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Centering the Customer Experience: Building a Better Contact Center

September 20, 2018
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Raddon research indicates that for customers who are highly-loyal, the attributes associated with the customer experience that are differentiating are those that involve interacting with employees.  The data suggest that these attributes, including employee skill, understanding of products and services, politeness/friendliness, understanding  issues, accuracy and approachability, are all contributing factors to the strong relationship with the highly-loyal segment.  In today’s ‘high-tech/high-touch’ world, this finding solidifies the notion of employees being a critical part of nurturing and enhancing customer engagement which in turn feeds growth. 

Does this mean that price and product performance will take a back seat? Of course not. But these types of indicators validate our long-held premise that experience is everything and brand loyalty is at risk.  

Successful organizations are taking time to deploy reinventions of the customer experience. They’re also prioritizing their attention on the individuals who interact with their customers. Hiring the right talent and providing ongoing support with structured training and development initiatives is increasingly important throughout an employee’s career with your organization.  For many customers, that experience “centers” on the contact center.

Contact centers are and should be considered branches. They must have the same focus and training seen at a branch level for service excellence. These teams assist in customer calls; they also help with online banking questions. Better yet, these employees are perfectly positioned to play an integral role your cross sales efforts, however, they lack the confidence and skills necessary to effectively sell. 

In Raddon’s Employee Viewpoint Survey, the sentiment of employees across various functional teams is examined.  As compared to Branch Representatives, Call Center employees exhibit less confidence in feeling qualified to sell products, how to best address questions about products and services, or even recognizing sales as an important part of their role.

Providing servicing as well as sales training for these employees will certainly enhance the customer experience as well as help the bottom line.

Raddon Research also tells us that consumers continue to use branches for teller transactions. But more and more call center callers are mobile users.  They request help with issues in the branch, mobile or online banking or just simply for the convenience and time it saves to call rather than drive to a branch.

If an “issue” is what prompts an individual to call the financial institution, the very last thing your organization wants is to provide a difficult time doing business over the phone. We know that this failure to resolve problems leads to reduced loyalty.  It may result in losing the customer altogether.

So what steps can you take to ensure that your contact center is up to speed?  Our experience has been that contact centers have some of the highest turnover rates in financial institutions, so hiring good talent and training that talent are mandatory.

For call center teams, you’ll not only want to hire for knowledge and skills (phone etiquette, computer proficiency, basic customer service skills), but you’ll also want to screen for candidates who are patient, creative, positive and have strong communication skills. Job growth for call center professionals is projected to increase 12.6% by 2022. 

Train on problem resolution, product knowledge, service recovery and mobile techniques in order to better serve that member and reduce the chances of them moving to a competitor. Along with measuring an employee’s performance by metrics such as response time, abandonment rate (percentage of people that hang up before someone helps them), or first-call resolution, you’ll also want to facilitate ongoing support towards growth and training of the individual. Reinforcement training activities should always be part of a training and development initiative for ongoing success and to keep the employee engaged in development.

Key questions to ask:

  1. Does your hiring protocol ensure that you screen for both verbal and written communication skills? With technology rapidly changing how we communicate, both are critical to success in a call center role.  
  2. Are your managers actively engaged in nurturing their employees’ success? Reinforcement activities are ideally suited for regular coaching sessions with employees and their supervisor.
  3. What kind of opportunities do you provide for employees to learn cross-selling techniques, skills for making proper recommendations, and help setting goals for their career? The vitality of every employee’s growth plan will translate to your organization’s success.  

By Elizabeth Oeltjenbruns, Center for Practical Management and Becky Summers, Raddon

Center for Practical Management helps companies achieve organizational goals and behavior change initiatives through tailored consulting services, leadership coaching, employee skills training and marketing services. Learn more at www.cf-pm.com. Center for Practical Management is a strategic business partner with Raddon, a Fiserv Company.