make sure that their application is reflected in other business processes in the facility. For example, incorporating the CallMap or MailMap into your observations of the customer service rep’s performance is imperative to get a balanced perspective. If the maps are to be used as tools to assist the representative in achieving his interaction goal, then employing the maps during observation and coaching is an integral component in harmonizing goals and improving performance.

Modify your observation sheets to reflect the requirements defined on the maps and project the defined brand identity. If you create clearly defined, consistent expectations in both the maps you design and your observation criteria, you will find that coaching is more effective and that reps internalize it more readily.

We’re all connected No journey would be pleasant if you couldn’t call or e-mail home once in a while. Although your rep can manage interactions quite well with just a CallMap or MailMap, you can make his or her task far easier and streamline the performance of your entire contact center by integrating the maps with your phone handling system. Even if you can’t afford the luxury of technological integration, understand that it’s the difference between trying to unfold and read a map while you’re driving down a busy road and having a voice-activated GPS navigation system installed in your car.

For data capture and reporting, even the most basic systems must ensure that there are fields designated to capture the required data and responses from customers. Discrete answers in the form of drop-down lists or check boxes – in contrast to free-form text boxes – are preferable for ease of analysis.

A style of their own Representatives want the freedom to talk to callers using their own style. Executives want each call to possess a “feel” that uniquely brands it with the company image. Using CallMaps and MailMaps will harness the best traits of your representatives while standardizing your company’s approach to each interaction.

CallMaps and MailMaps provide road signs throughout the call to keep your interaction center on track. They serve as a framework for responding to customer needs while maintaining control of the call and ensuring that the service rep arrives at the desired destination. With the basic milestones of an interaction already charted, customer service representatives can concentrate their energy on the quality of the service they deliver and on fulfilling your brand promise. It’s like following a familiar map on a long trip; you can concentrate on the scenery, because you already know the way.