Insights on improving calls centers can come from the most surprising places. I recently came across a Reddit community called “Tales from Call Centers” and found some very passionate conversations about how call centers can improve their processes and better engage their customer service representatives (CSRs).
In one recent thread, a poster asked for “Five easy things that aren't being done that could be to significantly improve the experience for both customers and call center staff.” I pulled a handful of the most compelling responses and offered my perspective on each.
One Redditor conveys how critical training is for CRSs.
Training. Training, Training. Stop selling services for things you won't train the reps for. If the rep can't troubleshoot an advanced problem, don't offer advanced troubleshooting to the company. How many accounts have you lost by doing this?
This is a classic problem where a company offers products and services that are beyond the scope of their CSRs. As a customer of such a company you may ask yourself, “How could this happen?” In any competitive market, products and services evolve forcing the support system to evolve. If a company’s customer support system is too fragile to change (and some of the biggest ones are) without risking a major outage, the CSRs are trained very quickly - or not trained at all - until the old, fragile system is eventually changed.
Typically, the change occurs in a quarterly, semi-annual or annual software release cycle. Can you imagine how many bad customer experiences can be delivered daily with an outdated, inflexible system? With a system like Pega, intelligent and guided processes can be rapidly created and deployed to CSRs in days, enabling support of new products and services exactly when they launch with very little training required.
That same Reddit poster also decries the use of unnatural language.
Eliminate the Empathy Phrases and the really ridiculous answer phrases (How can I make you smile today?). These piss off customers and eat the souls of the people forced to say them. They also waste a ton of time.
Well, tell us how you really feel. From 1995 to 1999 I worked in a 2,000 seat contact center and we asked our CSRs to say these types of things to customers. I see it still happens today. At that time, we had very little insight into the customer’s wants, interests and needs. We didn’t know why they were calling so generic phrases were the best way to start the call off in a nice way.
Today, using a generic phrase when You have big data, predictive and adaptive analytics, configurable business rules and omni-channel capabilities – truly intelligent systems – is just plain lazy. Today’s leading customer service software solutions offer companies the opportunity to design and maintain a truly intelligent system that delivers highly contextual and relevant customer experiences. Now we should start every contact with, “Mrs. Wilson, thanks for reaching out to us, I see you were using the IVR to learn about our newest product. Before you reached me, I took the liberty of emailing you the latest product information datasheet. It should be in your inbox now. What else can I help you with today?”
In another Reddit post, a CSR bemoans building false rapport.
I work in tech support department for a large cell carrier, I've been working there for almost a year and it's getting worse every day. My company expects me to "connect and build rapport" with each customer that I speak with. I'm supposed to start each call with some sort of light conversation before I start troubleshooting a customer’s issue. If I haven't done it with the first 60 seconds of the call I've already failed the call. Ask how a customer's day is going isn't enough. I'm supposed to ask about the weather or something similar on each call with every customer no matter how angry the customer is.
This situation occurs in nearly every contact center on every moderately to highly complex contact. I’ll summarize it as “build rapport or provide an answer:” Which is more important?
While the customer and management want both, it’s a challenge for the CSR to achieve both on every call. Sometimes the search for the answer undermines the ability to build rapport. Other times the mandate to build rapport at the expense of efficiency and complete resolution are at odds with each other. The key to achieving both outcomes – rapport and answers – lies in part with the technology you provide to the CSR. The system must be guided and intuitive enough to remove the burden of searching for the answer. Second, the system must be smart enough to provide relevant next best actions based on customer insights and information like customer value, tenure and preferences so the CSR can easily build rapport.
In sum, at Pega we believe CSRs come to work to do a good job, and, in general, contact center technology is letting them down. Let’s fix that problem together, and let’s keep listening to the people who are doing the work.
To learn more about how Pega is supporting call centers, come visit us in the Pegaworld Technology Pavilion.