Call Center Agents are Your Brand! Call Center Identity Crisis (Part 2)

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In today’s wired world the demand for excellent customer service is ever increasing.  Customers have a louder voice today than they ever have.  One poor interaction with a customer can create a ripple effect that costs you profits and customers.

Think about the last time you thought about doing business with a company.  If you’re like me, your very first step is to quickly Google your way to one of many rating and review sites to take a look at what everyone else has to say about their customer experiences with the company, its products and its service.  And again if you’re like me, you will sometimes choose to end your investigation right then and there due to negative feedback.  At a minimum, your review of others’ customer experiences can set a less-than-favorable baseline for the next step of your due diligence.

Last week I was looking to buy an indoor space heater.  I knew there would be a ton of choices, but my primary needs were efficiency and safety.  As usual, I started by doing what most of us do – went to the Internet!  During my initial search I found a unit that I thought fit the bill very nicely.  Then I went to the reviews …

The customer experience and product reviews of the heater were positive for the most part.  The positives were what you would expect – the unit was compact, lightweight, quiet, had decent heat range, etc.  However, there were several negative customer experience reviews citing poor company follow-up on a safety issue – hmmm.  In the end, these few negative customer experience reviews, even outnumbered by the positive ones, created a sufficiently weighted impact that I chose not to purchase from that company.

Was that fair of me?  I don’t know, but that’s how it ended up.  And you know what?  Fair or not, your customers are doing the same thing.

Your call center agents cannot control product quality, but your call center agents do control the quality of a large number of customer interactions between your company and your customers.

Wow – think about that for a minute.  Many of your customers will judge your entire company solely on the basis of their customer experience and customer interaction during one conversation with one of your call center agents.  If you are not empowering your call center personnel and leaders and making certain they have the right set of good customer service skills and behaviors to have the kind of conversation with your customers that creates customer loyalty and brand loyalty, you do so at your own peril.

I believe that call centers need an extreme makeover.

I spent this past summer living in call centers throughout Europe, and it dawned on me toward the end of this experience that no matter the company or industry and regardless of where they are located in the world, call centers have not changed a whole lot in the last thirty years.  Yes, of course, we now have some different technologies such as interactive voice response and better phone systems.  And technology has allowed us to track, measure and report call center operations and activity in ways not thought possible years ago.

Unfortunately, what is really being accomplished on a day-to-day basis inside the call center walls does not seem to be growing or evolving at all.  Rather, the environment and the perception of call centers seem to be hopelessly mired in the reality of the past.  They are still treated like cost centers.

It really makes me want to shout out the window “I’m tired of this, and I’m not taking it anymore!”

It’s time for call centers to come into the 21st century!

  • It’s time for call centers to become Brand Solution Profit Centers.
  • It’s time for call centers to make the proverbial move from the expense side of the operating statement to the income side.
  • It’s time for call center agents, whose behaviors are critical to the way in which customers perceive your company, to be valued and respected.
  • It’s time that call center agents are coached to success with an “every call focus” (the technology for this is available now!), not one call every week or every other week.

In a recent Golden Touchpoint engagement, we suggested to the call center leadership that in order to gain the most value from the program and have the methods, techniques and skills ingrained into the expectations and culture of the call center, they would need to coach each agent at least once per day.

Call center leadership would need to coach each agent at least until an agent demonstrates proficiency on a regular basis.

Gasp!  Call center leadership or supervisors sitting down every day and coaching one call with each call center agent?  Oh, the uproar this created!  “We don’t have time for that! …  We can’t do that! …  We can’t coach our employees that much! …  I would get nothing else done!”  This reaction proved to me beyond any doubt that the traditional call center system is broken.

Call center leadership and supervisors are accustomed to coaching their call center agents using poorly designed and poorly written call quality sheets.  Typically, the supervisor listens to the call, checks the boxes, assigns scores and grades the call.  Supervisors often don’t even listen to a recording of the actual call with the call center agent.  Feedback is often given completely out of context.  The system is outdated!

When call center leadership learns to coach one aspect of a call each day for each one of their call center agents, coaching can be accomplished efficiently and effectively.  This is just one example of what call centers need to do in order to become Brand Solution Profit Centers.

Customer-facing employees are “in the trenches” for your company day in and day out.  More than anyone else in your company, they are in a position to demonstrate, live out and uphold your brand promise on a daily basis, perhaps 30, 40 or 50 times per day.  Yet in most call centers, agents are treated like they’re the bottom of the barrel.

Your brand deserves better.  Your brand deserves the best directors, managers and supervisors.  Call center leadership must have the courage to truly lead, not merely manage, and the courage to set expectations, train and coach to the highest level possible.

The good news is that the call center identity crisis does not need to be a perpetual condition.  It IS possible for your call center to be filled with call center agents you trust, working at a level that will create and retain Loyal Promoters for your brand and drive profits.




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About Jack Dempsey

Jack Dempsey, CEO, heads Pretium Solutions’ Customer Experience & Sales Area focusing on Customer Loyalty, Brand Loyalty and Customer Retention Strategies. He directs Pretium’s revolutionary customer loyalty program, the Golden Touchpoint™. Pretium Solutions is a premier provider of cutting-edge, sustainable and globally-recognized customer experience management solutions and customer service, call center and sales training, consulting and leadership programs. Pretium shows companies how to create, build and maintain customer loyalty, the most important measure of a company’s success with its customers and the most profitable customer service outcome.

2 Responses to “Call Center Agents are Your Brand! Call Center Identity Crisis (Part 2)”

  1. Robin Josey December 26, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    Excellent, and I couldn’t agree more. As someone who has worked as a representative and a supervisor, I can attest that the customer device tools used to develop and coach are outdated. But the bottom line is changing the mindset of the leadership. When there are roadblocks there, the status quo is what rules the day, and you get ‘this is how it’s always been done’ mentalities.

    • Jdempsey December 26, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

      Yes the gravitational pull of “This is how it’s always been done” mentality is very difficult to overcome. It will take the energy of many of us to effectively change it for the better.

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