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.