Retail & Distribution
Entertainment & Leisure
The preceding table shows, by vertical market, the proportion of inbound calls received that are complaints, and also, in the widest sense, what that complaint is about (i.e. internal - such as a rude agent or not being called back when promised, or external - such as failure demand, which is explained below).
The table is sorted by those vertical markets which have the greatest proportion of their calls being complaints about the contact center itself. In this case, the medical sector has 1.56% of its overall calls being complaints about the service received in the contact center itself (calculated by multiplying the % of complaints - 6.0% - by the % that refer to the contact center - 26%). On the other hand, the entertainment & leisure sector has a miniscule 0.17% of calls being about the failings of its contact center operations.
This calculation and ordering helps to show the true nature of each sector's contact center operations and also the underlying level of competency in the wider business. For example, the finance sector receives a slightly higher than average proportion of complaints (4.0% of all calls), but 92% are about failures in processes elsewhere in the enterprise, for very large, siloed and complex operations like many finance operations are, is unsurprising.
The vast amount of complaints received by a contact center are not about the contact center itself (or its staff), but rather ‘failure demand’, caused by a breakdown of process elsewhere in the organization. However, the contact center has to deal with the dirty work, and further failures within the complaints procedure (or lack of it) can see customers calling into the contact center again and again, becoming more irate each time, despite the real problem lying outside the contact center.
There is also a real risk, especially within large contact centers, that a single agent does not have the capability or responsibility to deal with the customer’s issue, which may reach across various internal departments (e.g. finance, billing, provisioning and technical support), none of which will (or can) take responsibility for sorting out the problem.
Businesses who choose to monitor customer satisfaction evidently value their customers’ opinions. However, the report’s findings reveal that the majority of contact centers are missing a great opportunity to utilize
customer feedback to drive real service improvement. Many contact centers do not know the specific
characteristics and behaviors most liked or disliked by customers, and these operations are investing time and money without reaping the benefits of meaningful and actionable information.
It is vitally important before you begin to survey your customers, that you: • Clearly determine the purpose and aims of your survey
• Consider adopting a variety of question types. Scored questions enable you to produce statistically significant and representative data. Free comments allow you to gain real insight into your customers’ perception of your service
• Select an experienced company to set up and host your survey. You will benefit from their expertise and knowledge and avoid potentially costly errors
• Ensure that your survey can be carried out throughout the day, including peak times, to gain a true picture of the customer experience
• Make sure that the results of your survey can be collated and analyzed in a wide variety of ways. It is pointless to amass information if you cannot evaluate it and disseminate the results usefully
• Have procedures in place to act upon the information that you find. Your survey may have uncovered some broken processes in your service which need attention. It will also inevitably throw up disgruntled customers whose specific concerns need addressing. In this instance, your survey platform should provide some mechanism for alerting and following-up to ensure that dissatisfied customers are escalated to the appropriate staff
• Adopt a unified approach across the business to assessing and monitoring customer satisfaction. If you continue to reward agents based on traditional call performance metrics, you are merely paying lip service to good service. If you reward agents based on customer satisfaction ratings you will increase agent engagement and retention at the same time as improving the service you offer your customers.
TRAINING AND COACHING
Although agent attrition is less of a concern for many contact centers than it has been for some years, the need to improve customer satisfaction and quality has come even more to the fore. This makes agent training is one of the most high-profile and important issues within the industry, with its importance to contact center managers growing year on year. As the types of role that contact center agents perform continue to grow in complexity, ongoing training must go beyond simple call handling and top-line product information. There is an increasing trend towards cross-selling and up-selling, which requires agents to switch between very different skill-sets at a moment’s notice, and the importance of empathy and listening skills cannot be underestimated.
Contact center training starts with induction courses, initial periods of two to four weeks that prepare an agent for life in the contact center. After this, the coaching provided by team leaders and senior agents is invaluable, but the agent must continue to receive support throughout their career, and to be able to gain the skills and experience they need to move upwards and of course to do their current job effectively.
To this end, a mix of internal and external training is often used, and there are a growing number of external qualifications in and around the contact center industry for contact center employees at all levels, with the majority of contact centers offering agent those opportunities. There have been polarized views on this across the industry: some cynics believe that externally-recognized qualifications will just encourage agents to leave sooner, whereas most see it as an investment in the agent, and proof to the agent that the business values them.
Most contact center managers are aware and concerned that the skills available in their contact center are leaking away too quickly, due to high attrition rates, or that the general availability of skills is not high enough in any case. The content and aim of training can be roughly divided into hard and soft skills. Hard skills are those which are specific to the job in hand, and/or that can be measured. Examples include:
• Data entry speeds • System navigation • Product knowledge • Application usage
• Understanding of relevant business processes.
Soft skills are more about influencing the agent’s behavior and character, as well as looking at the non-measurable elements. They include:
• Empathy and listening skills • Cross-selling and up-selling • Managing intra-team dynamics • Developing self-motivation • Dealing with abusive customers.
INDUCTION COURSE TRAINING METHODS
Respondents were asked to state how effective various training methods are within an induction course
environment. The following table shows that one-to-one tuition and support is seen as far more effective than the one-way information flow of lectures and eLearning, although the latter are much more cost-effective ways to disseminate information to large numbers of people at once.
Figure 24: Effectiveness of induction course training methods
The traditional method of training is to sit a number of people in a room and lecture them. This is certainly a useful, well-proven and cost-effective way of passing on information, although of course it cannot really take into account the specific requirements of each employee. However, as a way of passing on structured information - for example, about a new product - it is a very effective and well-used training method.
Almost all respondents use the ‘buddying’ technique, giving a current employee responsibility for a new starter, so that they can learn the ropes in an informal environment and have someone to discuss any of the hundreds of new tasks and situations that a new starter has to deal with. While this is in theory a good idea, and certainly cheap, there is often little quality assurance of buddying technique, and the experience can vary widely depending on the ‘buddy’ in question. Some organizations deliberately ask less-motivated employees to be buddies, in the hope that the extra responsibility will help them to improve their own attitudes, although this is obviously fraught with risk.
Generally though, buddying is a positive and cost-effective way of easing a new starter into the company, although it should not be relied upon to take the place of structured training methods, particularly as the ‘buddy’
themselves will often not have received any detailed training on what to do.
The mentoring technique is a more hierarchical version of buddying, involving more knowledge and skill transfer and often a more formal setting, with specific time set aside, perhaps with a small group rather than an individual. Again, most respondents state that they use this method of training, although in reality, some of the mentors will actually be more like buddies - those on a similar level, albeit with more experience of how the business works. Mentoring comes with a definite cost, as the mentor is likely to be an experienced and skilled individual and thus, their time will be in great demand. The mentor may run specific regular sessions for their protégé or group, based on transferring specific knowledge and skills, and perhaps being involved in the protégé’s career progression. This method is rated the most effective way of training new agents, along with live call-taking, which is a training method specific to contact centers whereby new agents make the transition away from the classroom by taking live calls in a tightly-controlled environment, with one-to-one supervision that is gradually eased as the agent’s competency and confidence grows.
E-Learning currently lags some way behind the other training methods in terms of its use, although it is far more
prevalent than it was even 2 or 3 years ago. This training method involves the agent taking software-based course modules at their own desk, which reduces the need for expensive formal training sessions at times which may not be suitable for the business (e.g. taking agents away from their desks for training in the middle of a call spike isn’t generally welcomed). Such courses are may delivered via the web as ‘software-as-a-service’, or the company can buy licenses, either of which can be cost-effective and flexible, although there are limited options to change content or ask questions in most cases.
TIME REQUIRED TO BECOME FULLY-PRODUCTIVE
The main purpose of any type of training is to improve employee’s abilities to do their job well. On average, respondents state that it takes around 8 weeks before a new starter is fully-productive, which means that for most of the first two months, an agent is still coming to terms with their job and is not pulling their full weight.
Respondents with mainly inbound work state that an average of 9.5 weeks is required for full productivity. For outbound operations, this is only 4.1 weeks, with respondents in mixed operations requiring 5.8 weeks. There is little difference between size bands in the amount of time required to get an agent totally up to speed, but as we might expect, the type of contact center activity that an agent is asked to do has a large bearing on their speed to competency. Outbound-focused operations (usually sales-orientated), get their staff fully-trained and selling in much less time that an inbound operation requires. This is probably due to the higher number of systems that an inbound operative has to use, as well as the often-required need to blend service with sales, a less-
prevalent use of scripting and a greater variety of requests and topics that an inbound agent will often have to deal with.
Figure 25: Number of weeks for a new agent to become fully productive, by vertical market
This delay in achieving full productivity is even more noticeable in businesses where the role is generally more challenging, probably as a result of the technical complexities of the role, the legislative requirements or any other business-specific reason for delayed competency, such as insurance or the medical sector.
16.7 10.7 10.0 10.0 9.3 8.3 8.0 6.0 4.4 4.0 8.2 - 2.0 4.0 6.0 8.0 10.0 12.0 14.0 16.0 18.0