Great Service is Driven by Corporate Culture

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I recently had the pleasure of spending a few days in the contact center of a direct retailer. DMG was hired to help the retailer select a new PBX and ACD. Much to the pleasant surprise of the IT, operations and contact center managers, we asked to spend some time in each of their operating areas – headquarters, contact center and retail stores – before defining their technical and functional requirements. Our client might not have expected these visits, but DMG has always believed that knowing the business needs of a client is essential for understanding their technical requirements.

Background

A little background will help put this operating environment into perspective. Retailers, in general, have had a hard time during the recession, and are only now starting to recover. While there are exceptions, retailers usually do not invest any more into technology than they have to, and once a system or application is installed, it is likely to remain in place for 10 to 20 years. This is often the case with PBXs and ACDs.

This retailer has core technology in their contact center – ACD, recording, email response management, chat, and an order-taking system – as well as a manual workforce management process. The company also uses a variety of approaches to survey their customers, as this is essential to their culture and mission. Beyond these basic systems, it’s all up to the associates, who are supported by their managers and trainers.

The Differentiator

Many companies claim to empower their agents; but few do. This company has a 100% guarantee on their products, and trains their associates to trust their customers. Their philosophy encourages a positive environment where the customer is always right. (This approach builds loyalty and has not proven to be detrimental to their bottom line.) Associates are given two weeks of training prior to being introduced into a nested group. They spend a couple of weeks on the phone handling sales calls before being brought back in for a week of customer service training. Even better, dedicated coaches and mentors spend a full hour with each associate on a monthly basis. Quality assurance is mostly manual, but supporting it with one-on-one training is a winning formula.

This organization goes beyond the basics and hires true experts in specialty areas of interest to their customers. They encourage customers and prospects to call for help – to find a school to learn or enhance a skill, to obtain tips about how to do various activities, to obtain weather reports, to find the right products and services, or to get products repaired. Their customers simply love speaking to company representatives who know exactly what they are talking about. Providing this level of expertise is not inexpensive, but it builds loyalty and creates life-long customer relationships.

This positive approach starts at the top, with the company’s owners and senior managers. Management has established a variety of cross-functional teams to address service and quality issues that impede service and customer satisfaction (and, of course, add to costs). Managers from any area are encouraged to jump into an issue if feel they can improve the process. These cross-functional teams start with one person, but are quickly built up with representatives from logistics, marketing, customer service and IT, and any other area that can make contributions to resolve an issue. Their goal is simple – put the customer first and solve the problem at hand.

Technology is an Enabler

This retailer appreciates that technology is an important enabler for their business, but understands that great service depends upon a customer-centric culture that starts at the top. Everyone at this organization is on board, as the culture and strategy is clear.

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