Customer Service Leadership

In order to be considered successful, a company must grow.  In order to grow, a company needs to somehow differentiate itself from the competition.  Focusing on high quality customer service in order to deliver the best possible customer experience for consumers is a particularly effective strategy that many businesses are putting into action in order to set themselves apart from competitors.

But, if there has never been much of a focus on customer care in the past, how can a company suddenly become a customer service leader?

A commitment to customer service is not something that can simply be tacked onto a business as an afterthought.  Rather, it needs to be fully ingrained into the culture of a company, and really, the only way for that to happen is for senior management to buy into that philosophy and actually put the ideas into practice.  Only when upper management fully embraces this philosophical shift and starts to demand improvements in key customer service metrics will it trickle down through middle management to the front line workers.  After all, if the CEO of a company does not care about providing excellent customer service, why should the employees care?

One of the best (and easiest) ways to become a customer service leader is to outsource call center work to a firm that specializes in providing high quality customer care.  This usually means outsourcing to an onshore or nearshore customer service provider rather than going offshore.  While a business might be able to obtain a lower overall rate through an offshore call center, the quality of customer care may suffer.  Language barriers and cultural differences often come into play and detract from the overall customer experience.  Industry consultant David Filwood indicates that, “It’s not a racist issue; people relate over the phone to people they perceive as being from their region.”

According to a recent Globe & Mail article, many North American companies that initially outsourced their call centers offshore are now bringing them back due in large part to low customer satisfaction.  Sears Canada spokesman Vincent Power recently remarked, upon bringing the company’s repair service call center back to Canada, “There’s now a higher degree of satisfaction for calls related to parts and service than there were before.”

A leadership decision to outsource call center operations offshore to the lowest cost provider indicates that customer service is simply not a priority for the company, and that they are more concerned with cutting costs than delivering a great customer experience.  Conversely, finding the right nearshore or onshore outsourcing partner shows that customer care is a high priority for senior management, and that they are willing to forego the lowest possible rock bottom price in order to keep their customers happy.

Having upper management make the strategic decision to focus on improved customer care, and then actually taking steps to implement the strategy, is the first critical step that a company must take in order to become a true customer service leader in the industry.

Tacamor specializes in providing high quality inbound customer service and level 1 technical support.  Put us to work  for your company and see first hand how we can improve your overall customer satisfaction!

Let’s Talk Technology! (What is an IVR?)

Ever dial a 1-800 number and instead of having a real person pick up on the other end, you get one of those pre-recorded menus?  “For customer service, press 1.  For technical support, press 2.  For free pizza, press 3…” Well, in the call center industry, that pre-recorded voice menu is called an IVR, which stands for Interactive Voice Response.

Basically, an IVR is a routing system that allows a caller to direct his or her call to the appropriate destination by choosing from a list of different options.

There are several different types of IVRs.  Most allow the caller to interact with the system by pressing a number on the phone’s keypad that corresponds with the desired menu option.  Others employ voice recognition technology that requests the caller to actually say something in order to select an option.  I.e. “To take part in our free pizza giveaway event, say ‘free pizza.’” 

Some voice recognition IVR systems are incredibly sophisticated, and simply ask the caller a very general, open-ended question like “Why are you calling us today?” and cross-referencing the response against an existing database of phrases to appropriately direct the call.   So, if the person responds, “I’m calling for free pizza” then the call gets sent to the agents handling the pizza giveaway.

There are many advantages to having an IVR.  Many companies feel that not every phone call needs the attention of a trained employee, and use an IVR system to disseminate basic information like hours of operation, location, and the company’s phone directory.  This allows them to reduce their overall call center staff, and lets their agents focus on other things like specific customer service requests or technical support.

IVR systems can be available 24 hours a day to help customers with simple tasks, and in some cases can allow a caller to perform various self-service options for his or her account.  With some services, you can dial a toll free number and completely cancel your account by simply pressing a few buttons on your phone, all without talking to a live agent.

There are dangers for companies that rely too heavily on IVRs, however.  A business that allows automated account cancellation, for example, misses out on the opportunity for a live agent to resolve the customer’s problem that is causing him or her to end the service.  Because there is no chance to “make a save,” customer retention levels will probably be lower than they would have been without the automated account cancellation option.

There are also problems that can arise if an IVR system is too complicated.  Callers can feel overwhelmed if menus are too long, making it harder to remember all the options — a good rule of thumb is that no menu should have more than four options.  Sometimes, automated voices may be difficult to understand, or may present too much information, extending the length of the call and making callers feel frustrated.  Also, some people simply do not like talking to machines.  People in general are social creatures, and most people out there prefer to have a warm, breathing body on the other end of the line.

So, a company needs to be careful when implementing an IVR system.  Used properly, an IVR can be a wonderful tool to quickly and efficiently direct calls throughout the call center.  An improperly designed IVR, however, can result in frustration and unhappiness for callers.

Even if you offer free pizza.

Dealing with angry customers: are you making this mistake?

Angry tigerphoto © 2004 Guyon Morée | more info (via: Wylio)
Let’s face it: of all the situations that customer service and technical support teams face, dealing with angry customers can be the most draining. The agent — and sometimes several agents before the caller is done — can be exhausted from being verbally pummeled. The time spent on the call skyrockets beyond any goal or target ever imagined. And at the end of it all, chances are good that you have not won back the customer, but won a new vigilante voice out there who will be attacking your company at the dinner table, in the workplace, and most dreaded of all, in a blog.

That’s why, in many call centers, the angry customer has another name: the “worst nightmare,” and every agent there dreads getting that call. Quite understandable.

So why does Tom Peters (Remember Tom? Possibly the world’s top business guru, he has been mentioned before here on Talkamore) in his book, The Little BIG Things: 163 Ways to Pursue Excellence, make this outrageous statement?

“There’s nothing, but nothing, better than an angry customer.”

Even for Tom Peters, those are pretty strong words. There is merit in what he says though. As we noted in the past post that mentioned Tom, research has shown that [Read more...]

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