- Mike Hoffey
Building Great Call Center Experiences
Consumers deserve to speak with care agents who have real core values.
Hello, How Can I Help You?
My boss called, sounding panicked. Get over here, soon. Something is going down."
Upon arrival, I learned headquarters is going to fire 125 customer service and support persons, all that report to me. I was told it was my job to spread the news they had 90 more days for the transition to offshore support took affect.
This was more than a cost savings exercise. It was a disconnected lack of trust. The leadership team had spent no time with me evaluating the strength of the team, their goodwill, diligent focus on a quality experience, and all of those other good things only a boss who walks the floor recognizes. 10 at a time, 12 meetings. The same line. "The company isn't cash flow positive. This is a necessary step." Morale sunk to the ground. The next three months was spent helping my team write resumes and role play for job interview. And we hung out and played the blame game. A month after they were all gone I was let go also. Check, please.
New technology, metrics, training, role play coaching. It's helping. Americans have extravagant expectations. We deserve customer service rooted in core values that are heard during every call. We all want the "wow" factor!
A New Opportunity
I recently had a new chance to build and lead a new contact center. I remembered my experiences before and was set on not having to go through the same experiences. In general, customer service hadn't changed a lot since then. This was a new opportunity and I had to approach this differently.
The ramp up to deployment was going to be a steep climb. I knew that three critical focus areas would make this a success. Talent needed deeper knowledge versus answering a dozen common questions. I found agents that were hungry. To break away from their narrow role and expand their skill sets.
Intensive. Extensive. These super agents would be required to answer over 1,000 different questions. A mix of classroom and ITJ would work but more whiteboards and role playing required.
Besides a PC, these agents had to have the best tools available to make them successful. We created an enterprise level ServiceNow platform to disposition calls and store our knowledge base. We did not have a true CRM but this was a start. We categorized the questions in to topical buckets. We wrote, and wrote, and wrote. All agents had administrative privileges to the knowledge base. All agents were contributing. Many answers were complex, but we worked to simplify the best we could. Tribal knowledge began to sink in and we struggled to create Q&A that offered the specificity our audience would understand. Role playing answers helped and agents began to immensley ing. My rock stars were all a cut above a traditional care agent simply due to the complexity of the role. Agents were hungry to travel down a new path and acquire new skill sets. Help tools were critical to the success of this venture. The team and I built a 2,000 question knowledge base suited for the soon to be 2,000 DIFFERENT questions we were going to receive. This was slick - pop in a keyword and you're off. The team demonstrated an amazing ability to memorize so much of the content. We were light years ahead. Technology was advanced and simple. Everyone had administrative privileges to own the message. The guardrails were wide. I put my trust in my team leading this initiative - and that was the difference maker. They were shocked and amazed they had this amount of bandwidth. It was the secret sauce to empower them at a level they never had been at before.
Benefits and Returns
Word got out we were doing something "different." Senior leadership showed up. They liked what they saw and heard. This specialized team wasn't the only care team within the organization. But they were the best. We led all measurable key performance indicators by leaps and bounds. Attitude was solid, desire and passion, sincerity, all stable and they bled our core values to a T. The brand perception was rearranging itself daily. Callers were confused, thinking this was some "super offshore" concept, when in reality it was the same people, just dressed up a bit differently.
Traditionally you measure ROI with financial metrics or data analytics. The data results were there. Call handling time. Abandoned rate. First call resolution. Solid. It was the soft skills success and the level of empowerment I couldn't put a metric to. These people had full authority to do whatever it took to solve a problem, answer a question, deal with a difficult issue, or handle a concern. No middle level management. Minimal transferring or handing the call off to someone else. They owned it. And that was the difference maker. I took hundreds of complimentary calls and handed out twice that many atta-boys in return.
Autonomy, trust, delegation, and innovation. Things you don't find in every care organization. It was music to my ears every time I heard "You called the right person, I can help you with that problem and I am going to get you an answer"