The Voice of the Customer Makes a Powerful Coaching Tool

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This article was edited from its original format for CRMGuru.com. Read the companion piece, Customer-Driven Training: Use the Voice of the Customer To Maximize Your ROI.

Co-author: Anne Nickerson, author of Not by the Seat of My Pants, is the president and founder of Partners in Development, LLC, and Call Center Coach, LLC.

We’ve all see it: members of the new agent pool sitting in a large classroom, usually with computer monitors in front of them, waiting to be trained for their new contact center job. Each person in the room is trained on the same elements, at the same time, with the same pace. This part of the traditional training process is necessary, but what about its long-term effectiveness for a holistic approach? Customers say they want to be treated like individuals and not numbers; doesn’t the same apply to your employees?

Treating employees as customers means that you inform agents what they are getting into when they sign on for the job. They need to understand company policy, products and services; how the technology works; workflow; and basic customer service skills. Most critical is that they understand their job from the customer’s point of view and are introduced to Voice of the Customer (VOC) standards and expectations that they will be held accountable to. The truth is, to be successful, agents need both types of information and training from the start. All centers need this time for the agents to learn the basics of their job and for us to learn about the agents. Whether it is in the classroom or through on-the-job training, accountability introduced from the beginning creates the essential ingredient for optimal customer satisfaction.

The initial training focuses on skill development in an effort to provide best-in-class service to our customers. We close the loop among the company, the agent and our customers by referring to the elements of a quality program (call monitoring and call metrics). We see the results of our training investment after the initial training process is complete. Many centers provide ongoing training as a group project and, therefore, do not always factor the individual in the process. Have you calculated the ROI on the various aspects of your training program? Success is certainly affected by the method, content and focus. Individuals begin the job with different skill levels. People do not learn in the same way. And they advance at different rates. Yet, we often overlook these facts when designing performance evaluations, ongoing development and coaching goals.

Customer satisfaction scores

Once the initial training program is complete and the agents are settled into their routine, the next piece is to ensure that customer satisfaction scores are used as part of coaching and ongoing training. However, if you collect only numeric satisfaction scores, you’ll find out only part of the story about how the customer feels about the interaction with your contact center. What you truly need is an effective VOC program under your quality umbrella that collects scores and comments. Be certain that customers can elaborate on their scoring about the service interaction in their own voice. It’s the feelings behind the scores and analysis that are critical to the coaching process.

What do customers think is going well and needs improvement, from a service delivery perspective? Very few contact centers include direct customer feedback in their training programs. The irony here is that a successful customer experience is exactly what we are trying to deliver. Learners won’t argue with live data; in fact, it is very powerful to hear directly from the customer what was done well and where there are opportunities for enhancement. There is an effective way to incorporate VOC and also a quantifiable way to calculate (and therefore increase) the ROI on training, coaching and monitoring.

To get a complete view, three pieces of the quality scorecard are necessary: the quality monitoring based on communicated standards; the call metrics (such as AHT, ATT and adherence to schedule); and the most often forgotten—but all important—VOC. The best way to get an accurate and reliable VOC measurement is through post-call surveys. These are completed immediately after the interaction with the agent and allow the customer to answer both qualitative and quantitative questions about their interaction, which can be linked directly back to the CSR involved. Research has shown that analysis from evaluations that are delayed has biases and is, therefore, not as reliable.

Qualitative information is collected by soliciting customer comments about the interaction, while quantitative information is through survey questions on rating such elements as agent knowledge, whether the respondent felt he or she was treated as a valued customer and whether the agent understood the reason for the call. This method gives you the VOC in the customer’s own words and is the best feedback model to train and coach your agents.

This powerful tool allows direct access to specific details about the interaction with the customer and pinpoints, better than any other tool, specific behaviors that agents can be trained upon. By using the Voice of the Customer this way, greater customer and employee satisfaction is achieved. Agents are happier, because compensation and scoring are tied to more meaningful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), and more meaningful feedback and development are possible.

Even with the mounds of data at their fingertips, management can’t argue with actual customer feedback. Post-call surveys give you the right information, at the right time for the right agent. A continuous measurement program allows for an ongoing ROI assessment to occur. Improvement by the CSRs is recognized by the callers, and evaluations continue to improve. The business case becomes possible when the Voice of the Customer is available. Then, it’s up to you to take the information and train and coach the right way. As research continues to prove, with happier agents come happier customers.

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