Radclyffe Consulting: Moment of Truth
Many business customers regard the service they receive from contact centre staff as the acid test of the company’s quality. CEOs undervalue this vital function at their peril.
Chief executives talk a good game when it comes to customer service. Unfortunately, the contact centre staff who interact with customers typically occupy the lowest grades in a company, entry-level positions that don’t require a college degree, while the teams are understaffed and offer no clear career path.
CEOs are frequently driven to outsourcing customer service by the low relative cost of locating a centre overseas, but outsourcing can be counterproductive. I often hear people complain about the quality of the service they receive when they reach an overseas contact centre.
If you are generating revenue of $22 million, the $1 million required to run a small contact centre represents good value. To see it as a source of inefficiency and overhaul it is cutting off your nose to spite your face. Imagine if, as a direct result of contacting your company, only half of callers were satisfied – that would mean a loss of over $11 million in future revenue.
In an earlier career as a contact centre manager, I remember going to a CEO to get his perspective on the value of the contact centre to the organisation. He stated exactly what I expected – that the contact centre was critical to the business, as it is the ‘moment of truth’ for the customer. Yet, the contact centre position was one of the lowest paid in the company, and the department had the most minimal budget across the enterprise.
People often don’t appreciate how hard it is perform a contact centre role and tend to undervalue the department. As a result, employees commonly feel that they can’t advance, and departments suffer from high staff turnover, which means that they must continually re-invest to keep their staff.
Because the work of contact centres is often undervalued, they are sometimes subjected to false economies. Self-care systems, where callers don’t actually speak to a person, may be implemented, for example. But these offer no opportunity to up-sell customers or encourage them to remain loyal. Such measures may work with younger callers, but older ones, with more discretionary income, often prefer a conversation with a real person.
Contact centre service differentiation can actually be a quick way of gaining the competitive advantage that every CEO wants. Often it is a good idea for the CEO to pretend to be a customer and call the company’s contact centre to see if this moment of truth is likely to increase future revenue or lose business.
If improvements in customer care are to be made, quality of life for workers in contact centres must be improved, although a balance has to be maintained between micro-management and letting people do whatever they want.
Ultimately, improvements in customer care must start at the top. A CEO needs to assess where their company is in terms of customer retention and loyalty and sample the customer service experience personally in a systematic way. What better way to do this than to join the contact centre team for one day every month?
A CEO must also commit financially, consistently and passionately to customer service and be prepared to fund a long-term improvement programme. It is also vitally important to implement measures that target call handling quality and ensure that staff are compensated according to their ability during this improvement process with salary increases along the way.