Tuesday, August 28, 2018

CSAT: A Data Weapon (No, it’s not)

“After this call you may receive an automated survey asking you to rate my performance…”
Customers who contact a call center might hear some variation of this during the agent’s closing script, yet an astounding number of customers don’t bother to answer the Customer Satisfaction survey, also known as a CSAT. This leaves many agents in a bizarre gray area on their scorecards. Occasionally you get the special type of customer who, like a scorned lover, decides to get revenge on the very company that has “offended” them and will trash the CSAT to “get back” at this faceless entity for some reason.

Here’s the thing folks- you’re not getting back at The Man here. There’s no justice to be had, you are not Batman; you just basically BS’d an agent’s performance over something that they, almost 95% of the time, had no control over in your situation. Personally, I feel this new trend in weaponizing CSAT’s comes from the “Yelp Generation” where you can basically take a decent cafĂ© and tear it apart over what usually amounts to arbitrary nit picking. That’s why it is often common to see more negative reviews on Yelp than positive ones. Human beings retain negative experiences much more strongly than they do positive experiences. When I conduct hiring interviews one of my favorite questions to ask applicants is, “Tell me about the last really positive customer service experience you had. Where was it and why was it great?” You would think I asked them to calculate a math problem using the quadratic equation. The struggle to get an applicant to TRY and recall a positive experience is unreal.

Anyway, getting back to CSATs… Companies have been trying to combat this behavior in various ways. One company I know changed the scripting to advise the customer “The survey is asking you to rate your experience on the service I provided you today, not your overall experience with the company.” The CSAT also communicates a similar message and requires a customer to both confirm and further elaborate on why they have rated the agent with a paltry 1 out of 5 score. Some companies are reducing the weight of CSATs to be less critical on agent’s scorecards because of the shift in culture. Then there are the companies who have stopped bothering to send out surveys all together because they felt it was a waste of manpower and resources to get inaccurate or ignored responses. I think this is disappointing because CSAT’s are a great way of capturing the prized “Voice of the Customer” that so many companies covet.

At this point, if you’re what I will affectionately call a “CSAT Troll” you’re probably not convinced that what you are doing is wrong. You may feel your right to inflict your vengeance and rage matters more than the agent you probably got dragged into an unnecessary performance coaching meeting. Let me offer you some advice:

  • Most issues are resolved through self-help solutions. If possible, try to research those channels FIRST prior to calling in. I have found that often it saves me more time and it makes me feel better to have resolved an issue on my own.

  • If you have an ongoing issue always attempt to see if you can reach a supervisor. If the agent must arrange a supervisor call back, ask the agent what the estimated turnaround time is. If the supervisor fails to contact you within that timeframe, call back and request immediate escalation due to a broken promise of a call back.

  • If you feel that the issue has not been appropriately addressed or it’s of the severity to where a supervisor getting involved isn’t enough, there are other options such as filing a BBB complaint (this generally triggers involvement with corporate escalations teams). For cases where a company committed an unlawful violation (i.e. TCPA, FDCPA or Do Not Call Registry violations), you can report these online either through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or in the case of a FDCPA violation the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Please note that this is not an all-encompassing list of organizations. I’ve only included here the bigger players I have personally observed over the years. Obviously, you should always attempt to resolve an issue through the organization directly before moving to this step.

As a final point – CSATs are not a weapon. They do not communicate your displeasure with an organization when you tank an agent’s CSAT. You are hurting the agent or “the little guy” who would have loved to be the one to resolve your issue but was unable to. To the folks that don’t bother with CSATs, you can opt out of receiving them the next time you call in so that it’s not being sent to a dead space or even better yet- consider filling them out. It only takes 60 seconds of your time and the data you provide assures the agent receives proper coaching as well as ensuring they are getting recognition when they perform wonderfully.

Diana Aviles Operations Manager, Speech Analytics
With more than 5 years of Quality Assurance experience in a call center environment, Diana's objective is to simultaneously promote and educate the world of Speech Analytics with a human touch; one which further emphasizes the importance of First Call Resolution and overall customer.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Attitude: The Missing Attribute in Contact Center Hiring

Let’s face it; hiring new personnel can be a long, arduous task. Prior to announcing an opening, the job description must be created and approved. Recruiting efforts must be discussed with HR to ensure the best candidates are brought to the forefront. A lot of screening and evaluation prior to conducting the first interview must also take place.

I’ve spent countless hours mulling over applicant resumes to determine if a candidate’s skills translate into the skill set I am looking for. This scrutiny is very important and is often the most difficult of the preparation phase. After this procedure, the actual interview process can begin. I must confess I am old school by nature. As such, I focus on a few details prior to officially conducting the interview. While exchanging pleasantries, I focus on the applicant’s appearance and body language. Did they put forth a sincere effort to make a great first impression? To me, this shows a genuine desire on their part to secure the position. In addition, I look to see if they have a pen and paper. Sadly, these details are often ignored by many candidates. What better way to impress than to bring the necessary tools of the trade for an interview? As I mentioned, I am old school.

Get Away From the Resume

I will generally request the candidate provide more detail about themselves that is not on their resume. This is an ice breaker for them. This allows them to find a comfortable starting point in which to begin the interview. I firmly believe that everyone should be well equipped to speak about the one thing they should know best. For the most part, this works well in dissolving their nerves and setting them at ease. It is at this point, that I take an approach that veers from the norm.

Rather than discussing their resume, I begin by asking the candidate questions that speak to them as a person. I am curious to know the most recent book they’ve read or I the last movie they saw. The questions will vary but the goal is to determine WHO I am speaking to rather than what their skills are. It is my aim to hire the right person and teach the skills, versus hiring the skills and having the wrong person. To do so, I must discover what soft skills they possess, which are best defined as “The character traits and interpersonal skills that characterize a person’s relationships with other people.”
It is my aim to hire the right person and teach the skills, versus hiring the skills and having the wrong person.

For my line of business, attitude ranks high on the list of soft skills. At the heart of customer service, is a desire to assist others with empathy and kindness at all times. I constantly remind myself and those in my charge that we are one call away from disaster should we deviate from exceptional customer service. This could be the loss of a customer, the loss of revenue, public embarrassment to the business, and at worst, termination. Therefore, the majority of my focus is not on someone’s technical acumen. Instead, I want to know who they are and how they handle pressure.

Therefore, the majority of my focus is not on someone’s technical acumen. Instead, I want to know who they are, and how they handle pressure.

I’ve heard it said, “What you say or do in difficult situations reveals who you are.” Now, I recognize we all make mistakes, and at times handle ourselves in a less than stellar manner, therefore I do not apply 100% certainty to this. However, I believe there is some truth in that statement. Tough times reveal our true character. Let’s face it; the contact center agent will be placed in stressful, difficult and upsetting situations. How they handle it is not based on the technical skills they posses. On the contrary, the interpersonal skills will come to the forefront.

So, what can be done to determine one’s character? I believe there are two easy approaches:
  1.  Give an assessment/personality test

    This is a great way to identify personality traits. There are a variety of tests available such as DISC assessment, Newcastle Personality Assessor, and The Winslow Personality Profile. Each is designed to reveal character or psychological makeup. I would suggest that any such testing programs be under the control of the Human Resources. This is to ensure issues of privacy are not violated and to be certain the overall control (testing and the results) of the program is consistent across the entire organization.
  2. Focus on past behaviors

    Offer scenarios that require the candidate to discuss how they behaved in the past under difficult circumstances. I use customer interactions that have occurred in my contact center and place the candidate in the role of the agent. The goal is not to frustrate them, or test their knowledge but to assess their behavior. The assumption is their past actions will likely manifest thereby giving you a personal, real-time observation of what you may expect from this person.
While there are pros and cons to each, what is important is that you find the method that bests fit you personally as well as that of your company. Identify the company values, work as a team across departments and utilize the expertise of your HR staff. By doing so, you increase your chances of selecting the right candidate who will not only help the company grow, but they will also grow with the company.

I have over 15 years of progressive customer service leadership experience in the public, private and government sectors. I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Customer ServiceQuote of the Day

Friday, August 3, 2018

What Makes A Great Leader?

By Kathy Holdaway

Good leaders make people feel that they're at the very heart of things, not at the periphery. Everyone feels that he or she makes a difference to the success of the organization. When that happens people feel centered and that gives their work meaning.
- Warren G. Bennis

Leadership is an art and a science. It is an art because it continually evolves, changes form, and requires creativity. It is a science because there are certain essential principles and techniques required. A good leader knows when it is time to change shape because they are highly attentive to those around them. Coming from a position of strength, a great leader takes risks by freeing up the creative genius in their followers to build their capability and multiply the talents of the organization. This leads to community and greatness. By powerfully communicating a vision that animates, motivates, and inspires followers, a great leader is able to transform his or her organization. A good leader needs to be able to laugh; a great leader needs to be able to laugh at oneself. What kind of leader are you? What makes a great leader?  

What qualities do leaders routinely exhibit? What do your followers want to know in order to believe in you? What are the words that lead them to believe you?

Consider the following as a beginning list of Qualities:
  • Cooperation
  • Collaboration
  • Consistent
  • Creative
  • Conscious
  • Caring
  • Capable
  • Courageous
  • Innovation
  • Understanding
  • Integrity
  • Sense of humor

Consider the following questions that relate to those qualities:

  • Do you cooperate with the best in your people or do you demand from them?
  • Do you routinely work with them to bring innovation and best practices to your organization or do you push your ideas on them?
  • Are you consistent in demonstrating the principles of leadership you wish others to emulate, or do you vacillate in your own modeling?
  • Do you encourage creativity with brainstorming or are your ideas the only ones that work?
  • Are you conscious and present with your employees, or are you in a conversation in your head while with them?
  • Do you balance caring in the choices you make that effect your organization or are you only interested in the bottom line?
  • Are you the only one capable in your company, or do you unleash capability by empowerment through equality in responsibility and authority?
  • How courageous are you? What does risk look like to you? Does your organization go through frequent paradigm shifts continually advancing your corporate vision?
  • Do you foster a collaborative working environment or does your leadership style reflect mainly "telling?"
  • Do you balance understanding with expectations on deadlines when the circumstances dictate?
  • Do you model integrity? What does integrity look like to you?
  • Are you able to laugh at yourself and laugh freely and openly with your leadership team?

One of the joys of coaching emerging leaders, is the well-spring of ideas that surfaces in the coaching conversation. I find that both new and the existing leaders understand the dynamics of leadership required for today's complex business environment. Many of them emulate the qualities covered above. Where do you stand?

I facilitate leaders to live into their highest capacities, build high performing teams and develop creative solutions to their challenges. The best leaders of today understand the necessity of being in a state of transformation to accommodate the changing landscape of the teams and companies they lead. It begins with how they represent themselves within and without their organization. If they seek to influence, have impact and create change, then being authentic, having an open mind and an open heart are foundational. LinkedIn | Twitter | Website

Friday Funny

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Who Should Manage Your Company's Social Media?

By Sean Hawkins

Who should be in charge of your company's social media, Customer Service, Marketing, or perhaps Sales? For organizations wanting a positive and meaningful presence on social media, this question must be answered with thoughtful consideration. There are varying opinions among experts, and I must confess, I find relevancy in most of them. However, I think each business must look at a few factors when determining who will ultimately be responsible for social media.

What is the purpose?
In the quest to “become social”, this question is often overlooked. However, this should be the first step in planning process. The rush to become a social media adopter, often comes at the expense of failing to define why a presence is needed. So, ask your teams, “Why do we need to be on social media?”

Each team will have a different response. The sales team will obviously want to increase sale opportunities, while the support team will want to assist and engage customers. From a marketing perspective, social media is a gift form the gods!  All of these teams have a valid reason to manage social media. However, the social message would be different for each.

Simply put, the social message is what you are tweeting, posting or blogging. Numerous messages, has the potential to confuse your audience. This confusion will lead to bad experiences and a bad reputation.

Who is the intended audience?
Every social communication should be made with an audience in mind. Furthermore, it should lead to a call to action or, cause a reaction. Your presence can lead to customer retention, increased sales, or a greater visibility. Most importantly, your communications will find a target. As the saying goes, “the odds of hitting your target go up dramatically when you aim at it.” Defining who you want to reach, increases your chances of connecting with them.

Defining your audience will lead you closer to determining who will handle social media.

An alternative
Rather than having one team manage social media, a multi-presence approach may work best. Each team will have their own presence in the social spaces. Collaboration, communication and cross training, will ensure each team’s message and audience connects.

All teams should communicate internally regarding their external message. What is the benefit? Consider a customer who reached the Sales team via Twitter regarding a service related issue. With prior feedback from the support team, there is a greater chance of first contact resolution. This leads to a better overall experience for the customer. What is the alternative?

Have you ever received a response via social, to call or email support? That alone can be a bother. This is compounded by internal communication failures in which you must repeat your problem again, to someone who had no idea you made previous contact with the organization. I don't suggest that a channel pivot from social is never warranted, but I am suggesting it be done as a necessity, and not due to poor processes.

It’s all about the customer
Social media has taught us much about the customer relationship. Most importantly, we understand it has given customers the ability to instantly shape a brand's perception. What brands are doing social media well? Ask their customers! The same can be said for the brands that are failing. A quick visit to social media, is all it takes.

We owe it to our customers, as well as our organization, to provide the best service. We must be willing to meet them where they are (yes, that means social) and remove any barriers.

I have over 15 years of progressive customer service leadership experience in the public, private and government sectors. I have led or consulted contact centers of various sizes across numerous industries. Additionally, I’ve implemented new technology and products, while maintaining award-winning contact centers.

Connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter.