Monthly Archives: June 2013

Five Traits of Top-Performing Contact Centers

language, communication, skills, helloSuccessful contact centers speak the same language, according to our conversations with contact center directors around the globe.

I recently had the opportunity to visit 17 contact centers in 5 countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, South Africa, UAE – Dubai, and Australia. Over the course of multiple interviews with contact center directors and managers, a distinctive pattern emerged: no matter where they were located, successful, growing contact centers talked at length about five key issues that their less-successful counterparts did not. Does your contact center speak the language of success?

1. Top-performing contact centers are guided by a vision in everything they do.

Without exception, top performers from Dubai to Michigan have a guiding vision and talk about it with passion. Moreover, they dedicate sufficient resources to making sure that their people, processes, and technology are aligned with that vision. They know how their vision carries out the broader corporate strategy, and how it translates to serving clients.

For example, several contact centers talked about walking away from pursuits that were in conflict with their vision or business strategy. In this way, these successful centers protect themselves against potential failures by understanding who they are, what differentiates them, and where they add value.

2. Top performers stress employee satisfaction.

Successful contact centers take employee satisfaction seriously, because they understand its impact on clients. BNZ’s Susan Basile told us, “You must take your employees on every step of the journey with you. Dissatisfied employees will not have great conversations with customers.”

I also noticed that while most contact centers measure employee satisfaction, the more successful organizations I visited have dedicated internal resources, including management-level staff, assigned to resolving employee issues and reporting on their progress.

3. Top performers are committed to skill development from the top down.

Top performing contact centers don’t hold agents accountable for improving their

skills while giving their leaders a pass. Their commitment to training includes developing the skills of directors and senior management as well. In addition, they understand that training is not an event but a process; most had formal accreditation or certification plans in place to continually maintain and improve skills at every level. One center in Australia has skill development and skill mastery included in its annual performance review.

4. Top performers focus on customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.

Client satisfaction, retention, and loyalty are not easy things to quantify, but the most successful contact centers we talked to had a process in place to measure these important performance indicators on a regular basis. Some even measured it daily. One center in the US subscribes to a third-party survey of customers as part of a bank-wide initiative. It regularly surveys customers on their willingness to become an advocate for the bank as a measure of loyalty which goes beyond satisfaction.

These contact centers tend to dig deeper, asking questions designed to reveal more qualitative information – for example, beyond “did you experience a wait to speak with a representative” to “would you refer us to a good friend?”. In addition, the growing organizations talk about client satisfaction in team meetings and ask themselves, “if we were customers, what would we want to change?”

5. Top performers value technology as a resource, not the answer.

Top performers make sure that their technology serves their vision and their clients. They regularly assess how their systems are working for them: Does the IVR have too many options? Are they logically sequenced? With a new campaign, could the customer get trapped in an IVR menu? They don’t let their agents struggle with technology issues alone, and when new systems are needed, they invest with caution. Finally, these organizations regularly observe agents using the technology and get regular feedback about it from customers and staff.

Hopefully you’ll see yourself having the same conversations!

Johanna Lubahn is Managing Director of Call Center Services for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Motivation: Sometimes One Sentence Is Enough…

You will be okA few years ago on a Sunday morning I went into the forest for a walk. From the opposite direction, a woman came running up. She was plump, flushed and sweaty. To my “good morning” she puffed “ooh ooh” back and tried to produce what looked like a smile. Her running shoes were shining white and clearly new. She wore an exciting vest in black with fluorescent green stripes along the side, which I found very nice.

About ten minutes later she passed me again. This time her shoulders and her smile were drooping. In an attempt to cheer her up I called “You wear energetic colors!” “Well,” she said, “but the walk is not so energetic…” “You will be okay, I see that you have character,” I responded.

I had forgotten the incident until two months ago.

I went walking in the forest again, and a woman I greeted turned around and started walking beside me. “I should really thank you,” she said.

“For the ‘good morning’?” I replied, surprised.

She laughed: “Because you got me motivated.”

It turns out she was the woman I’d  spoken with a few years ago. She needed to lose weight and decided to go on a diet and exercise. That Sunday morning had been her first day running. Her ex-boyfriend had said scornfully: “You? Sports?” And her family reacted with a giggly “You will never keep this up!”

“At the moment you passed me I believed them. ‘They’re right,’ I thought, ‘I can do nothing to persevere.’ But that one sentence ‘I see that you have character’, that did something for me. I kept running, I went to a dietician and I kept going. I now weigh 23 pounds less, and I’m training for the 20K of Brussels. That phrase has become my personal encouragement. If I have a difficult time, I tell myself ‘I know that I have character.’”

“Well done and I wish you good luck,” I said, surprised.

Since that day I met her a few more times. She always sends me a radiant smile. I’m her biggest fan.

Author: Carla De Boodt, Internal Cohen Brown Leadership and Sales & Service Specialist of bpost, Belgium
Reactions to Brenda Schäfer , Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.


Why Do Human Beings Need New ‘Tools’?

BBE Toolbox

Lately I have been working on a reinforcement initiative with one of my clients.  We have trained their employees on how to best service their customers and how to uncover financial needs. The management was very committed and used our leader-led approach in an inspiring way.  However, when I visited some branches recently, I noticed that the profiling methodology – the FiNAP® conversation (Financial Needs Analysis Profile) – was only used ‘by coincidence’ and, through probing, I found out that no binding process was in place.

That’s when I approached the management and suggested having a reinforcement session around this methodology.  The feedback I received was very surprising: The Executive Managers asked me if we could not use a ‘new tool’ in order to whet the Advisors’ appetite vs. using the known FiNAP conversation.

I understand where this is coming from, but in the business world, where we want to serve our clients with world-standard service and earn money at the same time, we should focus on using proven best practices, no matter how ‘old’ or known they are.  By the way, success comes, not from just knowing a certain methodology, but from the following:

  1. Are you using it?
  2. Are you using it with every single customer?
  3. And last but by no means least: Are you using it at the highest level of quality?

As long as we cannot answer these questions with a convincing “Yes”, we need to focus on further embedding the skills (or behaviours). We should never offer an escape route to our employees by teaching them a new skill which presumably will be used for a short period of time and then get forgotten.  Embedding a skill takes a lot of management follow-up and discipline – you need to “inspect what you expect” because you care… and because managers are responsible for the performance!

Do you agree?

Claudia Irmer is a Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management (Europe) Ltd.

How Mystery Shopping Can Help You to Feel the Customer’s Experience

female detectiveI am a true believer in learning by observing the “real” world. That is why, last week, I spent a full day mystery shopping at 4 branches of a bank in a European country. My goal was to find out how well they could identify my needs and how eager they were to open an account with the products I needed. Let me share my experiences.

The bank is the number one bank in that country, and my expectations were high. My first impressions confirmed my expectations. I noted that the staff were all “very friendly people and willing to help me without making an appointment first”.

I dropped the clue that I want to open a current account to start with and, surprisingly, 3 out of the 4 advisors immediately started to explain to me their common current account. They printed out the information and/or handed me their brochures. No questions or financial details were asked to find out if this was the right account for me. The only question they asked me repeatedly was “What more information do you want?”

To help them out, I dropped some more clues, but each time the advisors only addressed the obvious question. When I said that I wanted to discuss it with my husband first, none of the advisors asked to schedule a next appointment or noted my contact details.

The following questions kept me awake that night:

  • Is excellent service only about being friendly to a customer?
  • Is pro-actively asking the right questions to identify the needs of a customer and, therefore, being able to offer the best solutions, considered being too pushy?
  • Would a customer feel irritated if they were offered a next appointment and/or asked their contact details for a follow-up?

My answers to those questions were definitively no. What I learned from Marty Cohen and Ed Brown is that Sales and Service are intertwined. And guess what, they really are. As a customer, at first I felt welcome because the employees were very friendly and willing to help me. But from the start of the conversation to the end, it became obvious that the advisors were not listening to me and didn’t recommend the right account for me. I felt I was not being taken seriously.

That day I learned a lot about how a customer must feel sometimes and what we all could do to train, coach and support employees to improve their Service and Sales skills for the benefit of the customers. It was a well spent day, and I recommend you do some mystery shopping yourself or do it more often.

Let me know what you discover!

Brenda Schäfer is a Results Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.