By Nichola Ansbro, Contact Centre Manager, officekitten.co.uk
In the old days, the role of a call centre was to field the arguments rather than fix the problems.
But the internet has given the public such power with review sites and an explosion of choice, that now your customers should be the most important people in your contact centre and your staff should do everything to make them happy.
Here are five steps you can take to achieve that:
1. Make it easy.
Impose a simple rule – if the customer asks for it and it’s in our power, then we do it. No arguments, no quibbles. After all, why spend 40 minutes discussing or arguing about an item that might cost just £6? Even if it’s got a higher value, the value of that customer coming back to you far outweighs the cost of a disputed item, in most cases.
2. Apply the human touch.
As a society, we have got used to ordering online. But when something goes wrong, customers want human contact and the reassurance that only another person can give you. As a result, we don’t set targets for time on each call for our call handlers. If a customer needs to talk for 15 minutes to solve a problem, then we don’t put pressure on the team to cut the call any shorter. Some places – and I know because I’ve worked in them – deem that every call must be more than two minutes to make the customer feel they are being listened to, but less than four minutes, so you can answer enough volume in a day. However, that doesn’t provide a full solution for every customer. Additionally, question if you really need scripts for your call handlers – after all, if you speak like robots, won’t you give a robotic service?
3. Listening is a vital skill.
If you haven’t listened, how can you know what the customer’s problem is? Customers are so used to receiving bad service when they call into a call centre, they now feel they need to be armed with Trading Standards and Distance Selling Regulations, and it’s not needed. The quickest way to disarm that approach is to say yes and reassure straight away. Give your staff the authority to do that, and you’ll keep a lot more happy customers. Contact centre managers and department heads should also make time each week to listen to a sample of the calls that come in – what better way to hear what your customers are complaining about and what the resolutions are? This can help you review what things you can be doing better as a business.
4. Keep it in-house.
Outsourcing your customer service is a sign that it isn’t valued. While only a few customers will notice this, as a business the importance you place on this cannot be underestimated.
5. Hire right and treat them right.
Recruiting and training isn’t easy, so you want people who will be with you for the long term. If you have to pay that little bit more, then that’s what it takes. In some larger companies, recruiting for the call centre means filling a classroom with new recruits, knowing that there will be a large amount of ‘churn’ and most will leave after a short period. But by putting a focus on the customer experience, smarter firms hire one or two people at a time, train them right, pay them right and keep them. Question whether individual KPIs or targets will work for your call handlers – or might it be detrimental? We think that it’s about what the company is doing.
Get these areas right and you’ll be well on the way to having happy customers spreading the word about the good work you are doing.
Nichola Ansbro is the Contact Centre Manager of officekitten.co.uk, supplier of office stationery and office supplies.