In a digital era where self-servicing and self-sufficiency become order of the day, human interaction is rightfully seen as a key differentiator for companies trying to engage customers.
The call centre experience is one such instance where human interaction can either seal or break the deal for many customers. Managing a call centre is a challenging task requiring managers and employees to be very stress tolerant at the same time full of energy and creative.
It usually requires balancing two key dimensions of the work: time (or speed) and effort. These are basic leavers of efficiency and productivity. In an ideal world for the least amount of effort and least amount of time we would achieve the most benefit. But reality forces us to often choose between the two and at a minimum try to balance their benefits.
Organisations, their call centres in particular, tend to place different value on the two. It is a result of the culture, industry, the personalities of the managers and the assumptions about customer experience that impact which is perceived as more important – speed or effort. Based on where the emphasis is (speed or effort) we can differentiate 4 types of “call centre” experience management styles:
- One that nurtures high speed and high effort ( try hard);
- One that nurtures high speed, low effort approach (hurry up)
- One that nurtures high effort, low speed (be perfect)
- One that nurtures low effort and low speed (be strong)
Each of these are associated with their own assumptions of what customers want, how to best measure it and what an ideal employee should display.
Try hard- high speed-high effort. The basic assumption here is that “Customers want us to do as many things as possible (more than asked for) “ and the goal of a call centre agent is to be very creative and skilled in improvisation. The metrics these call centres put emphasise on over others is “cross” and “up” sales. Managers expect excitement and effort form employees and messages they tend to send them are:
- Offer more
- Promise more
- “Did you tell him/her about … ?”
- “Did you try…?”
Hurry up- high speed, low effort. The basic assumption here is that” Customers want us to do things as quickly as possible” and the goal of the call centre agent is to be quick, to predict expectations and jump right into things. The metrics these call centres put emphasise on over others is average call handling, rings before pick up, number of calls per hour. Managers expect energy and speed of employees and messages they send are usually along the lines of:
- Right now
- Get it over with
- “How much…?”
- “How many…?”
Be perfect- high effort, low speed. Main assumption is “Customers want us to do things perfectly” and the focus is on avoiding mistakes and doing things by the book. Main metrics are on the negative side of the scales e.g. number of dissatisfied customers or inbound calls, diversions from script, or when on positive it’s about ticking off boxes on the “how to list” and measuring compliance with procedures and scripts. Managers put particular emphasis on carefulness and preciseness and the messages they often give are along the lines of:
- Follow the rules
- Be careful
- Explain everything fully
- “Did you explain… ?”
- “Did you take him/her through..?”
Be strong- low effort, low speed. This style is based on the assumption that “Customers want us to do exactly what they have asked for” and believe in handing over control to the customer rather than guide them or advise them on things. This approach is rarely found and usually sign of a company that is just starting its development (or call centre development). The main metric of success is number of resolved calls and focus is not so much time or how it was executed, rather if the solution was executed. Managers expect execution and the messages they send are generally around:
- Get to the point
- Be direct and frank
- Find a solution
- “Did you do it?”
- “How did you solve it?”
This style resembles the hurry up one but the difference is that a hurry up manager encourages greater variety and range of activities (less than try hard but still) while thebe strong manager just wants to know the job was done and off the list of “to do things”.
These styles do not entail all tendencies present in a call centre culture nor are they exclusive of each other. In fact, a manager or a group culture display all of these at the same time. And more importantly, none of these are wrong or good by themselves. But too much of any can bring lots of risk and balancing between them is the challenging task call centre managers have.
Stress throws us off balance and when under stress people tend to fixate on a path. The issue is, customers want different things: some want speed, other diversity, others just a job done and your call centre culture needs to be open and flexible enough to allow agents to swithc on the appropriate mode at the right time.
As a managers be aware of the message you send and make sure to keep a health balance.
|Kalina Janevska , Kalina Janevska is a Consultant at Beyond Philosophy one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Kalina is a chief experience modeller and designer with deep applied knowledge of CE in healthcare, retail and developing economies. Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from offices in Atlanta, Georgia and London, England.
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