customer loyalty

Self-Assessment and Self-Coaching for Quality in the Contact Center

 

Traditional quality management solutions support standard processes of scoring, assessment and coaching. Metrics such as average handling time (AHT) are calculated automatically, and quality assurance specialists score calls based on a standardized evaluation form and guidelines. Then these evaluations are reported to managers, who schedule sessions to review and support employees to improve their quality scores.

It’s a good system, and it works. But it could be even better. New quality management solutions offer capabilities that automate more quality processes than ever before. Analytics-driven quality assurance can analyze and score 100 percent of interactions and provide a more holistic view of contact center performance. Automated dashboards provide managers, evaluators and agents alike with insights into key metrics, and they further drive contact center goals and success. These solutions are fluid and robust. Their complex custom and out-of-the-box workflows also include automated self-assessment and coaching processes that enable employees and managers to further boost their performance.

The value of self-assessment and self-coaching has been confirmed by psychologists, educators and business experts. On its own, or combined with group and one-on-one coaching, self-coaching can improve performance. One study found that students who learned self-assessment strategies performed significantly better than those who didn’t. Self-coaching also has shown its value in a business environment, and evidence suggests that it can surpass peer coaching in effectiveness. Similar trends have been recorded many times, both in educational settings and in the workplace.

In the contact center, self-assessment and self-coaching can enhance and supplement more traditional coaching models, in which supervisors send personalized coaching feedback — such as links to knowledge resources, instructions and due dates — as needed.  Because quality is a vital factor in maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction, the added boost provided by self-assessment can determine the long-term survival of an organization.

The success of self-powered quality improvements for your employees depends on your ability to support them in their efforts:

  1. Train your employees to self-assess and self-coach.

Reviewing your own actions and thoughts isn’t always instinctive. Just as employees have to learn how to use scripts, technology and recording tools, they need to learn how to self-assess and to understand the value it brings.  Coach your employees on best practices, such as how to identify problem areas and deconstruct call recordings themselves. Be sure to explain why you are teaching them: “When we first start reflecting, it can feel like a burden,” explains teaching expert Starr Sackstein. “If students don’t understand why they are doing it, then it will seem superfluous to them. Thus, it is crucial that we communicate to students why we reflect.”

  1. Provide thorough, reliable information.

Don’t just teach employees best practices; give them the information they need to act on them. Ensure that they have regular access to up-to-date scores. People who are struggling frequently don’t know that they’re having trouble, according to the researchers who defined the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that causes individuals to assess their ability as much higher than it really is.

“…Incompetent people do not recognize —scratch that, cannot recognize —just how incompetent they are…. Poor performers — and we are all poor performers at some things — fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack,” explains David Dunning.

Once people identify the areas that need improvement, they can correct themselves. This applies to quality management too. When employees have regular access to reports and dashboards reflecting their scores, they know whether they are performing well and when to reach out for additional support from peers or management.

  1. Articulate expectations and set criteria.

Learners need more than statistics about their own performance. In an educational environment, students are much more likely to self-assess when they understand what their teacher’s expectations are. To achieve this in the contact center, provide employees with clear outlines and guidance. Calibrate frequently so that everyone is working toward the same goal. Calibrations also improve the perception of transparency and fairness, which makes employees feel more confident that their efforts to self-direct will be rewarded.

Strong self-assessment and self-coaching skills can improve quality scores that in turn contribute to meeting and exceeding contact center goals. They’re natural additions to traditional training programs and, with the self-assessment automation capabilities now offered by top quality management solutions, are accessible to all.

 

4 Trends that Improve the Customer Experience

When customer service teams want to differentiate themselves from the rest, they focus on improving and optimizing the customer experience. Companies are more than willing to go above and beyond for the sake of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Here are four trends that will help distinguish your contact center.

Relying on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from video games to the automobile industry. Customer service has been impacted by the increase in AI, too. This technology can be used to chat with customers about easy-to-solve issues, which frees up live agents for more difficult and complex matters. Automation with AI can reduce customer wait time, interact with customers and collect important data for the contact center to later analyze.

Implementing an Omnichannel Strategy

One major gripe that customers have is repeating themselves to various customer support agents in order to get an answer or have a problem solved. Channel integration isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Today’s companies can’t just respond to a customer, they have to know as much as possible about the customer and their problem beforehand in order to provide customized, relevant support. Customer service requires empathy and a human touch in order to connect meaningfully to the customer.

Analyzing Big Data

While much of the customer experience is about interaction and communication, big data still has a pertinent place in understanding customer behavior. Big data can actually help the contact center connect on a more personal level with customers. There’s so much information that can be tracked now, from customer behavior at every point of the journey to customer preferences regarding any number of attributes. Data helps customer support do things like figure out what a customer is going to want before they even ask for it and determine the best way to reach a customer on the channel of their choice.

Providing Real-Time Communication

Using things like AI, which can automate several processes, and ominchannel strategies, which can cut down on the length of time it takes to solve a problem, gives customer support agents the extra time to handle some queries personally. Real-time communication, specifically via mobile and social media, is in demand, especially by younger generations who are used to communicating in these ways. Being able to provide immediate support improves the customer experience and builds trust in customers.

Learn from this Sample Customer Journey: Booking a Flight to Boarding the Plane

Today’s customer journey considers the beginning-to-end experience that the user follows to complete a task. Often, the journey involves numerous channels and devices that all must interact with the customer wherever, whenever and however they want.

Air travel can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, especially if the many plans that have to be in place don’t come together. Delayed or canceled flights, difficulty scheduling backup flights, lost luggage and missed connections are just the beginning of the travel headache. Done correctly, the customer journey of a person who’s traveling can be greatly eased with intuitive messaging and thoughtful touch points. Consider this modern customer journey for the traveler:

• Book your flight online well in advance to secure the best ticket price.

• Receive a push notification from the airline’s mobile app that allows you to check-in the night before your flight.

• Choose the way you’d like to receive your boarding pass (saving it to your phone, via email, etc.).

• At the airport, visit a kiosk to scan the boarding pass on your phone and then print your baggage ticket.

• Show security your digital boarding pass.

• Receive immediate flight status updates through your preferred contact method (text message, email, app push notification, etc.).

• While on the flight, go to the airline’s website on your phone, tablet or laptop to watch movies.

Traveling of the past was often rife with long lines to get to an agent at the airport, paper boarding passes that can get easily lost and difficulty keeping up with the latest flight changes. The reason the new, digitally-enhanced customer journey flows so well is because the airline (or booking service) the traveler uses offers online and mobile access; remembers personal information, allowing the company to send customized alerts to individual travelers; has multiple digital options for doing necessary travel tasks, then syncs those options (saving the boarding pass to your phone then scanning it at the luggage tag kiosk); and generally keeps travelers in-the-know regarding their trip. Once on the flight, the company is further able to keep the traveler happy and entertained by offering in-flight Internet service and other types of free entertainment.

This type of customer journey takes into account the cornerstones that customers need: consistent and proactive service, optimized features, collaborative options and seamless transitions.

8 Tips for Enabling Contact Center Agents

The role of the contact center agent may seem straightforward at first: to field customer communication and resolve issues as quickly as possible. For the enabled agent, though, the job is more extensive than that. Additional trust and responsibility means a more substantial role for the agent and better service for the customer.

1. Allow agents to set their own goals, which will make them feel more invested in their job. This doesn’t have to be a replacement for goals set by the contact center, but in addition to them.

2. Let agents create their own solutions to common problems. When a few agents identify the same difficulty, have them work as a group to come up with a resolution. Their new process can be implemented and tested within the group to measure its effectiveness.

3. Regularly update the contact center’s in-house best practices guide, which should answer the questions agents ask during their shift. This single point of reference will keep agents knowledgeable, arming them with the information they need to best serve the customer.

4. Rotate agents in project management positions. Contact centers should always be looking for new ways to improve the customer experience. Give each agent the opportunity to head projects that will improve contact center focuses, like script structure, social media interaction and repeated call rate.

5. Use the buddy system to partner agents who have important yet different strengths. Each agent will be able to take on the role of a mentor, while at the same time learning new tactics.

6. Instead of requiring every agent to work a traditional nine-to-five schedule, permit them to choose flexible hours. Agents feel more respected when they have some control over their schedule and they’ll show up to work in a better mood.

7. Empower agents to make management-level decisions, like offering refunds. Train them to recognize situations where these offers are appropriate and clarify the red line they shouldn’t cross.

8. Create a corporate culture where agents are encouraged to share ideas. This can be in the form of an idea box (or custom e-mail account) or during informal meetings. Some contact centers offer a monetary award when they use an agent’s proposal.

It’s always possible to further enhance the customer experience. Enabled agents are better able to positively affect customer satisfaction and retention.

How Customer Service Affects Customer Loyalty

According to the 2014 Convergys U.S. Customer Scorecard Research: Key Findings on Customer Loyalty and Satisfaction, 2013 saw a drop in customer loyalty with scores at 52 percent. In 2014, scores rose and leveled off, with 55% percent of respondents giving positive feedback. Customer loyalty may not have returned to 2011’s level of 59% yet, but the numbers have at least stabilized. The question is, “What type of customer service is affecting loyalty?”

The 2014 U.S. Customer Scorecard Research reports that customer service is the third most important factor of customer loyalty. Poor customer service drives disloyalty and can negatively impact the purchase decisions of others, since customers are more likely to talk about a bad experience than a good one. Quality customer service, on the other hand, helps improve customer loyalty, particular when a contact center agent is able to quickly resolve product issues and reduce customer effort. Great customer service can lessen the impact of negative product experiences.

Focusing on Existing Customers

Sustaining and building relationships with current customers is just as important as increasing brand awareness and attracting new customers. It is typically more expensive to get a new customer than to retain a current one. Unfortunately, many businesses aren’t using that strategy. A 2014 Forbes Insights survey showed that 49% of respondents said their company focuses mainly on converting new customers, and while 78% of respondents know that customer lifetime value metrics are important, only 58% of them regularly calculate those metrics.

In an effort to increase customer loyalty, subscription-based services are gaining popularity across a host of industries. Through these programs, companies offer products or services on a recurring schedule. The value of a customer occurs over time and in installments, not just at the time of the initial purchase. However, for a customer to continue being profitable to the business, the customer relationship has to continue to be positive. Great customer service has to be delivered not just before a sale, but after one as well.

Offering Value Instead of Rewards

In recent survey published in the April 2015 issue of Retail World, Colmar Brunton states that  30% of shoppers use their supermarket loyalty card, but they don’t believe that it adds value to their experience. Brands that offer a loyalty program offer purchase specials via online marketing. However, true loyalty is about creating strong relationships with customers, and past purchasing behavior shouldn’t be the only factor taken into account. Customers need to have a clear view of perceived product value, which plays a much larger role in customer loyalty.

Understanding Customer Goals

Customers are impressed when customer service agents show that they have knowledge and understanding of their problems and priorities. Referencing specific goals shows an investment in the customer. In turn, the customer will want to hear more about how their efforts can be helped along and they’ll be eager to purchase the product or service being offered. Ultimately, the customer’s needs must be at the center of the customer service strategy.