Dear Contact Center Santa – A Heartfelt List from Customers

Kathleen Peterson Rants & Raves by Kathleen Peterson

If there were a Contact Center Santa I would ask for seven Customer Experience “essentials” based on my work experience and my very active role as a consumer!

1. Dear Contact Center Santa,Please teach your staff to stop being defensive when resolving customer issues. Defensive responses ignite customer frustration; that is tough to overcome, particularly when the defender cannot “see” the role they played in creating or contributing to the frustration. Consider training coaches to discuss “conversational triggers.” For example, consider the representative that offers an adjustment due to a misunderstanding or service failure. They just can’t help themselves from including a bit of a scolding … “To be fair, the information is there on the website; but we will allow you to (blah blah blah)

“Test whether your coaches catch the “scold.” Passive aggression is the earmark of someone never schooled in the dynamics of strategic communication. When we don’t train people in understanding and adopting strategic communication skills, we pretty much force them to use the same communication skills at work as they use in their private lives. And that may not be highly developed! The current state of Customer Experience isn’t communicated via a script or by using some particular words or phrases (e.g., say “thank you” three times, use the caller’s name four times). It’s about developing the mindfulness to steer a conversation toward resolution with good will rather than being a “right fighter” even in the face of providing the solution. Teach your staff communication strategies and teach coaches to know how to reinforce and master a critical Customer Experience skill. Help people get smart!

2. Please get Quality coaches actually trained in the ‘fine art” of conversation as it relates to coaching. Far too many “coaches” have little if any actual coaching experience; yet they are asked to impact others’ performance via their coaching work. Many coaching programs teach methods such as the “sandwich” … say something good, hit them with the corrective message, and wrap it up with a final pat on the back. This is all well and good; however, many new coaches haven’t been “schooled” in the elements of conversation and communication relevant to impacting positive change. The worst part is that often those coached take a cynical view of the effort and it becomes a complete waste of everyone’s time. Coaching is an expensive activity when it is done wrong and customers don’t enjoy much of a benefit!

3. Speaking of training and developing management skills … Santa, can you please send the “Management Fairy” to all those supervisors and team leads that have been promoted without the slightest bit of actual training? So, if the Management Fairy could just visit them they may have a chance of succeeding.

This is one of the most bizarre realities I see; the promotion of a frontline staffer to a leadership position Рlikely having the responsibility for 10+ representatives  Рgiven no, zero, none, nada training to develop this skill. Many certainly rise to the occasion but are armed only with the skills they observed in their own manager. The more common result is the continuation of poor practices. For goodness sake, if frontline representatives are to emerge as leaders, help them out, give them something more than their job description and history to become successful.

4. If only there were some way to fix processes that waste customers’ time. When resolution can’t be met during that first contact very often something about the process needs to be fixed. A great 2018 initiative is to identify and eliminate any and all manual integrations that exist in the Contact Center. ¬†Any time a human has to cut, paste, re-key, or transfer the opportunity exists to streamline the process. This type of activity also increases digital readiness.

5. Santa, please keep in mind that Artificial Intelligence (e.g., AI, Chatbots) is still kind of stupid. While today’s voices sound a bit more human, they are still subject to “if/then” scenarios. Anything more complicated requires actual humans. I wish we could quality monitor the AI/Chatbot interface for “quality and training purposes.” Oh wait … we are told that AI is so smart it can “machine learn.” But let’s face it; AI can’t learn beyond the confines of the program, especially if we add in complexity. If we monitored these interactions I think it would be hysterical to hear how consumers frustrated with the interface yell at the Bot! I yelled as recently as yesterday. If any of you do monitor, please send me the recordings. I’d like to include them in the Contact Center Comedy Show. It doesn’t exist yet but I think I would be a great keynote or conference session speaker (and I’m available)!!!

6. Please, please, double please, triple please STOP those repetitive recordings about how important the call is when on hold. The “your call is important to us” recording on the queue is far too often programmed without consideration for the poor souls forced to listen to it repeat every 20 seconds. As the delay grows, so does the caller’s irritation. To allow the program to “loop” endlessly regardless of delay subjects callers to an unnecessary message that is just well, kind of, stupid. In this day and age people actually KNOW they are still on hold and honestly may not be feeling terribly important. Good news; this is an easy fix! Just tell IT/Telecom (oops, just got more complicated) to have the program sequence end with “go to music” and leave the poor customers in peace while they wait. (If your customers routinely experience hold times longer than the marketing message loop, you can also send that to music after some tolerable period such as five or six minutes.)

7. And finally Santa, STOP asking stupid marketing questions after the call. A major U.S. airline asks callers to stay on the line for a single question survey. The question goes something like “Would you hire the representative to whom you just spoke if you owned your own Customer Service company?” WHAT the heck? An airline has so many awful restrictions, rules, and dissatisfiers that the messenger is often held responsible. If the caller is unhappy with the outcome they may very likely hold it against the company’s representative. Santa, I have no idea what could possibly be the point of this question. If it were up to me I would fire the person that thought it was worthy of a survey

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Well, that seems like quite enough for now Santa. The Customer Experience continues to be a strategic driver for organizations across all verticals. So whether it is Healthcare, E-commerce, Insurance, Finance, Travel, etc., be certain that your organizational, operational, and inspirational activities line up to contribute to rather than contaminate your customer’s experience!

HO, HO, HO, and Merry Christmas to all!