Help your Customer Service Teams Excel!

Help your Customer Service Teams Excel!  

If you’ve ever worked in a Contact Centre or been around one for any reasonable stretch of time, you'll know that individuals working in the front-line naturally want to do the right thing by customers. Despite this, there are difficulties and complexities, competing priorities and bad performance measures dragging down the overall quality of service provided. Some organisations seemingly prevent good customer service from ever being possible with kooky policies and procedures.

Whilst performing "Agent Shadowing" onsite the other day, I saw a great example of this. This agent (which we will call "Frank") is front-line of a large contact centre in Melbourne. His focus and approach was spot-on, looking to provide good customer outcomes by going over and above his remit as a front-line advocate.

In this particular instance, a customer who was clearly frustrated and panicked, called in asking for help. She had signed up for a new internet service just before the school holidays, thinking that the faster speeds will keep her 3 kids endlessly happy with their network gaming. Unfortunately, the old service had been cut-off, and the new service wasn't working... spelling disaster for this mum!

Frank dived head-long into handling the issue with all the qualities of a good Customer Service representative - showing empathy to the customer, agreeing that it was an awful situation to be in, and displaying confidence of taking full ownership and attempting to bring the issue to resolution asap.

Now network/internet connection stuff must be one of the more complicated types of issues to resolve. There are a myriad of possible elements preventing the service from working...physical cable issues, configuration of the modem/device, software settings, node and exchange configurations, and then add to the mix 3rd party broadband service providers, if it wasn't already challenging enough.

Frank showed courage in attempting to resolve this highly complex issue but was up against it with an already rattled customer. A myriad of systems and platforms, some developed in-house and some provided by the 3rd parties, containing disparate, duplicate, missing or often misleading information took time for Frank to work through and decipher. The customer also mentioned they'd called 3 times previously but no history was found in the system for her.

Frank pressed on, performed some complicated diagnosis of the lines which was inconclusive, and then attempted to call the network provider while the customer hung-on holding for more than 15 minutes. All of this effort led to naught, and poor Frank needed to advise the customer that he would send a technician onsite to perform further analysis (which could take up to 5 days due to the holiday period), leading the customer to despair.

If I think about Frank's situation, this is reflective of many contact centres I come across in this region. Despite the best intentions, agents are up against it with a lack of capabilities to resolve issues. Customer call data and customer profile history are not fully captured or searchable, the data quality questionable or worse... non-existent, search capabilities are poor.

All in all, there isn't a single agent view of the customer making it very challenging to:
a). get a good overview of the customer history and context (especially if the customer selects different channels based on their situation) and
b). provide a personalised experience to the customer which would support a good customer experience.

As the systems can't be relied on for the information the agent requires, they provide little value and the agents are even less likely to ensure they are up to date or complete. It's a vicious cycle!

The outcome of all this is a bad agent experience, translating to a bad customer experience. Duplicated effort, increased support handling times, driving up support costs and driving down customer satisfaction. The impact doesn't stop there though. Customer likelihood to re-purchase products or services from these brands is reduced or worse...recommendations or referrals of the brand to their family and friends is impacted, limiting one of the most powerful and cheapest promotional mechanism your brand can have.

Organisations need to do better to support their Customer Service capabilities and staff. Customer service teams need information ready at their fingertips in an easy to read format. Agents need immediate understanding of customer context, providing personalised and effortless support. This translates to personalised customer service. In Frank's situation, he should have been able to quickly identify what was done on the 3 previous calls so that it inspired confidence in the customer and duplication of effort from Frank's point of view could be avoided.

Access to support knowledge is also an important consideration, driving customer service excellence. Agents should have documented resolutions to known issues, at their fingertips. This provides speed to resolution, best approach to solve, and can be continually optimised. The information captured here is infinitely useful to product managers to see the types of issues customers are experiencing in the real world, with opportunities to improve those offerings, and improve customer loyalty and the company's overall competitiveness and profitability.

When we talk in terms of customer loyalty and improving company profitability, we can look at the Customer Lifetime Value (LTV) with the following calculation:

If our organisation, as an example, has a total of 100,000 customers and we can positively impact just 5%, or 5000 customers. We then use our average customer LTV (we're using $1000 in this example) with a 10% improvement, increasing it by $100 to $1100 TLV. This slight improvement in LTV is equivalent to an additional $500,000 to the organisation!

Customer Service leaders need to provide front-line staff with lots of support and guidance. Very few customers call into the Customer Service Centre advising what a good service agents are providing. Instead, a constant barrage of customer issues and frustrations seems more like the norm and is truly wearisome for the agent staff.

Driving a healthy culture and good behaviour, celebrating wins and good customer outcomes within the team is important, and the Service Leaders need to be routinely driving this home. I love playing the OnePlus Customer Service Video in my training classes to show how to drive the right service culture. Writing up good feedback from customers on the team board is a great way to highlight good work!

Allowing agents to be empowered to make split-second choices for customers give much needed ownership and responsibility to agents, and better outcomes to customers. An example of this might be to allow agents discretion to provide up to $50 gift vouchers as a sweetener for customers negatively impacted by a bad experience.

Regular coaching and feedback from leaders to staff (and visa versa) should be mandatory, with a focus on continual improvement (check-out these tips using feedback to improve team performance). Career pathways leading to either leadership or subject matter expert roles from the front-lines, need to be defined and executed by the management team.

When support for additional budget or tools is required, Customer Service Leaders need to be able to put together coherent business cases to argue for the resources, and there should be direct access to senior management to make things happen quickly.

Modern Customer Service software like Zendesk is also an essential element needed here. A "single-pane" view for the Agent to see the customer's likes and dislikes, history of purchases and previous contacts with your business are an important part of providing a good customer experience. Direct views from the Customer Service portal into your stock systems and product SKUs, will also be a must if your agents need product information at their fingertips and may even provide up-sell opportunities.

The number of considerations to truly bring your Customer Service Centre to a high-level of excellence is truly daunting! With senior management support, dedicated support leaders, the right tools and structures in place and committed staff, you can provide service excellence to your customers...and when you get it right, it sets the business up for a wealth of success! can help you achieve your Customer Service objectives, driving better customer experiences and business growth. is an official Zendesk Select Partner and implementation provider.
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