As a member of the Board of Directors for the Northeast Contact Center Forum, I have the opportunity to speak with a number of Customer Service Managers, Directors and VP’s across multiple industries and geographies. The most common theme among these leaders is the intricate balancing act of providing extraordinary experiences while reducing expenses (and sometimes juggling regulatory risk and/or time constraints).
I have battled with the same dilemmas myself. Over time, I have learned to ask myself and my colleagues a few questions:
- What do you coach your service representatives on?
- What are the common conversations in your team and all-hands meetings?
- What is it that your CEO/COO/VP of Customer Service is evangelizing?
More often than not, the answers include: call quality, customer experience, superior service, etc.
Some time later, I follow up with another set of questions:
- What are the key metrics that you look at daily?
- How do you incent your service representatives?
- What are the metrics that your boss (whether the CEO or someone else) is hammering you about?
These answers usually sound like: service level, AHT (average handle time). Around 50-75% of incentives involve productivity numbers, expenses, cost per account/loan/customer, etc.
Things that make you go hmmm.
The term triple constraints (sometimes quad if you include risk for regulatory environments) and charts are typically used in project management, but apply to our quandary. One constraint cannot be changed without altering another. Triple or Quad constraints are funny; everything cannot be the most important or the highest priority. Trying to make everything the highest priority will only drive you and your service representatives crazy. It leads to mediocre quality, often subpar cost metrics, low morale, and CEO’s/COO’s/VP’s of Customer Service breathing down your neck.
With all of that in mind, how do you move (walk) forward?
Admit You Have a Problem
The first step for any recovery program is to admit you have a problem.
- Ask your floor representatives what they think you say and what you really focus on.
- Listen to calls, review chats, and emails (are your associates rushing, taking too long?
- Be objective.
Force Rank Your Current Priorities
Create the order that you believe you are presently working under. Everything cannot be equal. Make sure you have accurate differentials – use an entire 1-5 scale.
- Quality (call quality, defect management, complaints, customer incident surveys)
- Cost (AHT, service levels, cost per X, expenses, utilization, occupancy)
- Time (Are new product releases critical? Service availability?)
- Risk (regulatory/legal, credit, reputational)
Continue the Conversation
Have an honest, direct conversation with senior management about what is the most important priority, what is the second most important priority, and so on.
Now that you have your direction, you need to determine what you are going to change:
- People – Do you have the right people in the right places to succeed? Do you need to reorganize? How would you incent people to deliver your priority? What do you need to communicate to your associates?
- Process – What processes would you change? What metrics would you highlight? What dashboard items need to change?
- Systems – How can you leverage your technical solutions to maximize your priorities?
Are you able to walk your talk? Or do you need to change your talk?