Tag Archives: Customer Service

People Insight: Solving the CX Reiteration Relapse

What is a reiteration relapse?

The word reiteration means to say or do something again, or many times over. Relapse is often used when a person who, after a period of improvement, becomes ill again or starts exhibiting prior bad behaviours – they relapse into a previous habit or condition.

Marrying these terms in a commercial context, means to do something repeatedly, which may produce a minor improvement for a short period of time, before ultimately resulting in the same or worse outcome.

Unfortunately call centres are amongst many industries who are often caught in a reiteration relapse, resulting in poor customer experience and internal and external metrics to be lower than expected, despite the individuals’ and organisations’ best efforts.

The good news is, call centres can resolve this challenge with evidenced based insights on their biggest asset – their people.

How can we be sure?

We as are in the age of information and big data, and consumer demand has pushed organisations to become more transparent and authentic. The call centre industry, like many others, has embraced these challenges to meet ever evolving customer demands. This has enabled many call centres to provide positive and flexible working environments, and roll-out engaging training and development for a (generally) happy workforce, which is supported by increasingly optimised and refined processes.

Together these should enable all call centres and their staff to flourish, to meet company objectives and to perform against industry KPIs, whilst (perhaps most importantly) providing excellent customer experiences – every time across every touch point.

However the reality is that in many cases call centres and their teams struggle to achieve these things. The evidence can be seen on Google – a quick search will provide the details of the latest fines, complaints and below par industry metrics.

We believe this is because call centres are looking at their problems in the wrong way.

Evidence we have gathered from working with some of the largest call centres across the industry indicates that the problems they think they face are not actually the problem; but are in fact symptoms of deeper root causes.

Call centres (understandably) try to address these symptoms and improve results, typically by providing more training to their people and further refining systems and processes. Inexplicitly this often doesn’t solve the problem or provide the desired results, and when measures don’t improve again, they resort to doing more of the same thing, because they think addressing the symptoms will solve the problem.

That is The CX Reiteration Relapse – trying to address symptoms with more – More training. More systems. More people. More process refinement. More investment.

Typically this then means that questions are asked about the efficiency of the call centre operation and in turn about the ROI from the company’s investment in training and L&D.

It is no wonder then, that a recent CallCentre.co.uk blog evidenced that attrition rates are so high in the industry (and significantly higher than many other industries), and that a fifth of contact centres are actively seeking an alternative workforce management system in an attempt to resolve their challenges. The same blog highlights that 43% of contact centres also believe technology doesn’t meet their needs and an average 79% believe systems will fail to meet their future needs.

So how do call centres begin to think differently about their problem?

If issues with KPI’s and metrics are only symptoms, what actually are the root causes that are driving this perceived need for More?

1. Recall does not mean understanding – assessing the quantity of the training or measuring recall levels doesn’t help call centres provide great service. Staff may recall the facts when tested and appear highly capable, but unless they understand how and when to apply the knowledge in practice, will result in consistent errors and a perceived need for even more training

2. Confidence is often misplaced – typically 30% of people in organisations have misplaced confidence in their capability and understanding. These people drive risk into the business because although they think they are doing the right thing, they continuously make incorrect or misjudged decisions, and influence others in the process

3. More usually means less – more training often becomes less effective because those that have heard it before usually switch off, and therefore valuable training budgets are not used effectively or used to support specific needs

4. Infrastructure is often misaligned – the success of processes and systems wholly rely on the people who are tasked with implementing, managing and using them, and yet unless these are built with the current capability of the workforce in mind, they are likely to not have the desired results no matter how often they are refined.

So how do call centres address these root causes?

The component that is missing from existing call centre ‘solutions’ is evidence based People Insights.

This insight and evidence will provide call centres with a picture of what each person and team understands about the training they have been provided, the processes that are in place, their (likely and observed) behaviour and where the specific gaps are in understanding. Typically the 80/20 rule applies – 20% of your employees are already competent and confident and therefore do not require normal training, 50% of your people have very specific gaps in either knowledge or confidence and then 30% are over confident in their ability but continuously make the wrong decisions. Using evidenced based people insight is the only way of identifying and plugging these gaps.

Specifically that means call centres will be able to:

– Ensure and evidence that each individual actually understands how to and when to use the knowledge they have been given appropriately

– Align the appropriate learning and training resources to support each individual as and when they need it

– See and understand any emergent trends or issues that require early intervention, thus avoiding major and costly issues

Our advice to call centres is to rethink benchmarking data based on how many people have been through training and instead seek out data on who has understood it and how they are applying it. They will then be able to align their existing infrastructure as required, refining and building processes that link to the current capabilities and behaviours of the existing workforce, and deploy training only to those that need it for particular development. The approach will also evidence the effectiveness and ROI of those investments.

Addressing these root causes with people insight will dramatically help improve call centres internal and external KPI’s, improve their customer experience and reduce the risk of fines and untoward media and consumer attention.

 

Call Centre bashing must stop.

As consumers our expectations are too high. We demand too much. And we are too quick to point the finger.

And when things go wrong, it’s easy to complain, moan, up-sticks and move to another supplier.

It feels good to cheer when organisations are hit with fines and we revel telling them directly what we think of them.

Consumers’ frustrations are well documented. Results from a quick Google search will show the latest multi-million pound fine from a regulator to yet another big player, a host of complaints (in some cases over a million), mediocre league table standings and poor overall consumer ratings.

It’s bleak. We think it’s the same old story. Nothing changes. It’s unacceptable. They must do better.

We have become accustomed to this mind-set, and whilst it has pushed all call centres to meet the needs of the ever demanding consumer, it has to stop.

The call centre industry is critical to the success of brands and the economy as a whole; companies both large and small have pioneered the advancement of new technologies and they have some of the most enthusiastic and driven people, doing their absolute best for their customers, all hours of the day, every day of the week.

Sadly there is also much frustration within the industry.

These frustrations are hard to understand unless you actually work in or are associated with it, but speak to anyone in the industry and they’ll tell you they’re working day and night to improve metrics and KPI’s, and investing heavily to meet and exceed consumer expectations. You will genuinely be overcome by their enthusiasm and commitment.

So where do their frustrations come from?

Technology and data innovations mean that call centres are supported by increasingly optimised and refined systems and processes.

Happy workforces are promoted through positive and flexible working environments, and engaging training and development.

Together all of these things should enable call centres and their staff to flourish, to meet company objectives and most importantly, to provide excellent customer experiences, every time across every touchpoint.

The problem is that this isn’t working.

Call centres continue to be frustrated with their KPI’s, metrics and most importantly their customer experience scores, and the negativity from consumers, regulators and the press.

The source of their frustrations often comes from results not significantly improving, despite the significant investments they’re making to meet consumer expectations.

So why isn’t it working?

We believe that the problems of poor/average satisfaction levels, low NPS scores, reputational impact and league table standings that call centres think they face are not actually the problem, but are in fact the symptoms of deeper root causes.

Call centres (understandably) try to address these symptoms and improve these results, by providing more training to their people, implementing technology solutions or further refining processes. But this doesn’t provide the desired results, and when measures don’t improve again, they resort to doing more of the same thing, because they think addressing the symptoms will resolve it.

This is what we call the reiteration relapse – trying to solve the symptoms with: More training. More systems. More people. More refining of processes. More investment.

So if the scores and satisfaction are only symptoms, what actually are the root causes that are driving this perceived need for More?

1. Recall does not mean understanding – assessing the quantity of the training provided or recall levels doesn’t help organisations succeed. Staff may recall the facts when tested and appear highly capable, but unless they understand how and when to apply the knowledge in practice, will result in consistent errors and a perceived need for even more training

2. Confidence is often misplaced – typically 30% of people in organisations have misplaced confidence in their capability and understanding. These people drive risk into the business because although they think they are doing the right thing, they continuously make incorrect or misjudged decisions, and influence others in the process

3. More usually means less – more training often becomes less effective as those that have heard it before switch off, and valuable training resources are not used effectively or to support specific needs

4. Infrastructure can be misaligned – the success of processes and systems wholly rely on the people who are tasked with implementing, managing and using them, and yet unless these are built with the current capability of the workforce in mind, they are likely to not have the desired results no matter how often they are refined.

So what’s missing from existing ‘solutions’?

People Insight.

Without insight into what each person and team understands about the training they have been provided, the processes in place, their likely behaviour and where the specific gaps are in their understanding; call centres will continue (enthusiastically) failing to address the symptoms.

Understanding holds the key. Instead of benchmarking and correlating data based on how many people have been through a course and how many passed it; call centres must seek out data on who actually understood the training/refresher/process/system brief. We are all guilty of forgetting that knowledge is not the same as understanding. We might know that x is correct when we are being tested on it, but then when we are back at our desks, on the phone, are under pressure and have a difficult caller/situation to deal with, we may not understand how best to apply our knowledge effectively. And that is when consistently small errors in judgement, escalate and compound over time into larger problems.

Often people then try to mask their gaps in understanding, capability or competence with overconfidence. Overconfidence is generally accepted by most organisations, right up until the organisation is hit with a multi-million pound fine, receive poor consumer satisfaction scores with increasing negativity surrounding them. This risk of overconfidence is huge. Our evidence suggests that as much as 30% of any workforce is driving the wrong behaviours and practices through overconfidence. This is likely to spread beyond the 30% because they influence others who might be less confident or new to the role. Without a view of mis/understanding across your workforce it’s really difficult to spot who these people are.

You then have individuals who are competent, capable and confident. These are your leaders. You may know who some of these people are, but it is unlikely that you know the exact 20% of your workforce without People Insight. And whilst these 20% are your champions, they become really frustrated having to go through the same training and support resources as everyone else. This means they are likely to switch off and may even become complacent.

That leaves the 50% of your workforce who have very specific and varied development needs. They do not pose a significant risk to your KPI’s or objectives but they do need tailored support. This doesn’t mean you need to invest vast sums into individual support per person though. Usually all the resources required are already embedded into the organisation, you simply need a view of who needs which bit of it the most and a way of deploying that specific resource effectively. In our experience, when you meet the specific development needs of your 50%, it creates more leaders and enables the 20% to expand and the 30% to reduce.

People Insight enables the alignment of your existing infrastructure. With this insight, organisations can build and refine processes based on the behaviours, capability and competence of their existing workforce. Organisations also know which existing support resources need to be deployed to whom, at what time and in what preferred format.

From a strategic perspective, at the CxO level, they now have a critical view of their workforce and this means they can build, refine and ensure the strategy they put in place can truly be achieved.

Ultimately call centres need to add a People Insight component into their existing ‘solutions’. This will dramatically help them improve their internal and external KPI’s, improve customer experience and reduce the risk of fines and untoward media and consumer attention.

People Insight results in improved workforce engagement and buy-in, it empowers leaders’ confidence and equips them with the tools they need to support staffs’ specific needs as well as helping them to identify, manage and mitigate likely issues before they escalate.

Not only will customer satisfaction scores improve, call centres will be able to evidence the efficacy of their existing training and L&D investment and accurately target where it is placed.

Without People Insight call centres will remain in the reiteration relapse and they’ll keep getting bashed for it.

 

 

Customer Service Excellence in a regulated environment

The Challenge

Organisations striving to deliver excellence in Customer Service across a Multi-Channel environment rely on employees providing customers with accurate information and handling every query or processing every request in a professional, timely and efficient manner.

However, despite a significant and continual investment in Training, Knowledge Management and e-Learning, Customer Service staff often still make errors in handling even the most basic of requests.

These errors can compound to have an adverse effect on internal operational metrics and of course customer experience, which ultimately leads to poor brand perception, low Net Promoter scores and less than favourable showing in industry comparison tables. Ultimately it can and does lead to unfavourable Press attention and in the worst of cases, a significant financial penalty.

 

How can you solve it?

Cognisco shows organisations where there are hidden gaps in each individual’s understanding of any given subject or process that are causing them to provide inaccurate information or carry out a process incorrectly.

Using Cognisco’s my*KNOW platform the individual can then be directed to specific and relevant information or learning resources to help address the specific gap in their understanding.

Team leaders and Managers can track and monitor individual team member progress and the wider Organisation can more readily identify trends before they become problems and can more accurately plan and budget for further training and development, based now on empirical evidence of the precise need.

What are the benefits?

External

Internal

Reduction in Customer complaints Improved Issue Resolution Time
Improved Net Promoter Score Fewer Customer Call Backs
Lower risk of adverse PR Reduced IVR/Call Drop outs
Reduced risk of regulator pressure Basic procedures adhered to
Fewer Customer switching requests Less reliance on Team leader issue resolution
A more consistent Customer Experience Improved Multi-Channel Consistency

 

How do we do that?

Traditional assessment processes fail to uncover what an individual actually understands about how, when and why they should apply the knowledge (or training) they have been given in practical day- to-day terms. This means that even those who score highly on post- training assessments may well apply their recently acquired knowledge incorrectly when faced with a real life situation.

Over the course of 20 Years and countless thousands of assessments, Cognisco are able to evidence that on average up to 30% of any workforce will unwittingly have a low enough level of understanding to place the organisation at significant risk.

 

Cognisco’s expert Occupational Psychologist consultants and our team will work with you to:

– Design a new style of assessment that will discover and expose the specific gaps in employee knowledge and understanding that are causing consistent errors.

– Review and assess existing and planned training interventions and learning materials to ensure they are aligned to address the specific needs and requirements of your staff and the objectives of the organisation.

– Provide your staff with my*KNOW to access and take small, regular and focussed assessments and direct them to the specific learning tools and information they need to plug any gaps.

– Provide your team leaders and managers my*KNOW’s intuitive dashboard reporting to enable then to identify and address development or coaching issues before they become a problem.

– Enable the wider organisation to structure, plan and budget training for the future and to manage, monitor and mitigate any potential risks with my*KNOW reports.

 

Where to start?

Post an initial exploratory discussion we find a pilot assessment is the fastest way to identify the primary issue areas and agree a plan for remedial action.

 

Who to contact?

Martin Lynch

mlynch@cognisco.com

07515 995523

 

Download your PDF version here: Customer Service Excellence in a regulated environment

Customer Service Excellence? What’s (really) holding you back?

What can you do when despite all the training you can throw at it, all the knowledge management you can muster and all the away-days, intranet sites and e-Learning investments you’ve made, your customer service staff still makes errors in the way they deal with customer queries or complaints?

Operating with sophisticated products, services and processes, in a regulated and highly competitive environment is a constant challenge for any organisation tasked with delivering consistently excellent customer service. Couple that with pressure coming in the form of consumer comparison sites and league tables, a media all too keen to find and expose any possible chink in your armour and an ever vigilant and increasingly litigious regulator; it’s easy to understand why so many well-known and high profile organisations are placing more emphasis on getting the basics right.

The problem is that the solution isn’t immediately obvious. After all, most organisations of stature already have comprehensive Learning and Development tools and processes, in house training teams and their own Knowledge Management Facility too.

 

So what is it specifically that’s not working and what do you need to do to fix it?

In our experience, the first symptoms the business experience may well appear as a lower than expected score on Customer Satisfaction Surveys, increased Call Backs to the Contact Centre, increased Customer Complaints or a longer than average time to resolve a customer query.

This is often despite satisfactory or even good results on tests, training courses and questionnaires and despite there already being comprehensive learning and support materials available via an internal Knowledge Management system.

The standard response of more training and one to one coaching is unlikely to yield any real improvement either and this is often the cause of significant frustration for the business and indeed the Knowledge and Learning and Development professionals too.

 

So what’s the root cause?

1. Your people don’t truly understand what you’ve “told” them.

Are you measuring the RIGHT thing?

Typically one root cause is that giving people knowledge does not mean that they truly understand how, when and why they should use it. After all, the typical multiple choice questionnaire handed out at the end of a training course, can only really measure the ability to select the right answer from a list of possible answers more often than not.  It does not and cannot identify if a person truly understands in what specific circumstance they should apply their new knowledge. It does not and cannot allow for “grey” areas where there is room for doubt or ambiguity and therefore it cannot truly reflect the typical environment, pressures and dialogues within which we expect people to use the knowledge we have imparted. The typical response is to provide more training.

2. Your People are 100% confident they do know and they do understand – when in fact they actually don’t.

Confident incompetence presents the greatest risk.

This root cause is insidious and is often the most damaging simply because it’s very hard to uncover. It’s further compounded by the fact that in the main most of your people will come to work believing they’re doing a great job. They will believe wholeheartedly that the advice or response they’ve given to a customer query is the right one and they will be happy and confident that they’ve followed the correct company process and procedure along the way.

So, when you ask people to attend a training or refresher course on something they believe they already know and understand well, the evidence suggests that they approach the course with the wrong motivation; a desire and intent to simply “get through it and tick the boxes”, rather than with a genuine interest or agenda for re-examining the subject and challenging their own understanding and experiences.

While they may well “pass the course” they’ve done so by rote, chance or knowing the questions or typical examples that are likely to arise in advance.

The net result is that “more training” often doesn’t equate to fewer errors, complaints or delays in issue resolution.

 

3. The tools and resources you provide are not used to best advantage

How can you get more value from your existing resources?

Most organisations make significant investment in Learning and Development Systems, tools, materials and expertise and many have made an even greater investment in organising, maintaining and syndicating industry and “Corporate Knowledge” via a central Knowledge Management System.

The professionals that plan, build and develop the tools and materials are of course expert in their field, they know how to build a logical hierarchy of information and how to present it in a highly structured format. However, it is often forgotten that the intended user is not an expert. They will approach the resources with a very specific question or need and can find it intimidating at best and impossible at worst to know where to start to find the answer they’re searching for quickly and easily. And so, they tend to use the tools and resources provided infrequently (if at all) and that further compounds their lack of familiarity.

The information provided via the Intranet or Knowledge Management solution may be excellent but if the people it’s designed to help, find it difficult, cumbersome, time consuming or intimidating to find, they simply won’t use it all.

 

Uncovering your root-causes

We suggest you start by looking not at what your people should know but rather identifying specifically what it is they  don’t understand. So for example, to use a recent Retail Banking example,  they may know it takes three days for a cheque to clear (that is what the training states and is correct) however the practical application of the understanding, is that if those three days fall over a weekend or bank holiday it may take five or six days. It is the application of the understanding that is key to providing accurate advice and therefore great customer service; and if you can measure that you can identify what the risk areas and root causes are for you.

Once you can see where the gaps in understanding are, you can design specific interventions and provide appropriate learning media (see root cause 3) and resources to address it.

Find out how we achieved this with existing clients:  Customer Service Excellence in a regulated environment

 

Download your PDF version here: Customer Service Excellence whats (really) holding you back

Part two of Amanda Green’s interview with The Chartered Quality Institute on achieving Customer Service Excellence

Part two of three.

What does an inadequate service cost an organisation?

Reputational damage. At the very minimum your customers are going to talk about their experience to others, but on the other end of the scale they may walk – either way it generates a lower customer satisfaction score. It also increases the likelihood of your customers going to competitors. Your processes need to be clear so staff know what they should and shouldn’t do in any given situation.

 

What measures should be taken to ensure customer-focused service delivery?

You need to measure the level of understanding in your organisation to see if everyone knows what they should be doing, what the implications are of doing the wrong thing, and if they have the confidence to do the right thing. Measuring your team’s communication skills is vital but these skills come in many different guises. However, you could use observation measures – where you put two people in role-play situations to watch and learn from it.

 

How can managers help people excel in their roles?

Managers have to be able to easily identify where individuals have knowledge and behavioural gaps, and be able to remedy those for each individual without having to effectively ‘sheep-dip’ everybody into the same training. There may be just one or two areas an individual needs to develop but as a manager you need to have some visibility or way of measuring the individual’s capability. This is much more of a coaching/mentoring approach to management.

 

Discover alternatives to the one-size fits all approach, how to embed a standard of excellence in your company culture and case study evidence from our clients John Lewis and Eurostar.

 

The Chartered Quality Institute: How to achieve customer service excellence

Part one of three.

Customer satisfaction is essential in building a successful business with customer experience certainly becoming the differentiating factor for many Call Centre Operations. Over the next 3 blogs posts our Principal Consultant at Cognisco, Amanda Green will reveal how you can improve your service in a few easy steps following her in depth interview with Quality World.

 

What is your definition of service excellence?

There are three key things you need to do to achieve service excellence – effectively deal with customer queries, undertake these queries efficiently and competently and always meet customer expectations.

 

What are the secrets of good customer service?

When an organisation truly values the customer and engages its employees. You can make employees feel valued and heard with a recognition system that drives good performance but remember recognition and reward comes in all sorts of different flavours. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work.

You also need to encourage a culture where people don’t mind learning new things or being told about gaps in their knowledge in a bid to continually drive good performance – an environment where assessments are welcomed rather than dreaded. But in order to encourage a sustainable performance you need to review continuously what your people do. Striving for a standard of excellence means being reviewed constantly, but in a positive way.

 

What is the root cause of poor customer service?

Disengaged staff, lack of appropriate training and people not truly understanding what they have been trained to do – but organisational culture plays a big part too. If there’s an environment that doesn’t encourage employee engagement then your staff are not going to feel motivated to do a good job. However, if you’ve got a culture that shows employees you’re passionate about developing their understanding, confidence and knowledge, then engagement comes naturally.

 

Find out how managers can help people excel in their roles, what measures should be taken to ensure a customer focused service delivery and what inadequate service truly costs an organisation in part two of my interview with Quality World.