New advancement in training: Just throw ’em under the bus!


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As part of our customer intelligence services, I take our business partners through the analysis of their survey results on a monthly basis. A common first question is often “Why is satisfaction with the company so much lower than satisfaction with the agent?” My answer is always, “for many reasons!” Agents are engaged in their jobs, are friendly, polite and responsive. Some even go out of their way to do right by the customer. What’s not to like? And who wouldn’t think that it is far easier to perceive a connection with this kind of agent than with the nebulous concept of a company. Perception of the company is also impacted by media, user reviews, competitors in the marketplace, price, product quality and much more. All of those elements are more difficult to control than a single interaction between a call center agent and a customer.

A gap between the scores is expected but that doesn’t mean it should not be validated, monitored and narrowed over time. One way to explore the elasticity of the gap between company and agent perception is to look at the gap at the individual level. Analysis of the customer comments left for agents operating at the extreme ends of the gap illuminate reasons for the ratings. (Caveat: have a sufficient sample size for each individual included in this gap analysis; a minimum of 30 surveys per individual).

The company represented in the figure below has an average gap of 8 points between satisfaction with the call center agent and satisfaction with the company. The analysis of the drivers of this gap was conducted using call recordings and comments provided for the agents who were more than two standard deviations units away from the mean.

The analysis revealed that agents with an abnormally large gap between their satisfaction score and satisfaction with the company were far more likely than other agents to speak poorly of their peers, other departments within the organization, third party vendors, partners, etc. The technique of “throwing someone under the bus” may have created a bond with the customer and earned them a higher agent satisfaction rating, but this came at the high cost of company loyalty.

Agents have not been trained to make themselves look good at the expense of someone else:

– “We’ve had so many problems with the ice-makers on that model,” “That company is so bad about submitting invoices to us. They’re always late or missing information,” “We’ve gotten a lot of complaints about those disconnect messages” and “I’m sure they’re nice people but they’re so hard to understand with their accents”

The impact of the agents’ creative deflection of responsibility are evidenced by the gap and observed in the survey comments:

“Your customer service reps are wonderful and courteous but you don’t give them access to any information. You are not sure what time you are going to turn on service. I’ve got two small children and I’m told that service can go as late as after five o’clock, which I find is not fair. It can be six o’clock without me having electricity in my apartment and it’s 90 degrees outside. I don’t think that’s fair.”

“It is not the representative. It is the people you hire to send out here. They need to be qualified. Apparently you’ve had problems with them in the past, so I don’t know why you keep sending them out. That’s it, period.”

“I don’t ever really feel that anything is ever corrected. Customer service sends stuff to the claims department, and I feel that the CSRs know what they are doing and everything else, but once it gets to the claims department I don’t know what happens, but everything gets messed up all the time. I don’t even think they believe in their own claims department.”

In order to eliminate this type of behavior, agents must be accountable for company level customer feedback to some degree. By including analysis that focuses on the ratio between company and agent level ratings, those with “thrown under the bus” techniques can be identified. Agents need to understand that by deflecting and empathizing with customers in that way, they are degrading customer perception of the brand they are working to serve.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Carmit DiAndrea
Carmit DiAndrea is the Vice President of Research and Client Services for Customer Relationship Metrics. Prior to joining Metrics, Carmit served as the Vice President of Behavior Analytics at TPG Telemanagement, a leading provider of quality management services for Fortune 500 companies. While at TPG she assisted clients in measuring behaviors, and provided management services to assist in affecting change based on newly created intelligence.


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